Title – Snakes in the Meadows
No. of pages – 278
Author – Ayaz Kohli
Genre – Fiction
Publisher – Rupa Publications India
Blurb – Jammu And Kashmir, 1987. In the hilly village of Pathri Aali, where legends appear true, Aslam and Ashwar, two young lovers, dream of marriage and of good things of life. But that is not to be. Unable to cope, Aslam leaves Pathri Aali forever. Years later, as men migrate to Saudi Arabia for employment, Pathri Aali is populated mostly by women and children. Soon they realize the Mujahideen, who guise themselves as their liberators, are the worst perpetrators, and misery seems inescapable. Ashwar refuses to be cowed down by this reign of terror and is determined not to let it devastate the once-peaceful village. The only one she can bank on is Aslam—and she calls out to him across the distance of time and space, to return and live up to the legends of their village. Snakes in the Meadows is a saga of the onset of militancy, and the suffering and the resilience of Pir Panjal—the ‘And’ of Jammu And Kashmir.
A burkha clad woman stares into the distance as she contemplates her decisions, the turmoil all around her, some angry purple bruises marring her features, while the sky behind her sports some similar purple patches amidst the clear blue. A part of the sublime greenery seems to have gone up in flames towards which two figures carrying schoolbags stare dejectedly. Unperturbed by everything, a lone river winds lazily through the valley. The cover of the book Snakes in the Meadows, itself, sets the stone rolling.
Kashmir, the Paradise on earth, is a region that has forever witnessed massive unrest, which has been documented time and again in books and movies. Here, once again author Ayaz Kohli focuses on the wars and strikes that ravaged Kashmir in the 90s, and with this he blends in the tale of two lovers Ashwar and Aslam. The way he narrates the cruelty, the inhumanity unleashed on the people by the Mujahideen is extremely powerful. Coupled with it are the breath-taking views of Pathri Ali, even as it is stained by the bloodshed; unsullied, untainted nature plundered by man and his lust for power. The author’s attention towards detail is also evident in the way he has built up the characters, such that their plight, their victories are bound to be engraved in the reader’s mind for quite some time. He has embraced a simple way to give us an insight into the grim reality of the lives of the people. In this regard it is needless to say that the opening pages of the book might be addressed to the reader who is asked some very pertinent questions –
“How do you define misery?
How do you define sorrow?
What about horror?
How about unimaginable humiliation?
And systematic annihilation?
… Words almost fail me when I attempt to explain what we are going through.” and is the accused – “I can’t believe that you are unaware of our misery, oblivious to our suffering.” When posited against the present circumstances this further seems to take a dig at the whole lot of us, the present generation of “facebook nationalists”.
The title, Snakes in the Meadows, has certain Biblical allusions. As the author himself explained in an interview – “Kashmir is known as the paradise on earth. In Abrahamic religions, like Islam and Christianity, Satan in the guise of a snake had entered Paradise to get Adam and Eve banished out of it. Drawing that analogy, Snakes in the title refers to all the unholy and crooked people and ideas that orchestrated the mischief and mayhem in that once tranquil land. Operation Sarp Vinash by the Indian Army in 2003, gets so perfectly with that notion.”
Thank you so much for providing me with a review copy of this wonderful book.
Order it now from – https://www.amazon.in/Snakes-Meadows-Ayaz-Kohli/dp/9353333601/