This beautiful debut novel by Madhuri Vijay is riveting in its storyline. It is absorbing and has the power to hold one’s attention till the very last page.
It is disturbing too, at many levels.
It is narrated as a first person account in the voice of its twenty-four year old protagonist, Shalini.
The story takes the reader from the humidity of the cosmopolitan city of Bangalore to the icy heights of a remote village in the mountains in Kashmir, where Shalini finds herself looking for answers to the questions that fill her gaping life.
Never once does one feel like leaving her alone in her journey. One wants to hold her hand sometimes and shake her intensely till she comes to her senses, at others.
The novel is fraught with emotions and experiences that might well stay with the reader for a long time. The power of the author lies in her ability to hold on tautly to her story line as she weaves it deftly between the past and the present.
I was intrigued by the characters as they took shape. Bashir Ahmed, the Kashmiri salesman who arrived at their door step with his yellow bundle of shawls, a weaver of enchanting tales… Her mother, beautiful and eccentric… The entire atmosphere in Kashmir, the sense of foreboding with which one turns the pages, it’s chilling, to say the least.
So, is it a love story or a political potboiler?
You have to read this novel to find out, but one truth stands in stark relief and that’s the Kashmir story… The story of its people… A place remote, for those who don’t live there… Beloved, for those who do… And baffling, for those who merely visit…