Child of the Divide

Written by Thushari Perera

Sudha Bhuchar’s play Child of the Divide UK tour (suitable for ages 7+) starts on Friday 29 September in London.

If you do not already know about this play written by Sudha Bhuchar, which premiered in 2006, and was adapted from the short story Pali by Bhishan Sahni, it is the story of a child separated from his Hindu parents when leaving his home town that is becoming Pakistan. The boy is adopted by a childless Muslim couple and becomes a practising Muslim. Several years later, the boy’s birth father finds him and he is taken to live with his Hindu family across the border in India.

A Play About Children

The main strength of this play is its focus on children’s fate during the Partition of India in 1947. According to the Partition History Project members, who revived the play to mark the 70th anniversary of India’s Independence, this play is an opportunity to learn about the migration of around 16 million people via the microcosm of a family story.

The evaluation made by the Runnymede Trust of the pilot school project found that almost 80% of students agreed that they learnt more about the partition of British India by watching Child of the Divide. Overall, children felt that it made them more engaged as it helped “history come alive”. A student said: “For example if a teacher was explaining it to you say like Hitchin was split in two but you were on the wrong side, that’s kind of hard for you to imagine because it’s never happened to you. But the play kind of showed it to you rather than just telling you.”

Is British India Only A Footnote in History?

As the Partition History Project members say, these findings are very important because the British presence in India lasted several centuries. The end of the British Empire in India is consequently not a footnote in the development of modern Britain. It is also reductive to believe that this chapter of history is only relevant to South Asians or “ethnic minorities.” It is actually part of British history and relevant to all.

This topic consequently needs to be explored more widely in the current school curriculum. The history of India’s Partition and Independence can be used to discuss issues as varied as the Raj, Britain’ relations with its former colonies, refugees, migration, religious pluralism and difference in general.

A New Learning Resource For A Shared Heritage

The free educational Resource Pack 2017 for the play also usefully highlights pre-show and post-show activities that can link with the school curriculum in subject areas as varied as History, Geography, Citizenship, English Literature, Music, Art/Design and obviously Drama.

Sudha Bhuchar’s playtext Child of the Divide has also been republished and it is well worth the investment, whether you are a child or an adult. It will also be relevant to international diasporas having links with India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. As the Partition History Project members rightly observe, the play is powerful because it “draws the audience into a shared experience where the simplicities of a defined identity are blurred.”


More information about the play Child of the Divide is available on Sudha Bhuchar Boulevard

Related Links: CBBC’s Newsround guide “What Was the Partition of India?” (for children)

The short story Pali by Bhishan Sahni which inspired the play is available here (for adults)

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