Book Review: Leaves from Kashmir by Saba Shafi

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By Najmul Hoda

leaves from kashmirTitle: Leaves from Kashmir
Author: Saba Shafi
Publisher: Partridge India
Pages: 148
Price: Rs 350 (Paperback)

Serendipity. I chanced upon it. Don’t judge a book by its cover. An old maxim. Looks are deceptive. Another truism. But then, physiognomy is a science and “lifafa dekh kar hum khat ka mazmooń jaan lete haiń” is an art. So, make an exception this time, for the validation of a rule consists in the exceptions it allows. The blazing bloom on its cover—-the incarnadine glory of the fire of forest—is only the proverbial tip of the iceberg of the beauty that lies underneath. The words leap out from embers like the tongues of fire to create a conflagration where flames sway, swirl and pirouette like a mystic in ecstasy. (The stylised and choreographed whirl of the faux dervish would be a poor parallel.)

This is the best prose—if the unmetered poetry can be called that—you could have ever read. This will be the biggest regret you will carry if you die without reading this. And having died without reading this may be the only thing that will stand between you and salvation. It will be a life wasted. God will not condone this omission.

The words fall from heaven. Though carried on the wings of angels they cascade on consciousness with a force which numbs the senses and awakens the soul. They pleasure, they provoke, they incite, they excite, they titillate, they irritate. All. But they are no balm if you are looking for one to soothe your gashing wound. They singe, sear and scorch. They are like Nietzsche’s rumbling rambles announcing the death of God. But they are also like the dizzying whirl of Rumi’s masnavi—the susurrating sigh of separation. Here Virginia Woolf’s stream of consciousness races towards the ocean of superconsciousness. Her words flutter by like a butterfly, spreading colours; but come back humming to sting like a bee. If a Himalayan river, flowing downstream, with all its frightening ferocity, could be caught, captured and congealed in words, it would take the shape of this book. It offers blinding insights and delirious delights. It’s frightening. It’s enlightening. Readers of the world, rejoice. Rise and welcome. Here comes your Virginia Wolfe, Sylvia Plath, Arundhati Roy and Susan Sontag rolled into one, with a dash of Marquez, Rushdie and Rumi thrown in too. She is Saba Shafi, the new archangel of epiphany. Listen to her conversations across the chasm.

I am a slow reader. But the windstorm of this book carried me on its wings, in one swift flight, from start to finish. Yes, the flight was turbulent, and I kept gasping now in awe and now for breath. Don’t open this book if you fear being sucked into whirlpool, or if levitation, edification and altitude makes you dizzy.

What is this book about? The loss of paradise! But, not the loss of innocence. It’s about life and all that it entails—toils, travails, tears and tempests. A reaffirmation of life through the metaphor of death. The burst of a bubble to become the sea. A chronicle of memories best forgotten.

Am I promoting this book? No! But, if you a have a taste for words, and relish rolling them on your tongue, and want to see them seep into your senses to induce a trance, you may like to order a copy from Amazon or Flipkart.


The reviewer is Deputy Inspector General of Police (Tamil Nadu). When away from the hustle and bustle of duty, he indulges in books that churn his soul.


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