Behold, I shine: Narratvies of Kashmir’s Women and Children

by Freny Manecksha

Read this in about 4 minutes

This is my first read from the land known simultaneously as the heaven on earth and the battleground of humanity. This is one of the books that I had intended to read before I visit the place myself. I did get to understand the place but there is nothing in it that I did not know before.

Apart from my travel reading aspirations, this book has not fulfilled much. Let me tell you why in this review of the book.

Cover: Behold, I shine: Narratvies of Kashmir’s Women and Children

Cover page

On the cover page is a woman in what looks like an orchard. There are mentions of beautiful gardens and orchard inside but the cover fails to reveal the exact setting of the book. The picture of a woman on the cover page reveals that the book has something to say about feminism. Nothing capturing.

The font is dull as well. Highlighting ‘Kashmir’s women’ and ‘children’ seems unnecessary since according to me even ‘narratives’ is important. The book cover failed to capture my complete attention.

Characters

The heroes of the book are the womenfolk. They are being accounted for and given a voice. The book is their story. There are half widows and rape survivors. There are women raising their voice and those who have lost their voice in a vacuum. The book covers a spectrum of women fighting their own battles their own way.

The book is a collection of ‘narratives of women and children of Kashmir’ although I did not see much from a child’s perspective except maybe at a few instances.

Content

Freny Manecksha has been writing about the ‘Haalat’ of Kashmir. However, this is the first time I am reading a book by her. The book is very similar to the journalistic pieces she has written except here she only talks about the women and sometimes the children of Kashmir.

Freny starts by giving a brief history of Kashmir by introducing us to the problems of Kashmir and the fact that it began from not partition but with the treaty of Amritsar in 1846. She then divides the chapters talking about various women and what they have gone through during the years of never-ending struggles. The so-called missing husbands that they howl for and the children who have been hit by the bullets of the soldiers and militants alike.

Most of all, Freny describes the state of women in Kashmir. They disregard the feeling of ownership. They do not belong anywhere and nothing belongs to them. The militants are killing their menfolk and others just disappear which in turn means they are never coming back. Women are facing gender-based crimes that largely go unreported and when it is reported, it is not acted upon. The accused are released and even promoted whereas the victims are given hush money. This book covers the cloud of darkness over the state and rains on you like wildfire.

It is a collection of powerful narratives but somewhere the content feel data-laden which is the same case as the book Lajja by Taslima Nasreen. This does not mean there is anything wrong with the book. However, I did not learn much from the book that already did not know. If one follows the news or the author online, they are bound to know the content. There references at the end are too many. This is one of the most highlighted books that I have read. I will definitely come back to the book sometimes and read one narrative at a time along with the references.

That is the way to read the book.

Language

The language is very simple nonfiction. There is nothing flowery. The words are hard hitting. The author has not shied away from talking about authorities to whom pointing a finger translates into being an anti-national. That is the favourite two-word-one-word going around these days.

Good points

The characters are diverse. The content is great in a sad way. The author has done a great job. The language is simple and to the point.

Bad points

I did not like the cover at all. There is nothing interesting about it. I did not get to learn anything new in the book. Just refreshed what I already knew. It is not bad but this is definitely not what I was expecting.

Overall

It is a good read, just a little data-heavy.

Whom do I recommend this to

This is for those who are reading about Kashmir for the first time.

Quotable quotes

Some want to put the hijab on me and save me. Some want to take the hijab off me and save me. Just give me a break, man! I can save myself.

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Veena Choudhary

An avid reader and history fanatic.

Mumbai, MH merakipost.com