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Saturday, November 27, 2021

Another Day in Paradise

A curated list of recommendations for the young ’uns. This week, books on Kashmir.

Written by Paromita Chakrabarti |
Updated: September 8, 2019 7:05:46 pm
What is it to be a child in Kashmir? Stories from the Valley

What do we tell children when we speak of Kashmir? How does a child in the Valley spell hope? And, for those growing up in the mainland and hearing stories  of paradise regained, is it possible to imagine the lives of others? A look at three books that speak of the Kashmir conundrum:

One of the early books written for children on the troubled legacy of Kashmir was Paro Anand’s No Guns at My Son’s Funeral (2005, Roli Books, appropriate for 12+ years). Aftab is born in the troubled Valley when terrorism is at its peak and his life is nothing like an average mainland tween’s. Between curfews and keeping his head down and out of trouble and his great love for cricket, he is drawn to the charismatic Akram. The latter is recruiting gullible youth for a mission against the state. When Aftab is drawn into it, unspooling a web of violence, what does his momentary lapse result in? Anand’s narrative explores the anatomy of hate and loss that holds true even two decades later.

All Noorain wants to do is to learn how to ride her new cycle so she can race with Wasim to school. But her young life is complicated by the demands of a word that she doesn’t even understand — “curfew”. It keeps her indoors and the elders in the family glued to the trickle of information that comes to them from the television or from the announcements made by the armed forces in Srinagar. Rohini Mohan’s Mission Cycle (2019, Pratham Books, appropriate for: 6+ years), about life in the Valley from a child’s perspective is both an affirmation of the little joys of life and the anxieties of living in a militarised zone. The illustrations by Jayesh Sivan are somewhat patchy, but Mohan’s narrative appeals both to a reader’s empathy and to her curiosity.

Malik Sajad’s remarkable coming-of-age graphic novel Munnu: A Boy From Kashmir (2015, Fourth Estate) looks at the life of seven-year-old Munnu against a backdrop of state violence, voluntary enrolment in terror training camps, empty Kashmiri Pandit homes and the long shadow of conflict that has dogged the land. It is an insider’s perspective of what it is to live forever in the shade of anger, violence and rejection and the ephemerality of everything that one holds close.

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