Book Review | Tears of Jhelum

 By Ananya Sharma
Publisher ‏ : ‎ Fingerprint! Publishing; First edition (1 January 2014) Language ‏ : ‎ English Paperback ‏ : ‎ 300 pages ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 8172344929 ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-8172344924

Jammu and Kashmir, a place with panoramic and picturesque views for days. A land filled with lush green meadows, glistening rivers and snow clad mountains radled high in the lofty green Himalayas. An ideal holiday destination for many and home to thirteen million citizens of India. If a layman was asked to describe the majestic state of Kashmir, they would probably use the words “serene and peaceful”. However the contrasting reality might bring shivers down their spine as the same serene land has caused trauma for many and has stunted what could’ve aided the amelioration of the place.

Tears of Jhelum, a fictitious novel is inspired by the brutal realities of the long drawn strife of the conflicted area, and brings to light the violence caused by terroism and works of the non-state actors. An empathetic yet a heartbreaking story of Wali and his family, who fell prey to the manic men who claim to run the state with the use of terror and guns. The story shatters the illusions these terrorists and radical young minds thrive on. The author, with her brilliant storytelling, reveals the misinformation that is served to the people of Kashmir, particularly the youth and emphasizes on the polarity between respecting religion and radicalizing it.

The arch of this book is not linear. It takes its readers on a roller coaster of emotions. In her simplistic writing style coupled with extremely well developed characters, the readers almost get a visual experience of this written piece. The central character Wali Mohammed Khan through whose eyes we witness this story is a common man, sincere in his dealings, who owns an orchard, has a loving family and has the desire to watch his children flourish has silently witnessed the atrocities and violence caused in the valley across the years. His observations of the tormented land and observations of the horrors caused makes this novel riveting. The plot of the story revolves around the betrayals faced by his family from a young man they considered family, and struggle to escape the grip of these “unwanted guests”.

The author sublimely captures the love for one’s homeland through her writing. She explores the complicated emotions coupled with self realizations that Wali undergoes when he comes to a crossroads to choose between the welfare of his family and his homeland. How does one do that? How does one abandon the only home that he and his family have ever known? To leave everything behind and start a new life at the cost of someone’s whim? How does one struggle to cater to the basic need of feeling safe in their own home? How does an individual turn against their own? Does religion come above humanity? Does it or can it differentiate between the right and the wrong?

A religious man, Wali through the ups and downs of this novel breaks down for the readers the fanaticism that has taken over the hearts and minds of many in the valley. How they are unable to adapt to change, the intolerance against individuals that are not alike, against people who don’t practice the same religion or follow their ideologies. The ideology of Jihad. The novel also brings out the role of education in aiding this menace. A paragraph that I believe was written alluringly said, “the difference between an educated mind and an illiterate one is not bookish knowledge. It is the capability of appropriate interpretation, of accurate analysis of the situation, and not getting swayed by hysterics. An educated mind seeks logic. It is a mind that cannot be moved by irrational frenzy, but seeks the truth through inquest. On the other hand, an illiterate mind is like a sightless person.  it can easily be controlled and misguided, for it lacks its own direction. The unscrupulous and the power hungry always on the lookout for they can be easily manipulated and corrupted. These fools are provoked into violence, whereas those cunning minds watch the destruction from a safe distance and wait to reap the profits.” The story shows how religion is twisted to the convenience of a few despotic individuals and how “Allah and his wishes” have become obscured in the minds of the radicals and the radicalized.

The unheard story of this family that is afflicted by terrorism finds a way of ethrawling the audience.The tale is gripping, nerve wrecking and keeps the readers hooked till the very end. Illusions of love, faith and acting in the name of God are destroyed and realism is portrayed in the form of kindness, trust and practicality. The author keeps the language simple and the characters realistic which draws empathy from its readers. Overall, this book is intriguing yet heartbreaking set in the quaint backdrop of Kashmir. It will stimulate the mind of its readers and towards the end of the novel urge them to raise the right questions.