Book review Rumors of Spring

She was startled by the detailed description I gave. She got worked up. ‘Don’t you know that you are not supposed to look at a soldier? You are supposed to keep our gaze lowered!’

I remained silent and did not attempt to explain once we were outdoors, it was impossible to miss the hideous structures. Like weed, they had cropped up everywhere, they followed us no matter which route we took, they stared at us in our faces. Who know they would eventually become landmarks and become, a part of our addresses: ‘ the house next to the small bunker’, ‘the lane before the large bunker’!

Why I Picked this Book?

There are always two narratives when it comes to Kashmir, one is of the Indian State and the other is of the people of Kashmir. And in the narrative war often the causality is the truth, based on one’s ideological bent an opinion is formed about Kashmir and Kashmiris. To get some perspective, one need to read the stories and viewpoint of the people of Kashmir and their lived experiences. So, is the reason I picked this book by Farah Bashir, who was born and grew up in Kashmir.

The Book

A memoir of a girl growing up during the most volatile times in the Kashmir valley. The author narrates how post 1989, everything in Kashmir changed. There was a growing anger among the youth of Kashmir, which resulted in insurgency, which in turn resulted in militancy and ultimately the increased presence of Indian Army in the valley, making Kashmir one of the most militarized zones of the world. This book, however, captures how these factors affected the day to day lives of the people of Kashmir.

 The book begins with the natural death of Farah’s grandmother, in the year 1994, when the militancy was at peak and so was the counter militancy measures by Indian Army. During the mourning period the author remembers various incidents, and through them tells a story of how things have changed over the period for the ordinary people of Kashmir. How festivities were subdued, how people keep the lights low in their homes to avoid unnecessary attention of army, how windows were permanently closed for the fear of a stray bullet taking your life away or for avoiding the fumes of the tear gas. How the normal routine and life of ordinary people were affected, how the education were impacted because the schools were closed most of the times, shops were closed early. Cinemas and malls were closed, how carrying an ID card whenever you step out became a norm and not carrying one could land you in trouble. How people were killed by Army firing or militants bombing and how it all became a norm for the people of Kashmir. Youth and men getting picked up by Army and then not returning home and termed as ‘disappeared’.

The author tells all the above through various incidents that happened around her, some of them witnessed or experienced by her and some by people known to her. She tells us how every other day a new army bunker would pop up and how they would be under more restriction, how at any point of time the army can search your home for hiding militants, the term for it being ‘crackdown’. Then, there are some moments of fun and happiness from the past, when Eid was celebrated with gusto, the time when they went to cinema or the times when they (she and her sister) used to play her father’s music system.

The writing style is simple yet very impactful, and you can read it one sitting. The author is a photojournalist, and usually a photojournalist tells a story with their photographs, in this novel she created a moving picture with her words. You are transported to the location, and you can feel the suffocation, the trauma, and the tension of living under the constant watch of the army. You can feel the frustration of being stripped of most of your rights, you feel as if someone is chocking you.

A short, crisp and very well written book that everyone should read to understand the everyday lives of people of Kashmir under Army control.

About the Author

Farah Bashir was born and raised in Kashmir. She was a former photojournalist with Reuters and currently works as a communications consultant. Rumours of Spring is her first book.

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