Book: Shoes of the Dead
Author: Kota Neelima
No. of Pages: 285
First of all, this is an extremely well researched and a well written book. The title is beguiling and the sepia toned cover image only tells you how serious this one is going to be. And oh did I love the hard cover?
Kota Neelima gives you a reality check in to the world of farmers and gives you a perspective of their lives. It also gives you an insight in to the intersection of politics, economics and social justice. The characterization is simply stunning and you could not have asked for more: the central character Gangiri Bhadra, who is fighting for the injustices decreed upon the farmers; Nazar Prabhakar, the journalist who wants to make a difference; Keyur Kashinath, the politician by inheritance; the just collector, the kind and generous doctor, the rapacious money lender and so many others. Every character is nothing short of an intricate art design. (The Editor’s character also needs a mention here. One should just read this book to know exactly what I am talking about). We don’t see such characterization in Indian Fiction books.
The author tells us that the book is based on the stories of the Vidarbha region of Maharashtra. The book is essentially a story of how a particular farmer suicides and this leads to a series of events that is going to threaten the career of an ambitious yet arrogant politician. The book gives you a perspective on how these things happen and essentially how the rural-urban setup works. Though the beginning is slightly boring the book picks up pace within a few chapters and the climax is so heart-wrenching that you would be left thinking about the book for two days. Gangiri is fighting a system; a system that decides whether a widow is eligible to receive compensation for her husband’s suicide. He tactfully becomes a part of the committee that decides the fate and researches every member of the committee. How he brings each of the committee members to vote in the farmer’s favor is the essential crux. But what is the price that he has to pay to fight this terrible situation of money lenders with personal and political agendas combined with a young politician who is out to prove a point? Read and find out!
The climax is also promising in that one man can bring about a change in the system. But do we have such Gangiri amongst us? Do we have the courage to face the system at a personal cost? Do we have a Keyur Kashinath amongst us who willingly steps down after the turn of events? How many suicides will it take for the government to act? How many suicides will it take for the common man to rise and revolt the situation? How many such ‘Shoes of the Dead’ needs to be written and publicized so there is awareness about this impending crisis of modern India?
What I dint like about the book was many of the plots within the book were left hanging dry. For Example: the past life of Nazar Prabhakar, the apparently budding romance between Nazar and the wife of the industrialist etc. But this is much better left to the reader’s imagination than desperately trying to tie loose ends, as has been the case in many books. It also keeps the focus on the grim topic.
It is an engrossing read for sure! 5 on 5 to Kota Neelima for writing this gem of a piece.