￼A few days ago when the author Sanchit Gupta approached me to review his book The Tree With A Thousand Apples, he told me clearly to crucify the book if I didn’t like it. But how could I do that. After reading it, tearing apart the book in my review is the last thing which I will not do even in the wildest of my dreams. It’s a sheer mindblowing book to read.
While growing up, Kashmir problems always used to puzzle me. What is their definition of freedom which they keep demanding? Could separation from India ensure the prosperity of the region and its people. Is there any solution to Kashmir’s issues. Till date peace eludes this paradise of India.
The Tree With A Thousand Apples depicts the story of this war-ridden and insurgent state of India right from 1989 till 2013. It is a coming of age novel which states the story of innocent Kashmiri civilians who lives on a double-edged sword where they are tormented by militants and military both. Life seems to be so uncertain, people of Kashmir don’t know if there will be any tomorrow. They live only in present.
The story is about three friends Deewan, Bilal and Saffena and their families who suffered untold atrocities from the hands of both militant and military army which forced Deewan, a Kashmiri Pandit and his family to flee away from Kashmir. Harassment forced Bilal to become a militant and forced Saffena to endure physical abuse and to live in her own country like a pariah.
Deewan’s brother Ravi was brutally killed by militants. Bilal and Saffena’s siblings were deliberately killed by army tagging them as terrorist in spite of knowing that they were innocent. Deewan’s mother was killed while fighting with a militant. Saffena’s mother a bystander in the fight between militant and military when a bullet struck her. Her father was killed by a militant. Bilal’s parent died from diseases as they didn’t get timely treatment.
Amid of all these monstrosity and barbarism, blossomed the friendship of a Pandit boy, a Muslim boy and a Muslim girl whose innocent minds and pure hearts doesn’t understand religious differences and double standards of adults. But circumstances makes them understand these things in a harsher way.
Sanchit has a terrific writing style. He has this knack to give visualistic effect to the story which made me imagine everything happening in front of my eye. It was shuddering and gave me goosebumps. Many a times I read the novel holding my breath trembling at the unfolding events. Such was the effect that I felt emotionally drained at the end of the novel.
The plot was compact and tightly written and a few real incidents like shameful Macchil fake encounter on 30th April 2010 was included in the storyline. Also the author mentions about many memorable events that took place in the country like Indo Pakistan cricket matches, 1993 bomb blast in Mumbai, cricket world cup etc in order to give readers a reference to time period. This really gave the story a realistic touch.
What I didn’t like was the climax of book. General Choudhary should have been convicted and punished for fake encounter and sexually abusing Saffena. His murder from the hands of Bilal was just not enough. It didn’t clear the name of Tariq nor was justice for Saffena.
Somewhere deep within I was completely shaken and jolted after finishing the novel specially when you know the story is based on real life incidents.
It is a powerful story written in the most gripping and intriguing manner that one will be left thinking about it for days. Hence forth whenever Kashmir will be discussed this book is bound to come in my mind.
The story and the title of the book The Tree With A Thousand Apples comes with a strong message of love and friendship which could only bring peace and prosperity in Kashmir. Only then there will be trees in every lane and corner of Kashmir with thousands of apples and Kashmir will be truly a paradise of India.
Depicting the plight of both Kashmiri Pandits and innocent Kashmiri Muslims this novel is a must read for anyone who loves reading realistic fiction.