Lost in Terror: A Review- Nayeema Mahjoor
‘The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.’－Albert Camus, The Rebel.
Life is full of challenges. But the challenges one faces in an unfree society has no parallel in terms of drastic effects it leaves on the lives of people.
‘Lost in Terror’ is a story of the society, where no one knows who is the master, and who is the subject. The people are at the mercy of their enemies. Those enemies decide who has to live and who shall die. They decide how many breaths one should take. The protagonist in Lost in Terror has no name. Why should she? Giving her a name would have limited her. Lost in Terror is not just her story, it is the story of every woman living in the Most Militarized Zone in the World — Kashmir.
A story can’t remain confined in just one person when fear rules the minds and souls of citizens dominated by alien forces and home-grown patriarchy. A struggle can’t be just one person’s struggle when everyone’s eyes hurt to see tyrant oppressors; who always are on the urge to turn dreams into a violent and horrific nightmare. How can a person be liberated in a place where very word ‘liberation’ is confused with death and slavery? It is the story of a place where there is: chaos, smoke, tears and death — everywhere.
A gun in the hands of a just and sensible person might be a blessing but any weapon in the hands of a fanatic can wipe away truth, justice and humanity away from the society.
Kashmir has a unique character, just like its people. We have recorded a long history of not aligning with our oppressors, no matter who they are. Kings or Maharajas, Sikhs or Afghans, fathers or husbands, there was never any compromise with any of them on the question of freedom, no matter how powerful the opposing force was or still is.
Kashmir, in fact, had become like a mistress of the country that wanted to keep her close but never tried to win her heart. The two never accepted each other even after seven decades of bonhomie.
The source of the characters in ‘Lost in Terror’ is not any Utopia, but world’s biggest and brutal prison－Kashmir. The author’s attitude towards her characters is based on the real-life situations and the history of this war-torn part of the world.
While reading the novel feels one feels nostalgic; the characters in the novel return like real characters. It gives a sense of déjà vu. The novel addresses the universal themes of pain and survival and realistic dialogues only adds richness to its narrative.
Its major theme is the survival of women in conflict and patriarchy. The theme is wonderfully revealed and developed through the struggle for survival and achieving the dreams. Though the theme is familiar but is narrated in a new and original way. There is simplicity and clarity in the style. This book particularly mirrors Kashmir of 80’s and 90’s. Other aspects of the history of the conflict are revealed through flashbacks and dialogues.
Lost in Terror is an important and valuable addition to the resistance literature of Kashmir written through the perspective of a woman. What makes it unique is that the author has written what she had experienced as a journalist. A firsthand account of what she reported
or what comprised a news. Here is a valuable pinch of emotions the reader can’t avoid while reading this novel. This is what I think is missing in the novels written by Kashmiri authors based or working in the West. There, I think, is a divine difference between being the target of a suffering and writing about it, and watching the same suffering in the news and writing about it.
The cover of this novel like the story also depicts death and destruction. A crimson Chinar leaf soaked in blood on the white snow. The beads of blood are shining like bloody dew drops on a white rose.
I believe that everyone should read this novel to know how a woman deals with the sufferings bestowed upon her by the conflict and patriarchy in this part of the world. This is an inspiring tale of survival in the times of crises. Its punch line goes “Never let others run your life. Be your own master and decide what you want to do. Work hard to achieve great heights in your life. Never give up your fight…”
If introduced and advertised rightly in the international market, this novel could do for Kashmir what The Kite Runner did for Afghanistan, or Mornings in Jenin did for Syria.
*Author is a poet, short story writer and Books Editor at www.kashmirbookclub.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org