Author: Manan Kapoor
Publisher: Frog Books (www.leadstartcorp.com)
Price: 250 INR
The Lamentations of a Sombre Sky is a story of Inayat, a Kashmiri teenage girl. It is a story of tragedies and loss that her family and friends, unfortunately witness. This novel is a moving account of Inayat’s, and of-course, of Kashmir’s lamentations.
Gul, a pundit girl and Auqib — son of an Imam, are Inayat’s best friends from her childhood. They spend most of their time together. They make snowmen in the backyard of Inayat’s home, go to cinema, listen to music and after school, spend some time in the ruins of the blasted homes. They enjoy the time they spend in each other’s company and create beautiful memories, until the tragedies began to reveal.
Although, in the beginning Inayat is 17 years old but is, more or less presented as naive as Alice in Wonderland. She goes to school where their English teacher, Mr Peer referred to as Shakes-Peer, teaches Literature. Shakes-Peer is her favourite teacher as he is among the ones who stayed back to reconcile with the fanatics who wonder the streets freely. Most of her school teachers have already left the town because of the unrest.
But Inayat is not fond of reading. Her father, Maqbool, a poet, a chain smoker, drunkard and owner of a publishing house, always urges Inayat to read other then the textbooks or ‘books that had no soul’ as he used to call them. Inayat acts upon this wish of her father’s, but only when it is late.
As they grow up, Gul and Auqib, a pundit girl and an Imam’s son, eventually fall in love with each other. But as the circumstances get odd for Pundits to deal with, Gul and her family is forced by the Muslim Militants as well as by Kashmiri Muslim society, to leave Kashmir. Gul’s exile leaves Auqib shattered and proves as the first hard blow on naive Inayat’s life.
Whatever happens in Inayat’s life, whether it is Gul’s (and pundits) so called exodus. Or the tragedies that unfold itself on Inayat and on her family, somehow seems the direct or indirect result of Kashmiri Muslims or Muslim Militants. Nothing unfortunate happens to her family and friends because of Kashmiri Pundits. There is no doubt in, and is also proven by many distinguished authors such as A.S Dulat in his book: Kashmir- The Vajpaye Years, that many pandits worked with IB and other Indian intelligent agencies which resulted in the deaths of numerous Kashmiris and destroyed the peace of many Muslim families across Kashmir. The author of this novel, also somehow remains ambiguous about the countless calamities, tragedies and lamentations of Kashmiri families caused by Indian Paramilitary Forces. The irony is Inayat falling in love with a Hindu Indian Army personnel.
The Lamentations of a Sombre Sky has a beautiful cover. Though blurry but one can guess a child in his dark grey pheran with a stick in his hand, playing in the snow.
The novel is divided into three parts and each part starts with a poem. The plot and the structure is strong and beautifully built. The twists and events are wonderfully woven. The theme of this book is universally appealing as it deals with pain and suffering, loss and resilience, yes, desolation and hope.
There are passages describing the flawless beauty of Kashmir. The Dal Lake, the mountains, the snow and the chill, all come alive while reading. And there are passages that paint the gruesome images of Indian Army, check-posts and bunkers at every nook and corner. These passages attract the reader’s imaginations.
The story is engaging but not believable unless one stops being a Kashmiri who himself has seen (or read) the events unfold upon himself. There are narrations which I felt are contradictory with the political history of Kashmir. Though the characters seem real and believable but, being a Kashmiri myself, I was not able to relate with them.
This is the first novel of the author and nevertheless needs appreciation as the narration and the imaginative style of story is much more amazing and powerful than expected from a new writer. The novel does not try to prove any argument but that love and hope can change things or at least, can give a person the power to deal with the lamentations war usually offers.
This is not just another romantic tale told in a new fashion. This is something new and original. The target audience of the book is not, in my opinion, Kashmiris in particular, but the whole humanity. So, I’ll recommend this to everyone interested in reading novels. But in a same breath I must warn the readers that this should not be read as a historical novel based on facts and research. An exception can’t always become a rule. If a writer’s background doesn’t qualify him to write on the issue of Kashmir, he must try to avoid it as there are chances it might result in the distortion of historical facts. Reading this novel was a wonderful treat, but I only wish Kashmir was not a part of it.
Reviewer is the member of Kashmir Book Club, an innititive to revive reading culture in Kashmir