New Delhi: The advent of militancy in Kashmir, its impact on people and the belongingness amid unrest are some of the aspects that a new book deals with.
“The Tree with a Thousand Apples” by Sanchit Gupta traces the lives of three childhood friends, who grow up in an atmosphere of peace and amity in Srinagar until the night of January 20, 1990, “when things change for the worse”.
Set in Kashmir from 1990 to 2013, the book goes on to narrate the choices destiny forces Safeena Malik, Deewan Bhat and Bilal Ahanger to make.
The novel, published by Niyogi Books, also highlights different points of view – migration of Kashmiri Pandits from their homes, young “directionlessc militants, “duty-bound Army officers and innocent civilians, who become collateral damage”.
“Deewan is forced to flee from his home, Safeena’s mother becomes ‘collateral damage’ and Bilal has to embrace a wretched life of poverty and fear,” the book notes.
The place they called paradise becomes a battleground and their friendship struggles when fate forces them to choose sides against their will.
Twenty years later, destiny brings them at a crossroads again, when they no longer know what is right and what is wrong.
Nothing is right in their lives. Safeena’s brother Tariq was shot dead by the Army in Machil. Her father was killed by a militant. Bilal was living in penury. Deewan had to flee and live in Mumbai. He lost an arm too.
“When I visited Kashmir in 2009, I saw a 12-year-old Kashmiri Muslim boy sipping cups of Kehwa with a 20-year-old Army soldier. I saw love when there is hatred around,” says Gupta about how the idea of the book struck him.
He says he wanted to tell the stories of the people he met, tales he heard from them, adding that the book is a universal story of cultures, belongingness, revenge and atonement.