When religion dictate constitutional rights of Kashmiries in the contemporary Indian political scenario, the novel ‘Andhar, Badhirar, Mookar’ by T D Ramakrishnan stand aside with political sharpness and historical ethics. His latest novel narrates the other side of Kashmir through the life of Fathima Nilofar. Her last ten days reflects the real hardships faced by an ordinary person both as a Kashmiri and as a woman. It definitely requires enormous courage to write such a novel which problematizes present BJP government at one side and Indian military at the other. As present-day India threatens the free narrative of any writer, making such a novel about the political scenario of the land from the point of view of a Kashmiri by residing in the mainland India is not easy.
Even though the controversy whether a novelist needed to be politically correct or not going on for a longtime, TDR always had a politics in his novels. ‘Alpha’ is a satire on the academic research of present day intellectuals who never discloses their research goals with peers. Even though the novel poorly reflects the social life of aboriginals, it ridicules the absence of sufficient homework from the side of academicians when venturing into risky research projects. But ‘Francis Itty Kora’ was a turning point in Malayalam literature. Along with Bennyamin, TDR deconstructed the conventional style of Malayalam novel writing through this novel. By placing mythological narrative of Kora within the contemporary political affairs dictated by global capitalism, TDR was making a new style in novel making in Malayalam. Kora symbolizes the resistance of East against Western domination and their proficiency in every field of knowledge making. ‘Sugandhi Enna Andal Devanayaki’ was an intensive political novel that points out to the Sinhalese domination and its cheap tactics to eliminate Tamil nationalism from Sri Lanka. The myth of Devanayaki from the erstwhile Kingdom of Kanthalloor is the symbol of alternative power of woman against war, rape and oppressive supremacy across time. ‘Mama Africa’ was about Thara Viswanath who is a ‘Keralite’ born and bought up in Uganda. She was the best of TDR’s brave characters that showed extra-ordinary courage in facing issues. The story was a representation of people’s courage in resisting state militancy under Idi Amin. Fifth in the list chose the highest battlefield on earth where nobody is sure about the relevance of political accusations from multiple corners.
That does not mean that the present novel is filling the expectations of a reader either ways. Kashmir is a complicated issue and withdrawal of Article 370 without consulting its real stakeholders is nothing but the political intolerance of the Hindhuthwa government and an historical blunder. Those who are familiar with TDR’s earlier novels will definitely expect a thrilling encounter because of the impression created by him. But it disappoints. I do not know why exactly. Probably a sixth sense feeling. As nobody expects a journalistic narration of person’s dreams, fears and real life from Michael Chricton, we expect something more from TDR.
As like other novels of TDR, it is woman centric. Her name is Fathima Nilofar. She is a low profile journalist and a widow. She has one mother and two children. Her son lost eyesight due to the pellet firing of army. Fathima is an active member of Kashmiri Women for Peace (KWP) which upholds the slogan of ‘give power to women and say no to war’. It is an organization of those women who lost either husbands or children and those got raped by either military or terrorists. They are asking for ‘aman’ instead of ‘azadi’. After the arrest of her friend and leader, Fathima decided to escape to POK. That journey reveals the transformation in that woman. From an ordinary woman, she became the ‘militant protector’ of her family. She ensured the safe passage of her children to ‘freedom’. I doubt about the freedom promised in Islamic Republic of Pakisthan for Muslims. But the double oppression faced by a Kashmiri woman will trap her to go to any corners from Indian Kashmir. Even though never visited that land, I can feel the fear in Fathima as a woman and as a mother while living in Kashmir. Am not competent to comment about the political identity of Kashmir but condemn the human right violation in the name of Azadi as well as terrorism. I salute the determination of TDR in reflecting about the contemporary realities in our neighbourhood and for joining the league of brave artists like Vishal Bharadwaj (director of ‘Haider’), Shahanaz Bashir (author of ‘Half Mother’) and Agha Shahid Ali (author of ‘The Country Without a Post Office’). May he will face harsh opposition from the rightwing groups soon as he is aware of. But by carving such an artwork, TDR declares his side with the oppressed and discriminated people of Kashmir. This novel will be recognized as one of the true narration of Kashmir in the literary world.
T D Ramakrishnan himself commented on your post. Congratulations.
Dear friend, TD Ramakrishnan mentioned your review on his personal FB wall. Congratulations.
Sir, read your review. It is probably the first published review of the novel. Apart from that, the review was so powerful and reflective too. The strategy of briefly reviewing his earlier novels in order to highlight that TDR has politics in writing was very intelligent, but you neither mentioned nor reflected on that politics. Secondly, I like to bring your attention to the application of feminisation of politics (courtesy to Prof. B Rajivan). Fathima Neelofar is nothing but the symbol of women uprising. Thirdly, you didn’t reflect upon other characters in the novel, especially Musafir. They all played a very crucial role in making Fathima. Hope you will respond to the above.