The Lost Homestead

The Lost Homestead: My Mother, Partition and the Punjab is a book by Marina Wheeler, published by Hodder & Stoughton in 2020. It focusses on the author's Sikh mother, Kuldip Singh, known as Dip, and traces her life through the partition of India in 1947 and her life with the British journalist and broadcaster, Charles Wheeler.

The Lost Homestead: My Mother, Partition and the Punjab
AuthorMarina Wheeler
PublisherHodder & Stoughton

The title of the book refers to Dip’s palatial childhood home in Sargodha, Lahore, then in British India, now in Pakistan, from which her family had to flee before settling in Delhi, when Dip was in her teens. The effects of partition caused her father to instruct the family to forget the life they previously had. At the age of 17, by family arrangement, she was married into an eminent and wealthy family. After walking out of the marriage she supported herself at first in Bombay and then in Delhi, where she met the then BBC Delhi-based South Asia correspondent, Charles Wheeler. They married and for a short while lived in Berlin, where they had two daughters. From 1965 to 1973, they lived mostly in Washington. Later, they would settle in Sussex, England, and Dip would train and work for Amnesty International. After 1972, she never returned to India.

Wheeler visits India and Pakistan to trace her mother's story. On completing her research, Dip suggested that the title of the book be From Sargodha to Sussex, as she saw the paradise she lost in Sargodha regained in Sussex. Interspersed in the story of her mother, Wheeler inserts historical context. Among the memoirs in the book include early memories of being in Sargodha, meeting India's first Prime Minister in 1948, reading P. G. Wodehouse, seeing falling snow for the first time in Berlin, and an incident with ketchup, among others.

The book was generally well received in India. The Wire questioned some of the historical interpretations and the absence of other relevant historical detail. However, it felt that these were overshadowed by the personal story, a feature also pointed by the Financial Times. The Telegraph wrote that the book had little of Wheeler's private life, but it was a story worth telling, and The Hindu noted that the book had brought to the forefront the life of someone living on the sidelines.

It was shortlisted for the 2021 RSL Christopher Bland Prize.

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