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New Release: The House That Spoke by Zuni Chopra

house-that-spokePenguin announce the release of The House That Spoke by Zuni Chopra. The novel, set in the controversial terrain of Kashmir, beautifully blends magical and historical elements. The book will be released all across India in February 2017.

Fourteen-year-old Zoon Razdan has always known that there is something extraordinary about her house, which is as inextricably a part of her life as what’s left of her torn, frayed family. Now just before her fifteenth birthday, she find that she has inherited not just her beloved house’s grim secrets but also a battle with an ancient, deadly force of darkness.

Lush and evocative, The House That Spoke is a kaleidoscopic tale that reimagines Kashmir with the colours of magic and is sure to leave you spellbound.

About the Author

Zuni is a fifteen-year-old author and has published two books of poetry. This is her first novel.She is the daughter of noted film critic Anupama Chopra and filmmaker Vidhu Vinod Chopra. The acclaimed writer Vikram Chandra is her maternal uncle.



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Why do we need more narratives from Kashmir

By Suhail Ahmad

In a recently held interaction session organized by Rising Kashmir, academic and author, Dr Nitasha Kaul emphasized on the need of having more and more stories and narratives coming from Kashmir in order to clear the picture of the conflict zone which has been shrouded in the haze of multiple narratives. Fortunately, over the years, a number of young Kashmiri authors have attempted to reflect the true human story of Kashmir, challenging the State-centric discourse.

Walk into a bookstore, and you are drawn to a stack of titles on Kashmir conflict. Though non-Kashmiri writers have authored most of these books, there has been a refreshing change with the residents providing a local perspective of the intractable conflict. Now you can find the likes of Basharat Peer, Mirza Waheed and Shahnaz Bashir alongside Victoria Schofield, Sumantra Bose, Sumit Ganguly and M J Akbar.

The local narrative is important given the prevailing climate of opinion in India about Kashmir. The debate about Kashmir has been conducted primarily by sensational journalism in India. The negative image of Kashmiris among the Indian people receive daily reinforcement from the news media. As a result, to the average Indian newspaper reader, Kashmiris and secessionists have become almost interchangeable terms. In the absence of any contact with real Kashmiris in daily life, many have accepted this kind of image as a substitute. Read more

Source: Rising Kashmir

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The Lounge Chair Interview: 10 Questions with Shahnaz Bashir

By Aminah Sheikh


Let’s get down to brass tacks. Why do you write?

My basic instinct is to write. Of course, a cause, money, adulation and fame are what writers write for but they can’t happen without the instinct. The vent that I need to articulate the deepest levels of my consciousness drives me to write. When not writing, I sing; I sing well.

Tell us about your most recent book or writing project. What were you trying to say or achieve with it?

My most recent book is Scattered Souls. It is a collection of 13 interlinked stories which makes it a novel as well. The connections between the stories have been determined by the interdependent diversity in suffering that run through disparate, scattered individuals as a thread, enabling each character a full role in relation to the other. But that is not how it was planned. It emerged while writing them.

The conflict situation in Kashmir is extraordinary. The stories try to evince what ordinary means to a people living (read suffering) in an extraordinary situation.

Describe your writing aesthetic.

Primarily, I’m fond of experimenting with diverse formats. I also like to punctuate the narration with real elements like a letter, an ad, a song, a poem, a list, a symbol and so on. I don’t like tight climax-plots but loose-ended plots to my stories with a multi-plot embedded throughout. I like a matter-of-fact, poetic, stream-of-consciousness, compact narration generally and above all. My stories would stand alone as well as converge, with certain elements, into each other. I am fond of nouns and verbs mostly, in verbing of nouns and adjectives as tiny metaphors. I don’t approve of fiction which is written only to explore the possibilities of language not ideas. I don’t like too much of aesthetic that fails to torture the language and holds it back from telling the latent truth.

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Indian author moots confederation to settle Kashmir issue

Indian Vice President Hamid Ansari on Wednesday released a book that calls for a confederation of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh but without undoing the partition as the only way to address poverty and resolve the Kashmir dispute.

“Regional cooperation with a focus on human security problems, on movement of people and on trade without unreasonable restrictions” was the need of the hour, Mr Ansari said at a function in Mumbai, apparently agreeing with the book’s argument.

“The common traits in cultural traditions and historical narratives need to be transmitted to younger generation through conscious promotion rather than prevention of cultural exchanges, films, and other cultural activities,” Mr Ansari said in his appeal to the governments and civil societies in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Mr Ansari made these comments while releasing August Voices, a new book by Indian peace activist Sudheendra Kulkarni, which calls for an India-Pakistan-Bangladesh confederation. Read more

Source: DAWN

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New Release: Abdul Gani Bhat’s ‘Beyond Me’ captivates, jolts the reader

The former Prime Minister of Jammu Kashmir, Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah was on Indian Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru’s mission Kashmir in Pakistan to explore possibilities to work out a peaceful settlement of Kashmir dispute but Nehru died while Sheikh was in Pakistan, former APHC Chairman and Muslim Conference leader, Prof. Abdul Gani Bhat writes in his autobiography ‘Beyond Me’.

In his 264-page book published by Gulshan Books Kashmir, Bhat writes that the war between India and China – the most humiliating war to recount amid noises ‘Hindi-Chini Bhai Bhai’ eventually brought Jawahar Lal Nehru’s ivory towers tumbling down in pieces to earth.

“Nehru’s sense of history was sharper than a few others around. He understood that belligerence against the neighbouring China and Pakistan at the same time could spell a disaster in the entire region and thus in deference to Anglo-American diplomatic persuasion as well preferred a strategic dialogue with Pakistan on Kashmir dispute. The dialogue happened to produce no solution as usual,” he writes in the book that he has dedicated to Qurat-ul-Ain and her mother Tasleema and that encapsulates his life upto 1987.

