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The Half Mother

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The night is tired now, the old moon, hanging in the dark sky, is tired too. It is the 1990s and Kashmir's long war has begun to claim its first victims. Among them are Ghulam Rasool Joo, Haleema's father and her teenage son Imran, who is picked up by the authorities only to disappear into the void of Kashmir's missing people. The Half Mother is the story of Haleema-a moth The night is tired now, the old moon, hanging in the dark sky, is tired too. It is the 1990s and Kashmir's long war has begun to claim its first victims. Among them are Ghulam Rasool Joo, Haleema's father and her teenage son Imran, who is picked up by the authorities only to disappear into the void of Kashmir's missing people. The Half Mother is the story of Haleema-a mother and a daughter yesterday, a 'half mother' and an orphan today, tormented by not knowing whether Imran is dead or alive, torn apart by her own lonely existence. While she battles for answers and seeks out torture camps, jails and morgues for any signs of Imran, Kashmir burns in a war that will haunt it for years to come. Heart-wrenching, deeply troubling and lyrical, The Half Mother marks the debut of a bold new voice from Kashmir.


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The night is tired now, the old moon, hanging in the dark sky, is tired too. It is the 1990s and Kashmir's long war has begun to claim its first victims. Among them are Ghulam Rasool Joo, Haleema's father and her teenage son Imran, who is picked up by the authorities only to disappear into the void of Kashmir's missing people. The Half Mother is the story of Haleema-a moth The night is tired now, the old moon, hanging in the dark sky, is tired too. It is the 1990s and Kashmir's long war has begun to claim its first victims. Among them are Ghulam Rasool Joo, Haleema's father and her teenage son Imran, who is picked up by the authorities only to disappear into the void of Kashmir's missing people. The Half Mother is the story of Haleema-a mother and a daughter yesterday, a 'half mother' and an orphan today, tormented by not knowing whether Imran is dead or alive, torn apart by her own lonely existence. While she battles for answers and seeks out torture camps, jails and morgues for any signs of Imran, Kashmir burns in a war that will haunt it for years to come. Heart-wrenching, deeply troubling and lyrical, The Half Mother marks the debut of a bold new voice from Kashmir.

