If you could name heaven on earth, what would you choose? For Bilal, Deewan and Safeena, it was their Home, their safe heaven; Kashmir. A place where the skies looked like they’ve been constructed by a painter, where the mountains and rivers danced in their own rhythm and where trees have the gift to bore a thousand apples. Little did the three friends know that their innocent and fairytale life would be snatched away in the blink of an eye? Welcome to Kashmir, Srinagar, which is now a battleground, a place where ‘azadi’ has cost the lives of many and where peace is a distant dream.
The Tree with a Thousand Apples by Sanchit Gupta is a blood-curling testament about the lives of people living in war-torn Kashmir. It’s a chilling account of Bilal, Deewan and Safeena, who lose their family, turn into people they had sworn they would never turn into and who face adversity at the heart of it all.
Before the insurgency, Deewan Bhatt, Bilal Ahnagar and Safeena Malik were living a very normal life as friendly neighbors and friends. But the night of the insurgency changed everything. Deewan had to flee his home since he was a Kashmiri Pandit while Bilal and Safeena spent their lives living in terror and death. Bilal becomes a product of his circumstances and does what most youth of Kashmir did; pick up the weapon and fight for ‘Azadi’. Safeena, on the other hand, suffered terrible losses, became a nurse but eventually did the unthinkable. They meet again, after 20 years. Their lives have been turned upside down. Will they give in or will they fight for what’s rightfully theirs?
The novel is a socio-political thriller, covering the lives of the three friends as well as the transition of Kashmir from 1990-2013. It’s a coming of age story which talks not only about the political setup but also about the breaking apart of communal harmony between Hindus and Muslims, the clashing of ideologies, the broken children and the need for unity. A Tree With A Thousand Apples is a sad tale about humanity. The price children, youth and adults pay when harmony refuses to co-exist.
Throughout the novel, there is a deep sense to belong somewhere, anywhere. There’s an isolation of sorts one that runs deep down your soul and there’s nothing you can do about it. Helplessness and anger at the top of it all. It’s a cry for peace; a cry to be together. The Author has woven magic with his unique and beautiful description of Kashmir. No other writing could have done justice to the magnificence that was once Kashmir. I loved the narrative technique, the writing is simple yet enthralling and the novel overall makes for a great,fast paced read.
The novel has been written in a time where hues of cry and justice are reverberated everywhere, where anger rides a human mind and the ability to live together is lost. If there’s one novel you should read, it has to be A Tree With A Thousand Apples.
Author: Sanchit Gupta
Publisher: Niyogi Books
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