BOOK: "False Sanctuaries: Stories from the Troubled Territories of South Asia", AUTHOR: Meenakshi Iyer; PUBLISHER: Bibliophile South Asia (Promila & Co.); PAGES: 282; PRICE: Rs.395
You cannot shun war and run away from the death and destruction that follows you. You cannot dodge the fear of terrorism, bomb blasts or a fidayeen. You cannot shut yourself to the latest round of intifada or Kani Jung, threatening to suck life out of your hinges.
You cannot avoid these things now in the 21st century’s new war zone – South Asia. Yet you live, smile, shake off the dust as if nothing happened and move on braving all odds and, YOU are the hero of 'False Sanctuaries: Stories from the troubled territories of South Asia.'
Freelance journalist and a keen south Asia observer, Meenakshi Iyer’s debut book is about people in this dark subcontinent who have kept their hopes alive in hopeless situations, who have failed, or have been failed by their governments, and have moved on, alone and undeterred, to face fresh threats awaiting them.
Indo-Pak partition and beyond, the bomb blasts in Mumbai, the insurgency in Kashmir, the Taliban backlash in Afghanistan and life in a displacement camp in Sri Lanka -- the book is a collection of short stories set across South Asia, trying to locate the pulse of defiant individual expression in people scarred by terror.
It talks about Riyaz who wants to be a chef when those around him want to pick up arms and infest streets with protest. It is about Purab, whose only dream is to take his grandfather to his home in Dera Ismail Khan; Ramnath Purandare, an affable Marathi manus, who fails Mumbai; and Dharmambal, who chides herself to believe that she is childless the moment it is revealed that her son is an LTTE pointsman.
Set against a realistic backdrop of conflict and terror, the characters may be imaginary or unrealistic, yet there is a deep rooted belief that we can find them somewhere within us. It is as if we have met Riyaz Wajahat before, if not in Kashmir then probably in Bangladesh or Nepal. Landscapes change, people don’t.
“Grief, memories and melancholy are briefly relieved by the moments of happiness that come to the people of these stories,” says the author, whose stint in mainstream media woke her to the inner uprootedness and unerasable scars of the mind bequeathed to the people by crass, divisive politics and policy makers of the subcontinent.