Gray Wolves And White Doves, a dark and edgy coming of age story by first-time novelist John Balian, was launched in the city earlier this month
Historical memories, genocide, fundamentalism — it all comes together in Gray Wolves And White Doves a novel by John Balian.
The novel documents a personal account, the journey of a young boy into adulthood in a tumultuous setting and how he overcomes the odds. The inspiring story is uplifting despite the horrific things the protagonist witnesses as a 16-year-old.
The book takes place in the 60s and 70s, almost 50 years after the Armenian genocide and the boy in the story is exposed to this history through his uncle. It is the memories of this history that Balian has woven into his narrative; the truth of a genocide that is continually denied and till date remains unresolved.
John Balian was accompanied by a panel — Jahnvi Barua, Harish Bijoor and C.V. Ranganathan, who took turns to ask him questions and probe further to uncover a first hand account. When Bijoor asked him about the resilience that Balian’s protagonist displays, the author said, “The resilience is not unique to this one individual; besides, I cannot say I was unscathed. Writing this book was a moment of liberation.”
“The beauty of the human spirit comes through in the book. And the beauty of his writing, it is so lyrical you can almost visualise the sun-kissed beach and the mountains hemming it in,” Jahnvi began poetically and after a dramatic pause she asked, “What really happened in 1915?”
“It was a pre-planned, well organised and well executed plan of extermination. Young Turks were sent word to deport all Armenians in the region. They arrested all the intelligentsia, church leaders, writers, sent them away to the interiors and killed them. About 500,000 Armenians survived and lived as refugees across the world,” answered Balian. He continued to talk about the Bedouins in the desert who were the true heroes of the time, “The Bedouins of Iraq, Syria and Lebanon — it was their kindness. They gave the Armenians a home and invited them into their large communities.”
The book narrates a history that is largely unknown but Balian is not worried about the reception of his book in Turkey. “Things are changing in Turkey,” assures Balian, “Orhan Pamuk was banned because he used the phrase ‘Armenian genocide’ but intellectuals and historians are coming forward and urging people to speak; people are clamouring for the truth. This is probably the most important issue for the Armenian diaspora and has been since 1975. Before, the Armenian population was still in a state of shock and shame. This was not a history they wanted to discuss or pass on to the next generation.”
The new generation was urged to forget their language and customs and it was like that for over 50 years till the younger generation revolted and wanted to recognise and be proud of their heritage. “The past is never the past, it stays with us. How do you live where it doesn’t consume you; live with it in your life and still look to the future? You should never forget, but forgive the past – but you cannot forgive unless the Turkish government seeks forgiveness and until then the bitterness remains and festers.”