The Night Diary

The Night Diary
Written by Veera Hiranandani

Publisher’s Summary:
Shy twelve-year-old Nisha, forced to flee her home with her Hindu family during the 1947 partition of India, tries to find her voice and make sense of the world falling apart around her by writing to her deceased Muslim mother in the pages of her diary.

Primary Source Pairing:
The Night Diary is a first-person narrative of the 1947 partition of India which displaced 10-12 million people, including our main character Nisha and her family. Nisha’s description of the journey she took as a refugee to her new home is raw and emotional.  For this primary source pairing, invite students to study a photograph of a train carrying refugees during the India partition. Nisha and her family did not end up taking the train even though at one point that was their plan. Due to safety concerns, they decided to walk more than 100 miles to the border. Infer from Nisha’s narrative what the refugees in this photograph may be feeling as they were waiting for the train to take them to safety. The description and the danger of travel by train are found on page 106-107 in the text. There are many experiences Nisha describes that can be compared to current day refugee stories. Seek primary sources for these lesson extensions as student interest and groups allow. Additionally, use the map in the book to create a geographical context for readers.

Questions for Discussion:

  • Describe what you see.
  • What do you notice first?
  • What people and objects are shown?
  • How are they arranged?
  • What is the physical setting?
  • What’s happening in the image?
  • What feelings do you have when you study this image?
  • Use textual evidence from the book to understand the overcrowding of the train observed in this photograph.
  • Make a connection with what you see in this photograph to something that you have seen in current events regarding refugees.

Book Cover and Summary: Follett
“Partition of Punjab, India 1947” photograph: Wikipedia

Additional Resource:
The Night Diary Educator’s Guide: