The Half Mother by Shahnaz Bashir

I’m writing a long pending review and I wanted to write this as soon as possible so that the flavor of the book still lingers in my brain. I got this book as a giveaway on Goodreads and I was quite amazed with the speed with which it was delivered just after two weeks of the winners’ announcement. After reading this book, I’m glad that my expectations from the book weren’t shattered. Probably this is the best book I have received so far among the freebies for first-reads.

The author from Kashmir speaks for the million innocent Kashmiris who would have faced the atrocities in the hands of Kashmiri militants while their government has been a silent puppet in the hands of the militants. This is told in the form of Haleema’s story who loses both the men in her life to these heinous acts by the militants.

Haleema is a woman who has divorced her husband and is staying with her father Ab Jaan and her son Imran leading a very normal life until it changes all at once when the militants began occupying the beautiful land and begin making it as a land of mass destruction with weapons and bankers everywhere. They behead all those who protest against them or question them and thye do so public so that nobody dares repeating it again. Haleema loses her father Ab Jaan who gets killed by the militants and one day she loses her son as they come and ask about him and Imran never returns.

Then follows the frantic search of the mother to find her son or rather the search for an answer if her son is alive or not. Through various contacts in media and government officials she goes to the media, various jails, military offices and enquires in vain turning her an orphan. And the descriptions of her search and emotions and everything that Bashir describes, reader can feel it coming straight from  the heart. The various descriptions of Kashmir in the eyes of the author, and tiny details like the walls of Haleema’s house are so picturesquely described. I’m sure my review will not make nay justice to the book. One has to read it to fell it.

The various stages of life in Haleema like youth, adulthood, orphan, her stages of emotions like happiness, sadness, loneliness, horror, discomfort, helplessness, faith, strength, hope are described beautifully and readers get to experience all in this book. The remotest idea I had of the situation in Kashmir was only what I had seen in the movie Roja but this book expanded my knowledge about the beautiful land but its band conditions. The only qualms I had about the book was the overuse of Indian words which were quite unfamiliar and the absence of an Appendix at the end to give the meanings. At times I was left to imagine the meaning and context and I would have definitely liked a reference to go with these words. Otherwise I can truly say Shahnaz Bashir is a very promising author to look for.

Thanks Bashir for bringing the story of missing people to the world which would have otherwise been buried only in Kashmir. All the while in the book I was hoping Haleema find Imran so that she may never get to be lonely. My prayers to all those real Haleemas. Rating a book like this is injustice but I thoroughly enjoyed the book. Hence I’m giving it a 4 out of 5 stars.