Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Jihad in my saffron garden - Book Review

Jihad in my Saffron garden by Roxy Arora


Jihad in my saffron garden is a story with a multidisciplinary approach towards various important causes relating to society as well as humanity. In a little package of 200 pages, Roxy Arora cleverly covers a gripping story with more than a single theme to it.
It is a story about a girl and a boy coming from families of two different religions, falling in love with each other and facing the repercussions of the same. The plot starts with Roshina, the star of the story, travelling back to her home town Kashmir to meet her son and on her journey she gets engrossed in all her past memories with each hour she spends on the plane and throughout her journey till she reaches her destination. The saffron garden where she used to play as a child, with her best friend Heena Qazami and where the first of attractions she had for her best friend's brother Aafaq. The saffron garden which was a witness of their childhood innocence and later a bearer of graves too, becomes a sacred symbol of love. A strong emphasis is given on the manner in which life changes the people around a person when a beautiful city is hit by the plague of terrorism. When the same protectors turn abusers and destroyers and people suffer in the hands of violence; things that happen to the ones who are forced to run away and the things that happen to the ones who are left behind, are beautifully portrayed. How Roshina gets along with her life after her family is forced to leave her home town and how events change Aafaq towards terrorism but love always stays a factor that connects souls beyond hatred and beyond religion.  But the twist of the story lies in its climax where the entire picture takes an about turn.

In this story, you will find a perfect recipe of a perfect story that leaves you rejuvenated as well as wiser will all that you experience.  It will not be wrong to say that the story serves as a take home lesson, a therapy, as well as an entertainment. You will find emotion, drama, Romance, action, crime/thriller and mystery beautifully woven throughout the story. As you read through the book, you will get to feel  the selfless bonding of beautiful friendship as well as love between people across religions, a bonding that qualifies for the status of 'soul siblings / soul mates', a kind of friendship / love that is rare today and is much required for a better life and a better nation. The state of romance ranges from innocent bonding to soulful attachment and not on lust or sexualism, which I find very serene. The author also captures the young hearts of the readers with the playfulness of love. The story holds much substance. How a Muslim family helps a Hindu family settle themselves in a beautiful city of Kashmir; the little day-to-day rituals which are similar in both Hindu and Muslims, like a drop of honey warding off evil when a child is born. The very fact that 'each man is born with red coloured blood' can be profoundly noticed in the picture of relationships presented in the story. The relationships also emphasise on the fact that no religion imparts a bad teaching or creates a terrorist.

When we talk about religion, we often only consider the religious element of the same. But in this story Roxy has covered cultural, societal and psychological elements related to a religion. I was moved when Roshina's mother clearly states the cultural practice of polygamy and enquires if her daughter is ready to adjust shall the need arise and the choice of the guy to settle down for just his beloved displaying an equal respect to the other culture.

In the society, both families are well educated, yet the state of education and the state of mentality holds a different value throughout the story. Where on one hand, elite classes and most educated of people are behind sponsoring terrorism, on the other hand, the uneducated and unemployed classes are being mind conditioned into terrorism in the name of God and made to commit heinous crimes. The two scenarios are of pivotal importance in understanding the general make up of a society where power corrupts but an uneducated can be lead astray by using things they believe in, as tools.

I often use the statement that 'the day you take wrong to be right; will be the day you will survive'. The same statement can be applied to both the sides of the window. On one side, Jihad and religion are being twisted to such an extent that people are made to believe that by tormenting and killing people of other religion (kafir), they are establishing the kingdom of God on earth and for their noble work; they will be getting a place in heaven. On the other side, are the educated gentry that sooner or later give into the fact that they must dwell into the places that have social as well as religious harmony. Such a mentality serves to produce like minded offspring in most of the cases and become a reason for breaks in the unity of a secular nation where people live together but are divided in their hearts. Such conditions further create intolerant societies.

There is another aspect of this societal expression. The people who are needy or too innocent are exploited in the hands of powerful and rich. A rich for his/her power and will, corrupts people and gets a peaceful place turn into a war zone.

In 'Jihad in my saffron Garden', an important part is played by the army of the country. The army sometimes being misunderstood for its lack of promptness in action; turns out to be something that is working without any publicity or credits to its name. The officers go miles to ensure the protection of its nation and its people. We, the common people always undervalue the army of our country where much of its working is hidden from us. In this book, I like army's systematic approach towards problems in and across border. Even minute details are not missed, like the anonymous lady who calls; the letter of Roshina's Uncle and even the speck of Aafaq's eye. The best thing about this systematic approach is that it imparts reality to the scenario. For a minute, you start to wonder if it is just an imaginary fiction or the story from someone's life.

