Much has been written about Kashmir in prose and poem. Hundreds of brochures have been published, thousands of theories punched, tens of thousands of blogs written, at individual and institutional capacities.
It is said that the last time Kashmir was free, was under the rule of Yusuf Shah Chak in the 1500s. Ever since, the valley has been under an influence of countless cultures and inquisitions in the form of religious doctrines, and foreign invasions.
‘Conflict creates art’, someone said. Over the previous hundreds of years, countless writers, poets, researchers, priests, artists, deeply influenced by the ‘Kashmir struggle’, have written countless accounts, fictitious and non-fictitious, of the raging spirit of its inhabitants.
Some of the books written on Kashmir by authors, indigenous and foreign, are:
1. The Rage of the Vulture (1948) by Alan Moorehead
Of all the fictional accounts of Kashmir in 1947, this little known novel by Alan Moorehead has the ‘greatest’ historical interest. For a start, Moorehead was there – he reported from Kashmir and from the North West Frontier for the ‘Observer’ in the final quarter of 1947. His novel appeared promptly in the following year.
Although this isn’t the finest of Moorehead’s many books, it is well written. His focus is on the cantankerous and embattled British community in Srinagar – their sense of apprehension as the Pathan attackers advance, and their reluctance to be evacuated.
2. Shalimar the Clown (2005) by Salman Rushdie
Written in several different registers, Rushdie combines the wonder of fairy-tale with the grittiness of hard, political realism; at times, especially in the long section recounting Max’s wartime experiences, it reads as something close to reheated journalism. Shalimar, the Clown is Rushdie’s most engaging book since Midnight’s Children. It is a lament. It is a revenge story. It is a love story. The story portrays the paradise that once was Kashmir, and how the politics of the sub-continent ripped apart the lives of those caught in the middle of the battleground.
3. No Guns at my Son’s Funeral (2005) by Paro Anand
Aftab, a young boy, is cheerful and full of life in the morning. But the night hides a different story. In the night, he sneaks out of his house to get trained by the man he idealizes, Akram – so brave, so powerful, so.. perfect. But not all we see is always true. When things start going all wrong, all starts falling apart – all but Aftab’s loyalty towards Akram. But, just like love, extreme loyalty also makes you blind to the right and the wrong. And then, Aftab’s elder sister, with whom he never talked about his problems because she was a girl and could not understand the importance of his training (to kill his own people, which is unknown to him) has a little surprise for him. However, in the end, Aftab and Akram both die and the most affected of all is his sister – who does not want her son to walk his father’s path, and wants no guns on her son’s funeral.
4. The Collaborator (2011) by Mirza Waheed
The unnamed protagonist, with his flawed character, now courageous, now cowardly and yet, always human… a soul who now has friends only in his memory is a chilling figure to behold. The flashbacks pull the reader into an abyss of nostalgia, of longing, for how things used to be. The villages before the exodus, the valley before its dead, Kashmir before the destruction– the images are vivid and make you want to find a way back into the blissful past.
5. The Garden Of Solitude (2011) by Siddhartha Gigoo
The Garden of Solitude is a poignant tale of a Kashmiri Pandit family driven away from the Valley in the wake of armed insurgency and political turmoil. Sridar, a young Pandit boy, is torn apart as he reluctantly leaves his home situated in the beautiful Valley along with his family. The family, like the other Pandits, settles in Jammu, where an entire generation of Pandits spends the rest of their lives suffering from a sense of loneliness and alienation.
6. Shadows Beyond The Ghost Town (2014) by Shafi Ahmad
The war is on. The youth who returned from across the border are in direct confrontation with the armed forces. The sound of blasts, both grenades and IEDs, is audible, time and again. The bullets fired from rifles and the ammunition from rocket propelled guns are a rage and these ricocheted the atmosphere .The citadel of pro-India political leadership has crumbled and the civilian governance is like ricks spread in various places unable to wield any authority. The semblance of government control is visible through forces personnel who roam in groups with guns dangling down their shoulders . The youngsters understood the story behind violence but not many stories conceived in the womb of the conflict. Stories of deceit and exploitation. And these stories gave birth to unholy nexus between the venal and the brute, people of different religion, varied outlook and background. And then such people colluded with each other to indulge in loot and plunder robbing our nation of resources. Resources of natural wealth and even human resources. The emotional and psychological health received a dent. In the process a love story, rather two, go bust. However, two young women, bearing the brunt of conflict and the intrigues, brave all odds to help the innocent angels to move on in life.
