Sometimes it takes a journalist to remind you why you like literature …

There are parts of Basharat Peer‘s Curfewed Night which are sentimental, but it’s a very good account of life under Indian occupation in Kashmir.  A few sections got to me, and I repost them here in the hopes that others will take a look at the book:

When I came across an old copy of George Orwell‘s Homage to Catalonia, I developed an obsession with his merging of the personal and the political, the small details and the bid ideas, his sparse, powerful prose.  Homage to Catalonia brought back many memories of Kashmir and made me believe that writing similarly about my own war might be possible someday. I saw the walls of Kashmiri towns when I read Orwell’s writing about Barcelona during the 1936 uprising against the Fascists …

I saw similar windows of understanding opening up in the Red Cavalry stories of Isaac Babel.  And when I read Babel’s own disappearance and murder, I thought again of the arrests and custodial murders of thousands of young men in Kashmir.  In John Steinbeck‘s chronicle of displaced farmers, The Grapes of Wrath, I saw Indian military camps taking over orchards and paddy fields around my village in Kashmir.  A little later, the essays of James Baldwin reminded me of the ghettos of Indian Muslims and lower castes. (64)

One forgives him for only reading the left, because there are other heart-breaking moments in the book:

“Thirty seven words is all you need to know to be a reporter here [Kashmir].”  He laughed the weary laugh of a man who had witnessed a lot.  It was a grim list: fear, arrest, prison, torture, death, Indian security forces, separatists, guerrillas/militants/terrorists, grenades, assault rifles, sandbag bunkers, army installations, hideouts, crackdowns, search-and-destroy operations, frustration, tension, anxiety, trauma, democracy, betrayal, self-determination, freedom, peace talks, international community, mediation, breakdown, despair, and rage.

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