30 review for The Half Mother

  1. 4 out of 5

    Aditi

    “God know that a mother need fortitude and courage and tolerance and flexibility and patience and firmness and nearly every other brave aspect of the human soul.” ----Phyllis McGinley Shahnaz Bashir, an India author, has penned a tragic story about a mother's love in his book, The Half Mother: A Novel where the author weaves the story of a Kashmiri mother looking for her son who has been arrested by the army in a raid following an attack by the militants in their locality. Thus begins the journe “God know that a mother need fortitude and courage and tolerance and flexibility and patience and firmness and nearly every other brave aspect of the human soul.” ----Phyllis McGinley Shahnaz Bashir, an India author, has penned a tragic story about a mother's love in his book, The Half Mother: A Novel where the author weaves the story of a Kashmiri mother looking for her son who has been arrested by the army in a raid following an attack by the militants in their locality. Thus begins the journey of a desperate mother looking for her son from one army camp to another to one minster's home to another police station to finally approaching the media, but with time, her health deteriorates and it seems no one is aware that a boy is missing. Synopsis: The night is tired now, the old moon, hanging in the dark sky, is tired too. It is the 1990s and Kashmir's long war has begun to claim its first victims. Among them are Ghulam Rasool Joo, Haleema's father and her teenage son Imran, who is picked up by the authorities only to disappear into the void of Kashmir's missing people. The Half Mother is the story of Haleema-a mother and a daughter yesterday, a 'half mother' and an orphan today, tormented by not knowing whether Imran is dead or alive, torn apart by her own lonely existence. While she battles for answers and seeks out torture camps, jails and morgues for any signs of Imran, Kashmir burns in a war that will haunt it for years to come. Heart-wrenching, deeply troubling and lyrical, The Half Mother marks the debut of a bold new voice from Kashmir. Haleema is born into poverty, and soon after her loving mother's death, she had to quit her school and studies and had to marry a medical assistant. But it seems Haleema is also born with bad luck as her marriage comes to an end within a few months and she had to return back to her father's home in Natipora locality. The only good thing that came out of her short-lived marriage is the birth of her son, Imran, who soon becomes her darling boy, and her father's new guiding stick. But the time period of the late 1980s is ripe with obligatory arrests by the army due to the violence and attacks by the militants in Kashmir, following due every Kashmiri family lives with the fear that they either don't get abducted by the militants or get arrested by the army, as either of them guarantees no safe return to home. Unlucky Haleema too faces the wrath of such violence, when her father is killed in a violent raid performed by the Indian army due to a militants attack. And on the very same evening while mourning for the death of her dear father, Haleema loses her loving son, Imran when the army arrests him in a very similar raid and takes him away. Haleema has no time to mourn for her father, hence she puts the grief at the back of her mind and begs in the feet of the army to let his son free as he has done nothing. And from there, Haleema's painful and long journey begins to find her son and bring him back to home, hence she knocks every government official's door, every army camp's door, and even contact those people who too have faced a similar fate like Haleema's and try to form a united body of people to meet the chief minister and also approaches a local journalist from BBC, who at least pays some heed to her story and prints it. But Imran never comes back and no one seems to have any idea about Imran's whereabouts. And with time, Haleema ages and her health fails her, but she never once loses her hope. So in the midst of failing health and the lies that every army-related personnel is giving her, can Haleema find her son, Imran, before it is too late? This is another such book after Mirza Waheed's The Book of Gold Leaves, that compelled me with its authentic synopsis about a mother's fight and mostly because of the fact that the story is written by a first time Kashmiri author. Kashmir has forever suffered either in the hands of the strong Jihad-believer militants sponsored by Pakistan or in the hands of the fearless Indian Army who came to fame under the pretext of their inhuman torture done by them on the innocent Kashmiris. Kashmir's history is easily forgotten by the people of India but the Kashmiri folks know about it as it is written wither in their family history or in their bloods and they have to live with it every passing day. Trust me, I've been there and I've seen it with my very own eyes, how they have suffered and are still suffering with the war that is still going on discreetly in the background of their daily lives. Now the author here pens this story like some experienced author, as his fresh voice coincides with maturity, depth and feels like the author knows how to move his readers through the emotional turmoil highlighted in the book. The author's writing style is extremely well-polished, emphatic and is laced with emotions, that are deep and will move the readers with its power. The narrative is realistic and honest and every other human soul can easily comprehend with the dialogues of the central character, and not to mention, Kashmiri mothers, especially whose painful stories are forgotten under the progress of Kashmir's wealth, politics, education and constantly growing tourism industry, will definitely find this story close to their heart and will cherish it forever. The pacing is swift and smooth as the readers sway with the free flow of the story. The author has cleverly portrayed the plight of a desperate half mother's journey to find her son, who at first knocks the door of the local police station, then goes to the army camp who bluntly denies that her son has never been picked up for questioning, then forms a body of people consisting of half mothers and half widows in the valley of Kashmir and approaches the chief minister and then approaches a BBC journalist, who too is dominated by the state. This painful and heart breaking story will echo the stories of all the mothers and wives from this vast country, India, whose sons or husbands have been arrested by the government authority like police or army for questioning and following which, never returns back to home. Haleema has been projected like an epitome to all the grieving mothers and wives and the readers will easily feel related to her problems thus connecting with her from heart and mind. The backdrop that the author arrested into the pages of this book is not only striking but also extremely lively which will only act as a time machine for the readers that will transport them not only back in a forgotten and deadly era in Kashmir's history but also to this very paradise. The author has painted the picturesque backdrop of Kashmir with its green valleys and meadows and clear blue stream flowing amidst the snow-white-capped mountains into the heart of the city, Srinagar. The timeline aptly syncs with the projection of the then Kashmir when the war between the army and the insurgents not only changed the lives of the common and innocent Kashmiri folks but also changed the whole ecology of this paradise. The characters in this book are depicted with realism and their honest demeanor will make the readers fall and root for them till the very end. Haleema is a wonderful protagonist as her pain as well as her voice is believable and her fearless and hopeful demeanor will keep the readers too, hoping for her fight. The rest of the supporting characters, especially Haleema's father who enlightens his grandson with education and so much wisdom, that will make the readers arrested to his presence. Overall, all the characters uphold that old Kashmiri flair and warmth and are perfectly in sync with the story line. In a nutshell, this is a must read realistic story of a mother coming from the pen of a debut writer as he successfully gives justice to the sorrows of so many lost stories like Haleema's across the paradise. The story is extremely riveting, enthralling yet poignant in every aspect and I recommend each and every one to pick a copy of this book now. Verdict: A sorrowful journey of a Kashmiri mother looking for her lost son through the valleys.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Yaqeen Sikander

    Amazing written story. I don't remember the last time I cried like this after reading any book. Perhaps being a Kashmiri I could relate. The Author has depicted the story in a way it needs to be told. He has combined and fictionalised different stories. Hats off, Amazing work Shahnaz Bashir

