Mirza Waheed’s debut novel conveys the confusions of every young man in Kashmir, says Naseem Shafaie
THE PAST few years have been very important for Kashmiri literature, especially for Kashmiri authors writing in English. Basharat Peer’s personalised memoirs in the acclaimed Curfewed Night were a watershed moment for our literature. Peer has now been followed by an important and engaging book by Mirza Waheed, another Kashmiri journalist-turned-author.
Waheed’s book The Collaborator is a heart-breaking account of a young man living near the Line of Control (LoC) in far-flung Kashmir, who works for the army and yet cannot overcome his yearning to become an armed mujahid.
Though one cannot miss the strong political undertones, the book quietly conveys tones of pathos without making grief the centre of the plot. For instance the state of a mother whose son has gone ‘across’: “In the gentle drip of her tears falling into the pool of tea, the conversations in my mind became an oppressive muddle.”
The book is heartbreakingly simple yet powerful, tragic yet with a dose of comic ironies. There is also a bit of magic realism thrown in as the narrator has long conversations with dead bodies piled on the ground or floating in winter. Waheed aptly names the mountain on the LoC Koh-i-Gham (Mountain of Sorrow), something easy for most Kashmiris to identify with.
For Kashmiris, the book is a dark reminder and for the rest of you, a brutal insight
Waheed’s protagonist cannot be called a strong-willed individual, yet in his narration he conveys the confusion of every young man in Kashmir. The book borrows heavily from real-life events of Kashmir. From the generational love for Rafi’s voice even in the remotest areas of the Valley, to the faithful scorn that we all have for Jagmohan.
Take these lines. “They are making this a jahannum, we are all consigned to this hell! Look, look, look how they have killed that mountain. Look at the forest they have scorched, look! If only if they were themselves at the receiving end some day. They will some day they will,” one of the narrators friends screams while playing cricket as India and Pakistan battle it out across the LoC.
New Delhi-based journalists too come under some friendly fire from Waheed. The character of the armyman Major Kadian too is well constructed. The Major has no qualms and just does his job, even if it means piling up bodies near the LoC. For us Kashmiris, the book is a grim and dark reminder of what we have been through and for the rest of you it is an brutal insight into the daily life we have led over the past 20 years. A must read.
Shafaie is a Kashmiri poet and lives in Srinagar