The Literature of Pain

The Collaborator: It’s every Kashmiri’s story

It is   pain, not angst that is at the heart of new generation Kashmiris. This I was reminded a few days back when I got two e-mails one, a poem from   Zuha Altaf a class seven student reading in Iqbal Memorial School and another a write up from a class twelve student Sobhia Nazir reading in Windsor College, London. I learnt this pain is central found from and when I read the Collaborator a novel written by Mirza Waheed and published by Penguin Group, London, England.

The words ‘angst’ and ‘new generation Kashmiris’ were made to look synonymous during past three years. The word ‘angst’ in fact got added as yet another   cliché to the Kashmir political lexicon. There have been hardly any journalists, columnists, political commentators, and political analyst who have not attributed the recent upsurges to the   ‘angst’ and ‘anger’ amongst the post 1990 generation. Some journalists called this generation as “children of conflict’ and those sympathetic to ‘Kashmir movement’ called them as “children of resistance”.

The literature that has been dripping from the pens of Kashmiri children and youth tell a different tale: that the convergence of the youth on the streets during the past three years is a manifestation of deep pain at their hearts. Some children have been giving vent to this pain by writing on Facebook, some by splashing colors on canvass and some penning their hurt feelings on paper. Zuha’s poem ‘Curfewed Season’ provides an insight into the tender minds of children, about the loss of childhood and how the situation   has been adversely affecting their psyche:

In the month of June
Everywhere was “Khoon”
 Firing, Killing, Torture
Cops behaved as monster
 Sit-in, strike , marches
Kashmir saw the torches
Life was stuck
 Saw hiding everyone
On the roads none
 Cops looking far
No youth there are
 No work, No earn
No study, No learn
 No vehicles on
From dusk to dawn
For milk, babies cried
For medicine, patients died
 For the want of rice
Could not pay the price
 Hundred ten gone
Life goes now on

Sobhia Nazir’s small article, ‘The last Paradise is in fact a story of thousands of children whose parents migrated from Kashmir to other side of the line Or beyond the mountains of Pir Panchal:  

“My Parents say that I was born on first December 1992 in a paradise that was also a prison. I ask myself how a prison could be paradise. …. Well, the moment I was born atmosphere was highly charged, outside the hospital heavy firing went on… I survived.. This day is haunting me – whenever this day haunts me, I avoid the hunt. It is like a book whose first page is lost…What actually happened that day I have some queries which need answers, answers I will find from those – who authored this day for me Kashmir- the paradise still prison will continue to live in my eyes and although that day I had to abandon all my kith and kin, I was fortunate to arrive at a place called United Kingdom which gave us a new beginning. This place is similar to my lost paradise, the same type of gardens, seasons, flowers, birds and enthralling sceneries. The only difference is I still live without the lost ones.”

It is the same pain that has provided warp and woof to the  ‘Curfewed Night’ a lucidly written book by Bashrat Peer. And now I see the same pain gushing through 308 pages of the Collaborator a novel by Mirza Waheed.

The novel is second major work after Shalimar the Clown by Salman Rushdie placed in contemporary Kashmir. In Rushdie’s novel like all good works of fiction there is  high drama of love, intrigue, conspiracies and   murder.   As some reviewer of this novel had written, “The best parts of the novel are undoubtedly those set in Kashmir; Shalimar and Boonyi’s youth and family background are realized with humor and sensual detail. And the destruction of Kashmir is the true heart of this book.” But it fails to be closer to our hearts as against this one gets intensely and intimately connected to Mirza Waheed debut novel from page one to the last page.

The story of this book is that of every home and village and    every mother and father. The 19 year old  narrator son of village head men and his four friends Ashfaq, Gul, Hussain and Mohammad  represent a whole generation of youth of nineties who were drawn into vortex of what is preferred to be called as ‘armed resistance’. “ There was this time, not too long ago, just two or three years back, when everyone wanted to go sarhad par, to cross over and become famous freedom fighter. Hordes and hordes went in early days, every one to return and become a commander, a masked legend in their own right, a liberator of Kashmiri people, a hero.’

The novel is not just a piece of literature but it is document that brings out history of a particular period with all its agonies. At many occasions it reads out as a beautifully written report by a human rights organization. Sometimes the novel reads like an investigative piece of reportage.

“I have gradually come to understand how this works. Fairly simple, actually. When they need to, they release a list from time to time about a fierce encounter in so-and-so sector on border that contained so many hours, went on till the small hours, and so on and so forth. The list of dead then sent to police and the newspapers.  The media are never allowed to except for delegation from centre and the governor of Kashmir.”

The novel sends shudders down the spine. There is not a single moment to rejoice. It makes you sob, weep and brood.
The novel by all accounts is literature of pain- the pain that aches every Kashmiri heart.

(Feedback at