Marina Wheeler is an Anglo-Indian, London-based barrister specialising in constitutional and human rights law, whose Sikh mother, Dip Singh, met and married Marina’s father, the distinguished journalist Charles Wheeler, when he was the BBC’s South East Asia correspondent based in Delhi. The Lost Homestead is a story about loss and new beginnings, personal and political freedom. Its central event is the Partition of British India in 1947, when Marina’s mother Dip and her Sikh family were forced to flee their home, never to return. Some years after Partition, Dip was again ‘displaced’, this time by choice, when she married Marina’s English father and left India for good.
In The Lost Homestead Marina delves into her family’s past, drawing on her mother’s oral history, accounts from her Indian family, her own research and travels to both India and Pakistan. She writes about a world left behind when the Punjab was divided, and about how the new nations and peoples struggled to recover from the horror of this event. Through the eyes of her younger Indian family she looks at the legacy of this time, and how its iconic leaders – Gandhi, Nehru, Jinnah, Ambedkar – continue to shape these now dangerously antagonistic countries.
Marina’s family lived through these events and she weaves their story into the broader history, bringing it alive. It is a history which still arouses passion and provokes dispute. As an Anglo-Indian with roots in what is now Pakistan, Marina has tried to untangle some of these threads to make sense of her own mother’s experience. She has travelled to post-Partition Punjab, across the international border to look for the Lost Homestead.
The Lost Homestead is a timely read. It touches on global themes that strongly resonate today: political change, religious extremism, migration, minorities, nationhood, identity and belonging.
But it is also a more personal story. It follows Marina’s mother out of India, to Berlin – then a divided city – and to Washington DC, where the fight for civil rights paid tribute to the Mahatma. It is a book about coming to terms with the past, and about the stories we choose to tell about ourselves.
Praise for THE LOST HOMESTEAD
‘A personal, sometimes harrowing history of partition… a writer well worth reading.’
‘A deeply personal story of identity and a highly relatable journey for many in the diaspora… Wheeler taps a rich vein of personal history… Evocative… Gripping.’
‘A timely read given the current reassessment of colonialism… a charming memoir that weaves the story of India independence and the tragedy of the partition with that of her mother’s own escape from an unhappy marriage.’
Christina Lamb, Sunday Times
‘A personal, sometimes harrowing history of partition… by narrating partition with a focus on her mother’s family, the Singhs, she has made the abstractions of history suddenly more real: they are given names, faces and feelings… offers valuable insights, especially since Gandhi and Jinnah were also products of London’s inns of court… [Marina Wheeler is] a writer well worth reading.’
Tanjil Rashid, The Times
‘A wonderful memoir, gripping, elegant, warm and insightful – a triumph. An intimate and inspiring portrayal of how a woman made her own world as nations and empire were made and unmade.’
Dr Shruti Kapila, Lecturer in Modern History, University of Cambridge
‘This book is more than a family memoir – it is an insightful glimpse into the way small worlds are forever changed by the impersonal currents of history.’
Shashi Tharoor, author of Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India
Marina Wheeler is an Anglo-Indian, London-based barrister specialising in constitutional and human rights law. She was made Queen’s Counsel in 2016 and also teaches mediation and conflict resolution. She writes regularly for the UK Human Rights Blog as well as national newspapers, usually on legal subjects.