The book is being read when one more Kashmiri family has lost their daughter to domestic abuse. It’s being talked about when lawyers have their hands full of divorce cases. It’s being discussed when love marriages are ending on a sour note in the valley.

The telling treatise may lack Kashmir context, setting, background or characters, but its protagonist—Salaar Sikandar and his newlywed wife, Imama—come across as the quintessential koshur couple battling the myriad marital complexities.

It vividly captures the conflict: how things escalate and blow out of proportion, how lack of communication creates problems for them and how being considerate eventually helps them understand each other better over the years. 

It makes one feel how the initial years of marriage are crucial and surviving them improve the chances of the marriage staying strong for a long while. 

In the neo-awakened circles of the valley, the book is mainly scoring the point for highlighting “marital compromises” undoing the fairer gender’s personality. 

“I tell you what,” says Sadaf Shah, a bibliophile married for five years now, “while reading Aab-e-Hayat, the description seems so relatable that you end up wondering: Is it a comment on Kashmiri weddings? Well, that’s how good literature with universal appeal makes you believe.”

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Yes, in Aab-e-Hayat, writer Umera Ahmed is just picturing contemporary Kashmir’s marital distress and the pomp-and-show event’s ugly compromises. 

The book is a sequel to the famous “Peer-e-Kamil” which talks about a Muslim couple and how they find each other. It talks about the efforts to sustain a marriage and how everything does not end at the clichéd “happily ever after”. 

This is where Umera is unwittingly canvassing the current wedlock watershed in Kashmir—where many matches are becoming unmatched in the long run due to the growing nuptial-knot delusions.

In this book, the author captures the growing crisis in Kashmir wedlock.

Salaar is shown as a patient and devout husband — cooking, cleaning, consoling his distressed other half. But after a point, the focus jumps to the main topic of the novel: interest. 

The same interest that one receives from a bank on the amount one saves with them or the one we pay when we take a loan from them. The protagonist goes on to create a banking system that does not work on the principle of interest considered forbidden in Islam, but on profit-sharing. 

This part of the book took me the longest to get through because of the feelings it invoked. Is there anything that is pure and if not, who are we cheating as Muslims? 

The last thought that the book touches is our interpretation of Islam and how we use that to subjugate and harass women. 

The antagonist Saad and his son Ahsan are practicing Muslims, but the way they treat their women is objectionable. 

They harass their spouses to the extent that they lost their own identities. They blame them and beat them up just because they could. They took “Qawaamoon” in Surah Nisa as the authority instead of responsible and hence all the havoc. They did not merely ruin their wives’ lives but the associated lives as well. 

This toxic male-controlled treatment invokes the growing cases of domestic abuse in Kashmir. Even though such cases keep coming to the front every now and then, the strife society tends to look at them as standalone cases. 



We keep telling a woman that after the Almighty, if permitted, she would’ve to the prostate in front of her husband. But we fail to tell our men that they need to deserve that prostration as well. 

We tell women that patience is everything but we forget to tell them that patience does not mean not reacting. It never means bearing injustice in the name of obedience. 

I used to think that the author is going overboard but the book made me understand that a person who is particular about his prayers is not necessarily a good person and that it takes a lot more to be a good human as well. 

The books authored by Umera.

As a society, we Kashmiris think that it’s quite alright to raise male kids as if they need not know how to put a spoon in the kitchen sink and treat female children as maids because she has to go to someone else’s place someday. 

We do not realize the inferiority complex we give our young girls and how subtly we tell them that they will never be anything beyond cooking and cleaning. 

We think it is okay to give a girl marriage advice and prepare her, but at the same time keep the would-be groom ignorant of his role and responsibilities.

For detailing these marital complexities in depth, Aab-e-Hayat easily qualifies for a hard-hitting piece of literature. 

It’s a means of light for people ready to introspect and rectify the wrongs.

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