Iman Vellani as Kamala Khan, Zenobia Shroff as Muneeba Khan and Mohan Kapur as Yusuf Khan in Ms. Mar...

Here’s How That Real-Life Historical Event Ties Into Ms. Marvel

Buckle up, we're going back in time.

by Ani Bundel
Marvel Studios

The changes from the comic book story of Ms. Marvel have worked to center Kamala Khan’s Pakistan heritage in the Disney+ series. Her abilities are no longer due to her having Kree blood or exposure to Terrigen mists. Instead, they were triggered by a gift from her grandmother: a bangle passed down through the family. Her abilities are genetic, not because she’s descended from Inhumans, but from the Djinn. The Partition of India ties into Ms. Marvel since it’s part of the Pakistani story, hence why the show leans into Kamala’s family history.

Warning: Spoilers for Ms. Marvel Episode 4 follow. The specter of the Partition has hung over Ms. Marvel’s story since the premiere episode. Like many families, Kamala’s elders saw their extended family torn apart in 1947 when, according to The New Yorker, the departing British government separated the formerly united country into India and Pakistan to “solve” a Muslim separatist movement rising in the power vacuum. Nationalities were defined along religious lines, with no care for where people resided; Muslims were told they were no longer Indian citizens.

Those living on the wrong side of this arbitrary line were uprooted against their will. Those who could not afford to move or were too sick or ill were left behind, and those who had both Hindu and Muslim members found their families summarily divided. As the borders closed, people rushed to try and find themselves on the right side of it, even if it meant leaving places their families had lived for generations to a country where they had nothing.

The chaos that followed was a generational trauma, one Kamala’s grandmother, Sana, is still living with. But so are her descendants. Her daughter, Muneeba, moved to America to escape the Partition’s shadow and her mother’s inability to move past it. Kamala is also a divided soul, part Djinn, part Pakistani-American, and unsure where she fits in in any of those worlds. As her cousin says, she’s ABCD, “American Born Confused Desi,” though “American Born Confused Djinn” would also work in this instance.

Audiences will also note the division between the Djinn homeworld and the human one is also partitioned, one Najma wants to tear down as if it will solve what the British government did nearly a century ago. But reunification comes with its own disastrous consequences. As Waleed points out to Kamala, should the Noor barrier between these worlds fall, the Djinn will destroy the human world and everyone in it. One cannot put the genie back in the bottle, so to speak.

The bangle taking Kamala back to the night of Partition, Aug. 15, 1947, turns the subtext of what it represents — the history Muneeba is trying to escape — into text. It’s not clear if Kamala has actually traveled through time or if this is a vision. (Notably, she hasn’t interacted with anyone on the platform, the crowds part around her.) However, whatever the answer is that she’s looking for hinges on the events of that night. Viewers will have to wait until next week to find out what.

Ms. Marvel continues with new episodes every Wednesday on Disney+.