By MALIK NISAR
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”- Martin Luther King Jr
The conflict in and over Kashmir is an unlikely setting for literary fiction, and has given its writers little opportunity to be heard in the world. Kashmir-based Nayeema Mehjoor’s first novel is an attempt to correct this. Mehjoor’s book, “Lost in Terror” is the story of a girl in a conservative Muslim society, who, despite all odds, achieves big in life.
The story is a throwback to the nineties, where no one knew who was the master, and who was the subject. It brings back the memories of the momentous decade when there used to be chaos and violence everywhere. Nayeema vividly brings home what life is for a women in a conservative society where they are valued only for reproduction. She (the character) lived in a fear of shifting moods, his insistence on steering even mundane exchanges down a confrontational path that, on occasion, he would resolve with abuses, and sometime try to make amends for with polluted apologies ; sometimes not.
While reading this novel one becomes curious to know more. The novel highlights the pain and sufferings of a common person in a conflicted zone.
It is not free from flaws like, for example, it is mostly women centric. The author has mostly highlighted the struggle of women as compared to men and the novel has highlighted mostly the struggle of one particular family.
The novel lacks the energy that grabs the attention of readers .It shows simply the description of events. There is no life to characters which could have been more potent.
In one of the chapters, the author narrates the pain of a mother whose son has joined the armed rebellion. But, what about those mothers, who even didn’t get to see the corpses of their dear ones?
The author has only depicted the life of women in urban settings She could have written a few chapters pertaining to women in rural areas and their the struggles during the early nineties. Apart from this, Nayeema is at her best in some of her descriptions of the landscape in an urban retreat where a girl grows in the company of her father and the relation of women with their husbands begins with hostility but slowly blossoms into concord.
Nayeema’s writing is simple, and that is all it needs to be- a welcome contrast to women’s complex situations and condition.
By the end, you are not only left with tears, but with a fear lit within.
—The author is a student of Journalism and Mass Communications. He can be reached at: [email protected]