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The Collaborator
The author of this story, Mirza Waheed, was born in Srinagar. “The Collaborator” is his first work on novel writing and concerns a man caught in the Kashmir insecurity of 1990s. The Guardian has referred to the situation as devastating, haunting, and gripping. War has reached the border of Pakistan and Indian soldier’s gun down young men supposed to be militants from Nowgan village.
The protagonist of Mirza Waheed’s “The Collaborator” grows up in a somehow forgotten and deserted village next to a border. The border is neither a physical nor a real one, but is just a line separating former state for Kashmir into India and Pakistan. Confrontations between the Indian army and militants from Kashmiri characterize the events during the 1990s. Tragic events occurred and the haunting memories are still in the minds of many people (Shamsie 2013).
The story opens at a very crucial time in the life of the narrator; he is maturing to a responsible adult. His role model is his father, a headman who would not desert his ancestral heritage even as others flee the village. The boy decides to remain by his father’s side. The villagers are terrorized and killed after applauding a government minister. He receives instructions from an Indian Army captain to collect possessions of the corpses lying helplessly in the valley. The corpses include those for Kashmiri militants, or rather freedom fighters who crossed the border line into Pakistan in search for training. In the process, the Indian army while on their way back shot them. The killings were under guidance from the Indian captain who watched from his binoculars. The ID cards are necessary evidence for Public Relation purposes during press release by the Indian army. The freedom fighters remain to rot in the valley (Appupen 2009).
The protagonist’s experience during the visit to the valley where corpses lied is in a haunting prose. Collecting from corpses that are rotting would haunt someone to insanity or tears. It is the same place where he used to spent time playing with friends, and even might come across their bodies as they were among the militants. It is clear to him that this could be a road to madness. He attempts to end his business with the captain but in vain because the longing to identify familiar faces among the corpses drives him.
Marzi presents his story in a logical manner. First, narrates the background of the boy, his family, and unrests. During this time, the narrator’s family remains in the village while others have fled. He remains behind as his friends leave for Pakistan as trainees. Second, he narrates how the boy’s friends fall into the brutal hands of the Indian militants. It happened at a time when the village and the government were having serious disagreements.
Mirza Waheed gives us a clear picture of Kashmiri itself. He reveals how it feels to live in a part of the country regarded as an internal enemy by the government. He has compassion for the militants and the boy, which makes him angry and in-touch with their plight. The plot is in such a manner that it makes the story very captivating and sparks a series of questions in the minds of readers. For instance, readers ask with so many questions: Why is this man a collaborator? Why is the village conducive for his family only? Why did the friends join the military? How long will he serve the Indian army? The plot of this novel is in a unique manner. It revolves around one person only, and it is only through his memories that we learn about his friends and family. Those relationships begin to deteriorate as the war intensifies because of absence and lack of communication.
The story revolves around one young man, unnamed, the only surviving young man in the village. An Indian army employs him to collect staff from corpses lying in the valley. These corpses become his friends; they talk to him and share their afflictions. He neither kills nor commits any crime but has to steal from the corpses for survival. Indian Captain, Kadan is also another character. He is responsible for the killing of the boy’s friend, which happened under his instructions while he watched from a binocular. He keeps boasting about his achievement in killing the Kashmir’s’ militants. He wants the boy to collect evidences from the corpses that included IDs and weapons. The captain is so inhuman and insensitive, he rapes, kills, interrogate, spread terror, and cause trouble. He takes the boy and teaches him survival tactics as a payment for “collaboration. His experiences give the story its meaning. It helps the story to achieve its theme of collaboration.
The other minor character in this story is a village headman, who is a father to the boy, very loyal to tribe’s traditions. He will not desert his ancestral home even as people are going into exile. The boy would like to leave for a quiet place but he considers his father and hence chooses to remain. The father’s role in the story is crucial as it makes the reader ask several questions in a voluntary manner: what kind of a life is this? Why is the village conducive for the man and his family? (Appupen 2009)
According to Shamsie (2011), this book covers one theme, effects of war. In the valley, there is no peace as the government holds a grudge against people living here. The young men save for the boy fall victim to the Indian army or militants. Finally, the whole village digs it own grave by applauding the Minister for Sports. This theme succeeds in shaming the reader as it takes us through the shameful life of the boy. He does not commit any crime but steals in order to live. He has never known peace but remembers how as a child, he could take bath in a river flooded with corpses.
Work Cited
Appupen, Moonward: Stories from Halahala. Velachery, Chennai: Blaft, 2009. Print.
Waheed, Mirza. The Collaborator. London: Viking, 2012. Print.
Shamsie, Kamila. “The Collaboration by Mirza Waheed-review” (2011). The Guardian
Web. 10 Oct. 2013.

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