The Tree With A Thousand Apples By Sanchit Gupta
The tree with a thousand apples by Sanchit Gupta paraphrase the phrase that says, A friend in need is a friend indeed.
In this jungle of humanity real friends are hard to find. Because, true friends neither looks at your surname nor the religion which you professed. They just stand by you whenever you need them, isn’t it. That’s why these people are rare to find.
Living in a war zone is not everyone’s cup of tea. It’s like living in an open cage. The protagonists of the tree with a thousand apples belongs to a place which is known as the ‘Paradise on Earth’, but the reality is something different.
The land whose beauty compelled Amir Khusro to say-
“ Gar firdaus bar rue zameen ast/hameen asto, hameen asto, hameen ast (If ever there is Paradise on Earth/It is here! It is here! It is here!)”.
But, as I said earlier that the reality is different. Kashmir is also the reason due to which India and Pakistan have had fought two full scale war and one limit scale war (1947-48, 1965 & 1999).
And besides this the ongoing insurgency in Kashmir, the exodus of the Kashmiri Pandits from the Kashmir Valley in the 1990s, the indoctrination of the Kashmiri youth towards extremism, the mistakes and the mishandling of Kashmir by the successive Indian Governments and the support which Pakistan provides to the terrorists for their heinous motives.
The combination of all these factors made the Paradise on Earth as the epitome of hell on earth.
But, even after this chaos there is hope for a better tomorrow. The tree with a thousand apples takes us to this paradise where things can change very quickly.
So, let’s go to this journey of unknown with the tree with a thousand apples.
What is the tree with a thousand apples?
The tree with a thousand apples is the story of three Kashmiri friends by the name of Deewan Bhat, Bilal Ahanagar and Safeena Malik.
It’s the tale which epitomizes the foundation on which Indian civilization rests i.e. Pluralism.
It will also make you think that a story has several sides. Your side. My side. And the side which we never know.
In fact, we all like to interpret a subject or an issue in black and white terms while ignoring the most important part which is the grey area, isn’t it. This Kashmiri novel is all about the grey area.
Although, I strongly recommend to readers to read this book. But, before you read this novel, I suggest you to read, Curfewed Night by Basharat Peer and Our moon has blood clots by Rahul Pandita, afterwards you can go for the tree with a thousand apples by Sanchit Gupta.
We the friends-
Deewan, Bilal and Safeena were born in the Valley of Kashmir, India. Deewan was from the Kashmiri Pandit community while Bilal and Safeena were the Kashmiri Muslims.
But, they never cared about their surnames. What they care is that they love each other. They play together, dine together, study together and even the mischiefs.
Three of them complement each other in one way or the other. Although, Deewan was one year senior to both of them.
In fact, Deewan and Safeena were the neighbours. Their families were too close.
Their parents thought that one day three of them will do great for their country and Kashmir but destiny had planned something else for them.
Deewan admired his elder brother, Ravi. The twenty year old handsome soldier of the Indian Army. In fact, his brother once took him to his army base where he met Ravi’s friends and the General Choudhary.
But, on January 20, 1990, everything changed not only for Deewan and his family but also for Safeena and Bilal.
Although, January 20 was also the birthday of Bilal but neither Safeena came to wish him nor Deewan.
In 1990s things started to change in Kashmir. It was the time when the radicalization was at its peak in Kashmir.
The slogans for Azadi (Freedom) became the norm. But, Deewan’s father thought that this phase will pass and they all live together like they were living for the past one thousand years.
But, On January 20, he not only lost his beloved son, Ravi. But, he and his family were forced to leave Kashmir forever.
Ravi was killed in an attack on the Indian army base in Kashmir. In fact he was blown to pieces.
In fact, Deewan and his family were hiding in the near by drums of Safeena’s home. Because, some Kashmiri insurgents came to kill them.
The insurgents came to the house of Rehman Malik, father of Safeena. And they started asking him about his neighbors, The Bhat family.
Although, Safeena’s father misled them that he didn’t know where were they but the extremist knew that he was lying. That’s why they decided to stay at his house until they wipe out the entire Bhat family.
In between all of this General Choudhary came to the house of Rehman Malik and he asked them about the whereabouts of the Bhat family. He told them that Ravi was martyred.
