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Monday, September 24, 2018

The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani

The Night DiaryNisha, a shy twelve year old girl, lived with her twin brother, Amil, their father, and their paternal grandmother in Mirpur Khas, India.  She was in a blended religious family.  Her mother, before she died, was Muslim.  Her father, a doctor at the local hospital, was Hindu.  Both her maternal and paternal relatives were unhappy when her parents married.  Nisha was comfortable with people of different religions such as Hindu, Muslim, and Sikh.  All of this would not have been a problem if the Partition of India had not happened in 1947.
In 1947, the political leaders split the country of India into two countries, India and Pakistan, and started a forced migration.  The home that Nisha knew as India became Pakistan overnight.  Nisha and her family now lived in the newly formed state for the Muslim population.  Nisha and her Hindu family had to leave their home to cross the newly formed border of India and Pakistan before they were injured or killed in their home.

Nisha, Amil, her father, and grandmother each carried one bag of clothes, another for food and a heavy bag of water and left before sunrise.  While she left the comforts and safety of a house, she also said good bye to Kazi, their Muslim cook and her dearest friend.  While on the journey to their first stop, her uncle Rashid's house, Amil spilled two bags of precious water.  They barely arrived at her uncle's house safely.  While her family had walked 200 miles already, there were 200 miles left on their difficult journey.  The family still needed to get across the newly formed border of India and Pakistan alive.  Nisha expressed all the events in journal entries to her dead mother as an act of trying to understand her situation.   Her sense of hope comes through as well.

I loved this book because it highlighted a historical event that would be part of Indian and Pakistani family histories today.  Additionally, the day to day meal descriptions made Indian food sound even more delicious every time I listened to the reader's description of a raita, a cool yogurt sauce, (, or dal, (, a simple stew of lentil beans or peas with spices.

For fans of A Night Divided by Jennifer Nielsen, in which twelve year old Gerta must escape the prison of her own country of Soviet-controlled Germany, this would match in intensity due to the harsh decisions that each character must make in order to survive another day.  As an audio fan, I found it hard to reach a good stopping point with such a compelling plot.

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