Despite Stolen Dreams

Jyaneswar Laishram *

 Despite Stolen Dreams - Book Cover

Being from the hill originally, it's easy for me to fall in love with books written by authors from the hills. Anita Krishan is one among such authors to me, for she was born and brought up in Shimla and spent twenty-two years of her younger life in the pristine town in the foothill of Himalaya. She is now resided in Delhi-NCR where I met her for the first time on a fine sunny winter morning two years ago, for a conversation revolving around her second book Fluffy & Me, a tender autobiography based on her childhood friendship with her dog named Fluffy. The book made me feel. This year she comes out with her third book Despite Stolen Dreams with full of feelings.

What I feel right from the prologue of Despite Stolen Dreams is the author's focus on day-to-day struggles simple common people face at every turn their lives take. And what it makes me feel the story my kind is the way the author constructs it so permissively with a strong theme and characters, breaking the walls that divide our society into fragments on the lines of caste and creed.

The story of Despite Stolen Dreams unfolds in a corner of Kashmir Valley at a madrassa, run by a philanthropist, giving home to a host of homeless boys who eventually become terrorists and the institute their training ground. It's the region's radicalized separatist sentiment that provokes the boys to become terrorists who house arrest Wali Khan and his family. One of the boys, Shakeel, attempts to marry Wali's daughter Meher, an MBBS student, forcibly.

It's on the night before the day of the by-force neekah of his daughter to a terrorist, Wali escapes from the clutch, with the help of his clever servant Abdul, heading towards Delhi where his son resides. On his way from Kashmir to the capital city, through the train window, he captures the changing scenes outsideŚchanging from green meadows and blue mountains to open dusty fields with thick clumps of thorny scrubs, square patches of sugarcane fields and mango groves. After that everything around him keeps changing, except his love for homeland Kashmir.

In the course of his fight against all odds in his new life in Delhi and struggle to keep nostalgia away, Wahi finds a friendly sardar neighbour, Kashmira Singh, a guiding light for him, who is also a victim of terrorism in his past. Kashmira plays the true role of 'the friend in need' for Wali, giving the Kashmir man the courage to douse off his fear and anguish to an extent.

Anita Krishan
Anita Krishan

Anita clusters the plots throughout the story in a very page-turning way, carrying the theme without slightly losing direction. Though the story is very much revolved around 'terrorism', at the heart of it is the human relationship among ordinary people who frequently become the victims of social mayhem and atrocities. The author weaves the plots portraying value of love, humanity and romance, so affectionately.

A pinch of romance between Meher, who is a practicing pediatrician at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), and her senior Dr Raghav in the story provides readers a mid-way breathing space, momentarily distancing from the struggle and agony of life crippled with the terror of terrorism looming large in the backdrop. The author wants objectivity and desires to bring romance into the story, revealing the beauty of bonding between the two lovers from two different communities in a wonderfully grounded manner.

Romance lurks in an unexpected arena too. Seriously wounded Shakeel, who was stranded alone on the top of the mountain at the LoC following an exchange of fire between the Indian Army and a group of terrorists, is rescued by the villagers of a nearby village; and a noble villager takes him home. Looking after by the noble villager's daughter Shabnam, for days, he is in and out of his consciousness. Shabnam is a widow, whose husband was died after he was once picked up by the army from his home for interrogation and returned after three days with serious internal injuries.

With her husband's salary now gone, Shabnam had no money and couldn't apply for job as she has no educational background. This is how she comes to live with her father; she sympathizes with the militants fighting for freedom from the army's oppression. And Shakeel feels for her and his longing is nothing more than she accepts and reciprocates his love. She does accept and reciprocate, but it comes to an end like a fairytale romance one evening when Shakeel is picked up by his group, and loneliness has become her only friend again.

Authors of many terrorism-based stories seldom narrate how ailing parents of terrorists miss their sons or how terrorists romance their girlfriends; readers don't care about it either, because terrorists kill innocent people. This conventional rule is broken in Despite Stolen Dreams as the author breaks on though to the brighter side of terrorist Shakeel, who was born in a poor family. His mother died in physical torture by his drunkard father who later died the following year after developing some cough.

 Fluffy and Me - Book Cover

After the death of his parents, Shakeel is at the mercy of his mean uncle who commands the eleven-year-old-boy for any odd job around, and slaps and kicks the kid whenever he feels liked to do it. With Rs 20 in pocket he runs away from home boarding a bus heading to Srinagar, where finding employment is not easy as he thought it would be. In the city he endures a week of cold and hunger before Wali finds him and brings him his home.

The last climax of Despite Stolen Dreams gains when Shakeel and his group come to know Walhi is taking shelter somewhere in a corner of Delhi, while they are setting a plan to attack the capital city with suicide bombers on the Republic Day. On the preceding night of their operation, they knock on the front door of Wali who thinks it's the end. But it's not! Shakeel, who wakes up to sense of reality, shoots every one of his associates down. Then he walks away as a solitary man with his face half-hidden behind the raised collar of his jacket braving the piercing Delhi mid-winter wind outside, leaving Wali and his family unharmed.

* Jyaneswar Laishram wrote this article for
The writer is associate editor at S-Media Group, New Delhi and can be contacted at ozzyjane(AT)gmail(DOT0com
This article was webcasted on January 03, 2018.

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