Monday, June 3, 2013

Book Review: Shoes of the Dead

Journalist Kota Neelima has delivered a powerful political novel in the form of 'Shoes of the Dead'. It is a chilling parable of modern day India, featuring characters that readers don't encounter too often - greedy money lenders, farmers burdened by debt, unscrupulous middle men, corrupt doctors and district collectors struggling to work. Also we encounter the big city journalists, the well heeled academics and the smooth-talking politicians.

The story begins with the death of Sudhakar Bhadra who kills himself over-burdened by debt due to successive crop failures. The powerful district suicide comittee of Mityala routinely dismisses the suicide and refuses compensation to his widow. Gangiri Bhadra, his well educated brother, makes it his life's mission to bring justice to the dead by influencing the committee to validate similar farmer suicides. His own personal life is full of crisis where he is barely able to feed Padma, his brother's widow, and her two children two square meals a day. Fully determined he comes up with a plan and soon commitee members turn to vote for suicide due to debt. While he treads on this path, the readers come across some harsh realities of rural India like poor healthcare. Dr. Hemant Rao who has his own dark side where he cheats the hospital by stealing medicines and faking innovices in order to treat the poor farmers for free.

Keyur Kashinath of the Democratic Party is the MP from Mityala and son of Vaishnav Kashinath, a veteran politician. He never visits his constituency and inherits his father's power in Delhi politics. He believes that owing to his lineage it is his divine right to rule and forgets the people's right to rule. He faces his first crisis when every suicide in his constituency certified by the committee as debt-related turns out to be a blot on the party's image and his competence. Meanwhile Nazar Prabhakar, a journalist, comes up with his article "Mityala MP should quit if farmer suicides continue: Demand Voters, seek relief measures" which forces Keyur to visit his constituency.

The brilliant farmer battles his inheritance of dispair, the arrogant politician fights to keep his inheritance of power. The two worlds collide in a conflict that pushes both to the limits of morality, from where there is no turning back. And in the end, there can be only one winner.

This well researched novel surely gives readers a deeper understanding of the complexities at the heart of this nation and brings up the issue very well.
A must read!

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