Friday, May 31, 2013

Book Review: Shoes of the Dead by Kota Neelima

Book: Shoes of the Dead
Author: Kota Neelima
No. of Pages: 285
Genre: Fiction / Political
Publisher: Rupa Publications
Kota Neelima introduces you to the grim world of farmers and their plight leading to suicidal tendencies with the influence, local and state politics has on it besides the direct impact of the local moneylenders and other powerful people have.  
Kota grabs your attention right from the first few pages giving you a perspective of the farmer suicides that you probably never had – that of normal deaths being labeled as farmer 'debt-related' suicides in a bid to get compensation which the government offers to their families.
As the story moves forward, you are introduced to a host of characters. A reporter trying to figure out the truth behind the farmer suicides, a politician trying to save his skin reeling under his father's reputation as a seasoned politician, a lady social worker whose husband has vested interests in the village where farmer suicides are increasing, a new member of the farmer suicide determination committee – he is the brother of a farmer who committed suicide and fights tooth and nail to award compensation to the families under consideration, other members of the suicide committee with their own vested interests and thought processes behind voting the cases eligible or ineligible for the compensation. Kota has done a good job at defining the characters and although the story had a slow and sad pace to it, I actually enjoyed reading the book.
As the story moves forward, you discover different shades of the characters and some characters remain elusive – you are not really able to make up your mind regarding their virtues. The book brings to life the 'reality' of the farmer's conditions and the host of natural as well as man-made causes for their plight and suicide.
The book gives you an insight of the state-of-affairs of the Indian farmers and you tend to worry at some point – if more and more farmers were to endure these conditions – they will educate their kids and send them to the towns and cities for jobs … who is going to grow crops in future if farmers turn away from their suicidal profession. Where will the food come from for the 1.25 Billion population of India? Will the handful of prosperous farmers be able to supply the countries food grain needs?
When will the government wake up to the plight of the farmers and actually put in place measures which work rather than apply band-aid AFTER they are hurt. Doesn't the government (politicians/IAS officers/govt. machinery) realize that prevention is better than cure … and if we do end up in a very worse situation, we might be in a situation where the cure will no longer work?
How many suicides will it take for the Govt. to take this up on priority and war footing?
In spite of being a serious book raising too many uncomfortable questions, Kota Neelima manages to make it an enjoyable read. She has a unique style of writing which paints a picture of her writing in front of your eyes.
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