2 February 2018
Safeena Malik, Deewan Bhat and Bilal Ahanagar are childhood friends that grew up in the strikingly beautiful and peaceful Srinagar, Kashmir. Playing cricket, blowing out rats, defending and applauding each other, their lives are progressing like that of any other eleven-year-olds, when the night of 20 January 1990 shatters their lives in its entirety.
The insurgency of war trodden Kashmir drives Deewan from his home, the land he grew up in; Safeena loses her mother and Bilal is left with arduous choices. Twenty years later as their paths cross yet again in a city where being a Hindu Pandit or a Musalman defines your life expectancy, where abodes are being destroyed and bodies burnt unrecognisable, the trio is struggling to survive. As the distinction between right and wrong blurs down, as the world as they knew comes crashing down, what choices will they go for?
What I loved
First things first, I immensely loved this book and it has right away made it to the list of my all-time favourite books. Whenever I fall head over heels in love with a book, I find it impossible to write a review about it. When I love each and everything about the book, be it the story, the characters or the writing, I find it impossible to coin words that can justify how immensely beautiful I found the book to be. The Tree With A Thousand Apples falls right into that category.
The plot is absolutely brilliant; the way the story progressed through the years was not only amazing but also had me engrossed in each word, page by page, chapter after chapter. Inspired by true events, the author has done an amazing, amazing job in bringing to life the events of Kashmir through Bilal, Safeena and Deewan. The characters have been drawn up and portrayed in a manner in which I could easily identify with them. When a story revolves around a number of characters, often the reader gets tangled in unnecessary confusion. But in this book, the characters have been portrayed with so much precision and has been thoroughly researched that no one felt out of place; there was no confusion at all.
I was completely bowled over by the author's writing; the way each sentence was weaved, the dialogues that were nothing less than perfect, the beautiful poems that found their way into each chapter, I could go on and on. His way of writing has a certain enthralling charm that could just glue me to his every word. In recent times, I don't think any Indian author has put forth such an extraordinary tale backed by extremely skilful writing. And it breaks my heart to know that not enough people are reading this sheer piece of brilliance; the book truly deserves to be mentioned along with the likes of works by Roy, Hosseini and similar established authors.
What didn’t work for me
For obvious reasons, there isn't anything that did not strike a chord with me.
The Tree With A Thousand Apples by Sanchit Gupta talks about love, friendship, resilience, survival, the struggles of being in an insurgency-hit city and the choices one has to make. It talks about a pressing issue, which probably every other Indian is pretending to not notice. And most importantly, instead of telling the story from the perspective of just one of the religions or one particular section of the people, Sanchit has ensured that he brought to life everyone involved-be it Muslims, Hindu Pandits, the army, civilians or the militants. This is what sets the author apart from other prominent figures that talk and/or write about Kashmir. And that, for me, is one of the million reasons why I loved this book tremendously.
I urge you to pick up The Tree With A Thousand Apples, immerse yourself in it, let it linger (which it will, much much longer after you finish it) and then recommend it to anyone who can read.