Manan Kapoor

Novelist. Author of The Lamentations of a Sombre Sky

Of Kashmir

A NOTE ON THE FORM

The ghazal is composed of a minimum of five couplets—and typically no more than fifteen—that are structurally, thematically, and emotionally autonomous. Each line of the poem must be of the same length, though meter is not imposed in English. The first couplet introduces a scheme, made up of a rhyme followed by a refrain. Subsequent couplets pick up the same scheme in the second line only, repeating the refrain and rhyming the second line with both lines of the first stanza. The final couplet usually includes the poet’s signature, referring to the author in the first or third person, and frequently including the poet’s own name or a derivation of its meaning.

In a perpetual state of buoyancy, the bearded boatmen of Kashmir,

plunged towards bereavement, as they stared at saffron skies of Kashmir

With nails bleeding – the echo of an ancient, unrequited prayer at night,

a bulbul still sings desolate lullabies while they dream, a quintessence of Kashmir

I walked down Boulevard Road – believe me! – Auburn evenings of autumn’s delight.

I’d fade into its gentle care if it’s still the same in the harsh winters of Kashmir

Relentlessly, the Jhelum flows. Ignoring the affliction (or just oblivious?)

A mother laments – her temple resembling a wrinkled linen in the mornings of Kashmir

Insha, suffering the throes of the pellets – a future sacrificed for perpetual darkness.

Never again to face the light, her face, a map – dots marking the towns of Kashmir.

Life is a fettered prisoner, Manan, with restraints at the roots of a predicament.

Thirteen days and another gone by, a cold summer still prevails in the valley of Kashmir.

 

 

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Photograph // Sajad Rafeeq

 

 

Book Review by The Readdicts

 

THE LAMENTATIONS OF A SOMBRE SKY (3)

 

When I first heard of The Lamentations of a Sombre Sky, I was really interested because even though I have always been curious, I had never read a book set in Kashmir. The only exposure I had to a fictionalised Kashmir was the recent movie, Fitoor. There was no way I was going to skip this book; and while it took me a long time to get to it and even more time to finish it, it was worth it because this book is exceptionally beautiful. The only disadvantage (or that’s what I consider it) is that Manan Kapoor has really set up my expectations for books set in Kashmir, so the similar books that I will read in the future better be just as beautiful.

The Lamentations of a Sombre Sky follows the story of Inayat, her parents, Maqbool and Wahida and her friends, Gul and Aaqib. Every character in the book is very uniquely made and wonderfully portrayed with a slight glimpse from almost every point of view, every once in a while. A true gem of historical fiction, this book gives us a realistic and raw look into the socio-political scenario of Kashmir and more than just that, it tells us what a few people went through because of that. Books like these teach you more than what history textbooks or even Google ever could because they explicitly show us pain and suffering, something that- although difficult to digest, is very, very real.

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For such a young writer, Manan Kapoor is very talented. His writing is beautiful and his storytelling is extremely addictive because I never wanted the book to end. With just one book, the author has already made his way to my auto-read list because I am very much looking forward to anything and everything that he will write next as I’m sure it’ll be beautiful. There was a wonderful and very smooth flow to his words- almost similar to Khaled Hosseini, who is one of my most favourite writers, so that’s definitely something special. Manan Kapoor is definitely an author to watch out for.

I don’t want to get into the story because this is one of those stories that is better read than told. What I can promise is that The Lamentations of a Sombre Sky will leave you feeling a hundred and ten feelings because it is a beautifully sad book that will stay in your heart forever. It is, hands down, one of the best books I have read so far in 2016. Also, not to forget, the book cover is just as beautiful as the story itself, so this is one of those rarities where judging the book by its cover will actually prove you right, because everything- and trust me- everything about this book is beautiful.

