Mirza Waheed’s book The Collaborator is a well written piece of work on Kashmir. This is a book I read from start to end in one go. Though very disturbing at times I still kept reading with tears in my eyes trying to grapple with the situation that the youth of Kashmir have grown up in. No the book does not at any point try to prove how people have suffered it just gives a matter of fact insight into the lives of Kashmiris since the 1990s. Part fiction, part fact it is a book which I would recommend all to read.
The book is set in the 1990s when the violence in Kashmir was at its peak. The story is narrated through the eyes of a 19 year old Kashmiri youth who is the son of the headman of the small village, Nowgam, not far from the Pakistani border. It is his story of growing up in a hostile environment and seeing his friends leave the village one by one in hope of a better life while he has to continue living there because his father believes that peace will prevail in their village one day. Mirza manages to beautifully portray the teenager’s hopes, frustrations, hurt, hate and angst at the situation he finds himself in. Though he wishes to go in search of his friends and join their freedom movement, he is eventually coerced by a foul mouthed, heavy drinking army officer Kadian to join him and assist him to recover identity badges and arms from the corpses left unburied. His utter frustration and unhappiness at being in such a place due to existing circumstances makes the story very heart wrenching.
Isn’t it amazing that though we have all grown up in the same country we have had it relatively easier as compared to others? Especially when he describes the valley where these unclaimed corpses lie, how he uses the dead corpses to learn how to aim and shoot from the gun, How he keeps hoping that he doesn’t find any of his missing friends amongst the dead corpses and when he sees his entire village pack up and leave while his father insists on staying on.
Whenever we talk of Kashmir or read about it there has always been either a Pakistani version or an Indian one. But it is finally good to read about Kashmir from a Kashmiri’s perspective.
A brilliant debut novel and should be in everyone’s must read list.
About the Author:
Mirza Waheed was born and brought up in Srinagar, Kashmir. He moved to Delhi when he was 18 to study English Literature at the University of Delhi and worked as a journalist and editor in the city for four years. He went to London in 2001 to join the BBC’s Urdu Service, where he now works as an editor.