Title: The Tree with a Thousand Apples
Author: Sanchit Gupta
Publisher: Niyogi Books
‘The Tree with a Thousand Apples’ is a heart touching tale of 3 childhood friends living in the beautiful & terrifying valley of Kashmir. It is an account of 3 innocent lives, who suffer at the hands of destiny & end up becoming ‘collateral damage’.
About the Author
Sanchit Gupta has worked as a freelance film screenwriter & also as executive producer for a leading television network. His short stories have appeared in several esteemed journals and won him acclaim in leading literary festivals and online forums. Born in Himachal Pradesh, Sanchit also writes poetry. This is his debut novel.
A Tale of Thousand Shattered Dreams
The novel revolves around the the lives of 3 freinds- Deewan Bhat, Safeena Malik and Bilal Ahanagar. It is set in the land of Kashmir, where insurgencies (rebellion against government) are a common phenomenon. Deewan is a Kashmiri Pandit, while Bilal & Safeena are Muslims.
The 3 of them are ready to do whatever it takes for the sake of their friendship. Their dreams as well as their lives are shattered during an insurgent night. Deewan has to leave the land, which is no longer his. Safeena’s mother has to face death without any cause. Years later, Bilal too, finds his life crushed.
The circumstances change everything & they are forced to make choices against their will. 20 years later, when destiny brings them together once again, each one is caught in a separate turmoil. Lying in front of them, are the two paths- one leading towards crime & the other towards sainthood.
“If a criminal was once a saint
and a saint was once a criminal,
then who is the criminal or who is the saint?”
The novel has a beautiful story & a fast paced plot. It keeps us engaged from the very first page to the last one. It offers a moving account of the wrongs done to people by the military & the consequent attitude of those people towards army. We also get to see how soldiers, sometimes, have to obey the orders of their officers & do something that they know is wrong.
Though the army is doing it’s task well by suppressing the rebellions but it lacks a sense of responsibility towards the citizens. They forget that all Muslims are not militants. And similarly the militants too forget that Hindus are just like their Muslim brothers & sisters. The two groups continue to battle against each other, while common people- who have no issues with each other, keep suffering.
The author has beautifully penned the beauty of Kashmir, the emotions of people & their inner turmoils. The narrative offers a vivid picture of the land. The book also offers an insight into the Kashmiri Culture. One thing that I loved about the book is that the meanings of the regional words have been given as footnotes. There’s also a glossary of such words at the end.
In the beginning, I didn’t find myself connected with the characters. But as I moved on with the book, I found myself becoming a part of their lives. At several moments, the writing gave me goosebumps. Here are my favorite lines from the text:
- … the kind officer grabs her by the waist … , slips his hand beneath her kurti and sets loose the drawstrings. The salwar slips down. Her bare, naked legs flash in the illuminated room. He runs his hand up her thighs, … plunges his fat, little fingers inside her underpants, and proclaims, ‘Salim! Come, I will show you, this is how a woman feels like!’
- ‘You brought your Indian Identity Card?’ … ‘Yes, … got it made yesterday itself. Why is it better than the previous one?’ … ‘It proves that you are an Indian.’ … ‘Who else am I?’ … ‘You are a Kashmiri, …’
- There is a jungle of a wild plantation mushrooming along the edges of the boundary wall. A few white petals of jasmine have found their way out amidst the bushes. … The old gardener must have had an illicit affair with the flower; their love refuses to die.
- … Curfew is never over. That is a thing about curfew in this town. … This town is a prison, a prison with lakes and flowers. …
These lines are enough to show the beauty & poignancy of the writing. They also give a hint about all that these people have to undergo.
I loved this book & enjoyed reading it thoroughly. The text has a few grammatical mistakes which might be a problem for some readers. Besides that the title is not very clear to me. Perhaps, that indicates a failure on my part. There’s actually a tree of apples, which is common to Deewan & Safeena’s house. So, the tree can be a symbol of love & the bond that the two families share, which in fact is a reflection of the bond between people of two different faiths. Or the thousand apples can be a symbol of the dreams that these children & their parents holds in their eyes.
The book has a lovely ending & leaves one teary eyed. It is one such book that keeps you immersed in it even after finishing it. I would recommend this book to everyone out there. And I’ll be looking forward to more by this author.
My Rating: **** (4/5)
What do you think about this book? Do you wish to read it? Do share your thoughts. Thanks.
I received a copy from Writersmelon, in exchange for an honest & unbiased review.