Prisoners of Paradise’ is a beautiful novella written by young Kashmiri author Asif Khan. This 120-page love story was published in 2018 by Notion Press. It was the author’s debut book and it went on to become a bestseller in Kashmir. The book tells a poignant tale of two teenagers, namely, Zain and Zara, who meet on social media and soon fall in love. The story is set in Srinagar during the turmoil of 2016. Both Zain and Zara decide to meet each other in person on the festival of Eid, but due to an abrupt disturbance on that particular day, they are unable to do so. As the agitation around them rises, the valley is put under a prolonged siege. Means of communication, too, are blocked. This enforced separation takes a heavy toll on the two lovers, especially Zara who yearns for Zain every minute. Her mind is affected badly and it leads to changes in her behaviour and her health begins to deteriorate.
Unable to contact Zain, she voices her longing for him through her poems penned down in her dairy. The poems are so intense and soul-stirring that they fill the eyes with tears. The plot-twist at the end of the story is quite baffling.
The story beautifully depicts life in a curfew-laden valley where people are caged inside their homes. It explores the psychological effect of the communication gag on the young, an effect that remains unnoticed by parents and elders.
I especially liked the prologue and epilogue of the book. I loved the beautifully crafted poems of Zara, which are heart-wrenching. My favourite lines from the poems are:
“Call me for a debate
Title it ‘The debate of lovers’”
“So I put forth the red carpet of my sufferings
Woven under the deep silences of the curfewed nights”
“I have poisoned my desires and buried them
In an unknown graveyard”
“As only you would be discussed tonight under
The light of this treacherous candle”
The language throughout is clear and simple. Though some details are lacking, the story is engrossing, relatable, and intense. The author has done a commendable work.
The writer is a student of Mass Communication and Journalism. [email protected]