In fact, General Choudhary was also looking at those extremists who introduced themselves as the relatives of Mr Malik.
But, the army man knew who were they that’s why within a fraction of second, General Choudhary and his soldiers killed those extremists.
But, during this encounter Safeena also lost her mother. She became a collateral damage. A daughter lost her mother for no reason.
That day Deewan, his father, mother and maternal grandmother left the valley forever.
Bilal always thought that why Deewan never came to wish him on his birthday. Now, he and Safeena were there for each other. They don’t know where Deewan and his family had gone. They thought maybe he was dead or maybe not. But they miss him.
But, one incident will change the life of Bilal forever. An incident which will push him into an abyss.
One day during a search out operation by the Indian Army in Srinagar, all the residents of that area were called out with their hands raised and eyes down.
Bilal went out with Safeena, his elder sister and father. Out of the blue soldiers called out the name of Bilal and his sister. They were called for the interrogation.
That soldiers asked him several questions about a Kashmiri insurgents whom they were looking for. And later they released him but not his sister.
Bilal became nervous and anxious about his sister. He went to that place again where they had interrogated them. But, he couldn’t believe his eyes what he saw. His sister was not only physically molested by the soldiers but they also killed her and threw her lifeless body in the waters of river Jhelum.
The seventeen year old boy decided to become an insurgent. He went to the Pakistan occupied Kashmir (POK) for the training and came back as a changed person. He wanted revenge nothing else.
Although, he also remembered that how Deewan and Safeena used to say the quote of Mahatma Gandhi, An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind. But, now he don’t care.
That’s why Bilal along with his two partners killed the election commissioner as a revenge but in that incident one of his partners also shot to death, Rehman Malik, the father of Safeena.
Bilal realised that he can’t forgive himself for this act. He became a part of an attack which took the life of Safeena’s father, whom he loved.
Hunt for Safeena-
First she lost her mother then father and Bilal was also gone missing. But, she didn’t left the family of Bilal. Now Tariq, her elder brother and Bilal’s mother and father were her family.
She used to take care of the ailing mother of Bilal. She also started working as a nurse in Srinagar. But, money was not enough for the entire family.
Safeena’s elder brother Tariq also started working as the Porter. But, she always thought about Deewan and Bilal. Now, she is alone. Forlorn.
But, one day out of the blue Bilal came and she cried in his arms. She asked him several questions about his whereabouts. She thought he was dead.
But, Bilal told him everything. He told her about his elder sister and the incident because of which he became a militant. He told her that it was because of him that she lost her father.
He shared with her about his painful and horrific experience of the infamous detention center of Srinagar, Papa-II.
Although, they’ve met after a long time. But, in Kashmir things can change quickly. One day Safeena was gone. No sign of her. Bilal was dumbstruck.
So, he sent a mail to Deewan believing that he is still alive and will help him and Safeena.
After leaving Kashmir, Deewan never thought that one day he will return to the land where he was born. He can’t forget the dreadful night of January 20th.
Deewan was living his life with his father and maternal grandmother in Mumbai. He started working as a journalist. But, when he saw the mail of Bilal it was like a surreal experience for him.
He decided to visit Kashmir again. When he was landed in Kashmir his cab driver asked him several questions. In fact, the cab driver gave him his locket so that he can wear it in emergency.
The cab driver said you can wear this locket when you visit different parts of Srinagar and if anyone ask you can tell him that you are a Muslim. And when you visit the army camp you can take it off. The cab driver said the locket will protect him.
Deewan reached his destination. The land where he grew up. He met his childhood friend Bilal. They sat and asked several questions to each other.
Bilal asked Deewan that what happened to his hand. The left hand of Deewan was amputated. It was a parting gift from the Kashmiri insurgents to him and his family.
Deewan told him the entire story. That how they left Kashmir. How his mother were killed by the insurgents while they were leaving and how they chopped his left hand when he went to protect his mother from them.
Bilal also shared his side of the story. How everything changed. But, now they’ve to find Safeena at every cost.
Bilal and Deewan thought that the latter should meet General Choudhary and take his help in finding Safeena. They thought that the General was a good man.