Originally published on – http://thereaddicts.blogspot.in/2016/07/review-lamentations-of-sombre-sky-by.html

Goodreads Reviews

I’m speechless. It’s a remarkable and ambitious novel – an amazing feat, even more so as a first novel. I admit it is slow going at the beginning but I enjoyed settling into the mood and geography of it. I relished the small revelations and flash forwards we get with the large cast of characters that was delightful. A war book about those trying to get from one day to the next. The humanity and love in this book was breathtaking. This book is about the power of the human spirit to endure, find love and treat others with compassion. I was close to tears at the end of it.

Amy Roy

I was drawn towards the book as soon as I read the title. Manan Kapoor paints such a vivid picture of the war-torn state of Kashmir, the danger that both characters face and the gradual discovery of the characters’ respective personalities. The author has exquisitely created characters who try to survive in the depressing, deplorable conditions that war so often brings. This is a dark, complex story, but one that transcends the experience of reading itself.

Ipshita Kaur

Manan Kapoor is gifted with the ability to write beautifully. You read some books for the plot and others for the sheer love of language. This novel fulfills both the needs. It takes some time for the novel to grow on you (about 25 pages) but once the plot is set, you cannot keep it down. I kept delaying it for a while but when I finally picked it up I couldn’t keep it down even after I’d finished it. laden with so many emotions, memories and situations that you face in the real life. The way he has presented Inayat’s story is something that I cannot describe. Because If I could tell you exactly how the author achieved the effects he did, I’d be a best-selling author myself. Beautiful prose and complex. I will want to re-read parts again just to have the writing (especially towards the end) wash over me and remind me what humanity really is.

Anu Parekh

A thought provoking work by the author. It is a tale of three young children, growing in the war zone of Kashmir between the insurgency and the exodus of the Kashmiri Pundits. Their hopes, joys, and sorrows are well woven throughout the narrative. Be it their cheerful smile when love knocks in their hearts or the endless tears when they lose their loved ones – all the emotions feel real as if the reader has undergone all these experiences. The Lamentations of a Sombre Sky is a beautiful narrative intertwined with the conflict of Kashmir.

Ravi Vaidya

 

It’s amazing how the author has expressed the tragedy in such an extraordinary writing. A heartbreaking hopeful beautiful amazing lovely novel. The Lamentations of a Sombre Sky tells the story of Inayat, and her relationships, focusing mainly on her friends, her father Maqbool, and mother Wahida. The author tells the story of not only the loss of her childhood but the loss of the surroundings as well. It is a wonderfully horrific story!

Shreshta Jain

The Lamentations of a Sombre Sky is a beautiful story. The story is gripping and moves really fast, you cannot just put it down – at least not after the first forty pages. It all seems too real. It seems to be coming from the heart of someone who has dealt with it from very close. Brilliant

Jay Arora

Book Review – The Readersland

The novel is both thought provoking as well as a powerful set of emotions. As you will start reading, you yourself will relate as if it is a roller coaster ride with major ups and downs and how strongly and bravely one faces it. The book will force you to take pauses and unease your mind describing the situation of Kashmir in 90’s. You can’t stop your tears rolling out of your eyes.

The book beautifully revolves around the 3 friends – Inayat, Aaqib and Gul, who in their teenage enjoy spending time with each other. They bunk their classes to watch their favourite movies, listen to their favourite music in the evening. Turning snow into a snowman was their favourite hobby. Unfortunately, as the war rages around them, they realized a bit that future is not what they expected or what they have portrayed in their mind.

A heartbreaking, hopeful, beautiful, lovely novel covers all the aspects of life in a beautiful and a descriptive manner. It talks about a girl named Inayat how she bravely faces all the situations that come her way and she believed in one thing that is- Hope!

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She took life in a different way always hoping that one day everything will be fine and the war will end soon. She suffers profound loss but manages to hold on her hope and humanity. The book paints the complete picture of Kashmir in 90’s and the struggle faced by the people under the relentless watch of both army and military. It shows that how the life of the 3 children and their families has been stuck between the war of army and military. They encounter misfortunes because of the war, the cries, the rifle and the loss of the closed ones will set an emotional setback.