7. Half Mother (2014) by Shahnaaz Bashir
A sorrowful journey of a Kashmiri mother looking for her lost son through the valleys. This well-written novel documents the tragedy which has befallen many families in Kashmir and about which not much is known outside the region. The Half Mother is the story of Haleema – a ‘halfmother’ today; tormented by not knowing whether Imran is dead or alive, torn apart by her own lonely existence. While she battles for answers and seeks out torture camps, jails and morgues for any signs of Imran, Kashmir burns in a war that will haunt it for years to come. Heart-wrenching, deeply troubling and lyrical, The Half Mother marks the debut of a bold new voice from Kashmir. The story is extremely riveting, enthralling yet poignant in every aspect.
8. Lost in Terror (2016) by Nayeema Mehjoor
Cast in the background of the uprising against the armed forces in Kashmir in the late 1980s, Lost in Terror is the tale of a young, educated, career-conscious woman who finds herself sucked into a maelstrom of death and destruction. She also cherishes the dream of Azadi and plays strong to face the wrath of Indian soldiers. But when she finds her husband’s discreet links with gunmen obsessed with the dream of Azadi, she becomes fragile and begins to lose her hold on her home, her relationships and Azadi itself.
When her dreams for a perfect family and a thriving career are turned upside down and her life comes to a standstill due to the turmoil around her, fate offers her a leap of faith—but will she take it?
Read my detailed review of the book here http://www.greaterkashmir.com/news/opinion/the-valley-of-terror/243741.html
9. The House That Spoke (2017) by Zooni Chopra
Fourteen-year-old Zoon Razdan is witty, intelligent and deeply perceptive. She also has a deep connection with magic. She was born into it. The house that she lives in is fantastical—life thrums through its wooden walls—and she can talk to everything in it, from the armchair and the fireplace to the books, pipes and portraits! But Zoon doesn’t know that her beloved house once contained a terrible force of darkness that was accidentally let out by one of its previous owners. And when the darkness returns, more powerful and malevolent than ever, it is up to her to take her rightful place as the Guardian of the house, and subsequently, Kashmir.
Read the full review on our website here; http://freepresskashmir.com/2017/06/21/reading-kashmir-in-a-fairy-tale-the-house-that-spoke-by-zuni-chopra/
10. Leaves from Kashmir (2017) by Saba Shafi
As yet another violent summer comes to a close and the burnt amber leaves of the Chinar are shed, she gathers the scattered leaves of her journal, packs up her bag and leaves her nest…‘Leaves from Kashmir’ traces the trajectory of a young woman’s journey from her native land- Kashmir to Delhi, in a story where prose and poetry intermingle in a lyrical, sensual dance. A moving allegorical account of the struggles she faces as she grapples with the diverse shades of life, death, home, exile, love and longing.
11. Zerafa – A Modern Fairy Tale (2017) by Tooba Rasheed
Story of Zerafa, the first born to Omar and Zareefa is a special child whose specialty keeps her from normal schooling. Zerafa manifests her ability not through the use of words but colors, avant-garde. The coming of Zunaira, their second child, alleviates the suffering of the parents for she conforms to the normal in every possible way. She is schooled but soon Zerafa’s influence begins to tell. In order to save their normal child, the parents take a hard decision to separate the two; one of them is sent to a boarding school. While Zerafa’s talent is unleashed with time, Zunaira unable to come to terms with the separation withdraws into a shell. She rebels against her studies only to be mistaken by her mother as being pampered. The mother-daughter relationship soon turns sour. The story delves deep into a child’s psyche to unveil parenting mistakes.
Other novels set in Kashmir, that deserve honorary mention, are:
-The Kashmir Shawl by Rosie Thomas
-The Lamentations of A Sombre Sky
-The Book of Gold Leaves by Mirza Waheed
-Half Widow By Shafi Ahmad
-Tears Of Jehlum by Anita Krishan
-The Tree with a Thousand Apples by Sanchit Gupta
Did I miss anything? Help me to complete the list. Leave your feedback in the comments below.
Views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position and policy of Free Press Kashmir.