Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Book Review: No Man's Land by Nilesh Shrivastava

Land... a resource that is limited, that cannot be created or destroyed, that cannot be moved and is difficult to attach a price tag on to. Different people maintain different view points regarding it. For some it is home, for some livelihood, for some a commodity to trade and for some it is a means to go back in time. And land is one reason why sane persons behave like mad causing feuds and violence, why families disintegrate, why nations fight fierce battles altering the course of history. No Man's Land is the second novel by Nilesh Shrivastava which narrates the tale about a piece of land and its effect on the lives of many people who gets associated with it.

This is the story of Agastya, a dying man, whose only legacy is a piece of ancestral land in Gurgaon, which was considered waste by his family of paint merchants. After it reaches him, he along with his mind keeper Saswat, turns it to a farm land of breathtaking beauty. Now on his deathbed, he has to decide its future, and for that he has to confront his past... his two sons Karan and Pranay. But they come to the farm land from the city of Delhi with their own troubled pasts, prejudices and agendas. What furthur complicates the already fragile situation is the presence of a woman involved with them in different levels. Agastya's paradise on earth turns to a stage on which each character display their greed, pent up emotions, desires and hidden motives.

No Man's Land is told in a non linear time line. The story spans three generations. Each chapter start with a monologue in first person that is italicized. Only later does the reader become aware of the identity of the speaker. Then narration shifts to third person. The story is told devoid of much melodrama. The characters are planted solidly on earth. Every one of them are three dimensional entities- complex and realistic. This makes the reader relate to their motives and get convinced with their behaviour.

The novel is all the more interesting due to its subject matter- greed of men towards land. The story is set in Gurgaon, at a time when real estate tycoons had for the first time set their eyes there. Social relevance of the plot and the setting makes the book a compelling read. Adding to this aspect is the finely written story, well etched characters, a plot that piques the curiosity of the reader by gradually building suspense and a climax that goes well with the pace of the narrative.

The last book by Fingerprint that I read was The Virgins, which was a delightful one. Now this one is yet another ace for them. The overall packaging of the book- cover design, paper quality, printing, etc. is done very professionaly, compelling the readers to take this book seriously. One complaint, that I have with most of the Indian novels these days, plague No Man's Land too- silly errors, that could have been corrected with a bit of care. It is a disgrace that a few grammatical and editing errors can creep up into such a competendly made book- like finding a few granules of rock in a delicious plate of biryani.

Book Source: Publisher

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