Silent Sisters is based on real-life stories and memories of partition and migration among British Asians who were affected by the drawing of a line between India and Pakistan in 1947. The youngest interviewed was 21, the oldest 91.
After the line of partition was drawn by Cyril Radcliffe, Jawaharlal Nehru became Prime Minister of India, and Muhammad Ali Jinnah ruled over West and East Pakistan. More than 10 million people were displaced on both sides of the subcontinent. Communalist stirrings led to slaughter and mayhem with Hindus and Sikhs against Muslims. In the turmoil that was unleashed, many lost their homes, families and lives, and countless women were raped and abducted. Some were even forced to kill female relatives themselves to save them from even worse torture, and to save their honour (izzat).
With poetry, song, music and movement, Silent Sisters is a fictional story in tribute to those who were affected by partition, and to those who struggle with violence and displacement across the world today which according to the UNHCR, amount to over 65 million people.
Silent Sisters is part of research and development in preparation for the 70th year commemorating India and Pakistan’s independence and partition in 1947. Its story was created out of fragments of people’s memories, written and oral histories, and the force of imagination. Now in their 70s, 80s and 90s, those who had lived through partition related what they went through in interviews and workshops. Younger generations talked about what their parents and relatives had told them. And others related to the subject through their own experiences of migration, displacement and violence. From these fraught threads, this drama was born.
The story revolves around one woman who is Muslim, and another of Sikh and Hindu heritage. In 1947, they are forced to make terrible decisions, and face the silences that they would rather suppress. Their only salvation seems to lie in the jaws of death. But even this seems to escape them.
Cast: Avita Jay, Sandeep Garchar, Javed
Khan, Diljohn and Saida Tani.
Writer: Raminder Kaur.
Director: Mukul Ahmed.
Design: Isobel Power-Smith.
Lighting Design: Paul Micah.
Production Manager: Charlotte Wilson.
Workshop and Production
Facilitator: Smita Yadav.
Marketing & Publicity: Suman Bhuchar.
‘A wonderful piece of work, around a very sensitive area, beautifully presented. Thank you for enriching the lives and hearts of a full house of Crawley residents. The artists and artistic direction was fantastic, each character portrayed his/her part to perfection.’ (Mayor Raj Sharma, Crawley)
'Very powerful and could see the audience were fully engaged' (Liz Hart, Arts Development Officer)
‘Fan-bloody-tastic…I was blown away by it’ (Jane Buckley, Crawley Campaign against Racism)
‘I wish this kind of performance was watched by everyone in our community. Wonderful, fab, excellent, so emotional, yet performed with so much empathy and passion.‘ (Jaswinder Kaur Johal, Deputy Secretary, Guru Singh Sabha)
'We laughed and we cried' (Dr Katie McQuaid)
‘Superb script, excellent direction and stellar cast and crew who each give consummate confident performances...beautiful atmospheric singing and poetry. Mixed, diverse audiences engaged and responded with emotion and applause...of a poignant harrowing and much needed tale…against an effective and beautiful set and lighting’ (Rez Kabir, Tamarind Theatre Company)
Silent Sisters was first performed at Crawley Hawth and the Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts in Brighton in October 2016.
Song by elderly British Asian from 1947
'Puchla Jinnah nu, Jaana kehre rah nu? Ghar bagh chadke. Balbache chadke. Puchla Jinnah nu.'(Go and ask Jinnah [Pakistan’s premier], Which way to take? Having left the house and garden. Having left the small children. Go and ask Jinnah.)
If you'd like to share your stories and memories of partition, please contact us at email@example.com