Prisoners of Paradise

 Mubashir Iqbal Kitaba
From the recent past we have seen some of the commendable attempts by young writers who write fiction as well as non-fiction stories and books in order to let the world know the pain and sufferings of people living in this piece of the world. Those writers pen down the pain and sufferings which the people go through from the last seven decades and mostly from the last three decades. The book “Prisoners of Paradise” is an attempt to show the psychological effects of living in the conflict, and how that conflict makes people suffer and impacts their daily lives which in turn puts heavy toll on their mental health.

The story is of two cyber lovers who fell in love with each other over on Facebook and that too in the year 2016 which is known as the year of conflict in Kashmir whose scares still hunts the people of its inhabitants. The book takes one to the journey of pain and sufferings which these cyber lovers gone through all these months of shutdown with curfew with internet blockade. The story is unique and interesting one that the couple has not seen each other in person. They tried their best to meet but the situation doesn’t allow them to venture out even from their homes. Only Zara the girl has seen Zain’s picture on Facebook but not the Zain of Zara’s. These lovers talk to each other over on phone and mostly their conversation happens through chatting.

Muhammad Asif Khan, a 23 year old author of this book was born and brought up in down town area of Srinagar. He had his bachelors of Arts from the University of Kashmir. This book “Prisoner of Paradise” is his debut novel.

The story revolves around there two cyber lovers Zain and Zara, who fell in love with each other on face book. Zain was the only son of his parents and their hope in old age. His mother and father were always concerned about his safety and well being every time he ventures out of his house. Zara the beloved of Zain was the younger sibling of his parents and the loved one as she was beautiful and innocent.

On the occasion of Eid they both decided to meet in a restaurant at the city center Lal Chowk to see each other in person. In the same restaurant there was a Sufi musical concert going on. The announcer of the concert announced the name of Zain that he wants to dedicate a song to her beloved whose lyrics were, “Tamanna chaani deedaruk chumo yemberzale bumbroo, Phachis yan peth lejis vichhani gajis chaani kaley bumbroo”. Tears start rolling from the eyes of Zara as she went to look for Zain. But she didn’t find him.

In the mean time the situation in and around Lal Chowk started taking an ugly turn. People were seen saying that Burhan got martyred (Burhan soib korukh Shaheed). The protestors took to the streets and jammed the roads. There was panic all around as protestors became violent. The Eid celebrations turned into mourning as every eye was moist on his death.

Back at home Zara lost contact with Zain as all the communication lines were blocked by the government along with continuous curfew and the shutdown call by separatists. This e-curfew along with continuous curfew puts heavy toll on the health of Zara as she start talking with the pictures of Zain and with the inbox messages. She kept herself locked at her room and avoids talking with their family members as she was burning inside because of the separation and continuous internet and mobile blockade in the valley. The author beautifully narrates the pain and sufferings of living in conflict. Every page you turn makes you more curious what happen next and sometime even make your eyes moist. The end of the story is tragic and saddened as it shattered all the hopes and expectations.
The book would have been more interesting if the words written in Urdu and Kashmiri should have translated into English by the author. The story is good but if it has been elaborated with much more curiosity it would had definitely impact the readers much more.
The author is a young boy need to be appreciated for his work. I wish him good luck and success and pray to Almighty for his future literary endeavors and I am sure there is more to come from the pen of Asif Khan.

The reviewer is a PhD Research Scholar and can be reached at:

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