So, Deewan went to met General Choudhary. But, what he saw at General’s house was unbelievable. He saw Safeena there. She was working there as a cook.
At the end of his meeting with General Choudhary, Deewan had asked about the girl with the latter. But, General skipped his question and told one of his soldiers to escort Deewan to his hotel.
Deewan asked the same question to the soldier who was taking him back to his hotel room. The soldier promised him that not only he will help him but he will also tell him that why Safeena was working there.
In the middle of the night, Deewan went back to the bungalow of General Choudhary. He heard a noise. Someone was crying. He went to that room. But, what he saw was unimaginable.
Deewan saw Safeena laying naked in bed with her hands tied and General Choudhary forcing himself on her body. Tears were flowing from the eyes of Safeena.
Although, Deewan was holding a knife in his hands. He could have chopped off the head of that monster but he avoided this part.
When the General went to sleep, Deewan went inside the room. He covered the body of naked Safeena with her clothes and told her that he is Deewan. Her childhood friend.
Safeena couldn’t believe her eyes. Although, they’ve successfully managed to escape from that place with the help of that solider.
But, Safeena told Deewan that she didn’t mind what that General was doing with her because she was there for her brother, Tariq. She thought that one day General will tell her about her brother.
Safeenae didn’t knew that not only that General ordered the killing of her brother long ago but he also used her. When she realised this it was already too late. Although, they had left that place but life wouldn’t be the same again.
Back to Mumbai-
Deewan brought Safeena to Mumbai. Although, his maternal grandmother hated her. But, Deewan always stand by her no matter what.
Life in Mumbai was completely different for Safeena. She couldn’t go outside. She was living a monotonous life. Although, She always asked Deewan about Bilal. And Deewan told her to forget Bilal.
Because, Bilal asked Deewan to promise him that not only he protect Safeena but he will also make sure that Safeena couldn’t become another Bilal. And Deewan promised him that he will protect Safeena forever.
But, one day, Safeena left the home of Deewan. The latter tried to find her but all in vain. Deewan cursed himself. He blamed himself for all of this.
As Deewan trying to cope up with his chaotic life, The Mumbai police arrested him on the suspicion of Killing General Choudhary. The latter’s dead body was found floating in the river Jhelum.
Although, Neither Deewan killed him nor Safeena. But, the authorities needed a scapegoat. What they need a name. A name which will quench the thrist of those protestors who were demanding justice for General Choudhary.
As I said earlier, interpreting a story or an issue in black and white terms became so entrenched with the average human mind that we all ignore the most important grey area.
The same protestors who were raising hue and cry for General Choudhary don’t even know that what he did with the people in Kashmir.
Although, Deewan was innocent but he had to protect Safeena at all cost. Because, sooner or later the police will find her. He had to do something. So, he accepted the charges of killing the General.
Deewan knew that sooner than later he will be hanged to death. But, he also knew that he had to do this for Bilal for Safeena.
The Tree with a thousand apples and Sacrifice-
Deewan was sitting in a police van. They were taking him to the Yerwada Jail. But, as the van was moving towards its destiny something strange happened.
The Jeep which was escorting the van suddenly stopped. Within a few minutes both the Jeep and the van were blown to pieces. The policemen were killed. Deewan came out from the van with his amputated hand.
He saw Bilal and Safeena. It was them who ambushed the security forces and freed him. He shouted at them and told them that now the police will hound the three of them.
Deewan said that everything was finished. But, Bilal came to him and gave him the photo of Safeena. Bilal knew that Deewan love Safeena. He knew that Deewan will take care of her.
Bilal knew the day he became a militant the life wouldn’t be the same again for him. He became a pariah. But, for Safeena and Deewan he is their beloved friend.
But as I said a friend in need is a friend indeed. Bilal was wearing a prisoner’s uniform under his coat. He knew he had to sacrifice himself for the sake of Deewan and Safeena.
So, after freeing Deewan, Bilal not only shot himself but he also blown himself. By doing this he not only saved the lives of two innocent people but he also made sure that his sacrifice will not goes in vain.
I’ll conclude with these lines-
‘When it comes to Kashmir the conscience of average Indian is dead. ‘
I hope you like this, Thanks for reading, Jai Hind.
My Ratings: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ (5/5)
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