Bapsi Sidhwa portrays the Partition of the Indian Subcontinent as fundamentally traumatic for society overall, not only for the individuals who experienced it. Beyond the end of British colonial rule, the separation into distinct nations forced millions of people to choose sides, leaving many marginalized and endangered. Numerous individuals, especially the Ice Candy Man, sought to manipulate the situation for their own personal benefit.
By placing Lenny, a young girl, at the center of the novel, Sidhwa both emphasizes the personal impact of political decisions—often made on the other side of the world—and stresses the inadequate knowledge that British policies had imposed on its subjects. Although Lenny is held back by her physical disabilities, her strong female family and social network and her innocence shield her up to a point; she absorbs the impact of Partition emotionally more than through rational understanding.
Ayah, an adult, female worker (as well as a Hindu), bears a greater burden than Lenny. Simply through existing, she becomes an internally displaced person whose home becomes a place of danger rather than security; although she receives help in leaving, she suffers the pain of exile.
Sidhwa's work represents Partition as a traumatic experience on both national levels and individual ones. Sidhwa makes it clear that the mere idea of partition was one constructed out of the theoretical, nothing even remotely near what was in reality. Partition was seen as something that could be decided by politicians in far off and quiet rooms where political discourse lacked a mirror of reality. The trauma of Partition was seen in its execution, something that Sidhwa brings out through Lenny. The idea of religious intolerance being fueled by the fear of Partition helped to increase its traumatic hold on the nation. Sidhwa shows how women were the immediate recipients of this trauma, either enduring the loss and death of their husbands, or by enduring the loss of their own virtue at the hands of rape and sexual violation. The same way in which Sidhwa sees the nation violated by Partition, lines being marked and demarcated without any regard for individuals, she sees citizens of India, and in particular women, violated in much the same manner. The same disfigurement that thus happens on a national level happens on a individualized one, bringing out the trauma of Partition on a real and substantive level. It is in this where Sidhwa views Partition as something that is irrevocably traumatic for India and her people.