The Collaborator released
Mirza Waheed’s Novel Depicts Suffering Of Kashmiris In ‘90s
ARIF SHAFI WANI
Srinagar Jan 30: “I saw my first dead body, before the population of dead bodies I deal with now, in that breezeless dry summer of last year. The fact that it was someone I knew made it more momentous, more shocking somehow…”
With these excerpts, Kashmiri writer and senior journalist of BBC, Mirza Waheed, released his debut novel ‘The Collaborator’, which is based on the sufferings of the people of Kashmir ‘90s.
An exclusive reading of the book at a hotel here Sunday marked its release.
“It is an emotional day for me. I had told my publisher that I will do the novel’s maiden reading at home. A lot of things happened in Kashmir in 1990s. I found no better way than to describe them in the shape of a novel,” Waheed told the audience before starting the novel’s reading.
Waheed said in early 90’s he was moved by the sight of bodies of some youth who were killed in an encounter in his native Lal Bazar locality of Srinagar. “There was a crackdown and we were asked to assemble near a hospital there. While I was moving toward the venue, I spotted one of the youth still breathing. He was asking for water but we couldn’t do anything and just moved on. This image always haunted me. I set up my novel on the LoC which has been kept out of bounds for civilians and we came to know through Doordarshan that the youth were killed in the hidden Valley,” Waheed said.
Waheed said as the education was “brutally bruised” due to situation in the Valley, he left for Delhi for further studies and in 2001 went to London. “I started to write when I was 10 years old. I used to preserve my writings and read whatever I could. Finally I started to weave my novel around the events in Kashmir,” he said.
Waheed said he created typical Kashmiri setting in his London home with traditional paper-machie and artifacts. “I have spent countless nights imagining that I am in Kashmir. The incidents in the Valley which left indelible marks on my mind helped me to give life to my novel,” he said.
Waheed read some paragraphs from the novel’s first chapter ‘Valley of Flowers’ which revolves around four Kashmiri teenaged friends who cross to Pakistan and get killed on the LoC on their return. When Waheed minutely described the state and position of the corpses, some persons among the audience could be seen sobbing.
“Some characters in my novel might remind people of their friends. But I can’t be in all the characters. People form the characters and this is the essence of my novel,” he said.
The audience however could not resist applauding Waheed when he referred to a Governor’s character in the novel as Curfew king.
“I reiterate that the characters in the novel are not after any particular person. Please don’t draw comparisons… I have a child and I don’t want to be charged with sedition,” he said.
But suddenly all eyes in the audience turned moist when Waheed while reading a chapter ‘Milk Beggars’ depicting the sufferings of Kashmiri women due to continuous curfews in early ‘90s. “Please Waheed stop, we can’t bear the tyranny suffered by our women,” a man among the audience said and broke down.
“You have been able to break the bond between fiction and reality,” Prof Hamida Nayeem who teaches at Kashmir University told Waheed.
Waheed while replying to a question acknowledged that he had apprehensions. “I was initially apprehensive whether my novel will be published or not. Even after the novel’s release, I am still apprehensive about many things,” he said.
“Actually, my novel’s protagonist is not actually a collaborator as the title suggests. He is a teenager who watches his friends disappearing one by one across the LoC and finds himself engaged in what could only tantamount to betrayal of his erstwhile youthful companions whose absence he so strongly mourns,” he said.
On the occasion, the Kashmiri writer and author of Curfewed Night, Basharat Peer, while moderating the function said the novel is an attempt for beleaguered people of Valley to get a voice.
The function among others was attended by Kashmir University Vice-Chancellor Prof Riyaz Punjabi, VC Islamic University Prof Siddiqui Wahid and journalists and people from different walks of life. Waheed’s family members and relatives were also among the audience.
The novel has been published by Viking, Penguin which has described Waheed’s work as “a stunningly humane work of story-telling with a poignant and unpredictable hero at its heart. Its writer is a major new talent who goes to the heart of the long-standing conflict between India and Pakistan. In one of the most shocking and brilliantly compelling novels of recent times Mirza Waheed lights our way into the heart of a war that is all too real.”
After the function, the audience thronged the stall of Password Book Store (Lal Chowk) at the venue to get the novel’s copy.
Waheed was born and brought up in Srinagar, Kashmir. He moved to Delhi when he was 18 to study English Literature at the University of Delhi and worked as a journalist in the city for four years. He came to London in 2001 to join the BBC’s Urdu Service, where he now works as an editor.
Lastupdate on : Sun, 30 Jan 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sun, 30 Jan 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Mon, 31 Jan 2011 00:00:00 IST
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