SCATTERED SOULS – A brief synopsis
It was the 1990s. In a dark river of unending convoys, the army descended on Kashmir to quell a massive armed rebellion against Indian rule. It entered not just the land, but also the lives of its people, fracturing their idea of home and punctuating their days and nights with curfews.
This extraordinary collection brings together the stories of people probing the quandaries of their precarious existence. There is that ex-militant whose past continues to stalk his present; the wife who begins to dress like her husband after losing him to a crossfire. There is the boy who obsessively follows President Obama’s India visit, hoping to hear him mention the ‘K’ word; and the man whose transistor triggers paranoia in his neighbourhood.
Unassuming yet intellectually tinged and hard-hitting, Scattered Souls journeys through a destroyed Kashmir swaddled in the memories of its fragile beauty.
SHAHNAZ BASHIR was born and brought up in Kashmir. His widely reviewed and critically lauded debut novel The Half Mother won the Muse India Young Writer Award 2015. His short fiction, memoir essays, poetry and reportage have been widely published and anthologised.
In its issue of Jan 2016, Kashmir Life, a popular weekly tabloid, profiled Shahnaz as “one of the nine impact-makers to stand out in the state population of 12.5 million”.
Shahnaz teaches narrative journalism and conflict reporting at the Central University of Kashmir, Srinagar. He is a university gold medalist in journalism and was also awarded the prestigious Shamim Ahmad Shamim Memorial Kashmir Times Award 2007. He is currently working on his third book.
‘These are extraordinary portraits of ordinary lives shaped by a devastating conflict. Shahnaz Bashir’s stories speak of a writer with a brilliant ear for the individual voice, which is often drowned amidst the competing narratives of our age.’
‘Spanning irony, moral crises, consternation, powerlessness and the troubles of faith, doubt, love, loss, human will and uncertainty, Scattered Souls is a high-level comprehensive literary leap from Kashmir.’
‘These stories take you into the heart of the Kashmir valley to bring you what no media report ever could – a painfully vivid sense of the arc of individual lives, fraught with the loneliness of being Kashmiri. Bashir brings tender familiarity and poetic insight to a landscape replete with a garish violence.’
‘Bold, primal and intimate, Shahnaz Bashir’s short stories paint a picture of Kashmir that exists beyond the headlines. A savage, remorseless streak of truth-seeking runs through his vivid, lyrical stories. I did not want this book to end.’