‘The Lamentation of a Sombre Sky’ as the title says shows the deep sorrow of people living in Kashmir and how they still live in a hope. The hope that one day everything will fall back to their place where they belong and the hope that everything will be fine and the flowers will again bloom in their land.

The book is divided into 3 parts, each part has its own story, own plot with different climax and suspense. Part 2 of the book is very touching and emotional. What actually you would like is the poem written to separate each part of the book. Reading this book can bring lumps in your throat as the incident of Kashmir will make you feel sad and depressed at the same time.

The author tells the story about not only the loss of their lives but also the loss of beautiful surroundings and also the trauma being faced by children at a tender age. The words are so expressive and weaved up so impressively that the author will keep you engaged with the novel. Each and every scenario of the book is described in a very descriptive way, feels as if the author is himself experiencing this. It is very nicely intertwined and narrative with the conflicts of Kashmir. It proved to be a marvelous piece of creation.

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Interview with Readersland

The Lamentations of a Sombre Sky is the story of a skirmish with life and the perseverance in the dark times. Kashmir – 1991 In between the insurgency and the exodus, Inayat finds solace in the company of Gul, a Kashmiri pundit, and Aaqib. She blooms under the eyes of her father, Maqbool- an alcoholic poet, and her mother – Wahida, who is fraught with sanguinity. They spend their days listening to The Doors in Gul’s backyard and attending Shakes-Peer’s English lessons at the school. However, as they leave behind their childhood, they realize that the future holds things for them that they have never imagined. Inayat comes face to face with loss as bereavement engulfs Kashmir. The echoing of the machine guns, the wails of her loved ones and the silence that she is bequeathed with is all that is left.

In an exclusive interview with Readerland.com, Manan shares more insights about his journey as an author, and future projects.

Excerpts:

RL: Please tell us something about your early years and major influences on you?

Manan: Kafka has rightly said that writing is a “way of understanding, interpreting and putting order into the world.” Every book I have ever read has helped me come to terms with who I am as a person. From the jazz and cats in Murakami to the importance of objects and memories in Pamuk, the subtleties in Kafka’s short stories to the obscurities in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s books, and Umberto Eco’s and Kundera’s essays on literature – all of them have left their imprint on me in a distinct way. Every book that I’ve read has been an exploration into the unknown, to new ideas and different styles of writing. Be it Amitav Ghosh, Jhumpa Lahiri, Anthony Marra, Milan Kundera or even poets like Allen Ginsberg, Sylvia Plath and Agha Shahid Ali – they’ve all helped me to become the writer I am in their own way. And it’s not just books but other forms of art as well such as music and movies. Bands such as Pink Floyd, Opeth, and Porcupine Tree and jazz musicians like Paul Desmond and Chet Baker have had a huge impact on the way I think because they’ve been talking about philosophical and metaphysical issues that help you to understand who you are, help you to understand your flaws, to appreciate them. Filmmakers like Andrei Tarkovsky, Bela Tarr, Krystoff Kieslowski, Joachim Trier and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, on the other hand, have brought me closer to basic human emotions that would’ve eluded me otherwise. They’ve presented those internal conflicts in a visual way that has helped me to understand how I should write, how I need to detail the hidden nuances that majorly affect any novel.

It wasn’t really a conscious decision to start writing and nor was I surprised because I had been reading for a long time. I started off with writing the novel, and it was just another thing that I thought would give up. But slowly I started understanding the world around me through writing because it answered the questions I didn’t realize I had. I had always been into the arts and I’d been jumping from one to another. I used to write for a couple of online magazines, basically lifeless stuff like music reviews and slowly I found solace in writing by pouring out emotions that I felt on a daily basis.

RL: What inspired you to work on this novel – The Lamentations of a Sombre Sky?

