The Tree With A Thousand Apples by Sanchit Gupta: A story of war, bloodshed & fight for Justice.

A story of tormented Kashmir, of love, loss and terror.

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If you could name heaven on earth, what would you choose? For Bilal, Deewan and Safeena, it was their Home, their safe heaven; Kashmir. A place where the skies looked like they’ve been constructed by a painter, where the mountains and rivers danced in their own rhythm and where trees have the gift to bore a thousand apples. Little did the three friends know that their innocent and fairytale life would be snatched away in the blink of an eye? Welcome to Kashmir, Srinagar, which is now a battleground, a place where ‘azadi’ has cost the lives of many and where peace is a distant dream.

The Tree with a Thousand Apples by Sanchit Gupta is a blood-curling testament about the lives of people living in war-torn Kashmir. It’s a chilling account of Bilal, Deewan and Safeena, who lose their family, turn into people they had sworn they would never turn into and who face adversity at the heart of it all.

Before the insurgency, Deewan Bhatt, Bilal Ahnagar and Safeena Malik were living a very normal life as friendly neighbors and friends. But the night of the insurgency changed everything. Deewan had to flee his home since he was a Kashmiri Pandit while Bilal and Safeena spent their lives living in terror and death. Bilal becomes a product of his circumstances and does what most youth of Kashmir did; pick up the weapon and fight for ‘Azadi’. Safeena, on the other hand, suffered terrible losses, became a nurse but eventually did the unthinkable. They meet again, after 20 years. Their lives have been turned upside down. Will they give in or will they fight for what’s rightfully theirs?

The novel is a socio-political thriller, covering the lives of the three friends as well as the transition of Kashmir from 1990-2013. It’s a coming of age story which talks not only about the political setup but also about the breaking apart of communal harmony between Hindus and Muslims, the clashing of ideologies, the broken children and the need for unity. A Tree With A Thousand Apples is a sad tale about humanity. The price children, youth and adults pay when harmony refuses to co-exist.

Throughout the novel, there is a deep sense to belong somewhere, anywhere. There’s an isolation of sorts one that runs deep down your soul and there’s nothing you can do about it. Helplessness and anger at the top of it all. It’s a cry for peace; a cry to be together. The Author has woven magic with his unique and beautiful description of Kashmir. No other writing could have done justice to the magnificence that was once Kashmir. I loved the narrative technique, the writing is simple yet enthralling and the novel overall makes for a great,fast paced read.

The novel has been written in a time where hues of cry and justice are reverberated everywhere, where anger rides a human mind and the ability to live together is lost. If there’s one novel you should read, it has to be A Tree With A Thousand Apples.

 


Author: Sanchit Gupta

Publisher: Niyogi Books

Pages: 279

Rating: 4.2/5

Format: Hardcover

Blurb:

If the criminal was once a saint and the saint was once a criminal, then who is a criminal and who is a saint?

Inspired by true events, this riveting narrative traces the lives of Safeena Malik, Deewan Bhat and Bilal Ahanagar, three childhood friends who grow up in an atmosphere of peace and amity in Srinagar, Kashmir, until the night of 20 January 1990 changes it all.

While Deewan is forced to flee from his home, Safeena’s mother becomes ‘collateral damage’ and Bilal has to embrace a wretched life of poverty and fear. The place they called paradise becomes a battleground and their friendship struggles when fate forces them to choose sides against their will.

Twenty years later destiny brings them to a crossroads again, when they no longer know what is right and what is wrong. While both compassion and injustice have the power to transform lives, will the three friends now choose to become sinful criminals or pacifist saints?The Tree with a Thousand Apples is a universal story of cultures, belongingness, revenge and atonement. The stylized layered format, fast-paced narration and suspenseful storytelling makes for a powerful, gripping read

Window Seat By Yashluv Virwani

A collection of short stories that speak of lost love, failed marriages, harships and life.

The smell of coffee, the hustle and bustle of a busy street, the touch of someone you love coupled with moments that seem like a dream along with literature and poetry are only a few of the serene experiences that have been narrated in Window Seat. It is an anthropology of short stories that has portrayed human idiosyncrasies in its purest form.

Debut author Yashluv Virwani has weaved beautiful stories in his novel Window Seat that transcend beyond boundaries, race and religion. There are 8 stories in the novel; each distinct and profound yet hypnotising making the readers come back for more.

The author has played with words in a way that casts spells on the reader. His words are soothing, hit right on the spot and add life and meaning to the characters. Speaking of which, characters in Window Seat are different from each other, their imperfections have been brilliantly played. The characters are you and me, they’re every person walking down the street, sitting in cafes, going to movies. The characters are us. And that’s what makes them so relatable. You can almost see your reflection in them and wonder how the author penned you down.

From poetry to detailed descriptions to breathtaking characters to burning passion and love, Window Seat is everything a good novel is made of. It’s a quick read and I’m sure you’d complete it in one sitting.

