silent sisters - brothers unhinged

meera pattni

20 november 2017

page 1

This is a very long tale. 

The scene is set. 


Two women, Sikh and Muslim, one in her teens the other in her thirties are falling down a well in Pakistan following the partition of India in 1947. 


Thud. Splash. Gasp. 


They survive.


This is the beginning of Raminder Kaur’s play Silent Sisters-Brothers Unhinged based on the 1947 partition of India. The play took place at Rich Mix in Shoreditch on Friday 17 November and Saturday 18 November. 


Growing up between Kenya and Dubai, the partition was something that was ingrained in me – I knew what it was, but I never really understood what it meant - it was always something systematic like: India is here. Pakistan is there. We are not supposed to like each other. No questions. Full stop. But obviously all that changed by the time I hit the age to think for myself. I made friends, I read books, I watched films, and I began to understand. The partition was no longer that systematic definition. The partition was a product of years of colonisation, it was displacement, it was murder, it was rape, it was heartbreak, it was trauma, it was loss, it was and still is an inherent part of my history as an Indian woman. 

photograph courtesy of Meera Pattni

Partition holds ‘the wounds that don’t heal.’ A line from Silent Sisters-Brothers Unhinged, the play I watched over the weekend. Written by Raminder Kaur and directed by Mukul Ahmed, it was incredible in the way it broke my heart and ignited a spark in me at the same time.

The play told the tale of a group of individuals and families that were impacted by the partition. Starting off with the two women, Amrit and Noor, jumping into a well in Pakistan to protect the honour of their families. The play navigated through different timelines between Punjab and Bengal – including even the post partition period of the 1980s in East London. 

It is a roller-coaster of emotions and stories that are heart-breaking and remarkable. We see the confusion of suddenly becoming foreign in one’s own homeland, expressed aptly in the beginning when Amrit expresses she’s not even been to what Noor refers to as “her India.” We see the reality of how colonisation impacted so many lives through its divide and rule strategy, we see neighbours who thought of each other as brothers suddenly take the sword at each other, we see the humanity of still wanting to protect one another despite the difference of religion, we see a blossoming love story between two people that are expected to be enemies, we see the trauma experienced in old age through the wounds that don’t heal – expressed in the play as the wounds in the mind and soul that are kept in the memories for so long, unspoken, unfelt, and then that later come out through the body. There is love, friendship, comedy, loss, heartbreak. There is poetry, song, dance, all in a span of 100 minutes.