Wednesday, November 23, 2016

SHOES of the DEAD: a story of poverty and suicides vis-à-vis power and ethics

       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

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Rose On The Platform | Love in a metro by Tanya Mathur

Herewith I share a review of my novel by Tanya Mathur published in Millennium Post, Delhi 

A book on Delhi is not a new thing. Every aspect of the city has been explored by one writer or the other. Delhi Metro, on the other hand, can still be counted as a ‘virgin’ zone. A Rose On The Platform by Binod Mairta takes care of this untouched aspect of metro life. 

The author’s debut adventure stands praiseworthy with the story revolving around a very common mode of transportation- The metro, where more a lakh people commute in order to reach their desired destination. 

People living in the city and using the service every day would identify to this excellent work of fiction. Mairta’s close observation and equally unique narrative style deserve a big salvo.

The plot revolves around Anubhav Anand, a bank manager by profession who commutes daily by metro. En route his journey, he comes across the interchanging station Kashmere Gate, which according to him is the ‘alpha and omega’ of metro life. 

As he aptly observes, “the four perpendicular lines, like vessels carrying blood, ran through it from east to west and south to north of this city. Many of the layers seemed just like the one’s in life, layers of human heart and mind.” 

One fine morning while commuting to his destination Anand comes across a dazzling damsel Shivali Rao. The beauty clad in her girly attire makes our protagonist feel the wave of  ‘first love’. 

Off the metro and out in the real world, Anand stumbles upon his newly found adventure with the excruciating thought of his existing, yet compromised, love life- Meera!

A freak accident changes Meera’s life forever, forcing her to take a strong decision of not coming back in Anubhav’s life again. The plot progresses with Shivali, who dramatically reciprocates Anubhav’s love for her.

But he proves to be a “doubting Thomas”, dwindling between an ardent lover and a caring friend. During the course of her courtship, Shivali comes to know that not only is Anubhav married but he is also a father to two children.

Infuriated over Anubhav’s sudden revelation of his past life, she takes the drastic step of kidnapping his two children, bringing abut a sudden twist in the story. Anubhav starts looking for his children but his search goes in vain. It all comes to a time when Abhinav finds out that his kids have been in their mother’s custody, all this time. To his surprise, the trio is accompanied by Shivali, the other woman! 

Mairta has used very simple language which is both easy to understand and succinct. The description of each character is meticulously articulated to make a sense of real characters around us. The close observation of different activities during a metro journey have been picturesquely put on the canvas by  the writer.

The novel also touches the issue of woman emancipation. Three female characters - Jaya,  Sejal and Kiran have been depicted as rebellious characters, braving the male chauvinistic society head on. 

Sometimes, these characters seem to be one up in comparison to the main protagonists- Anubhav and Shivali. 

Sometimes, readers could find the poetic justice missing from the point of view of Meera, but a sudden twist in the story towards the end proves soothing and just. 

Overall, an age-old subject of  love affair treated on a new platform, interwoven meticulously the social issues and winking at the probable solutions.

Author: Binod Mairta
Publisher: Mahaveer
Price: 175