What it means to be a Kashmiri…
Manisha Sobhrajani
LOVE, LOSS, AND LONGING IN KASHMIR by Sahba Husain Zubaan, 2019, 288 pp., 595.00
September 2020, volume 44, No 9

For a non-Kashmiri, the ‘word’ Kashmir has, over decades, evoked varied emotions and brought about alternating images of tranquillity and unrest. The ‘place’ Kashmir has witnessed political upheavals, natural disasters and spiritual awakenings over centuries. The ‘feeling’ of Kashmir extracts the sentiment of patriotism, almost to the point of being jingoistic, particularly in the post-Independence era.

For Sahba Husain, Kashmir has come to mean the collective voice of its people, as is apparent in her deeply personal account Love, Loss, and Longing in Kashmir. Through the numerous intimate narratives that the author has gathered from a cross-section of Kashmiris—women whose men have disappeared, displaced Kashmiri Pandits, devout Muslims who swear by their friendships, women who have spear-headed ‘change’, families who have been violated—the author has captured, with extraordinary empathy, the trauma, anguish and fear of a people who are scarred at several levels by one of the longest-standing political turmoils in the subcontinent. For her, ‘Kashmir is a place where profound individual grief is absorbed into collective sorrow…’

Countless books have been written on the ‘subject’ of Kashmir. Husain’s stands out because it gives the reader a glimpse into the many complex issues of Kashmir in the simple yet heart-rending accounts of the very people who are affected by these complexities. What is remarkable is that the author has been able to put across very poignantly her own opinions through the voices of the people that she has met over the years that she has been researching in Kashmir. In her words: ‘For the researcher, coping, processing, assimilating are part of the research process but the process that I personally experienced was more than this, it was also about becoming who I am…’

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