A Tree with a Thousand Apples
Author: Sanchit Gupta
Publisher: Niyogi Books
Blurb (as on Goodreads):
If the criminal was once a saint and the saint was once a criminal, then who is a criminal and who is a saint?
Inspired by true events, this riveting narrative traces the lives of Safeena Malik, Deewan Bhat and Bilal Ahanagar, three childhood friends who grow up in an atmosphere of peace and amity in Srinagar, Kashmir, until the night of 20 January 1990 changes it all.
While Deewan is forced to flee from his home, Safeena’s mother becomes ‘collateral damage’ and Bilal has to embrace a wretched life of poverty and fear. The place they called paradise becomes a battleground and their friendship struggles when fate forces them to choose sides against their will.
Twenty years later destiny brings them to a crossroads again, when they no longer know what is right and what is wrong. While both compassion and injustice have the power to transform lives, will the three friends now choose to become sinful criminals or pacifist saints?The Tree with a Thousand Apples is a universal story of cultures, belongingness, revenge and atonement. The stylized layered format, fast-paced narration and suspenseful storytelling makes for a powerful, gripping read.
“The moon and the stars sigh. The days elude them, but they are the ones who witness the sorrows of the night. How they wish they could resolve the unbound grief of the human heart. If only, they could know what it was looking for. If only, unbound joy could be the answer.”
The Tree with a Thousand Apples is based on the events that led to the killing and departure of Kashmiri Pandits in 1990, from their homeland Kashmir.
Dewaan, Bilal, and Safeena, three friends, who would do anything for each other, but when you’re a kid, those words don’t mean more than taking a beating from a bunch of mischievous kids to save your friend from the trauma, or writing speeches for your buddy because they have no idea about it.
Matters get complicated when few people throw a bomb at an army tent, killing soldiers, including Rakesh, Dewaan’s brother. Ceewan and his family (Kashmiri Pandits), after spending a night at Safeena’s house (As refugees) decide to leave Kashmir, a decision made due to the loss of one of their own. They make it out of Kasmir, but their leaving is not a happy memory, not to him and neither to his friends, Bilal and Safeena. All of them devastated in their own way, and with the army breathing down their necks in Kashmir, they have days which are both terrorizing and agonizing.
As the story progresses, we see men killing men, reason or not, everyone trying to find justice and peace in mass killing people from the other religion.
The first thing that I noticed was the points that the author covered throughout the book. The term ‘Kashmiriyat’ rather than Hindustani/Pakistani, the upbringing of kids, the love within the community as a whole and a few people who can be serpents in disguise, people whose concept of Azadi are a flawed as their hearts. The events that have happened throughout the book, are exactly the events that I have read about, all my life. Hindus and Muslims scarred for life, kids turning into militants because they are tired of injustice happening to them in the name of religion and freedom. So many people have lost their loved ones because a few people in their community decided one fine day that ‘Khoon Ke Badle Khoon’, the thirst for blood is so high that innocent people dying are just casualties.
“Yes, you are right. I lost my home, my mother, my identity. I lost it. Not you, Inspector Imandar. I did. They I don’t understand, what did you lose? What did you lose that you hate them so much?”
The writing style is very direct and the author hasn’t sugarcoated anything. There are events that have agitated me and keep me on the edge of my seat. The best part about this book is that it’s Unputdownable. Every chapter leaves you curious. Then, we have a few poems, which are breathtaking and raw, the words leave an impact. I have re-read the poems and the verses so many times, it all nicely wrapped up in empathy.
The book gives us a clear picture of the Kashmir before the attacks- serene and beautiful and after- with corpses and rivers of blood, devastated citizens and no sign of peace.
One problem I faced was during the scene transitions, a few of which were not as smooth as it should’ve been. I kept reading and then suddenly realized that one event led to another, and I had to go back to the precise point when that happened. If one can ignore that (which I did, thanks to the remarkable plot as well as characters), the rest of the book is a piece of cake, it’s a wonderful rate, and hurts like hell when it ends.
“For us, Deewan Bhai, whatever it takes”, is one of the quotes that touched my heart and made me sob, it’s basically the author’s version of ‘For you, A thousand times over’ or ‘After all this time? Always’. It holds the same intensity in this book. And it symbolizes friendship, that outshines among hardships, death, and abandonment.
Another Favourite read 🙂