Well, first of all I wish to declare that I am not writing this review as a reviewer but as a reader. Though I have been an avid reader since childhood and love to sleep with books by my side even now, it is just my third attempt to write a review of a book. And I am glad to say, this is one of the books, I have found very close to my heart. It took me to my roots and left me with tears at the end. It is a story of Gangiri Bhadra, a destitute, vulnerable farmer (and believe me most of the farmers in our country are like him, so it becomes the story of famers not of a famer), who fights the world and wins, but is not able to handle the personal tragedy and commits suicide. The turn of events left me gasping.
Kota Neelima is hailed as a political novelist, but this novel, Shoes of the Dead, is not about, at least it seemed to me, politics but about farmers: farmers living in distress, farmers in debt, farmers who feed the world but cannot feed their families, farmers trapped in moneylenders’ vicious cycle of debts, farmers being betrayed by their protectors, their leaders and farmers committing suicide.
Being a farmer’s son, though in my region the suicide by famers is rare, I can feel it. As my eyes scanned the page after page of the book, pictures came alive. As a child I have seen my father and other farmers running banks to moneylenders for loan, for credit, for irrigation facilities, for seeds, for fertilizers. They didn’t and don’t wait impatiently for monsoon to get respite from the heat but to get enough water to plant paddy, and good monsoon not only provides them food for the year but also help them to repay the debt, to buy other basic items for survival.
I appreciate the way, the author has portrayed the lives of farmers and behaviour of our politicians. And only someone, who has closely watched the lives of farmers, their struggle, and believe me, they have only struggle in their share, can portray such images, which become alive as we read the words.
The story begins with the well of power, Delhi, and we find Keyur Kashinath, Member of Parliament from Mityala, a constituency which has witnessed many cases of farmers’ suicide, talking to journalists about the rising number of such cases. And a collage of pictures taken from the lives of farmers appears before us and we also notice that how the cases are being manipulated by a chain of powerful and rich persons, holding positions; how the people entrusted with welfare of the farmers, and who live with them, create the situation and stage-manage every step for their gains; how they wait like vultures for another death to usurp the deceased’s property; and how ruthless the greed of power and money can make the people.
On the other side, we have journalist, Nazar Prabhakar who still believes in ethics and is not subdued by anyone’s authority. He highlights the plight of farmers and help Bhadra in turning the tide. And in the last, we do witness the change of hearts but at the cost of another suicide.
It is a gripping tale and it captures our attention at the outset. No wonder, it is Kota Neelima’s highly acclaimed book and has won accolades from all quarters.
About the Book:
Title: Shoes of the Dead
Writer: Kota Neelima
Publisher: Rupa Publications
First published: 2013