If a book’s greatness is measured by the impact it has on its reader, then Curfewed Night is indeed a great book. This part-autobiographical tale of Kashmir written by journalist/writer Basharat Peer is a must-read for every Indian, for the simple reason that this is, finally, the story of
Kashmir as told by a Kashmiri.
In the feverish discussions and deliberations about conflicts, most analysts, ‘experts’ and even the common man talk only in terms of the ‘issue’.
Kashmir is discussed in
several angles; as a political, economic, ethnic, religious and strategic
issue. In all such intellectual discussions, we often miss out on the angle
that matters the most; the emotional, human side to the problem.
Curfewed Night is a harsh reminder of the troubles and travails borne by the common man of
It is an uncomfortable, hurtful, unforgettable, even embarrassing read and Peer
writes with such clarity and indeed calm, even while recounting many a personal
tragedy or loss. What strikes me most about this book is the fact that nowhere
does Peer make judgements, nowhere does he unleash hatred, and nowhere does he
take sides politically. It is precisely this that makes the book so powerful;
the fact that it is written from the heart and the fact that because it talks
of events and issues from a personal angle, it seems so much more real and
striking to us.
Indeed Curfewed Night was for me a journey into the ravaged valley with the author, while understanding his life, his convictions, his family, friends and his
writing is beautifully simple, innately evocative and sometimes almost poetic,
conjuring images of his time in the valley and the people who form a part of
his journey. This is one of those books by the end of which you feel you know
the author very well and begin to care for them and hope there is a ‘happy
ending’ in sight.
Peer talks about his initial fascination for militancy, the journey to study outside
Kashmir, becoming a
journalist and coming back home. Alongside personal accounts, he talks of the
scheme of things in Kashmir at that point, be
it the aftermath of the Parliament attack or the Indo-Pak bus service.
The narrative might seem disjoint at times, but it never hampered my reading of the book because in my mind, Curfewed Night wasn’t as much about
Kashmir alone as it was
about Kashmiris. This book moved me to tears more than once and was an emotional journey for the reader too, not just the writer. I’m very
glad that I read this unforgettable account written with such passion that is
hard to dismiss.
Peer is a writer to watch out for and I’m looking forward to whatever he writes in future. Curfewed Night has been long listed for the Guardian first book Award and here’s wishing Peer all the very best. I’m thankful to him for giving us a book that must have taken a lot of grit and determination to write.
Needless to say, I’m adding this book to my list of India-related book recommendations.