Title: Kashmir! Kashmir!
Author: Deepa Agarwal
Publisher: Scholastic India
Age Group: 10+ years
I am posting this on behalf of my 14 year old daughter Sonimrin Shimray. She is an avid and advanced reader and enjoys books from all age groups.
We hear so much about Kashmir in the news that we tend to forget its beauty — the people, culture, mesmerizing landscape, food, the list goes on. Deepa Agarwal’s writing is atmospheric and brings to life some known and unknown wonders of this beautiful part of India.
Kashmir! Kashmir! is an assortment of 9 mesmerising short stories from the varying perspectives of young teenagers living in Kashmir penned down by Deepa Agarwal.
This is the very first book that I have read by the author and I easily read it in one seating. These short stories gave me more insight of the turbulent situation in Kashmir before and after the removal of Article 370. So it was eye-opening to me personally and made me empathize with the pilgrims living there.
I found it fascinating how despite the ugly and violent conditions happening around, the children in the story went on with their daily life, their adolescence struggles with a sense of hope, love and just the general innocence of a child. The contrast between the two is extraordinarily vast and made me appreciate how blessed I am to be able to experience a serene lifestyle with no fear of my family members going missing or being caught in a crossfire.
The author explores many varying themes written in this simple and easy to grasp style, advocating to young beginners.
The story I adored the most is ‘My Kashmir Diary’ where we follow Atharva, a young lad who isn’t too fond of the idea of a trip to the teeth-clattering state as he would much rather find comfort in the sun-kissed beaches of Singapore like he usually does every vacation.
Atharva eventually realises the intent of the visit as he has a trip with his mother, down her memory lane and discovers her past history. Atharva’s mother was one of the many young children who were forced out of their own homes to escape the violence on the streets with her family. The sacrifices she had made inspires Atharva and creates a stronger mother-son bond in this touching tale.
The author throws in some suspense and spice into the pot in ‘Run, Zainab, Run’ where Zainab saves her neighbours’ life from the well known but frightening police brutality and avoids getting them caught red handed from illegally shipping apples outside the state to make a living.
In the tale, ‘Unexpected Rescue’, Rehman gets swallowed by an avalanche and a troop of Indian Army men rescue him from his fate which made me ponder if luck was truly on his side.
In Humara’s tale set in the anxiety and fatigue of the lockdown, the author wonderfully sheds light to the often overlooked true cost of conflict and its effect on families which are both physical and mental. How young children grow up faster than their age because of tumultuous situations.
Stories that warm the cockles of the heart have been spun by the author from yarn made by the many hearts and souls of Kashmir. Covering so much in the slim volume, Deepa Agarwal has described the cuisine, clothing, language, culture and struggles of Kashmir with no prejudice, making us youngsters expand our horizons of how spectacularly diverse our beloved country is.
This book is perfect with a nice cup of tea on a rainy day as you sip away the fuzzy evening.
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