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Tiger Ladies: A Memoir of Kashmirby Sudha Koul
Synopses & Reviews
Like Indira Ghandi and her father, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sudha Koul was born a Kashmiri Brahmin. The Hindus, though a tiny minority of Kashmir's population, lived in great harmony with Muslims, leading lives intertwined in the same cultural fabric. Kashmiris were isolated in their valley, called "Paradise on Earth" by Moghul emperor Jehangir, and enjoyed a culture so dissimilar to any other in India that they were largely unaffected by what was happening in the world around them. In 1947, the year of Sudha's birth, the partition of India and Pakistan by the British and the first stirrings of fundamentalism in Kashmir ignited what would gradually become a religious and political inferno. Sudha grew up immersed in the colorful legends and rituals of Kashmiri life, now imperiled for Hindus and Muslims. Her story is that of a lost Eden, full of the textures, tastes, and magical tales of a distant, at times contradictory world. Though she attends school faithfully, along with her Muslim girlfriends, completing her graduate education and becoming a magistrate, she looks forward to the marriage her parents will arrange for her. She participates fully in the rites and rituals of Kashmiri culture and mourns her parting from her beloved valley when marriage takes her to the United States.
This is a memoir of a land now consumed by political and religious turmoil, a story of a girl's passage into maturity, marriage, and motherhood in the midst of an exquisite and fragile world that will never entirely be the same.
"Koul recalls a charmed childhood in the Kashmir valley in this smart and poignant coming-of-age tale.....Many readers, too, will mourn the loss of her Kashmir when they finish this simple, resonant tale." Publishers Weekly
"...not merely elegant, and luminously so, but painfully timely....The Tiger Ladies is immensely gracefully sad, an elegy for the customs and the courtliness of an irrecoverable civilization. Yet there is a sensuality running through her story that ensures that it is never mawkish or plaintive....there is great beauty in Ms. Koul's narrative stoicism....To say that some passages of her book are genuinely mouthwatering would be no exaggeration." The Wall Street Journal
Book News Annotation:
Koul was born a Kashmiri Brahmin in 1947, the year Pakistan and India were partitioned and Kashmir became disputed real estate between them, rather than a culture of its own. She recounts stories from her grandmother and mother of their days, and how she has passed those stories to her own daughters. The memoir has no index or bibliography.
Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Skillfully interweaving the story of her family with tales of the gods and goddesses, myths, and history of Kashmir, Sudha Koul reveals how the women of her region have attained their extraordinary power in a lost Eden.
For those who associate Kashmir with the violence that has claimed tens of thousands of lives, Koul's lovely elegiac memoir The Tiger Ladies shows that the isolated vale in the Himalayas was a heaven before it became a hell...Koul succeeds through sensuous detail in summoning the vanished Kashmir, the one of rainbow days and clear mountains and Hindus living peacefully with Muslims.
—Bryan Walsh, Time Magazine (Asian edition)
The first memoir about a woman's experience in Kashmir, one of the most volatile and alluring places on the globe
The Tiger Ladies presents Kashmir through the lives of four generations of women. Skillfully interweaving the story of her family with the story of the gods and goddesses, myths and history of this rich and unique society, Sudha Koul reveals how the women of her region have attained their extraordinary power and place in their culture—and what a fascinating culture it is.
Like Indira Gandhi and her father, Jawaharlal Nehru, Koul is a Kashmiri Brahmin, traditionally the highest caste of Hindus. The Hindus, though a tiny minority of Kashmir's population, lived in great harmony with Muslims, leading intertwined lives in the same cultural fabric. Kashmiris were isolated in their valley and enjoyed a culture so dissimilar to any other in India that they were largely unaffected by what was happening in the world around them. The 1947 partition of India and the rise of fundamentalism has turned Kashmir, once called "Paradise on Earth" by Moghul emperor Jehangir, into a religious and political inferno.
Koul grew up immersed in the colorful legends and rituals of Kashmiri life, now imperiled for Hindus and Muslims. Her story is that of a lost Eden, full of the textures, tastes, and magical tales of a distant, at times contradictory world. She looks forward to an arranged marriage while completing her graduate education, even as she becomes a magistrate; and, in the end, Koul's marriage proves both loving and enduring.
As she makes clear in this memoir, it was not her Muslim neighbors who tore her valley apart but "outside" political forces and religious ideologies, reflecting the tragic developments that have marked so much of the world's unrest in recent decades.
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