The book divided into 15 chapters is being released at a simple function in Srinagar on Friday. Bhat writes things changed when National Conference (NC) founder, Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah was released from captivity. Read more

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Not War, Not Peace: A book that helps you ask the right questions about the Indo-Pak conflict


Not War, Not Peace: Motivating Pakistan to Prevent Cross-Border Terrorism

By George Perkovich & Toby Dalton

Publisher: Oxford University Press

Pages: 695

The authors of ‘Not War, Not Peace’ couldn’t have timed the India release of their book better. Perkovich was in India immediately after the Uri terror strike which led to the death of 19 soldiers, and even as he argued that there was a low probability of New Delhi ordering a ground-based military operation against a nuclear-armed Pakistan, the Indian army launched “surgical strikes” in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

These events, however, do not take anything away from the value of the book which is analytical in nature and does not come with any definitive recommendations. For example, it identifies four objectives for any Indian military action: first, satisfy the domestic political-psychological need for punishing Pakistan; second, motivate Pakistan to act decisively against terrorists; third, deter Pakistan from escalating the conflict; and fourth, bring the conflict to a close that does not leave India worse off had it not chosen that military option. Read more


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Kashmiri literature and some of its great moments

Kashmir is a land blessed with incomparable beauty and cursed with seemingly interminable turmoil. Both these things usually create a very fertile ground for powerful literature. Furthermore, Kashmir possesses a rich literary heritage that goes back many centuries. There is a vast literature in Sanskrit that was produced in Kashmir, including possibly the best and most scientific work of history that ancient India saw, Kalahana’s Rajatarangini. But great literature in the valley wasn’t limited to ancient period or even Sanskrit. As the Kashmiri language grew and evolved, a new and beautiful literature flowered. This literature was initially nourished by the two great streams of spirituality that flowed in Kashmir, Shaivism and Sufism.

In the 14th century, a great Shaivite mystic poetess, Lalleshwari, rose to prominence by writing verse in Kashmiri language known as Vakhs, devoted to Lord Shiva but also questioning certain dogmas related to religion. Read more

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Review: A Fistful of Earth by Siddhartha Gigoo

by Monica Arora

A fistful of Earth

  • Paperback: 244 pages
  • Publisher: Rupa Publications
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 8129135094
  • ISBN-13: 978-8129135094

By far, short stories have been amongst my favourite genres in prose. Capturing a brief anecdote, tale or fable, these pieces of fiction are usually defined by a beginning, climax and an end, and could be with or without a message. Recently, I have been indulging in the work of several Indian short story writers, and my journey continues with A Fistful of Earth and other stories.

Siddhartha Gigoo, the author, a Kashmiri born in Srinagar, sets his tales of poignancy and sadness in his birthplace. What struck me most was the innate sense of loss, despair, profound grief and sorrow that haunt each story. Such is the lilting quality of his mesmerizing prose that even misery appears ennobling and redeeming in these tales. The manner in which Siddhartha has adopted pain and heartache almost reflects a kind of yearning of an unrequited and unhappy soul. This is very relatable, considering that for long, Kashmir  has been a metaphor for the suffering and atrocities inflicted upon its paradisaical soil owing to terrorism, fundamentalism and mindless violence, bloodshed and killing of native Kashmiris. Continue reading

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‘I Would Have Written On Kashmir Even If There Were 40 Other Novels On The Subject’

Mirza Waheed was born and brought up in Kashmir before he moved to London in 2001 to work for the BBC Urdu Service. His debut novel The Collaborator, a gripping account of Kashmir in the 1990s, was nominated for the Guardian First Book Award. And now Waheed has written another novel, The Book of Gold Leaves, which is again set in Kashmir and tells the story of a fraught Shia-Sunni romance in the backdrop of the ongoing political conflict. 
In a conversation with Riyaz Wani, Waheed talks about how his memories of life in the Valley have influenced him as a storyteller: Tehelka

Mirza Waheed | 40 Author, Photo: Faisal Khan

Edited Excerpts from an  •

Like your debut novel, your second novel The Book of Gold Leaves is also set in Kashmir even though you have not lived here for many years now.
The Collaborator was literally, physically and figuratively set on the border, where there is a line of fracture, political, geographic and historic — a ridiculous faultline that cuts through our land and divides our people. That is also where the rebellion against the Indian government started in the 1990s and there were many killings. So I set my first novel there.

However, the story of the second novel was in my mind even before I wrote The Collaborator. But The Collaborator was more urgent and there came a point when I just had to write it. Continue reading

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Review: ‘The Book of Gold Leaves’, by Mirza Waheed

Old, peaceable ways of life unravel in a ‘strange, compelling’ novel set amid the violence of 1990s Kashmir: Alice Albinia in the FT

bookofgoldWaheed’s second, new novel, The Book of Gold Leaves, is, aesthetically, a very different book: a love story, told by an omniscient narrator, about a multiplicity of lives in Srinagar, summer capital of Indian Jammu and Kashmir. In the 1990s, after Pakistan began sponsoring Islamic militants to infiltrate the valley, and India sent in its army, ordinary Kashmiris found themselves trapped.

In Srinagar the old, peaceable ways of life, and, in particular, of religious coexistence, begin to unravel. The novel follows the fortunes of three local families, Shia, Sunni, Hindu: those of Faiz, a papier-mâché artist; Roohi, his headstrong lover; and the teachers at Roohi’s old school. There is also an outsider – a soldier from the plains whose naive though benign intentions are sullied when he and his men occupy the school.  Continue reading