REVIEW

Book Review: Endless Rain by Meena Arora Nayak

January 06, 2007
Shantanu Dutta

Endless Rain by Meena Arora Nayak

In her book Endless Rain, Meena Arora Nayak captures the story of the unrest in Kashmir and how different people try and cope. She does this through a novel that spans three generations through the story of Salahudin Bhat, a shawl weaver, then his three children Aftab, Maqsood and Jamila and finally Maqsood and his wife Fatima's four children - Ayesha, Zubaida, Sumaiya and Ali.

Although the story effectively begins on the 17th of December, 1971, the day when the Pakistan Army surrenders in East Pakistan and when Ali, whose life will take a tumultuous course, is born, there are flash backs going back to 1947.

There is the Qabailis tribal invasion of Kashmir and the accompanying marauding which left Aftab and Jamila permanently scarred as they see their mother raped before their eyes. Aftab, the eldest son tries to escape his scars by cocooning himself in the heart of the establishment by marrying a Congressman's daughter and becoming an orthopedic surgeon in the government hospital and Jamila, his sister, studies in the US, marries an American and effectively distances herself from the family, except for a lasting bond with her younger brother Maqsood.

Salahuddin and his family are staunch allies and followers of Sheikh Abdullah, all though his accession to India, his imprisonment in 1953, and his subsequent pact with Indira Gandhi in 1975, which many felt was a betrayal and sowed the first seeds of the insurgency. Then came the Iranaian revolution of 1979 and the subsequent Soviet invasion of Afghanistan which led to the birth of the Muajhideen. The 1977 death of the Sheikh, his succession by Farookh Abdullah and the increasingly blatant interference in the valley's affairs by Delhi and its increasing alienation from the national mainstream are all well documented.

In the midst of this Ali grows up through a turbulent adolescence and is slowly indoctrinated into the path of violence. The author has weaved into the story, the various players of Kashmiri politics - the various factions of the JKLF - secular in outlook and wanting independence, the various Islamist factions wanting the state's merger with Pakistan and the pro India parties - the Congress and the National Conference mostly - they are all there. The intrigues, power play and shifts in the balance of power as Islamic fundamentalism rises in the valley quite against the Kashmiri ethos are all well described.

But Endless Rain is not just about violence, war and insurgency. It is also an evocative description of life in Kashmir - its secular fabric and Kashmiriyat, the Sufi Islam, the place, culture and political leanings of the Kashmiri Pandits, the elaborate wazwans of Kashmiri cuisine - these and more are all described and lived through the lives of Salahuddin.

Ayesha, Zubaida, Sumaiya and Ali, his grand children typify the Kashmiri youth, their hopes and dreams as much as their frustrations are captured well. The case of Zubaida, brilliant in studies and yet able to get a seat in the government medical college only after her father arranges a bribe is poignant. As is the story of Ayesha who goes out with a Pandit boy, is forced to be engaged to a suitable Muslim boy and ultimately commits suicide.

Meena Arora Nayak's sensitively sketched characters living and growing up in the shadow of violence and turbulent change in Kashmir will stay with you long after you have put the book down. And by the way, this book is as good a history book disguised as fiction as you will ever get.

Shantanu Dutta is a medical doctor by training and a development professional by vocation. His writings mostly deal with change, complexity and conversion and tries to look at a changing world through heaven's eyes.
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#1
Ram
August 8, 2007
05:18 AM

Well, Sheikh died on 1st September 1982 and not in 1977.I dont know whether it is a slip by the novelist or the reviewer.

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