I haven’t yet finished reading this book. Not because it has bored me but because I don’t want it to finish. I want to live in Kashmir, through the book, a little longer. Justine Hardy unravels the Kashmir crises largely, although not wholly, through the eyes of one family of houseboat owners.
The strength of Hardy’s writing is its honesty and keen observation. She tells it like it is. And sometimes it’s heartbreakingly beautiful. At other times, the scene is bleak, but the writing immediate. Like when the author witnesses a little boy being recruited into militancy, her companion, a local Kashmiri, says: “That boy, he’ll go to camp somewhere maybe, over in Azad (PoK). He will be trained, come back here, get involved in some attacks on the security forces, get killed in an encounter, be paraded about.... In Pakistan they tell them they will be martyrs, in Delhi they call them terrorists. Here they are just boys, someone you were at school with, played cricket or football with once.”
At once, I felt she was watching one of the characters from my own books on Kashmir. Although mine are fiction and Hardy’s is documentary, the vulnerability of a fragile world is common. She brings it whole, unedited, into your drawing room. A book not just to read slowly, but to live slowly. Well done!