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For most part, Birds of the Snow follows the life of Sheba (the youngest daughter of Suraya Begum and Chowdhury Najam Khan) and that of her friends and family.
Women writing women stories about the challenges they face and the choices they make are surely my favourite kind of stories. So, when I came across this book, Birds of the Snow, the blurb of which mentioned it to be about a mother-daughter story set in Kashmir, it intrigued me greatly. I had expected this to be a book of love, loss, and finding oneself despite the sufferings and struggles that come up as a result of living in a conflict-riddled region.
The book doesn’t let down in that aspect. The story weaves through, the characters and their lives unfolding slowly, almost like a lazy stream meandering through the rocky region. For most part, the novel follows the life of Sheba (the youngest daughter of Suraya Begum and Chowdhury Najam Khan) and that of her friends and family.
It is not just the story of Sheba’s life that the novel is about or the story of several women around her. Birds of the Snows also tells the story of life in Kashmir and describes in great detail the exquisite natural beauty of the land. The language is vivid and helps recreate the scenes and events as if you were physically present to witness them. The beauty of Kashmir is described with such love and attention that you can create the images in your mind’s eyes and the words that you read.
The book addresses several important causes like women empowerment and religious intolerance brilliantly. The conflicted life in Kashmir and its impact on the people is described well and evokes a sense of awe and admiration for the resilience of the Kashmiri population. Sheba’s experiences as well as those of other women around her like her sisters or Nuzhat, a distant relative, bring out the many choices and struggles faced by women.
Although enjoyable for most part, the excessively detailed narration of what I thought were minor and irrelevant scenes and the disjointed diversions that often seemed to appear out of nowhere were a let-down. The transitions between present day and past events are random and too frequent for the reader to be able to keep track. It seems as if the only way to reveal the backstory of any character, especially Sheba, is through miniscule moments that remind the protagonist of something in the past that apparently impacted them or the story greatly. Except that when the reader does discover the events that unfolded, they turn out to be quite insignificant to even include in the story. A better way to switch between the past and the present could have been to do it with every alternate chapter, so it’s easier for the reader to keep a track of the chronology.
While I do feel the book could have done with a tighter edit, it features high on my list of recommendations because of the theme of women empowerment and how it shows up in different forms throughout the novel – whether it be the many marriage proposals that Sheba rejects and her choosing to tend an ailing man instead, or the desire that her friend, Mayuri, feels for another man and how she works to repair her marriage instead. The novel through its different female characters brings out the many facets of being a woman well. For that reason alone, the book is worth picking up.
If you’d like to pick up Birds Of The Snow written by Nandita Chakraborty, use our affiliate links at Amazon India, and at Amazon US.
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Piyusha Vir is a writer, artist, a CELTA-certified English Language trainer, and a Creative Writing Coach.
She was awarded the Top 5 position in the Orange Flower Awards 2018 for the category of Writing read more...
Women's Web is an open platform that publishes a diversity of views, individual posts do not necessarily represent the platform's views and opinions at all times.
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Mostly Normal is a book of innocence, longing, filial love, angst and acceptance, encapsulating a gamut of human emotions within its lightweight edifice. The book touches the human heart and will stay with you.
Some books enthral you till the last page, and then there are those that you stop reading after turning a few pages. Some books are a one-time read, while you carry some books with you long after you have read them. Then, once in a while, a book hits you so close to home that you find it difficult to slot into any category.
I will put Priyadeep Kaur’s Mostly Normal (BookSoul Reads, 2022) in this last bracket.
At a little less than hundred pages, Mostly Normal is a testimony of the power of words to inspire, irrespective of their length.
Most women do not get to live their lives the way they want, on their own terms. So why should they be tied down in their old age?
Every morning, while dropping the kids at the bus stop, I find a grandfather waiting with his granddaughter. I see him again when I fetch the kids. This has been the pattern for the last few years.
He is seen actively participating in his granddaughter’s activities, from morning and evening walks to attending her parent-teachers meeting, sending her for extracurricular activities to even planning her birthday party. He is admired by all. He is appreciated for making himself useful in his old age. People rave that the doting grandfather is doing his duty towards his children and grandchildren. The much-admired grandfather is also a widower, having lost his wife years ago to chronic disease. It’s also to be noted that both his son and daughter-in-law are working parents.
Every day, the onlookers appreciate his sense of duty and dedication. They say that this is how the elderly should keep themselves occupied. They should bring up their grandchildren while their children go off to work.
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