  3. 5 out of 5

    Yas Reads

    This is the power of writing fiction that we(writers, authors) cannot write, by or about Kashmir, in a non-fiction genre. Author has brilliantly pen down the emotions of Haleema, a mother whose son is missing. It is not only the story Of Haleema but of the whole Kashmir valley, where mother waits for his missing son, wife for her missing husband, sister for her brother, son or daughter for his father and father for his son. The haunting story of every house here in kashmir. The book is full of e This is the power of writing fiction that we(writers, authors) cannot write, by or about Kashmir, in a non-fiction genre. Author has brilliantly pen down the emotions of Haleema, a mother whose son is missing. It is not only the story Of Haleema but of the whole Kashmir valley, where mother waits for his missing son, wife for her missing husband, sister for her brother, son or daughter for his father and father for his son. The haunting story of every house here in kashmir. The book is full of emotions. A heart wrenching novel. Shahnaz Bashir at his best. "What can you do in a place where you can get killed like a stray cat or dog, and be thrown away to rot in the wild." Its Kashmir, the Paradise on Earth. Paradise. Indeed!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Idrees Jeelani

    Despite being fiction The half mother could very well be a tale of anyone of the numerous victims of war in Kashmir. With the compassionate realism and purity of narration, this novel reveals the other face of Kashmir, The ugly one, The one that no body wants to see or write about or talk about in their filmsy talk shows and news hours. After you finish the last page, you find yourself still deep inside the novel, You can still hear the breathless breathing of Haleema. Hats off to Shahnaz Bashir Despite being fiction The half mother could very well be a tale of anyone of the numerous victims of war in Kashmir. With the compassionate realism and purity of narration, this novel reveals the other face of Kashmir, The ugly one, The one that no body wants to see or write about or talk about in their filmsy talk shows and news hours. After you finish the last page, you find yourself still deep inside the novel, You can still hear the breathless breathing of Haleema. Hats off to Shahnaz Bashir for such beautiful and hauntingly wonderful work

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ankan Shrivastava

    A story so melancholic and a writing so accomplished !! Unbelievable debut novel from Shahnaz Bashir. The feeling was almost like reading Ondaatje. The Half Mother is a soulful cry of a tortured, humiliated and battered populace. The coldness of terror can be felt in bones and the helplessness of a mother echoes throughout the story. A must read for those who value liberty and an eye opener for those who don't!!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Mir Basit

    This book is awesome I love it. It narrates the story of a single mother for his son who has been captured by security forces in mid 1990 era in kashmir.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Ashoke

    Shannaz's lyrical writing lifts this two-liner plot into the realms of literature. The deeply felt empathy for the protagonist, a Kashmiri mother searching for his teenage son taken away by the Indian army, balances Shahnaz's obvious bias against India and the Army to offer a riveting, rewarding read. #Half-Mother #ShahnazBashir

  8. 5 out of 5

    Bilal Ahmad

    A heart wrenching and heart breaking story about a little girl, a daughter who becomes orphan, a wife, a mother. A mother who loses her son in the war torn Kashmir. She is tormented whether her son is dead or alive. She looks for her son everywhere with all her might. It's story about many wives, daughters, mothers like her who have lost their near and dear ones. Debut novel from the author, it is really heart breaking. Go buy it.

  9. 5 out of 5

    M Firaz

    This well-written novel documents the tragedy which has befallen on many many families in Jammu and Kashmir and about which not much is known outside the region. Hope this novel will bring the required attention of the international community on the issue of enforced disappearances and ensure justice for the families.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Zubaidah Anuar

    At one point towards the end I stopped reading, anticipating an unhappy ending that would cause me emotional breakdown (sounds exaggerating but that is just me). I have read in the news and have been told by friends that the children taken were never returned. And I continued. It was more difficult to read when my eyes were filled with tears. Cheeks warmed by them. It is a heart-wrenching story of innocent beings, oppressed and psychologically and physically tortured in this paradise on earth. T At one point towards the end I stopped reading, anticipating an unhappy ending that would cause me emotional breakdown (sounds exaggerating but that is just me). I have read in the news and have been told by friends that the children taken were never returned. And I continued. It was more difficult to read when my eyes were filled with tears. Cheeks warmed by them. It is a heart-wrenching story of innocent beings, oppressed and psychologically and physically tortured in this paradise on earth. The story told by the reporter was even sadder than the words of the half mother (this is the part that I used the end of my dupatta to wipe both watery eyes and nose. After the pain she has to endure I thought there was hope for the to see her son, to loose the prefix 'half' from her 'mother' title. At the end, the story left me speechless and mindless for a while. The author's way of narrating has made me numb for awhile. Yet, I am hoping the rest of them, who are still waiting for the disappeared to eventually have a closure.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Chandan Pathak

