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Curfewed Night, by Basharat Peer

“There are no good stories in Kashmir. There are only difficult, ambiguous, and unresolved stories.”

This line from Curfewed Night perfectly captures the message of the book. Basharat Peer tells an enchanting, if sad, tale of his childhood and youth in the Kashmir valley. The struggles of its people walking a thin line between two two-faced sides: the freedom-fighters who can be terrorists; and the democratic rulers who can be oppressors. In a land as charged up as Kashmir, every sip from the cup of life — growing up, choosing a profession, educating a child, speaking your truth — is laced with the dreaded poison of navigating a maze of choices between competing politics.

The wistful, lyrical references to Kashmir’s natural beauty woven throughout the story only serve to make it all the more heart-wrenching. How tragic that a place still referred to as “Heaven on Earth” should go through such hell.

The book serves as a sober reminder of the value of freedom, which so many of us from India enjoy without savouring. How hard it is for a people to come to a consensus on what represents freedom and how it is best achieved. People who talk about Kashmir only in black-and-white terms of terrorism or government oppression should take some time and think about that.