Title: Forgotten Tales: Stories from the Kashmir Valley
Author: Sana Altaf
Publisher: One Point Six Technologies
Genre: Short Stories
First Publication: 2022
Book Summary: Forgotten Tales: Stories from the Kashmir Valley by Sana Altaf
A young girl, who is on a journey of finding her missing father, dedicates her entire life to tracing him. The story of two women whose strong bond of friendship transcends religion, brings us a lesser known, humane side of Kashmir. Another young girl falls in love and weaves a thousand dreams, but a shocking turn of events could very well cost her this dear love.
Forgotten Tales is a somber collection of 11 short stories, all set in times of conflict, but each revealing a different account, touching upon different aspects of people’s lives in the valley.
Torn by decades of conflict, Kashmir holds several untold stories of death, bloodshed, disappearances, rape, sufferings and injustice. But what’s often forgotten in the midst of all this turmoil is that, these could also be stories of love, friendship, reminiscence and hope.
Book Review: Forgotten Tales: Stories from the Kashmir Valley by Sana Altaf
Forgotten Tales is an engrossing debut collection of short stories that is set in the Kashmir Valley in India and explores what it means to be Kashmiri as well as what it means to live, to survive, and to persevere after experiencing tragedy. With enduring compassion and profound insight, author Sana Altaf brings to life the relationships of family and community in eleven stunning, luminous stories about people grappling with the past and looking forward to an uncertain future. A young girl who is on a mission to locate her missing father commits every waking moment of her life to the search for him. A more nuanced and empathetic picture of Kashmir is shown via the tale of two ladies whose deep relationship is unaffected by either of their respective religions. A young woman discovers love but an unexpected sequence of circumstances puts her relationship in jeopardy, and she fears losing the love she cares deeply for.
In a collection that explores the repercussions and benefits of being Kashmiri, Forgotten Tales is a portrait of India’s Kashmir Valley that will stay with the reader for a long time. It’s referred to as a collection of stories, but it felt more like a novel and the stories felt like chapters about Kashmiri people and their family and friends, just not told in chronological order. In addition to illuminating the nuances of human emotion, the manner Sana Altaf wrote from a female point of view is admirable and something that very few authors attempt to achieve.
These stories in “Forgotten Tales: Stories from the Kashmir Valley” include a significant amount of tragedy, yet throughout history, Kashmiri people have always faced challenges and have maintained the will to endure. These stories provide a highly credible depiction of real people, rather than stereotypical portrayals, and they enable us to connect to problems in the Valley that are considerably different from the ones that the majority of us are familiar with.
I enjoy the way this collection of short stories often ‘disrupt’ the typical linear coming-of-age story, presenting us instead with self-contained stories that hone in on a specific period or moment of a character’s life. I like the way they can achieve an almost snap-shot-like quality, one that really brings into focus the emotions and experiences of that specific moment. While here the style is pretty consistent, these collections also have the ability to implement different literary devices and of playing around with perspectives.
The tales were captivating and propelled by self-reflection, cultural integration, and melancholy estrangement. Sana Altaf encourages her readers not only to feel ‘sympathy’ towards his characters but to really emphasise them and their respective situations. The dialogues and the way the characters interacted with one another were strikingly realistic, and I appreciated how chaotic and messy some of these scenes were. By presenting us with a haunting portrait, author is able to interrogate the way our legacies and inheritances shape us, and the difficulties in trying to reconcile yourself with a past that has left such indelible marks on your present. Overall, I thought this was a very self-assured debut.