Monday, September 6, 2010

Curfewed Night - Basharat Peer

Rating: 10/10


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 Kashmir. 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 Kashmir. Peer’s 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.


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