Manan: I believe what you write about, is an outcome of what you’re feeding yourself. I’ve always had a penchant for melancholia, be it the music I listen to, the movies I watch or the books I read. And the weight of all those influences can be felt in the book. My book is more like a compilation of all the answers to the questions I asked after watching a story unfurl. The first thought that surfaced, was after I heard Ghost Reveries by Opeth. The album focuses on the story of a man’s turmoil after committing an unconscionable act. I’d been listening to the album for the past decade and suddenly it got me thinking and the next thing I know, I have a plot. If I trace back my steps, I think that one moment led to the advent of my novel. That moment of doubt, that deliberation led to what the book is now.

Many times I would try to write like my favorite authors, trying to describe a movement, trying to turn it into an almost a visual depiction. And then another draft would follow. In those pauses between the two drafts, I would realize that I had added so much to the incipient drafts, that it wasn’t just a vivid description anymore, but something more personal. It carried certain emotions, experiences, and conversations that I had had during the past years. The book, suddenly, ceased to exist as an inanimate description of events. It was something that I did subconsciously and I wonder if I can repeat it again, but it was almost as if I added life through the words. It was almost seamless. I spent two and half years working on this project. Eleven drafts – And I think it could still use a dozen more. There’s still room for improvement, there will always remain a room for improvement. But it is a resonant image of who I was two years back. And like everything else, the naivety is an essential for it is the reminder of my former self which is a foundation stone for what I am going to become.

RL: As a debutant author, did you face any challenge while writing the book?

Manan: I gave up almost every single day. I didn’t have a mentor who could guide me through the process when I started and so the only advice I’ve received were from prominent authors who left behind a set of instructions for people like me. For instance, Hemingway taught me that “You’ve got to work it over. The first draft of anything is shit. When you first start to write you get all the kick and the reader gets none, but after you learn to work it’s your object to convey everything to the reader so that he remembers it not as a story he had read but something that happened to himself. And that “the most important thing is to never write too much at a time. Leave a little for the next day and let your subconscious mind do the work.” I did face a lot of challenges, but there was always something – an article, a post I read on Brain Pickings, or even conversations with people, that would help me find the way.

RL: What is your motto and life philosophy?

Manan: I believe that our lives are mostly linear. It’s only a few times that we experience melancholy or absolute happiness and we need to relish those moments for they help us in understanding the self. You ought to seek the reasons for your existence, dispel the mist that surrounds human emotions, and think about the strangeness of your thoughts. Even though you may never find any of those answers – it’s worth a try. They’re not mathematical problems that need to be solved, but vital phenomena that need to be experienced. You explore, question different beliefs and finally open up to the different ideas and philosophies. You might never achieve a sense of satisfaction or fulfillment, but in the tempest of that dissatisfaction, there will be a moment where you realize something about yourself. Those moments of epiphanies are the ones that will bring you closer to yourself, help you to discover who you really are.

RL: Please tell us what books have influence your life most?

Manan: That would be a long list but I’ll try to shorten it down to ten.

  1. Museum of Innocence – Orhan Pamuk
  2. The Veiled Suite – Agha Shahid Ali
  3. The Min Kamp Series – Karl Ove Knausgard
  4. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena – Anthony Marra
  5. Norwegian Wood – Haruki Murakami
  6. The Unbearable Lightness of Being – Milan Kundera
  7. Ariel and other poems – Sylvia Plath
  8. Replacement – Tor Ulven
  9. Howl and Other Poems – Allen Ginsberg
  10. Sea of Poppies – Amitav Ghosh

RL: Who is favorite author & why?

Manan: Most people would say that it is tough to pick a favorite author, but I don’t have any second doubts. It has to be Orhan Pamuk. His novels are magically woven stories that stay with you for a long, long time. For example, The Museum of Innocence is about Kemal and his obsession with Fusun – a love story which goes on for about 800 pages in the first person narrative. He took about ten years to write the novel, and while you’re reading it you can see the amount of time he has invested in it. And it’s not just simply a book, but he also constructed a real life Museum based on the book in Istanbul – it is almost similar to the Taj Mahal – a symbol of his love for Fusun.

