Heaven on Earth it was called once, not anymore. Kashmir, the claimants are many as are the debates and battles for it.
The Tree With a Thousand Apples is a book that looks into the lives of three people who grew up in heaven and become circumstantial victims of a never-ending conflict. Deewan, Safeena, and Bilal are friends and neighbours. Their families are, like them, also friends. Deewan belongs to the Kashmiri Pandit clan and the other two are Muslims.
Sanchit Gupta weaves a tale of the lives of these three little kids and their families, through decades. A child who is displaced, one who witnesses the murder of her mother, another who is sucked into the quagmire of extremism, these three go through so much that perhaps is inconceivable to a lot of us.
The story line is not as simple as it seems. Safeena, despite witnessing her mother’s murder still hopes for peace. Deewan, despite escaping with his life, still considers Kashmir as his land. Bilal, takes up arms in response to crimes committed against his sister, only to later regret it.
Sanchit Gupta is very adept in his story telling. The writing is crisp, and there are many wonderful nuances to the story as well. It never felt like a cumbersome read. Every page was as riveting as the one it followed. The characters, every one of them, had a part to play. The shades they displayed were so well defined, it is impossible to not hate or love them.
Besides all the loss and destruction, The Tree With a Thousand Apples manages to give us an insight into the lives of Kashmiris. Little things like Kangri and the Dal lake, perhaps insignificant details, but they make the text so much richer. The local language is also used frequently and to help there are footnotes and a glossary. These two features were quite helpful and well thought off.
I have perhaps written a little less about the story line of The Tree With a Thousand Apples and I can only attribute that to the reason that the story is a bit haunting. There was a feeling of joy as I read about the innocent shenanigans of Deewan, Safeena, and Bilal. This then grew into a sadness knowing what was coming. Eventually, it turned into despair.
The thing about such books that take you through such emotions and leave you with them is that the author has done his job, and very well. Sanchit Gupta needs to be lauded for his writing this book.
Give it a read. (The cover looks very nice, doesn’t it!?!?)
My rating: 5 of 5 stars