Recently, I found a book named Undaunted: Lt. Ummer Fayaz of Kashmir by author Bhaavna Arora at a really amazing price at Amazon India. Actually, I was keen to read the book since its release. And, various remarks about the book by some current and former armed official made me even more curious to read it. So, the book promotion offer was something which I didn’t want to let go. And, I’ve bought the book and added it to our “to be read and reviewed” queue.
I was so keen to read the book and explore the biography of Lt. Ummer Fayaz that I talked to our team to read it out of its turn. And, fortunately, I got the chance to read it.
|Book Title||:||Undaunted: Lt. Ummer Fayaz of Kashmir|
|Publishers||:||Westland (March 7, 2019)|
|# of Pages||:||
3448 KB, 244 (Kindle EBook)
|# of Chapters||:||16|
Let us take a look at the book cover:
Being a biography the book is expected to have the photograph of Lt. Ummer Fayaz. The cover designer added his imagination to the same concept. The photograph is converted into linear illustration with Army uniform colors. And yes, you can also see barbed wire representing many things including but not limited to the youth’s ambition of crossing over the limits and walk on the right path and guiding others to do so. It also represents the LOC (Line Of Control) where he was posted. And the thrones on the barbed wire represents the hurdles planted in the innocent citizens’ (especially youth) way to live a peaceful and progressive life. And yes, the color combination also represents the sad demise of the protagonist. Overall, a very thoughtful yet not very attractive book cover page.
The book talks about many people including Fayaz Ahmed Parrey, Col. Rohit, Javed Sheikh, Zainub Khan, Burhan Wani, Colonel Manu, Dr. Joseph, Shubh Karan, Jameela, Asmat, Ahmed Ali, Tahzun, Salman, Col.Interjeet, Rajni, Bhoi, Shrey, Neeraj Kumar and many others in addition to the protagonist and the narrator.
The tale of Lt. Ummer Fayaz is known to many. I feel sad for not being able to mention the word “almost everyone” rather.
Born as the first child to Fayaz Ahmed Parrey and Jameela, Fayaz belonged to a very humble background. Despite living in tough situations, both economically and environment wise, Fayaz and Jameela understood the importance of education and were keen that Ummer got the best they can arrange for him.
Ummer himself was an intelligent and clever child. His vision for the future was clear from an early age. And, he even used to guide other kids in his area and school for following the right path.
The situation in the valley area of the state of Jammu and Kashmir is getting worse with passing time. Most of the locals had developed the psyche that the valley belongs to them and the government is not doing anything for their progress. They are being brainwashed in a way that they started seeing the Indian Army with doubt. Actually, the soldiers who are stationed there for the local’s well being are considered as outsiders!
How Ummer made really good progress at school and rather than being misguided remain firm on his stand to make his (and eventually, other people’s) future brighter. He got selected in NDA and successfully completes his training in the first phase.
How his further study at NDA moves ahead and how he was commissioned as the Lieutenant in the Indian Army is explored in the book. Of course, the personal life of Ummer and the people associated and linked with him somehow, are explored as well. The book tries to answer very important questions related to his martyrdom in its pages.
Writing a biography is not an easy task and especially when the characters belong to the recent time. Writing about the state of Jammu and Kashmir, Pakistan and the stuff linked with the same in any manner is feared to be controversial, no matter how much you tried to remain unbiased. Politics and brainwashing at various levels tried people’s mind to see Black and White only. And even more importantly some pseudos try seeing the things from their biased perspective and support or oppose it blindly. Bhaavna has shown remarkable courage in writing this book and getting it published.
She did really hard work in researching facts about the protagonist and the incidents happened in his life. She personally visited the valley many times and met with Ummer’s family, friends, colleagues, fellow cadets, and officers, teachers, and others.
The book brings in the situation in Kashmir as the first-hand account and a large number of readers quite shocking. A large number of people are aware of the situations in the state from the news, be it from print or visual media. And, the ground report is quite different. The way, the author was provided additional security by the armed forces, and more importantly, the need for the same will shake the hearts of any Indian by heart. The author has rightly mentioned in the book:
Kasmir, a blessing that has been ignored for too long, has turned into a curse.
And the author reminds all of us:
There are many things we take for granted, and freedom tops the list.
It is rightly said that with the kid(s) the parents also grow (up). Parenting is a responsibility which has its own perks. People learn to find joy and sorrows from smaller things while doing responsible parenting. In the hustle and bustle of life, we lose our abilities to enjoy the small moments, otherwise.
The author brings in some light moments in the book while talking about the childhood of the protagonist. Here is a conversation I like in the same regards:
He gave Ummer some apples and asked, “How many do you have?”
Ummer counted with his small fingers and answered, “five”.
“If I take three apples and eat them, how many would you have left?”
Ummer, alarmed, retorted innocently, “I’m not giving you my apples. They’re mine.”
Fayaz struggled to hide his smile as he reframed the question. “Okay, who do you think you can give three of your apples to?”
After a moment’s deep reflection, Umer lisped, “Assma”.
“Why?” Because you love her and she’s your baby sister?”
“No! Because she has no teeth and can’t eat my apples.”
The innocence, reasoning, and intelligence of a kid along with the creative ways used by his father to educate him; elaborated so nicely here that any parent can relate to it. Later in the book, when the kid is grown up a little more, his characteristics are explored in a quite mature line:
The power of keen observation is a precious life-skill, something his son possessed in abundance.
[UNDAUNTED LT UMMER FAYAZ OF KASHMIR by Bhaavna Arora]
The following lines about the war and war strategies talks about how war actually results in creating a loss for the people affected by it
…Being defensive, the best you can hope for is a tie. Never a win. History is proof…
But the truth is that no one has even won anything by being offensive either. History yet again is proof…
I feel that the word “ever” instead of “even” could have been a better choice here though.
