Azadi... The Immured Heart of Kashmir
Kashmir, where flowers once smiled, has ceased to be the paradise on earth. Azadi, the word that changed the fate of the land forever, set ablaze the valley three decades ago. The myriad colours of the valley faded after guns and the foul smell of tear gas poisoned the fragrance of flowers. ‘Azadi... The Immured Heart of Kashmir’, is a beautiful novel by S Mahadevan Thampi, a writer known for his incisive analysis of social issues, has given a personal touch to the novel.
The essence of this novel is an exploration into the real meaning of Azadi and the lost rhythm of Kashmiriyat in the valley. What is the freedom that a section of Kashmiris are talking about? From whom do they want freedom? From where do they want freedom? Freedom for what? The author raises all these questions through his protagonist PP Menon, a patriotic senior bureaucrat of British India who had a special bonding with a prominent Kashmiri freedom fighter called Baithullah.
The author is keen on telling the history of Kashmir and how the land of beauty and peace turned into a hell all of a sudden. On receiving a call, nonagenarian Menon along with his grandson Hari sets out to meet his old companion Baithullah from Kerala to Kashmir. They come across many people on their way and the memories take the reader to several untold episodes in the blood-stained history of the ‘jewel’ of India.
The novel, originally written in Malayalam in 2015, has already been translated to Tamil, Kannada and English. It has more relevance in today's context, especially after the revocation of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir.
Menon recollects his past after reaching Kashmir. Each incident he comes across during the journey to meet Baithullah takes him back to the memory lane. As mentioned in the book, the violently flowing River Suru has washed away all the mirth and merriment from the lives of the Kashmiris ever since the infiltrators succeeded in brainwashing the Kashmiri youth.
The bonding between P P Menon and Baithullah transcends mere friendships in that one of them even gives away one of his sons to be brought up by the other. It also slips in a perspective on the differences of opinions among the Indian leaders after forming a government at the Centre on Kashmir.
The climax keeps some intriguing twists and answers all the doubts of readers. The description of the novel is so visually evocative that reading it is almost like watching a movie. The book is well worth a one-time read.