The Kaafir’s Love by Abhisar Sharma
Published by: Rupa Publications
Fiction: Fiction; 257p
Rating: 3.5/5 stars
Two dramatic incidents shake up the tenuous peace in an Old Delhi neighbourhood – the suicide by a terrorist from one of the towers of Jama Masjid, and an influential trader shot at around the same spot. As simmer comes to boil, age-old antagonisms surface and sharp lines are drawn. Amidst these troubled times, Sameer, a Hindu boy living in the neighbourhood at Chandni Chowk falls in love with a Muslim girl, Inara. Unaware of the consequences of his love that is considered forbidden Sameer is dragged down the rabbit hole of intolerance, and as he sinks, he discovers a shocking truth – a truth that shall change many lives forever. Restless and on the edge, The Kaafir’s Love is a volatile and intense love story set against our troubled and provocative times.
Thank you Rupa Publications for the review copy!
The Kaafir’s Love by Abhisar Sharma a well-known journalist is an all out intense love story where the two main protagonists Sameer and Inara, both in their early 20s go through the rites of attraction and then falls in love despite knowing that there will be a heavy price to pay. The story of young people falling in love across religions and caste lines and the fall out are all too familiar in India with various reel and real life stories driving home the tragic consequences. So, when Sameer a Hindu boy who lives in Old Delhi has a best friend in Nasir, there are no objections but when it comes to falling in love with Inara, even Nasir has to warn Sameer that there will be consequences.
Inara and Sameer’s love story has a beautiful arc: stolen glances, attraction, denial, discovering that each other’s emotions are deep and then the ultimate point of no return: running away from the recriminations that will follow. It is the back drop of Sameer and Inara’s love story that add to the larger story for Inara’s father is an influential trader who will use any means possible to get his way in business and in personal space, not caring about how things can escalate. And escalate it does: When Inara’s father sends goons to beat up Sameer, things come to a head and then politicians try to use the situation for capturing vote banks.
It is only Zulfiqar Khan, the Imam of the Jama Masjid mosque who has the power and the sanity to soothe battle lines in the Old Delhi neighbourhood while keeping one step ahead of warring parties and politicians lying in wait for things to go out of hand and then step in for political gains. The Imam represents the most mature of the lot of characters in the book in the manner of his actions being for the larger good but when he steps in to contain the damage following Sameer and Inara’s elopement, there are other consequences at play.
Abhisar Sharma’s writing is to the point but the element of introducing the incident of a Muslim man who takes shelter in the Jama Masjid after killing an Israeli woman diplomat does not do anything for the plot except put in the narrative the position and importance of Imam Zulfiqar Khan. There is no further fall out of such a high profile event and that takes out a bit of credibility from it all. I felt that another situation could have worked as well to establish the political position of Imam Zulfiqar Khan and his brash 26 yr old son Imran Khan who is set to step into his father’s shoes subsequently.
Two characters stand out for me: Imran Khan who is portrayed as someone volatile and fast to lose his head and Sameer’s mother Prabha who flits in and flits out as a side character for most of the narrative till the penultimate moment where she tells Sameer about his parentage. Imran’s character arc is understated throughout the book: he is hot headed, he questions his father’s action, he confronts authorities but he also accepts his father’s decisions and when Sameer ends up doing something unforgivable, he lets it go to keep peace.
I would recommend The Kaafir’s Love by Abhisar Sharma to romance readers who love a bit of drama. This one will definitely make for a good Bollywood film adaptation.