Based in the militarised wilderness of modern-day Kashmir, the narrator’s agonising dilemma is whether to follow his freedom-fighting friends across the border to Pakistan or to remain with his parents and work as a collaborator. This harrowing novel vividly describes a country broken by war, methodically building an atmosphere of menace and despair, interwoven with elegiac description of the beauty of the landscape. Will linger in the mind.
I wanted to ask him if he worried about his sons, if he too spent sleepless nights waiting for them to return from their dangerous trips into Azad Kashmir? If they too feared for their lives? But I chose not to. I just listened to his broken-up talk, amidst sounds of shelling and gunfire somewhere not too far away. By now I was so used to the rattle-rattle that I sometimes forgot to notice, but presently, Shaban stopped every few moments and nodded towards the outside, as if to ask, ‘Did you listen to that? That’s what I’m talking about, war.’