 

Blurb: What does a Window Seat remind you of? Your apartment in a high-rise building, in the lap of your couch, a cup of chai in your hand, a song on your lips, as you watch the world outside, with its share of glittering streetlights, honks and smoke, flow? Or the incessant journeys you undertake, in buses or trains, with music digging deep in your ears, as you see miles and miles of untamed wilderness ? I want you to go back to your childhood, in the cosy arms of the eldest member in your family, who, using the threads of magic, weaved a parallel existence around you, transporting you to a place away from all the things that bind you – because that is the land where stories work – a land that has no cages, only freedom.

Publisher: Half Baked Beans

Pages: 110

Format: Paperback

Rating: 4/5

 

You can buy the book here: Amazon

Disclaimer: Received the copy from Half Baked Beans. Views are my own.

Author Interview: Nishant Kaushik

Meet the author.

When I read ‘My father is a Hero’ I was awed by the author’s ability to capture elements in his novel that usually go unnoticed.The contribution and sacrifices that go in nurturing a child by a single father has been beautifully written. And what better way to know more about the author than to hound him for an interview? (I AM KIDDING, OKAY). The author was extremely kind and generous to offer his time to do an interview for The Literary Cat.

You can read the review of My Father is Hero here: Review: My Father is a Hero

Get to know the Author:

Nishant Kaushik is the author of six published novels. He also keeps a day job as a business, IT, and something-of-everything consultant in Melbourne. Along his journey as a novelist he has interned as a screenplay consultant, a comic book co-writer, a columnist for journals like Yowoto and Mildred – essentially, he loves experimenting with genres ranging from full-length novels to guest articles. He lives in Australia with his wife and son.

Interview:

  • Hello, Sir. Thank you for taking out time to do an interview. When did you first realise you wanted to become a writer?

NK: There was no single trigger. My interest in writing evolved over years, from spot-storytelling and essay writing competitions in school, to articles for the college magazine, followed by a couple of poems for newspaper supplements. As far as I can remember, the idea of my first novel finally occurred to me when I was 19. It was finally published when I was nearly 24.

  • What inspired you to write your latest novel, “My Father is a Hero”?

NK: My inspiration lies in my own and many other wonderful fathers I have met in my life. Unlike a mother’s love that is much talked about, a father’s love is rather understated. One often has to peel through their tough, terse exteriors to understand their love. Even today when I talk to my father, we exchange few words. But he has always shown through his actions that he has a heart of gold. This golden heart is the basis on which I fashioned my central character.

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  • Tell us a little about your book.

        NK: My Father Is A Hero is a fictional account of a single father’s determined journey towards seeing his daughter emerge as a successful, confident girl with the passion to pursue her passion. It also speaks of the struggles of a middle-class family and how love trumps all troughs that are associated with a mediocre career, self-conflicts during adolescence, and the regret of an unfulfilled dream.

  • What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

NK: I have specific requirements on the ambience around me. I cannot write at home, I must find a café that stays open until late in the night. It must be crowded enough for me to observe people, but not too crowded to find a seat. And the table must NOT be rickety!

  • Where did your love for books/storytelling/writing come from?

NK: I will attribute that to the several books written by Enid Blyton, Charles Dickens, and Mark Twain I read when I was a young boy. I wish I had sustained this habit of reading.

  • What does your family think of your writing?

NK: They are very honest about what they feel, and I guess that is how it should be. They praise my work where it is due, but also warn me against mediocrity. I recently canned a manuscript I had been working on, because my mother read a draft and felt it was going nowhere. I always rely on them for feedback.

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Nishant Kaushik with his son. ADORBS.
  • Are there any new authors who have grasped your interest?

NK: As I said I haven’t maintained the reading habit much. But Khaled Hosseini and Aravind Adiga are among a few authors whose recent books I have enjoyed reading.

  • How is Nishant Kaushik like when he’s not writing?

NK: A regular office goer who struggles to make time between daily chores, family duties, and sleep that I am always in dire need of.

  • If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything about any of your novels?

NK: I would un-heed all advice I got during my early years as an author that told me I needed erotica and cuss words to make my work commercially viable.

  • A piece of advice you’d like to give to budding authors.

NK: The best advice I can give to anyone who wants to write is to not seek advice. Writing is an experience unique to every writer, and we all discover in our own ways what makes our work work. This journey is sacrosanct and we should not tamper with it too much by looking for templated tips on dos and dont’s.

 

I hope you had as great a time reading the blog post as I had writing and interviewing. Stay tuned for more interesting interviews!

How to Start Reading

A step by step guide to start reading.

The secret to reading or reading more is extremely simple:

You pick a book and READ. 

No, really. I can’t make this any easier.

I get asked a lot about my reading habits often by people who claim to have read only one book a year or people who can’t seem to get around reading because they usually fall asleep. It’s okay, no judgement there. But if you really want to cultivate a reading habit you have to be sincere about it.