Then, the third aspect of the story I loved above all is the mystery and crime that divulges itself in layers. The first layer of crime and violence lies in the civil unrest in the beautiful city of Kashmir where innocents are harassed, robbed, raped and killed. And the first layer of mystery lies in the articulation of the crime as an act by the officers. The careful investigation of the facts from the events provided, adds to the beauty of the painted scene. The second layer of crime and violence lies in the mass transformation of well educated youth into well trained terrorists who belong to elite families and have enough money to be able to fund an entire organisation alone. The layer of mystery lies into the events where multiple reasons for the same events surface, disclosing political factors and the involvement of other nations in the formation of such organisations and that each of them is working with their self - fulfilling aims and goals. The profound role of religious mentors and fake gurus into channelizing such crimes like terrorism is well evident. The third layer of crime and violence lies in the climax of the story where the story reveals an obsessive psychopath bent upon either getting her way or destroying everything that comes to her way. This is where the fact that 'Crime sees no religion', comes into play. The story takes an about turn with its theme as it reveals the third layer of crime. A few indirect influences from criminal behaviour and criminal psychology can also be witnessed in the story especially in the making of criminals out of normal people who once lived a decent life filled with love. A streak of mind might protest and support that violence in return for barbarism is quite justified but the equilibrium that is required is well maintained in the story.

On humanitarian grounds, the story reveals strong lessons that everyone can learn irrespective of their caste, creed, race or religion. A few that I learnt are as follows:
'you never know what life has in store, but in all circumstances you must not lose the human within you.’;
'help people whenever you can. Who knows! Today its them, tomorrow it can be you' ;
' a little humanity goes a long way and so does a little selfless love'.

Talking about the plot and language of the story, the story with its style of life both in peace and in war creates a good balance between the two scenarios. I could, through words live the life in Kashmir and could also relate to the life in Delhi where I spent similar age as did Roshina, in the same posh areas of R.K Puram and the life of a convent school, being a convent educated myself. I travelled back in time when the story described Roshina's life in Delhi. So, in my case, story touches another day-to-day aspect of reality. A Good research or a good experience of a place is required for the little details added in the story, like the temperature of Jammu and Delhi being almost same, is something that is a result of good experience with places. These little details drain out virtuality out of the story. The language of the story is comprehensible and compatible with easy reading state of mind. The choice of words is good. You don't have to dive into a dictionary to understand expressions but you still have room to gain something from the vocab used. The places where Urdu words are explained add to author's sensitivity towards language understanding of the reader. You need not be proficient in Urdu to understand some day to day words.

The book design is good but has a lot of space for a better one, especially the cover.

The story has a lot of potential and is one of the best stories I have read.

My rating for 'Jihad in my saffron Garden' is 5/5.

My favourite dialogue from the story :
'Rosha, meri Jaan, ro mat.' :D

My favourite lines/paragraphs from the story are as follows:
‘Islam and Hinduism.’ Both of these religions advocate non-violence. Those following the Holy Quran, believe in Zakat, those following the Bhagavad Gita, believe in Daan. Both literally meaning an obligatory alms giving. So we really can’t claim to be as different as chalk from cheese.

I even know of a Kashmir, where a Muslim landlord suffered severe blood loss in an automobile accident. His Hindu friend was the first person to rush to the hospital. He concealed from the blood bank staff that he is a hypertensive patient and is endangering his own life, by donating blood. It was the life of a best friend at stake. There couldn’t have been a wife prouder of her husband than my mother was at that moment. As that Hindu friend was my father, and the hospitalized victim was Aafaq’s father, Abbas Qazmi.

‘Rosha’, she said thoughtfully as if weighing her words. “Love is a very beautiful thing, and my darling daughter there is nothing like knowing the person you love, loves you back.”


Mum lovingly stroked the hair, back from my eyes. “I would advise you to do away with the fringe though. You are aware that their religion does allow them to keep more than one wife?” I could sense the graveness in Mum’s tone. There was a pregnant silence. “Right now you probably think that such a situation will never arise but are you prepared to face the possibility?” I didn’t realize it then, but my tone was definitely protective.


Once again I was being called Kafir. In my own home this time. And slowly, the life-force of us idol worshippers was being washed away. There was a new dictionary in Kashmir, of limited words. Jihad, Kalashnikov and Separatist and there were talks of an Islamic Caliphate all over the world.

The Muslim forgets the Hindu girl, his neighbour and childhood friend who has tied Rakhi around his wrist every year. He teases her on the road, makes lewd remarks and obscene gestures at her. She is a Hindu, his enemy. Wasn’t it a Hindu Queen in our country who had sent a Rakhi to a Mughal Emperor asking him for brotherly protection? The Emperor honoured the delicate string and sent his troops led by himself. He had fortitude. But now we have Jihad.

Roshina, we as the Indian defence do not have to deal with merely the Inquilaab Kashmir. There are so many of these radical factions. I hope this makes them see the futility of their demands.”

