Men and Dreams in the Dhauladhar by Kochery C Shibu, the latest among the Indian English Writers is a unique book. The following is a variation of one amongst the many book reviews and the authors perspective on any Indian English Writers.
I have to admit it was a breath of fresh air reading through the chapters of Men and Dreams in the Dhayladhar, for various reasons. The main reason was that the writing was refreshingly different and authentic. The second reason was of course the style of narration which is unique and different from any that I have read till date. I cannot but admire the very identifiable style of writing that the author has carved out in this novel. The amazing part was the plethora of characters who came alive as the novel progressed. There were a lot many characters woven to perfection by the author, unlike many of the Indian English Writers, and the author has succeeded in developing an intricate web of the story. I was impressed with eye for details of the author and the amount of efforts he had taken in character sketching. There was introduction and description of back ground for each of the characters who came in and that too with an amazing lot of details.
At times it felt like the author nudged us along to know and understand what was happening. There was of course the paradoxical magnum opus setting without creating a big setting for us to fully integrate the characters in our minds. This would place the author in a league of his own in amongst the Indian English Writers.
Another reason I loved this book and I would say that makes the book special from amongst the Indian English Writers was the language, so naturally Indian. Even whilst writing in English one could feel the pulse of India and literally taste India in the writing. There were so many languages and usages from languages that the author had juxtaposed in his writing unlike many of the Indian English Writers. Of course I had the limitation of the language. This reason is obviously more personal. I`m not really familiar with some of the Indian language terms and usages that were included. Of course I must admit that each new word or usage was really well described and I did not have to look for definitions elsewhere in order to comprehend what was being said and hence being done by the characters. Or for that matter what the Indian English Writers characters were referring to. The style of this author was fabulous in that he would introduce Indian words and at times words specific to the site life which was explained immediately after. There was no requirement for any reference to glossary of terms or any other references.
The writing itself has evidently gone through a metamorphosis. There was one style of writing that was slow and detailed which is seen to be used whilst describing the village life. The customs and traditions, the project life, the equations amongst the various hierarchy of the work force at site and so on.
The style of writing used by the author distinguishes this novel from those by the other Indian English Writers in that the novel was fast paced and racy in the thriller part of the novel and it was slow and ambling laong in the classic part of the novel. It made me think that maybe Shibu wasn`t certain what style of writing he wanted to partake in this narrative. This must be one of the few books if not the only novel amongst the Indian English Writers which uses the combination of the two widely varying styles of writing in the same novel. It only goes to prove the latitude of writing ability that the author has displayed in the debut novel.
I must admit that at a personal level I had trouble connecting to the characters because I like having a greater psychological perspective on them. I could point out the incident of Rekha and Khusru meeting in the strangest of circumstances and falling in love. For a well educated and talented doctor like Rekha, there would have been intense personal struggle. This psychological aspect could have been greater in detail. I do not know if it is by design or default, in this particular aspect the author seems to have followed the pattern followed by some of the Indian English Writers. You cannot blame me for having felt that the psycho analysis approach was somewhat lacking in the story, and by no means am I trying to step on the creative freedom of the author.
This is not to say that I did not like the characters Khusru and Rekha. I could empathise with the Rekha in love. After all, this tall handsome Kashmiri lad has had women falling over him from Kashmir, Pakistan and so I wont blame her for having fallen in love. This novel is different from the many Indian English Writers in that the author has used authentic events based on a mega hydro electric project to depict the human struggle against the forces of nature. I did feel the characters should be commended by all their efforts and suffering throughout the book. Their resilience was quite inspiring, considering all of the circumstances.
I must admit that I could feel the places come alive as I read some of the descriptive passages. Or I would even say that the writing was very descriptive and one could easily imagine certain surroundings that were mentioned throughout the book by this author in his own inimitable style which is very different from most of the Indian English Writers. I was really happy with many of the descriptive passages in the middle and end of the book on the life of people at the project site and the village life.
On a very personal note, I must congratulate him for joining the fabulous list of Indian English Writers and I would go on to say that Shibu did a very good job, considering this was his first book published.
No one can deny that there is always room for improvement. There is also a lot of potential and I really want to see how his writing develops in his future novels. I would like to think that he has the potential to churn out a dedicated thriller fiction which could captivate the readers. There is also the latitude that he has displayed in his classical style of writing that is at par with the best in that genre. I think that if he can stay focussed to one of the two style he has portrayed in the novel in his new ventures: it would be better. There is no denying the fact that the author has added a gem of a novel to the list of Indian English Writers, which is indeed very refreshingly different.