All the books by Pamuk are infused with fears, elusive moments of happiness and joy and, most importantly, the memories instilled in objects and inanimate things. He presents to you a city in the form of a museum, a human life that he encapsulates in time where every mundane object, even things such as hair clips and cigarette butts are evident in each of his novels, be it The Museum of Innocence, The Silent House, Istanbul, Snow or even his latest book, A Strangeness in my mind, which was nominated for the Man Booker Prize. I must say that his novels are the most powerful that I’ve come across, both structurally as well as emotionally.

RL: What are your future projects? Any more books in the pipeline?

Manan: I am working on a novel and poetry now a days but it is completely different from The Lamentations of a Sombre Sky. Two years ago, I would’ve told you that I write about pain and why it is necessary. I was reading novels such as A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, The Famished Road and The Lowland – books that compelled me to devise an intricate plot. I now think that I’ve written a rather complex plot for The Lamentations of a Sombre Sky – there is a colossal design and a setting that magnifies it. But today, I don’t think I need the setting of Kashmir in the early nineties or the elaborate plot for a novel. I would be happier writing about the trivial pleasures of insignificant victories in the daily life rather than an elaborate tragedy, about a battle rather than a war. Currently, I am working on a novel that’s still an embryonic thought in my head, and I’ve been writing poetry. I’ll leave you with one of the poems I wrote a couple of weeks back. It’s based on a character from Nostalghia by Andrei Tarkovsky – one of the best art films that I have ever watched.

Domenico’s Reverie

Can insanity be useful?

I speak, talking out loud, reminiscing – by the window, alone.

What ancestors speak through me?

These myriad feelings flow through me, in light

and in darkness,

where the voices collide

and crash,

like the heart, whose surface is furrowed,

resembling linen, in the early mornings.

There exists between the soul and the mind, a schism.

It bids me farewell, reason.

But the qualm remains still,

and so does the calm.

The schism, it hangs on a thread,

Is sanity inept?

Or insanity adept? I’ll never know.

But the delirium, it will stay home,

and the schism, persevere.

Huzun

The air shared by a city.

Crumbling, but slowly, like a ruin, a flower – like time.

I speak of the walls, bleak and dreary.

Of memories exhaled at midnight,

and footsteps retraced, every evening

I speak of the beauty in the failure to come home on time,

or to never come home.

I speak of a struggle to persevere through time,

to change,

decay,

and rise again.

I speak of accidental sunsets that can never be preserved

of the same faces on a train every morning

of a light switching off at 11:23 pm – every night

I speak of the beauty to feel everything

or nothing at all

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Photography – Sajad Rafeeq

Book Review – by Privy Trifles

With a cover like this, I knew the author had a winner on his hands at least in the first category of judging a book by its cover. Once you pick up a book based its beautiful cover you turn it to look at the blurb and reading the first 2 words – Kashmir and the 90s was enough! I was sold. Kashmir is a place that makes me go numb and through this book I relived that pain in those pages.

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There were two things which took me by surprise. One the author is only 22 and two this is his debut novel. What a marvelous piece of creation he has managed with this book! This book is immensely powerful as the author takes you to a Kashmir way before it became what it is today. I almost thought either he is born and brought up in Kashmir or is related to a Kashmiri Pandit to understand their chaos so well.

His research is so detailed and the way he puts those things in words is impressive. One can always argue the minus being that he didn’t highlight the political atmosphere or didn’t even mention it but I would rather say I loved that the most. I give the author a brownie point for that as well. He didn’t show me what I already see in newspapers or new channels. He gave me something that is more often ignored, the plight of the people living in Kashmir , their feelings, their lives, their fears and most importantly their existence. He touched a raw nerve when he laid bare those 3 tender and beautiful hearts through whose lives we see Kashmir.

