Title: Rumours of Spring: A Girlhood in Kashmir
Author: Farah Bashir
Publisher: Fourth Estate India, Harper Collins India
Genre: Memoir, Nonfiction
Farah Bashir’s book “Rumours of Spring” is an extremely poignant account of life as an adolescent in Kashmir of the 1990s, the Kashmir that was full of conflict and uncertainty. Nothing has changed for Kashmiris as of today, but we shall not go there.
I was gutted. As I was reading the book and when I finished reading it as well. I am still reeling from Bashir’s experiences as young girl in the valley – what her family and friends had to go through, and the trauma that will never go away. Some wounds never heal. Maybe that’s how it is meant to be.
The book starts with the death of Farah’s grandmother, Bobeh. The chapters follow the day of her funeral, compartmentalized into Evening, Night, Early Hours, Dawn, Morning, and Afterlife. Each chapter reveals more about Farah’s life and that of her family, amidst the turmoil – life that has changed completely, leaving only memories of the days gone by.
A young girl grows up under constant curfew, sudden raids, gunfire, and talk of death all around. A young girl grows up waiting to go to school, checking when the phone works – whether the school is open, and the buses are plying – checking whether she can go to school – dependent on whether where she stays is a sensitive area or not. A young girl has to constantly hear of deaths of loved ones, of cousins, of how you have to be careful – cannot go here and must go there with someone, and then to imagine what life must be like in places that are not Kashmir.
Bashir’s writing is devoid of sentiment but full of emotional heft. It doesn’t want to make you cry, as much as it wants you as a reader to empathize and understand the way things were. At the same time, she is trying very hard not to judge – the government, the Indian army, and even the militants for that matter. She is only stating her truth – the one that she experienced, the one that her family faced, the truth where everything we take for granted is full of terror and crackdown.
Time plays such an important role throughout the book and yet not. Bobeh’s body has to be kept at home for a day, because of curfew. Time passes then – slowly for Farah and her family, as somehow relatives and friends come to console, memories rise. When you could freely listen to music, when freshly baked bread could be bought without fear, and when you could go to one room from another in your house without the fear of wood creaking, leading to the army asking questions and perhaps even shooting a stray bullet.
Farah interweaves the history of a state and a country – including its politics with her personal spaces. From her friends who are Kashmiri Pandits and have to leave without a word in 1990 to the siege of the Hazratbal shrine in 1993, when she loses all will to study and do better. Everything is acknowledged, everything is remembered with the intention of it being forgotten.
Rumours of Spring speaks of what is lost, what remains, and hopefully what will not be lost. It is a chronicle of a girlhood, but also negotiating spaces of beauty, grace, hope, and identity in the midst of chaos, terror, and death.