Sometimes you can pass on a message with simple lines in an effective manner:
A good education has the potential to change lives.
The book has some philosophical lines talking about the harsh realities:
… but no matter how certain death is, when it comes, it takes a toll on the spirit that no one is prepared for.
Sometimes, I reflected, you have enjoyed a privilege for so long that you don’t realise when it actually starts working against you.
The ‘first’ is aways special in some ways. First love, first house, first bike, first car. The rush of new emotions heightens the happiness/
Every life has an end… we just don’t know when. So Ummer hs already lost one month of his life.
When death claims your dearest ones, anger takes root in the mind and grows like an incurable disease that eventually consumes you.
It is easy to sell warped ideology in the guise of religion and make them believe that a higher power wants them to go to war.
But in this case, while the tongue replied in the affirmative, heart, body and mind protested vehemently.
Here are some interesting one liners from the book:
When comes to a choice between religion and livelihood, bread and butter always wins.
But a passion for truth sometimes comes at a price.
Some things, sometimes, are best left unreasoned.
Teenage stomachs, needless to say, are bottomless pits where copious amounts of food can disappear into without seeming to show up on skilling teenage frames.
I learnt in that moment that few things can bring people together like grief and loss can.
Memory is selective and temporary.
Here we trust everyone, but we have no choice but to suspect everyone too.
True achievement is when you achieve success despite all adversities.
History sometimes can be a cruel companion of soldiers.
The most junior officer was considered the baby of the unit…
Only if you understand and accept that there is danger, will you be able to escape it.
Strangely, it is human nature to either want everyone to be like oneself, or to want to be like everyone else. Very few people are comfortable being unique.
I like the way in which the author used the phrase “they had finally conceived”. Usually, we see “the lady has conceived” or similar stuff is mentioned in the same context otherwise. It is a thoughtful gesture pointing towards the fact that parenting is all about joy and responsibility shared between the couple.
After a long wait of five years, the couple were overjoyed to learn that they had finally conceived.
I also like the way the author mentioned the small incident where the spirit of Kashmiriyat is explored. On her first visit, when the author was going in a hired car in Kashmir, a stone pelter attacked the car. On the subsequent visit, the driver brought in the same stone pelter to say sorry to the author. What all he wants is, the visitor should not take a wrong impression about Kashmir! Such small gestures are actually the hope for a better future.
The Burhan Wani incident and references to him are also worth reading.
The author doesn’t shy away in choosing words when pointing towards the lack of sensitivity and responsibility of the citizens towards real heroes and real problems:
…That’s the problem with you guys. It’s barely been a week and you have already forgotten his name. And you were the one who forwarded that message to me, about the candlelight march at India Gate in his name. And you forgot his name!
I like the way the author talked about “baby” officer in a unit. And yes, I also like the way the initial time of a cadet in the NDA referred to as “honeymoon period”.
The way the author talks about the importance of a mother is sure to make the reader emotional while reading:
He knew then that the aura of a woman, especially a mother, is like the warm winter sun. we bask in its comfort, absorbing and soaking in the very essence of it, and don’t realise how vital it is to our wellbeing until it is gone.
The following lines explore the idea of “terrorism” quite effectively:
The terrorists seemed to have accomplished their mission, which was clearly larger and more sinister than even the killing of Lieutenant Ummer Fayaz. It was to sow fear in the hearts and minds of the locals, and it was evident that they had succeeded.
The author has used “introverted” in the following line where she could have used “introvert”
Tahzun was introverted and unassuming….
By now you must have got the idea about the quality of writing in the book. The main aim here is to keep the spoilers at the bay while talking about the content of the book. If we talk about the context of incidents mentioned in the book in detail, it will definitely ruin the reading experience.
The narration of the story is done in two parallel threads. Both the thread belongs to different times and are connected to the same story. The similar technique of storytelling is explored earlier in movies like Memento. In fact, Hindi film “Rang De Basanti” has also followed the same narration style.
The entire story is told in the first person – the author being the narrator. It gives a personal touch to the tale, and it holds a fine line between a documentary and a biography. The author doesn’t shy away in mentioning her point-of-view for any incident she has referred. At the same time, she presents the points-of-view of all the sides linked with the same. This requires conviction and honesty as a writer. In fact, the author mentions in the book that there are three versions of the truth; my version, your version, and the actual truth. The author remained unbiased in her quest to find the truth. And yes, don’t miss the logical reasons explored in the book which are responsible to keep the tension alive at the border and LOC.
And yes, the realistic representation of the life in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, the psyche of the people, the training at NDA, the environment in schools of Kashmir, the way the army works for the people and the nation, the way two different people react to a similar incident happened to them, the love story of the protagonist, the friendship he shared with his buddies,… are the reasons you want to read the book.
The book falls in “must read” category for many reasons. For me, it is the tale of hope.
The book is not for the time pass reading. You should go for it if you want to learn about Kashmir, Lt. Ummer and the potential problem leading towards stone-pelting and Terrorism.
Reading this book reminded me of some of the books I read in a similar context.
- A Life To Die For by Nilay Shah
- The Infidel Next Door by Rajat Mitra
- When The Chief Fell In Love by Tuhin A Sinha
The book is a genuinely written biography where the author’s hard work in researching various elements is quite evident. The book is good in literary qualities and is an inspirational tale. It is for serious and attentive reading. As I bought it during a promotion, it is value-for-money and time for me.
Definitely, around 8.5 stars out of 10.
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