The Tiger Ladies by Sudha Koul
A Memoir of Kashmir

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Synopsis

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.
 

About Sudha Koul

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Sudha Koul Was Born in Kashmir, India, Where She Completed Her Education with a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Arts in Political Science. Ms. Koul Came to the United States After Her Marriage and Has Since Raised a Family in New Jersey.
 
Published May 14, 2002 by Beacon Press. 224 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Religion & Spirituality, Travel, Political & Social Sciences. Non-fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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Koul recalls the days when her parents were presented with a garage-full of rice from villages that they had ancient claim to and the time after, when those villages were returned to the farmers who worked the fields and the family had to buy its rice.

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Publishers Weekly

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These shadows barely touch Koul's life, however—she becomes the first Kashmiri woman to join the civil service, gets married in her early 20s (after her relatives have given up hope for her betrothal) and follows her husband to Philadelphia soon afterward.

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India Today

Review Emperor Jahangir, like many of Kashmir's rulers, delighted in the Valley.

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