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NIL editing errors, no lapses in the plot and perfect storytelling. His narrative is one that can make a reader time travel. The only minus I felt was the character-sketch. You could call me greedy but I wanted to know more about them, having said that it in no ways takes away the magic of this wonderfully crafted story. It is going to stay with me for long. And I will definitely recommend it to fellow book lovers time and again for its sheer beauty.

Don’t miss this one if you love Kashmir or if you love reading books which are beauty personified!

Originally published on – www.privytrifles.co.in

THE LAMENTATIONS OF A SOMBRE SKY (3)

Book Review – The Bibulous Bibliobiuli

The Lamentations of a Sombre Sky by Manan Kapoor is both a powerful and thought-provoking tale about growing up in war-torn Kashmir. In fact, powerful is an understatement. The book forces you to take pauses and creates a continuous sense of unease in your minds. The author has woven the plot expertly. Beautiful but also painful, the story directly hits your heart. While the story-line is not melodramatic, reading this book may bring lumps in your throat and tears in your eyes. So, be careful!

The lamentations of a sombre sky

This book takes us to the time when ‘army’ and ‘militancy’ became the two contrasting pillars to distinguish one from the other in the region of Kashmir. While the book, by no means, provide a complete picture of issues faced by Kashmiri people during those days, the book skillfully portrays the daily struggles of the people of Kashmir under the relentless watch of both the army and the militants. The author neither takes the side of terrorists nor the army. He just strikingly builds up a picture of the lives of people who live there and leaves the judgment in the hands of the readers. The troubles faced by Kashmiri Pundits also features prominently in the book. And, most importantly, all of this has been told through the eyes of three young children. However, even more astounding than these characters is the setting of the novel. The author takes you to the beautiful landscape of Kashmir and gradually throws light on the burning issues of Kashmir. This is Manan Kapoor’s first book and I must say that he has done a brilliant job.

The story revolves around three Kashmiri children – Inayat, Gul and Aquib. They are having a happy childhood. They both enjoy and spend quality time with each other. They bunk classes to watch movies. Tuning snow into a snowman is one of their favourite winter activities. They love listening to the songs. However, as they gradually desert their childhood and enter into early years of their adult life, they realize bit by bit that the coming time is not what they had in their minds. They encounter misfortune as mourning inundates Kashmir. The continuous rumbling of the automatic rifles, the wails and cries of their close ones, and a quiet surrounding gradually envelop their lives. The Lamentations of a Somber Sky is the exploration of this conflict with life in the dark times in the region of Kashmir.

Story of Kashmir intrigues me and that’s why I chose to read this book. And, I am happy to tell you all that I really liked this book. The book under review won’t just familiarize you with the Kashmiri Muslim and Kashmiri Pundit fraternity, but also gets you acquaint with the reasons of the battle of the Pundits in the region of Kashmir. It will certainly help you comprehend what happened in Kashmir, and on the off chance that you are a Kashmiri Pundit; it will help you comprehend your battle and your own identity.

Originally published on The Bibulous Bibliobiuli

Book Review – Satvika Kundu

I’m cynical and apprehensive almost as a rule when picking up books written by new, young authors. It is with a sense of foreboding that I open up these books, for I have been faced too often, too much, with half-formed, lazy sentences, and superficial, cringeworthy characters and plot written in a (usually) grammatically incorrect pseudo language. (I might have flown off the rails a little here, but I have been disappointed just once too often). It is with the same frame of mind that I picked up this book – prepared for the worst.
I was proven wrong.
Let not the fact that I was prepared for the worst take away from the credibility of the novel. Had I not been prepared for the worst, I would have enjoyed it all the same, but seeing that it came from a first time, twenty-two year old author just added to its charm.
Essentially, the novel is about a girl living in Kashmir, a war-torn province in Continue Reading

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