We are the world’s third largest Army. Why is it only in this country we don’t think twice before condemning our military? Americans don’t condemn their Army when they go and fight in the scorching deserts of Kuwait. Britons don’t offer a bad word for their Army when they become part of the Allied Forces. But we love to lash out at those lads who sleep in bunkers, under tanks and get buried beneath forty feet of snow. While we wine and dine and adopt airs of intelligentsia. I don’t want to stray from the point. The point being that both you and I know that so many school and college friends of Aafaq had joined these outfits after attending madrassas in Pakistan. Now the next step from there is analysis of Jihadist potential. How many of them can be encouraged to engage in violence? The violence a psychopath possesses. The criminal intent of mind which makes him a bomb expert or an arson specialist. Ultimately, a suicide bomber.

“The Indian Army devotes an entire section to counter insurgency called, ‘Anti-terrorist Wing.’ This wing constitutes fresh recruits with the adrenaline of youth, seasoned Generals and war veterans who have all been placed together. The Army’s finest, determined to prevent any sort of a subversion. In retaliation, separatists and Pakistan sympathetic outfits in Kashmir receive funds from their wealthy benefactors all over the Arab world. Nevertheless, how to evict the Army from Kashmir? By rigorously murdering its reputation. So terms like human rights violation, exploitation of AFSPA, atrocities performed by security personnel on innocent civilians come into play. It is so easy for the West and our media to create such an international uproar that it becomes tough for us to execute our duty. But everyone forgets that the first and foremost duty of the Indian Army is to secure India.

What is the army going to do when a suspected militant is detained for interrogation? A militant who has killed innocent women and children because they are Hindu or even Muslim, but do not pledge allegiance to him. When the army was being maligned all over the valley, country and world, why not take advantage of its tarnished image.


‘My Saffron Garden,’ was weather beaten. No seeds, no flowers, no butterflies. My mind tussled with images of two little girls chasing rabbits and scattering petals on the porch. And now one of those little girls lay buried under its unkind soils.



Dr. Roxy Arora

Dr(Mrs) Roxy Arora is a self employed Dental Surgeon and resides in New Delhi, N.C.R.
She lived in the United Kingdom for the first few years of her life and received her primary education from there. She belongs to the state of Jammu, J&K and is of Dogra ethnicity.

 “During my childhood, whenever we would come back to India for our vacations we would always visit Kashmir. Needless to say the captivating beauty of the place would take my breath away.

   When we relocated back to Jammu, I was extremely happy to be a part of a huge extended family. It was in India where I felt my sense of belonging. No slurs, no taints. “This is my country,” I could for once say with pride and “ I am an Indian.” As a child I had always been passionate about writing and wanted to write as a profession.  It just came natural to me. I wanted to pursue a career like journalism or mass communications but was dissuaded by my parents.

          My Father being a doctor took up a job in Kuwait and I lived there and studied in the Indian School, Kuwait. But then we had to run away from Kuwait when it was invaded by Saddam Hussein and The Gulf War broke out. It was 1990 and it was the year militancy in Kashmir had resurfaced in its most vindictive  form. The year in which over several hundred thousand Kashmiri Hindus had fled from Kashmir evicted from their own state by religious fundamentalists. Their misery and helplessness tugged at my heart. It was so similar to what I was facing then. To lose your home , your school and your life was not easy.”, says Dr. Roxy .

                                 She graduated from Manipal , married her classmate and settled down in New Delhi, N.C.R. She started her private practice in a clinic near her house. Life was good, but somewhat incomplete as the writer in her had been stifled.

”After years of meditation I summoned the courage to pen  the novel I had always yearned to write. And I couldn’t imagine writing about anything other than my breathtakingly beautiful valley. The horror and angst which had been unleashed in those once pristine meadows and mountain tops had to be revealed to the whole world. Along with the camaraderie in which the populace of Kashmir had once resided. ”, she says.

                                          Jihad In My Saffron Garden has been written with a purpose. We as Indians have to take pride in our secular nation, we have to respect all religions and beliefs. If Hindus and Muslims could live in harmony not so long ago, then where and why did it all go awry? How could a palaver called religious difference evolve into murder and massacre? Her book has been traditionally published and was launched in the month of October. Anurag Kashyap, the eminent Bollywood personality was the chief guest.

                            Read Jihad In My Saffron Garden. Join Roshina Kapoor , the protagonist and Roxy Arora the author in their quest for world peace and their determination to restore Kashmiriyat to the Saffron Garden.

Review by

Dr. Prerna Singla
Founder & Editor-in-chief - Hall of Poets

Author : "The Crown of Sekhmet",  “The Bible of Marriage”

This review is a copyrighted intellectual property of Dr. Prerna Singla and must not be copied in any form without prior written permission from Dr. Prerna Singla. For permission, write at: hallofpoets@gmail.com