In Freedom’s Shade

by Ayesha Kidwai

Ayesha Kidwai

New India Foundation



Anis Kidwai’s In Freedom’s Shade is a soulful narrative about the untold agonies of Partition, interspersed with powerful Persian and Urdu couplets. Published originally in Urdu 37 years ago as Azadi Ki Chhaon Mein, it is brought to life in English by her granddaughter Ayesha Kidwai’s excellent translation.


Anis Kidwai’s account from the time of partition fills a great gap for us to conceive partition and write the history of partition and thus also the history of India. The book was initially written in the year 1949 based on the notes jotted down about what she saw and observed around her in Delhi between 1947 and 1949 while she worked as a relief worker for partition victims. The book was first published in 1974 and then in 1978 in Urdu and later translated to Hindi and published in 1981.

- The Inclusion


Appearing for the first time in English translation, In Freedom’s Shade (originally written in the Urdu as Azadi ki Chhaon Mein in 1949) is Anis Kidwai’s moving personal memoir of the first two years of independent India. It is an activist’s record that reveals both the architecture of the violence during Partition as well as the efforts of ordinary citizens to bring the cycle of reprisal and retribution to a close. Beginning from the murder of her husband in October 1947, Anis Kidwai narrates, with a rare frankness, sympathy and depth of insight, the stories of the thousands who were driven away from their homelands in Delhi and its neighbouring areas by eviction or abduction or the threat of forced religious conversion. Of historical importance for its account of the activities of the Shanti Dal, the recovery of abducted women and the history of Delhi, In Freedom’s Shade also has an equal contemporary relevance. In part a delineation of the roots of the afflictions that beset Indian society and in part prophetic about the plagues that were to come, Anis Kidwai’s testament is an enduring reminder that memory without truth is futile; only when it serves the objective of reconciliation, does it achieve meaning and significance.

Kidwai’s translation has been very well received and was in the final shortlist for the Crossword Book Award. Her work as a translator was also referred to in the citation of the Infosys Prize that she received in 2013.

Author Profile

Ayesha Kidwai

Ayesha Kidwai is Professor at the Centre for Linguistics at Jawaharlal Nehru University. New Delhi. A recipient of the Infosys Prize 2013 in Humanities in 2013. Kidwai is a theoretical linguist who studies the morphology and syntax of lesser-known languages from a generative perspective. Mentor to many students working on several minority Indian languages, Kidwai is a committed field linguist and advocate of the maintenance of India’s linguistic diversity.

Kidwai is also both a translator and a women’s rights activist. In 2011, she published an acclaimed English translation of Anis Kidwai’s Urdu memoir of the Partition of India and Pakistan as In Freedom’s Shade (Penguin Indi). She is currently engaged in researching the role of social workers in the recovery of abducted women during the Partition and a translation of an autobiography fragment that Anis Kidwai wrote just before she died.

In her activism, Kidwai’s focus has been on gender-based violence in university spaces, with special emphasis on the institutional role of anti-sexual harassment committees in the redressal of complaints. In her home institution, she has been actively associated with the Jawaharlal Nehru University Gender Sensitisation Committee Against Sexual Harassment (GSCASH) from its inception in 1999, and has played an important role in its development. She has written and lectured extensively on the important role that such institutional bodies have in fostering gender-sensitive and gender-just university workplaces.