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Broken Threads: My Family From Empire to Independence

Mishal Husain

6 June 2024 All day

‘I witnessed the dwindling glow of the British Empire. I saw small men entrusted with great jobs, playing with the destiny of millions’

The extraordinary story of broadcaster Mishal Husain’s grandparents, whose lives were shaped by the tumultuous politics and prejudices of empire, war and partition.

Weaving an ancestral odyssey, Mishal sheds light on the last generation born into the Raj in India, amid substantial societal shifts. Mary, a devout Catholic, leaves her struggling Anglo-Indian family to train as a nurse on the other side of India. Mumtaz challenges his family’s expectations as he forges a professional life as a doctor. Tahirah is born into a middle-class Muslim home and has opportunities and freedoms unknown to previous generations of women. And Shahid finds purpose as a Sandhurst cadet, later working for Field-Marshal Auchinleck at the heart of events in Delhi.

Through meticulous research and intimate first-hand accounts, this gripping family history traces the lasting impact of nationalist movements, civil disobedience and the Second World War as the final phase of British empire winds up in India. Diaries, letters and tapes offer profound and heartrending insight into the 1947 partition and its defining figures, including Jinnah, Nehru, Gandhi, Wavell and Mountbatten. Families and communities are divided, childhood homes are left behind and the two couples must forge new identities while navigating the birth of independent India and the new state of Pakistan.

Broken Threads is a personal and vivid portrait of South Asia’s fragmentation, which confronts the breakdown of cross-cultural kinship through the eyes of people who lived through it.

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