By Fahad Shah
Under the bright ceiling of fluorescent lights in the hall of British Council Library: it was an evening for The Collaborator. A fiction novel by Mirza Waheed. Launched on Thursday, here in New Delhi in the not-so-cold evening.
Applause, as he read from the first chapter of book, The Valley of Yellow Flowers. This was the earlier title but later on changed. Over seated hall of audience. Friends, Colleagues, Readers, Listeners, and of course publishers too, all were present. He, along with another Kashmiri writer, Basharat Peer was sitting in front of the guests. Peer wrote critically acclaimed memoir, Curfewed Night. He was gently posing questions to Waheed and expressing satisfaction through gestures.
Behind them is a clock hanging on white colour wall. The shape of clock arms announce 7.30 pm sharp. As the reading and question-answer-smiles drove the evening towards the end, the debut author was a beehive and listeners were bees. He sat on a leather-metallic chair and one-by-one he was writing wishes above his autograph on copies of his book . Patience. Humbleness. Good wishes and smiling face was enough to gather more people around him. He was behind the wall of people. Though, one could see him through the gap between the two shoulders.
The Collaborator though is a fiction but it has life of every Kashmiri. Most of the Valley people, I can say all, have gone through such anecdotes. Author said title has context: “The Collaborator was a title suggested by someone else. He said it will make people wonder who was collaborating with whom”.
Its publishing house, Penguin Viking says: “A stunningly humane work of storytelling with a poignant and unpredictable hero at its heart. Mirza Waheed is a major new talent. Goes to the heart of the long-standing conflict between India and Pakistan.”
Everyone at the launch talked about the book. I could overhear, “He has written brilliant book. Did you read whole?”, “I found that chapter very close to my own life.”, “Hey! He is going to get Booker.”