Author : Kota Neelima
Publisher : Rain Light / Rupa Publications
Crushed by successive crop failures and the burden of debt, Sudhakar Bhadra kills himself. The powerful district committee of Mityala routinely dismisses the suicide and refuses compensation to his widow. Gangiri, his brother, makes it his life’s mission to bring justice to the dead by influencing the committee to validate similar farmer suicides.
Keyur Kashinath of the Democratic Party—first-time member of Parliament from Mityala, and son of Vaishnav Kashinath, the party’s general secretary—is the heir to his father’s power in Delhi politics. He faces his first crisis; every suicide in his constituency certified by the committee as debt-related is a blot on the party’s image, and his competence.
The brilliant farmer battles his inheritance of despair, the arrogant politician fights for the power he has received as legacy. Their two worlds collide in a conflict that pushes both to the limits of morality from where there is no turning back. At stake is the truth about ‘inherited’ democratic power. And at the end, there can only be one winner.
Soaked in the reality of villages, the narrative keeps you engrossed and provides a rich insight into politics of farmers suicide and an almost inhuman approach to desensitize such a appalling issue. Most of the characters may bounce off as too intellectual or politically obsessed with the details but the writer knows the material well and in all probability, as a reader you are ready to delve deeper into these notes to grasp an understanding of their trials and tribulations.
There are hard hitting thoughts on the Indian diaspora and punchy one liners to keep you on line with the critical theme of the story. It also helps that the author does not take a moral stance on the issue and keeps alternating between different point of views punching in both sides of the coin. It does border on giving a moral lecture in the form of rural reportage but in an overall context provides a deeper understanding of the complexities of Indian rural scene.
It raises uncomfortable questions on the plight of farmers conditions and a hope of a nation to do something about them even after 60 odd years of independence. In the end, it is also fight of a one man army among corrupt politicians, slimy bureaucrats and hefty village henchmen. It is a tale of hope, moral judgement and evolution of arguably, the bread winner class of India. The writer blends these critical issues with aplomb and sensitivity.
The book gives a deeper understanding of the rural politics and a great insight into the rigmarole of the farmers suicide. I am going with 4/5 for Kota Neelima's 'Shoes of the Dead'. A little shorter in length would not have hurted it but in its current form, it is a one time startlingly provoking parable from rural India.
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