Title: The Tree with a Thousand Apples

AUTHOR: Sanchit Gupta

PP: 284


Publisher:Nyogi books

The Kashmir conflict has a thousand narratives as perhaps any other conflict has elsewhere. There is the narrative of the Indian state, a Pakistani narrative, a narrative each of Kashmiri Muslims and Kashmiri Pandits. Then there is the narrative of armed forces fighting a neverending insurgency and,off course, the narrative of the militants waging war against the state in pursuit of an azadi. But beyond all these narratives lies the common man who bears the brunt of all these narratives. Sanchit Gupta tries his best to keep his gaze focused on the lives of three innocent child hood friends, two boys, one Muslim and another a Pandit and a Muslim girl. The vortex of violence and conflict tears their happy lives apart and sets them on a treacherous course as a fait accompli. The book does take pains in not taking sides and avoids sermonising. What it actually attempts is to tell the story from different perspectives, the lines between evil and good, right and wrong, hero and villain getting blurred quite often. Over the last two decades a number of works of fiction based on happenings in Kashmir have been published. What is discernable in most of these stories is sticking to a particular narrative. This book tries to navigate its way through a host of narratives.
Sanchit begins the story immediately before the turmoil begins in early nineties, when both communities shared a common life, intermixing freely and depending on each other through thick and thin.
The armed insurgency destroys lives and creates tragedies on a daily basis. The innocent bystanders too get sucked in to the vortex and the three innocent childhood friends find themselves in totally abnormal times. One has migrated out and symbolically lost his left hand to the violence inflicted on him and his family while escaping out of the dangerous valley. The remaining two kids grow as the children of conflict.
Sanchit Gupta being a non- Kashmiri tries to tell the story in a detached way and largely succeeds in this. He has achieved a fair degree of accuracy in using the Kashmiri cultural symbols throughout the narrative to bestow an indigenous aura to the book, notwithstanding that samavor is not used to wash hands, methmaz does not exist as three pieces and pashmina carpets have never been woven!
The author taking recourse to fiction can get a woman kidnapped by a frail journalist from Mumbai from the Major General’s bed and take her away all the way to Mumbai but in reality, this does not happen. But what we are reading is after all a work of fiction. The narrative is captivating, a good read and a valuable addition to fiction on Kashmir.

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