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The Tree With A Thousand Apples – By Sanchit Gupta

Noted Historian and Travel Writer, Jan, Morris said of Kashmir: ‘Kashmir has always been more than a mere place. It has the quality of an experience, or a state of mind, or perhaps an ideal.’

It is no wonder then, that the author, Sanchit Gupta, dedicates this book ‘To the people of Kashmir—

those who live there,

those who used to live there,

and those who will continue to live there…’

Inspired by true events, the story follows the lives of Deewan Bhat, Safeena Malik and Bilal Ahanagar, three innocent children growing up together in the Kashmir Valley. Amidst cups of spicy kahwa, and cricket matches paused by a broken antenna, they live in and around the protective shade of the tree with a thousand apples, whose roots and branches spread in peaceful coexistence. Until the night of January 20th, 1990, when insurgency destroys the tranquility within this beautiful valley.

Deewan is forced to flee his home, leaving only with a memory of the tree that still bears a thousand apples. Safeena’s mother becomes collateral damage, and Bilal finds himself in a life of poverty bound by fear. Overnight, paradise becomes a battleground and friendships struggle with fate as they are forced to choose sides against their will.

Twenty years later, when the three friends meet again at the cross roads, an exiled pandit longs for his home, an innocent civilian fights for justice, and a ruthless rebel aches for redemption.

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At a time when all sense of right and wrong is lost, will these three friends choose to become criminals, or saints?

Sanchit Gupta brings a story capturing the beauty of the valley and paints it with the poignancy of the rich, deep-rooted cultures and history inherent to the land and its people. He introduces the three friends as young, naïve children and traces their journey through adolescence and adulthood, as they wrestle with the injustices meted out to them.

The native Kashmiri dialect peeks through the prose every now and then, bringing an authenticity to its flavour and evoking a strong sense of yearning for the beauty of Kashmir.

Gupta adds layers to his narrative by describing the lives of each of the friends, left alone to deal with their troubles, while they remember the lost but unbroken bonds that have been left behind.

He structures the storyline with a crisp time jump across decades. His writing is fast paced, adding suspense and thrill to the narrative, making it unputdownable, despite the deluge of emotions that comes with reading it.

This is a story of friendship, love, belonging, religion, cultures, fear, revenge, and atonement. It seeks the answer to the eternal question: Who is the criminal and who is the victim? It is an incredibly gripping tale of reality camouflaged in fiction. A reality that most of us cannot fathom.

The sensitivity with which the characters are written, and the riveting plot, ensure that The Tree with a Thousand Apples remains in the reader’s heart for a long time to come.

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Reviewed by : Ashima Jain

Author(s): Sanchit Gupta
Publisher: Niyogi Books
Release: November 2016
Genre: Fiction/Contemporary
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