    Extraordinary and brilliant portray of a suffering mother! In spite of the author being a male, he could very effectively narrate the pain, sufferings, longingness and loneliness of a woman/mother which is only possible when an author has some exceptional literary talent. Another aspect I really liked and appreciate is the author's capability to narrate the environment/sorroundings with very minutest of observations. This made the reading quite refreshing. I will neither touch the political aspec Extraordinary and brilliant portray of a suffering mother! In spite of the author being a male, he could very effectively narrate the pain, sufferings, longingness and loneliness of a woman/mother which is only possible when an author has some exceptional literary talent. Another aspect I really liked and appreciate is the author's capability to narrate the environment/sorroundings with very minutest of observations. This made the reading quite refreshing. I will neither touch the political aspect of Kashmir including the army atrocities narrated in the book nor would I question the author about his own judgement of the situation that had prevailed there. But purely as a literary effort, that too as a debute novel I shall not hesitate to say that 'The Half Mother' is quite close to being a masterpiece. I will eagerly look forward to more from Shahnaz Bashir and wish him all the best for his future endeavours in this field!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Idrees Jeelani

    Despite being fiction The half mother could very well be a tale of anyone of the numerous victims of war in Kashmir. With the compassionate realism and purity of narration, this novel reveals the other face of Kashmir, The ugly one, The one that no body wants to see or write about or talk about in their filmsy talk shows and news hours. After you finish the last page, you find yourself still deep inside the novel, You can still hear the breathless breathing of Haleema. Hats off to Shahnaz Bashir Despite being fiction The half mother could very well be a tale of anyone of the numerous victims of war in Kashmir. With the compassionate realism and purity of narration, this novel reveals the other face of Kashmir, The ugly one, The one that no body wants to see or write about or talk about in their filmsy talk shows and news hours. After you finish the last page, you find yourself still deep inside the novel, You can still hear the breathless breathing of Haleema. Hats off to Shahnaz Bashir for such beautiful and hauntingly wonderful work

  13. 4 out of 5

    Titan

    There are some stories that stay with you and this simple story about a mother's desperate search for her son - she doesn't know whether he's alive or dead - amidst chaos and war-like conditions in Kashmir is one of them. The author has been successful in evoking the fear, confusion and desperation that so many people have suffered in reality. A short novel, but very moving through most parts of it.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Arif Shora

    This book reminisced for me the horrific circumstances in Kashmir during 90's. Well paced and full of emotional and distressed expressions in Kashmiri which gave me goosebumps. At the end it left me very sad as I realized the mysteriousness of Imran's disappearance while knowing that in reality also there are thousands of such mothers who never saw their kids coming back and not even knowing whether they should mourn their deaths.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Faiz

    While reading this book,i was just anticipating the end of misery of imran's mother but that actually did not happen. But overall the book is heart breaking.I suggest this book to every kashmiri youth as it is beneficial in two ways;first to understand the oppression we had suffered by the hands of Indian Army and second to understand the Mother's compassion for her children.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Naman Mukesh Chaudhary

    An entrancing storyteller with an unerring moral compass, Shahnaz has created a superbly quick paced yet hard-hitting novel. His prose is so pungent that it stains the pages. The Half Mother is spiked with descriptive and evocative feelings, dreams and scenes from incidences that are more true than fiction. The gripping story line made me race through the book and then mourn its completion.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Syed Jesarat

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Half mother is the best book one will ever come across. The book set in Natipora, a place in Kashmir reveals factual happening of Kashmiri people. The perils they face. Half mother is all about the struggle of kashmiri mother, how she manages to beat all. The best book. Good work. Recommended.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Meenu

    What a tragedy. It rips your heart, when you follow the journey of Haleema from a grieving mother to a maniac half mother. Few pages towards the end of the book are just brilliant and got tearful.Kashmir, today has fallen victim to its own traps and have taken their future generations towards a future filled with despair.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Danish Zehgir

    Very less people have covered Kashmir like Shahnaz Bashir has. The story of a mother who doesn't know if her son is alive or dead. A tale of courage and hope. Courage for she never gives up looking for her son and hope that he is alive and she would find him.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Hamia Khan

    Beautifully written. Brave lady fought till last moment of her life , this is not a story of Haleema only but many more kashmiri's. How innocent IMRAN has been disappeared? point is, where is he ? is he alive or ......?

  21. 5 out of 5

    Aruna Kumar Gadepalli

    Interesting story of a woman. Set in Kashmir in 1990s a woman who lost her father, husband leaves her and no news about her son who is taken away by the forces. A real life story tells the life one common man faced.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Tejaswini

    Read my review of the book here: http://loadstoread.wordpress.com/2014...

  23. 5 out of 5

    Consuelo Murgia

    I really have a soft spot for books with exotic settings (Kashmir in this case) and dealing with dramatic events, especially if involving female characters with tormented lives.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Shivangi Sharma

  25. 5 out of 5

    Deepak Garg

  26. 5 out of 5

    Hina

  27. 4 out of 5

    Ashish Mundawane

  28. 5 out of 5

    Creative Thinker

  29. 4 out of 5

    Syed Imran

  30. 5 out of 5

    Aksa

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