Book Title: The Tree With A Thousand Apples
Author: Sanchit Gupta
Total Number of Pages: 284
Publisher: Niyogi Books
Publication Date: 15 Nov 2016
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.
REVIEWED BY SOHINEE DEY
I have been reading a lot of mystery, crime and romance novels lately and reading The Tree with A Thousand Apples was a refreshing change from the monotony. I had my eyes on this book for quite sometime now and finally making my way to this book, it feels good.
At times you come across some books where you can’t exactly point out what it is that made you like the book immensely and this one’s fits right into that category. So, I never really talk about book covers and you all know that by now, but there’s something about the minimalistic cover of this book that makes you stare at it for a long time. Call it aesthetically pleasing or whatever, that apple tree with that title fits each other so well.
The Tree With A Thousand Apples is based on true events and described Kashmir in such a lush way; as it should be described. I have always had a fascination towards this part of the country. The name itself is enough to make you think of the scenic beauty it holds. The agitation in Kashmir which has been following since ages is no secret, everyone is aware of the endless problems and sufferings of the Kashmiri people. This book shows the contrast between the lives of three friends before and after the breakout of the agitation in Kashmir.
Safina Malik, Deewan Bhat and Bilal Ahanagar have been growing up together and living their lives like normal kids do until a day changes all their lives and their bond of friendship also suffers. They have been enjoying the peace and quiet when suddenly they all have to face the truth that after 20th January in the year 1990, their lives are going to change forever. When once the majestic Srinagar was blessed with peace and happiness has now transformed into a battleground that has sent a chilling quietude over the land where the people who once carried joy in their hearts, an omnipresent fear has crept on them and they always anticipate what’s the next bad thing that will befall upon them.
Even when Safina, Bilal and Deewan didn’t practice similar religious customs, their friendship was never affected due to their religious differences. It was only when the insurgency broke out in Kashmir were these three friends forced to separate and survive on their own. Deewan has to flee from home, Bilal takes matter into his hands to seek justice for the death of his brother, Safina fights alone to find the missing people and tries to reunite themselves once again. Rakesh, Deewan’s brother dies an unfortunate death when their army tent is bombed. Deewan’s family who were Kashmiri Pandits decides to leave Srinagar after the constant battles breaks out. It was not an easy decision nor were they happy with it, but during those days, fleeing from the state seemed to be the only safe option.
One can see as the war breaks within, the distance breaching between the communities increases. This has been beautifully brought out into the context with small regular incidences.
What happens when these three friends are separated? How do they survive and deal with the changes they are forced to accept? What impact does it leave on their lives? The rest of the chapters of Tree With A Thousand Apples will give you the answers to these questions.
Sanchit Gupta lays it out all bare, before the war Kashmir with its snow-capped mountains and serene beauty and after the war, Kashmir has turned into a bloodbath. Everyone wants to have freedom so you can’t paint either of the fighting communities in a negative light. It’s the mode of seeking freedom that causes the clashes between them.
Bilal laughs madly in the open sky. “Peace? No, Deewan bhai, they don’t want peace, they don’t! All they want is to point a finger. It makes them feel lighter in their souls, justified in their existence. They feel proud that they are doing whatever they can to eliminate the evil. Whoever that might be, they don’t care! All they want is a hero to worship, and a villain to condemn.”
The book doesn’t end on a happy note. It ends where it should. There’s no rekindling, there’s no happy moments. It ends with the sad bitter truth.
“For us, Deewan bhai, whatever it takes.”
The author has narrated the book in such a raw and honest manner. Calling this book a story would be an understatement. It’s no story. It’s the reality which has been contrived by layers of friendship, love and revenge and presented as a fiction. The one thing which I was really happy about was the fact that the author didn’t side with any of the community. He didn’t justify any of their behaviours to be right or wrong. He was unbiased with his portrayal of the characters.
“If a criminal was once a saint and a saint was once a criminal, then who is the criminal and who is the saint?”
Sanchit Gupta has beautifully described the natural beauty of Kashmir with its evergreen picturesque landscapes. He also captured the friendship between the trio and added all the minute details from their mischief to standing for each other during tough times. He explored the bond of friendship so well and one can see it developing between the pages. The narration is very smooth and the language used is simple but effective.
The only thing which I believe could have been better are the scene shifts. In some chapters, the scenes jump from one to another with concluding the previous one. So, it felt rather abrupt and unfinished. Also, I would have loved if the author explored the characters a bit more. It’s not the emotions which I felt they were lacking, it was the way they expressed them. They weren’t very honest with their expressions. To me, it felt as if they were holding themselves back in the fear that if they let it all out, readers will judge them. That’s all. But, the way the author has plotted the whole sequence concealed these parts and they can pass away pretty much unnoticed.
MY FINAL VERDICT
It’s very rare to find books on Kashmir that portray the lives of the Kashmiri people with honesty. The Tree With A Thousand Apples will provide you with enough of the natural beauty of Kashmir and will also show the harsh living conditions of the people. A compelling read that will keep you turning the pages even when it hurts you to read what happens next. It fills you with a poignant sense of the before and after and you have to face the truth that the lives there are never going to go back to their old selves.
Deeply saddening, a book that will make you grieve for the losses but the only thing you can do is hope, hope that everything gets better.
Book Cover: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Book Title: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Writing Style: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Language and Vocabulary: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Grammar and Punctuation: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
POESY IN CHRYSALIS RATING: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ / ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
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