Book: The Sentimental Terrorist
Author: Rajesh Talwar
Publisher: Kindle Version
I have time and again made it obvious that I do not like to read kindle version of books…it somehow never satisfies me to read a digital book as much a paperback does!
Had I known before applying as book reviewer about the book being Kindle version, I probably would have refused. But once selected for review, I did not have a heart to back away even though The Tales Pensieve people gave me an option.
The name of the book is a hint enough and along with the image of a turbaned man overlooking the barren rocky terrain on the cover, the reader can very well understand who the protagonist might be but the term ‘sentimental’ is intriguing.
From what the media flashes on television screens and newspapers, terrorists seem to be a hardened cruel lot. Atrocities of Taliban make the world’s blood boil. So how can a terrorist be sentimental?
A fictional story, it is about a young Afghan, Mohsin, who despite good education and a logical head on his strong shoulders becomes associated with Taliban after giving up a decent job with French agency working for health issues of Afghani women and undergoes extensive training for launching an attack on ‘infidels’ or Americans who have again and again bombed the region many a times killing innocent locals instead of Taliban terrorists. In one such accidental bombing Mohsin’s family is wiped out.
The love of his life, to escape a monster of a step-father marries a European and elopes to France. With his world crumbling all around him, Mohsin has no desire left.
Mohsin’s aversion to activities and thought process of Taliban is quickly replaced by a hatred towards the person responsible for such mindless slaughter of locals indulging in wedding ceremony. His grief and desire for revenge opens gates for Taliban influence on his disturbed emotional state.
While he does extract a revenge but his sentiments prevent him from killing innocent people trapped in crossfire.
The author has managed to give a glimpse of the general state of affairs in the terror ravaged country where the ‘pathan pride’ is dictated by a system of an eye for an eye kind of justice, where preaching of Islam has been twisted, where women are treated as property and punished over a whim of men, where simple pleasures of watching television, listening to music that are often taken for granted by us, are punishable offences by Taliban, where people fight everyday to survive and where witnessing the next sunrise is always debatable.
Author, Rajesh Talwar, through his story has pointed out the fact that though there might be thousands in Afghanistan who would any day want to get rid of Taliban extremists but the presence of western forces has ruined the ethnicity and harmed the locals, which has turned more locals against the western armed forces. The collateral damage, in a bid to contain Taliban, has been unimaginable.
This is a story of finding love amidst destruction, of sacrificed love to escape from Taliban, of fight for survival, of ramifications of misused power and of a place which could have been a beautiful, highly cultural and ethnic province.
As a kid I had read a story of ‘Kabuliwala’ who sold dry fruits. For long time I imagined Afghans as tall Pathans with fair skin and robust health due to all those delicious dry fruits. That the Mughal Empire had its roots in Afghanistan also played a role in my imagination.
But the book paints a grim picture and makes me feel grateful to have been born in a much tolerant and free country.
The story is written well but I would have preferred a longer book with the protagonist’s turmoil of killing innocent people more defined…his conflicting sentiments described in more detail…. his decisions to join Taliban against his better judgement and logical thoughts. I feel the story falls short in bringing out the pain of a young man.
However it is good to be read at least once and keeps the reader engaged till the last page.