ABOUT THE BOOKNoorain is eager to learn cycling so that she can win a race against her best friend Wasim. But Noorain’s Mission Cycle is complicated by C-U-R-F-E-W in her city.
- Mission Cycle is set in Srinagar. It is the story of a young girl called Noorain who wants to learn how to cycle so that she can race her friend Wasim. When Srinagar comes under curfew, her life is turned topsy-turvy – there is no school, and Wasim’s family goes away to Jammu – but Noorain decides she will still learn how to cycle. This is a sensitively told story about life in a conflict zone.
- The greatest strength of Mission Cycle is that is touches upon the underlying violence of life in Kashmir without foregrounding it and making it the centrepiece of the story. Noorain’s story is a cheerful and positive one, but by setting it in Srinagar during curfew, the author gives readers an insight into the place where she is growing up. Rather than simply telling us facts about the conflict in Kashmir, the writer shows us how it affects those living there.
- The idea of Noorain learning to cycle is a good one. It allows greater reader empathy with her – after all, almost everyone has gone through the tumultuous and challenging process of learning how to go from four wheels to two! Getting readers to identify with Noorain is an important aspect of the storytelling. No matter what they know about the Kashmir conflict from the news and from adults, the character of Noorain makes it more immediate and palpable for them.
- The book is not all fun and cheer, however. References to the “scary” things on the news, the CRPF guards, and Wasim’s cycle which gets ruined during “the fighting,” give the book a serious undertone. This book is best read with a patient grown-up handy, who can give a reader the context necessary to get a full sense of the story.
- Other little details of life in the valley are also welcome touches: Noorain eats chochwor bread for breakfast, and when Wasim comes back, she gives him a fresh peach. Food is always a good way to make young readers sensitive to cultural differences.
- The illustrations are somewhat uneven and a slight let-down. While many images capture the mood of the story perfectly, others are out of proportion, and look awkward. The cover of the book is an example of this. Noorain is shown riding a cycle, but her head seems to be too large for her little body and tiny feet!