Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy


Comparative Literature


Nandi Bhatia

2nd Supervisor

Teresa Hubel

Joint Supervisor


This dissertation examines literary representations of the Partition of India in 1947 as it affected the southern princely state of Hyderabad, Deccan. Through my focus on Hyderabad, I interrogate and reject the assumption generally made in scholarly analyses of Partition that this momentous, life-changing event did not significantly affect South India. In doing so, I also question the origins of the self-professed secular, egalitarian, and democratic Indian nation by shedding light on the invasion of Hyderabad and the subsequent erasure of this event from Indian historiography and mainstream culture.

Different literary texts respond differently to this fraught, suppressed history. Engaging with questions about gendered and classed violence, trauma, and silence, I study three literary texts written several decades after Partition: Anita Desai’s novel Clear Light of Day (1980, English), Samina Ali’s novel Madras on Rainy Days (2004, English), and Kishorilal Vyas “Neelkanth’s” short story “Durga” (2005, Hindi). In my analysis, I utilize the theorizations of Partition scholars such as Jill Didur and Nandi Bhatia about how literature destabilizes the hegemony of mainstream and official narratives of cataclysmic historical events such as Partition. I also draw on Didur’s argument that literature not only has the power to upturn such historical narratives, which silence alternative narratives, but that literature itself must also be scrutinized as a narrative, ideologically motivated and politically interested. Retrospectively engaging in different measures with Partition, Hyderabad, and communalism, each literary text in my corpus points to the ongoing impact of Partition on Hyderabadis and throws crucial light on the issues of citizenship, class, gender, and narrative in the context of Partition and Hyderabad. In the process, they demonstrate/expose the implicit as well as explicit assumption in Partition Studies that the South was immune to the cartographic cracking of India.