Saturday, June 8, 2013

Book Review: Shoes of the Dead

Stories of one man single-handedly fighting the system against all odds are abundant in literature and movies worldwide. May be the reason is its mass appeal. People generally love to see a hero standing tall for everything that is right. One limitation that can be observed in the execution of this theme by various media is that ultimately the wrong doer is limited to an object- a single man or a group of people up for mischief. This objectifying of evil causes two negative results generally- one is the dilution of the case the writer is trying to put forward and the other is the protagonists resolving the issue using extreme acts that glorifies socially unacceptable practices. These were my thoughts while I took up Kota Neelima’s political novel Shoes of the Dead for reading. The biggest virtue of this book is that it does not tread the convenient path of objectifying that I was mentioning before.
Shoes of the Dead tell the story of suicide by farmers due to debt. The story starts in Delhi, in the residence of Keyur Kashinath, new MP and son of a political bigwig, deep in trouble due to the growing cases of farmer suicides occurring in his constituency Mityala. He is trying to manipulate the cases and prove majority suicides are not due to debt with the help of moneylenders and real estate grabbers who are one of the major reason for the trouble. Nazar is one journalist who finds out about his plan and tries to do something about it through his fearless reports.
The story then shifts to Mityala, were Gangiri Bhadra former teacher turned farmer breaches into the corrupt suicide committee that certifies even genuine cases of debt suicides as ineligible for compensation. He is the brother of a farmer who committed suicide due to debt, but the committee denies compensation by painting him as an alcoholic. He intelligently networks inside the committee and turns the table on Keyur by making more and more applications for compensation eligible. From then the narrative shifts between Delhi and Mityala. Keyur decides to eliminate Gangiri, but things change when Nazar enters the scene. From then the story turns into a game of political one-upmanship between one person’s ego and arrogance and another’s belief in bringing a positive change in society.
As I told earlier, the story does not overtly blame or vilify a single person for all the bad things happening to people. It is basically about rising above the levels of mere existences, which is displayed by Keyur and other negative characters, and show the courage to stand for what is right and deliver it at any cost. Gangiri faces so much adversity in many levels- political, social, emotional and economical, but stands for justice to the family of diseased farmers even when his own existence is fatally threatened. The narrative is rather slow, building up the characters and making the reader comfortable with the nuances of the story, but never slows down to make it even a bit boring. The characterization and plot is very realistic and readers will be empathized with it. One subplot about an industrial concern in Mityala is mentioned but not touched upon with any detail.
All in all considering the social relevance and urgency of the subject and the overall readability of the book, which I would opine is nothing short of excellent, I will recommend this book to all readers.  
Publisher: Rupa Publications
Book Source:
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