The Wait is and is Not
- Nitasha Kaul
You Don't Mess with Viru - Jayant Kripalani
The Last Journey Home - Siddhartha Gigoo
Family Trip - Mihir Vatsa
For the Longest Time - Mridula Koshy
The Tree's Passport - Sumana Roy
I Try to be so Buddhist - Robert Sugg
Oh God, My God - GB Prabhat
Stroke at Noon - KL Chowdhury
Unbroken Awareness - Tendair Mwanaka
Island of a Thousand Mirrors - Nayomi Munaweera
My Hungry Workers - Sourabh Gupta
The Stone - Anupam Choudhary
The Return - Shirani Rajapakse
The Unsent Email - Shyama Laxman
Poetry: Naseer Ahmed Nasir
(Translated by Bina Biswas)
Dr Bhikbab Changes His World - Sheela Jaywant
The Pillar of Society - Manju Kak
- Attia Hosain
London Company - Farrukh Dhondy
The Cripple and His Talismans - Anosh Irani
Their Language of Love - Bapsi Sidhwa
(Arjun Raj Gaind)
Silk Fish Opium - Jaina Sanga
The Blind Man's Garden - Nadeem Aslam
The Almond Tree - Michelle Corasanti
Nobody Can Love You More - Mayank Austen Soofi
Along the Red River - Sabita Goswami
Tales of a Journalist, Bureaucrat, Spy - Som Nath Dhar
Che in Paona Bazaar - Kishalay Bhattacharjee
Audacity to Dream of Peace
The Almond Tree: Michelle Cohen Corasanti
– Bina Biswas
Publisher: Garnet Publishing Ltd
Extent: 348 pp
Michelle Cohen Corasanti's The Almond Tree is a book that reads like a treatise on love and peace, a book that almost equals Hugo's Les Miserables and can also be called an upshot of Tolstoy's War and Peace. It 'shines light'. The author says, 'That was the only glimmer of hope I saw. Israel wants the world to believe there is no hope so I am trying to show there is and how strong we would be if we just pooled resources instead of destroying each other (and) celebrate differences. To shine light. To show that there is a better way.'
The book is stark as far as the exposure of truths is concerned and fierce when it talks about oppression and erasure of a race. The objective is established as the author says, 'I wanted to show that these Palestinians are doing suicide bombing because they have no hope; I wanted to show that is what happens when you crush someone's dreams.'
Ichmad's survival and endurance through hard timesmakes him rise above his time. He inherits his survival instincts from his father – his idol – who languishes in jail for fourteen years for a crime he never committed. Abbas has been juxtaposed against Ichmad to intensify the situations and the story; to tell the readers that parallels exist. If Ichmad is what we need in our societies, Abbas is what we have! Two brothers struggle together as children to support the family as 'men', bereft of food, shelter, education and light. Abbas falls victim to the cruelty and hatred of an Iraqi-Israeli that cripples him physically and mentally while Ichmad rises with the help of an Israeli. Balance is perfectly struck. The novel cannot simply be called the story of Ichmad, his struggle or success alone, because Ichmad never thinks only about himself, his comforts, or his people. He rises above religion and petty differences. Abbas, on the other hand, is caught between bringing justice to his people and his inability to see the goodness of Ichmad and his own father. Abbas stands for his people whereas Ichmad stands for humanity, universalism, peace and love for all. The author brings home the fact that 'that some lives mean less than others is part of what is wrong with the world. Every life is equally as precious.'
Prof. Sharon's revelations about his past to Ichmad show the endless struggle of humanity against barbaric wars and warmongers and the oppression of a mightier race that hands down insecurity, pain and anguish to people over generations.
Corasanti fills her fiction with truths about the lives of the people she has seen closely and lived with, and their hopes.She says, 'We read in the newspaper that someone was killed, but we don't have any connection with that person. I wanted to show that the person who was killed was a son, father, mother, or daughter. Give them a name and a face, so they aren't anonymous. When we hear about Israeli deaths or prisoners, we are told every detail. For example, Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier captured. We knew everything about him. His mother, his father, his family ... He was portrayed as a boy. He was in a tank unit on occupied land as part of an occupying force. Under international law, the occupied have the right to resist a racist occupier, but we know nothing about the thousands of Palestinian political prisoners. Israel has hundreds of Palestinian children in its prisons. No one ever mentions them. So I wanted people to know them as well.'
Corasanti is a great storyteller as she focuses on the issues of war crimes, the merciless killings of people by a militarily stronger but seemingly insecure race, as the whole world turns deaf. She is prophetic through 'Baba' who never barters love and peace with religion and says, 'Pound the water, and in the end it is still water.'
Ichmad sees a dream and his speech after getting the Nobel reflects his visionary mind. He says, 'I now dream of a world in which we rise above race and religion and all other dividing factors and find a higher purpose. Like Martin Luther King Jr before me, I have the audacity to dream of peace.' The almond tree in his courtyard stands the test of time and becomes a symbol of strength, vigour, hope, protection and shelter.
The author has a tremendous energy to fight on and forge ahead with her futurist gleam and give the world what is needed at this time of crises. It is not only the story of Palestine and Israel or Gaza, reflects similarly battered and mutilated nations across the world. She shines light on those bereft hearts that don't shudder to kill, those educated people who commit scholasticide; and on those mighty nations and their leaders who side with and support nations that trample weaker nations and their people.
Dr Bina Biswas is professor and the head of the department of English, TRR Group of Educational Institutions, Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University, Hyderabad. She is an alumna of the University of Delhi and has a doctorate from Andhra University. She is also a Tagore scholar. Her book of short stories has recently been published, and now she is working on her debut novel. She has also translated Michael Madhusudan Dutt's Meghnadbadh Kavya into English and Tagore's Heroines: Portraits of Gender Orientation.