Habits are formed when you continuously work at it. Much like going to the gym or eating healthy in order to lose weight. It is the sum total of everyday routines that you religiously follow. Although reading isn’t as strict.

Know why is it you want to read. Is it because you want a hobby or you want to improve your writing skills or is it because you want to do well on your SAT scores or CAT examinations. Whatever the reason, go forth with it as something that will improve you way of living, expand your horizon while getting your mind off of everyday worries. It’s not something you HAVE to do or you’re forced to do. Reading is a solitary experience but one that is comforting. It is a fun thing to do and besides book nerds are the coolest people you’ll meet.

For you to get into the habit of reading, remember you have to take out time to read. You might have your bookshelf stocked with every bestseller possible but if you don’t deliberately go out of your way to read, there’s not much that can be done..

So now that you want to read and are ready to spend time on it, here’s how you can start:

  • The beginning: Since you’re reading after a very long time or reading a novel for the first time, it is essential that you choose a book that is of your liking. If romance is your genre, go ahead. If you like reading fantasy, pick up a fantasy novel. If there’s a book you read as a child and loved it, why not read it again? As long as the story sparks your interest, you’re good to go. Remember to start with books that are not lengthy or complicated. Go for novels that are fast-paced yet easy to understand. If you don’t want to start with novels, you can always opt for short stories or Graphic novels to give you a kick-start.
  • Time management: Now that you’ve chosen the book of your choice, you need to decide what time suits you best. You can read 10 mins in the morning before going to school/college/work or while having breakfast  or maybe before going to bed. The idea is to read every day; doesn’t matter how long or how much.
  • Reading slump:  Most of the time even though the book that we’re reading has been our choice, we seem to struggle getting through it (also known as a reading slump). Don’t worry, it happens to the best of us. Pick up another book and give it another try. Or wait for a day or two and come back again to the previous book.
  • Prioritising: Sacrifice watching Tv or sleeping more than necessary or staying on your phone( everyone’s guilty of this).  This doesn’t mean that you should stop watching TV altogether but instead of binge watching 10 seasons, just watch 9. (See, I am making it as easy as I can). Most of the time, I don’t read for days and often times I binge read but it works for me.Here, I don’t mean sacrificing study time to finish a book or neglecting responsibilities but ensuring you squeeze in a little reading time in your busy schedule. As long as you continue reading, you’re good to go.
  • E-books: I’ve realised that I read faster on my phone. I don’t have any scientific explanation for this but I tend to analyse and read ten times faster to the point where my eyes start hurting and burning and I’m half blind (Don’t attempt this, it’s unhealthy). Anyway, the point is if you are like me, you can download books on your phone. This way instead of being on social media you can instead use your brain to soak in some literary knowledge.
  • Travel Companion: Try to carry a book with you everywhere. You might get labelled as a first class nerd but then you should own that label and read even more. On a serious note, it’s not physically possible to carry books at all times, but you’ll realise how much reading you can get done when you’re waiting in your car or bus or have an off period in school/college. For instance, when I was doing an internship, my office was almost on the other side of the city and it took me an hour and a half to get there. So in total, I always had 3 hours of pure idleness. I used to get a lot of reading done. Most days, I used to stare out into oblivion but on other days I used to read.
  • Find a reading buddy: If you know anyone who is an avid reader, join in a read-along with them. You two can read certain chapters together and discuss the plots or maybe invite other people to join in and create a book club. Having people around you with similar interests gives you the motivation you need. Alternately, if you can’t find a reader buddy, join online book clubs or book sites. For instance, Goodreads offers a host of reading suggestions, author reviews, quotes and reading challenges. Seeing people being so passionate about reading will give you the much needed boost. Befriend people, follow what they’re reading and enjoy the whole reading journey.
  • Audio-books: If you still can’t get into the reading habit which is again absolutely fine, you can try Audio books. They’re easier to read since all you have to do is plug in your headphones and listen to it while driving or doing household chores. (I haven’t tried it out as yet but from what I’ve researched, it’s a hit amongst readers and non-readers)

 

Following are some of the books you can start your reading career with (I made that sound so official):

  1. A Thousand Splendid Suns and Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
  2. All the Bright Places by Jennifer Neven
  3. 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher
  4. Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom
  5. Those Pricey Thakur Girls by Anuja Chauhan
  6. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
  7. The Fault in Our Stars and Looking for Alaska by John Green
  8. The Reader by Bernhard Schlink
  9. On Two feet and Wings by Abbas Kazeerooni
  10. The Good Girl by Mary kubica
  11. Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira

I have on purpose not mentioned any classics because I personally find them a little intimidating and also because I haven’t read much on the classic front. (I am working on it).

I hope the above tips were even remotely helpful and that reading won’t seem as tedious anymore.