Title: The Kaafir’s Love
Author: Abhisar Sharma
“Restless and on the edge, the Kaafir’s Love is volatile and an intense love story set against our troubled and provocative times.” –Excerpt from the summary of “The Kaafir’s Love”
If someone were to tell you celebrated and awarded (with no less than the Ramnath Goenka Indian Express Award in 2008-2009 and more recently the 2017 RedInk Award) journalist Abhisar Sharma was venturing into fiction, the love story genre would not be your first guess as his choice. With over two decades of experience in pioneering political reportage, Sharma has notably covered proceedings as momentous as the Gujarat riots, 26/11 Mumbai attacks, and the Jasmine revolution in Egypt, so surely crime thrillers sound more up his alley. And you couldn’t have been more farther from the truth.
Sharma takes his penchant and piquant observation of religion, as the national favourite (and potentially dangerous) pastime, and mixes it with young love to concoct a dangerous (for the lovers) cocktail. It’s with this fundamental premise that he steps far, far away from the well-treaded path.
Hindu Sameer, with a fruit-seller ma back home, thinks nothing of finding love in the soulful eyes of Inara, daughter of a dangerously influential Muslim kin. In good time, Inara too reciprocates his feelings and they have bargained for trouble far beyond their pay grade.
Flowering in the back lanes of Purani Dilli’s stagnant quarters, this edgy tale throws light at myriad silhouettes and helps sketch the true intentions playing dress up in the clothing of religious and political propaganda.
The tale may seem tired at first but instead is a thoughtfully cocooned paean about the shining light of ever-hopeful individual freedom and how it can survive even in the harshest noon sun of social and societal pressures. You can tell a master craftsman was at work in chiselling the story to its final, relatable form, with enough unpredictable twists in unforeseen nooks and an amazing hook for an ending.
For the thinking folks, it also sounds a warning bell about the dangerous direction we are headed to if we let religion dictate the diktats of the society. And in that fashion, it makes the love story a relevant read in today’s times.
The storytelling spares no punches either; aiming for the gut and getting you there (a hat doff to his journalistic roots). This serves an able contrast to the warmth lent by the budding love of the star-crossed lovers of this atypical love story. And yet Sharma’s true mastery lies in his confident use of simple, real, everyday language in lieu of the literary style, and thus lending a rare authenticity to the narrative. The dialogue could have been better fleshed out though, appearing gangly at certain places.
Remarkably, while reading the book, the way images kept cropping up in my head, I wouldn’t be surprised if some enterprising director were to snap the book up soon for its cinematic glory.