Jaffna street, the name remind us of the bowl shaped country to our south with a population of Tamil speaking people and primarily famous for the LTTE. The sub title of the book ‘Tales of Life, Death, Btrayal and survival in Kashmir’ is perplexing. How Jaffna to the way south which is again separated by the Indian Ocean be connected to Kashmir lying to the way north ? Those who have read the book might have understood by now that Jaffna Street is definitely named after the Sri Lankan capital but nowhere connected to the place except for the insurgency, contra insurgency, spearatist groups and the military as well as para military operations. Living every second of your life as if it is your last , in its literal sense is horrifying ans indescribable for someone who has not had the first hand experience of the same. Mir Khalid, in his book Jaffna Street brings forth to the readers a real picture of how it is to live in Kashmir where everything including morals take a back seat, where human lives are no longer valued.
Of late I have been reading back to back Kashmir based books-both fiction and non-fiction, that by now there has started am invisible thread that connects me as a reader as well as indian to the paradise. The word paradise can be metaphorical and contrasting. While most of the books tell us the stories of our soldiers and their heroism, Jaffna Street stays different with the detailed, authentic and real experience of the Kashmiri Pandits and Kashmiri muslims amidst insurgency, counter-insurgecy, spearatism as well as terrorism. To know that war is not merely between Indian and Pakistan armies or terrorists but there has been a undelivered tale of pain and indecisiveness in the lives of Kashmiris when the indsurgents assorted to violent measures to attain their aim of independent Kashmir.
A chill runs down the spine when we read how the insurgent leaders follow the cycle of being the leader and end up as a civilian or a corpse. The life of Zee and Ace in the first chapter is perfect to begin the memoir, as I would like to term the book. Zee is one person who is a quintessential King turned popper. The fact that Zee survived the attacks to tell his tale is surprising and unbelievable like ana ction thriller. Needless to reinforce that Zee is no hero but manages to spread his heroism. From the tumultuous account on Zee and Ace’s life the tale of Veer Munshi is a respite for the readers only to go back to the internecine conflicts within the insurgent groups. Thenceforth the tale is gruesome, unblievable and gut wrenching. It is unblievable that people can endure so much of difficulties and instability in their lives.
Gangland, though another extension of the conflicts, has an innocent side of the student egos and puerility. Redemption stone is the perfect ending to the era. Life of Mac is representive of what goes around comes around.
The book is divided into three parts. First part is the war 1990 onwards, which contains the first hand experience of th author with crystal memories and memoirs from the protginsts themselves and their cronies. Second half Reveille (1950-1989) is more about how the lives of people have been and the repeercussions in the families. The third part (1947 – 1950) of course is the reconstruction of the memories. While the first part justifies the title Jaffna street and represents the blurb, the second and third part lacks the intensity of narration both in terms of the anecdotes as well as literary finesse.
Overall the book can be termed as the most unique and one of the most realistic depiction of life in Kashmir from 1947 till date.
This review is in return of a free book from the publisher