I received an autographed copy of ‘Burning Sapphires by Suresh K Goswami’, from none other than the author himself. Thank you Sir, for the beautiful book. This is a story based in Kashmir and is the story of Gulab Sahib, a Kashmiri girl, who lives with her mother, Udana; step-father, Badru and her younger sister, Sheena in village Machail in Jammu and Kashmir, India. The mountains near their village were ample deposits of sapphires and rubies.
Gulab is a bright, intelligent, loving and respectful child, who loves nature. She has blue eyes, has an insatiable quest for knowledge and loves going to school. She has always impressed the teachers, villagers and other children with her knowledge. Her step-father calls her as the ‘wretched one’ and she does not accept him as her step-father, is not afraid of him and calls him, ‘old man’.
Ali Murtaza, leader of the first large Kashmir militant group is a deserter of the Pakistan Army at the instant of Hizb-ul Mujahideen and is handpicked by them.
The story stars when seven year old Ghulab is roaming around with her favourite teddy bear and seven blue marbles in the snow, Ali Murtaza comes with his men and declares that, ten years later, when she is old enough, he would come back and get her. He keeps an eye on her and protects her twice, once from a boy in the school and once from her step-father, killing both of them. After the school incident, the school is shut down for the safety of the village children and Ghulab is unhappy. The militant group which had been invading all the villages in the Kashmir valley, except Machail, looting and massacring, loots one shop in Machail for provisions. The police can hardly help them. After the death of Badru, the entire village moves towards Kashmir valley in search of a new place to stay. Unknown to them Murtaza’s men are following them at a safe distance.
They reach Padum and settle down there, after knowing about the insurgency situation in the entire valley. Ghulab enrolls in the school there and the Headmaster and his wife become her mentors, groom her according to her capabilities and she grows wiser and stronger. She moves to Srinagar with them and gets enrolled in the college and becomes the Ambassador of the Institute. All the while she is aware of being watched and is not afraid of them.
She starts understanding the atrocities of Murtaza and his men and starts hating them and decides to reclaim her lad from them one day. She becomes a strong, powerful woman and decides to make Kashmiris a strong, knowledgable and resourceful community.
And then her family is brutally murdered at the hands of Murtaza and his men and she is kidnapped.
The story is realistic though it is a work of fiction. The plot and the characters are well developed. The language is simple and the flow is good. The book is actually unputdownable, I was curious about what happens next and kept the book only when I finished it, even though it was 2 AM in the morning and I had to go to work the next day.
The story is entertaining, even though there is a lot of violence and terrorism. The story is touching and frightening sometimes.
The author has started with the description of the village, Ghulab’s family and then the main character herself. He has vividly described the places making it easy for the reader to visualize them and the scenes in details and I actually looked up the map to locate the places to satisfy my curiosity. He has described the local terms also.
A must read. Highly recommended.
Book source: Review Copy provided by the author