The following is the authors perspective on Indian Literature using a variation of one of the book reviews by Basma Parkar.
I received a copy of this Indian Literature book for review from the author in exchange for an honest review.
Men and Dreams in the Dhauladhar would qualify well in Indian Literature as the first book written by debutant author Kochery C Shibu. It is a good to see Indian authors from all walks of life taking to writing. The novel showcases the extensive knowledge the author has about the life and people in the Dhauladhar region and of hydroelectric projects, which, I believe was the domain he worked in. Finishing a novel is a feat in itself and the author’s efforts are commendable. This may possibly be one of the few, if not the only one, books to be written about the life in a hydro electric project construction site.
The book starts with Nanda, who according to the description on Goodreads, is the protagonist. He is running from the law and his past is revealed in a back-story. There are three stories of the main protagonists which run in parallel. Possibly first of its kind in Indian Literature. For the rest of the book, he meets new people and looks at the snow-capped peaks of the Dhauladhar ranges. All the new people he meets have stories which are told as back-stories. Back-stories are a good way of introducing a new character. It shows us what makes them tick and what their motivations are. I enjoyed reading some of the back-stories in this book. One of the unique features of this Indian Literature book with a difference was that there were many characters in the book and each one’s past was revealed with the story starting from three generations before they were born. The strength of the book is in its details and it tells of the author’s attention to detail, and you end up keeping track of so many characters. One does concede that it becomes difficult for the reader at times to decide with whom you need to sympathies with even though you are empathizing with so many characters in the novel.
Another interesting feature of this debutant Indian Literature author is the very different plot. So many characters are introduced and each one is shown to be headed for the project in the Dhauladhar ranges. It is only at the end of the novel that the reader realizes that each one had a role to play in a plot that is developing in many dimensions. It made me think of clouds that gather before a storm and then whip the landscape with lashing rains. I expected something similar to happen with the story, only to be taken by surprise with so many twists and turns in the development of the novel. I grant that the author might have meant the Dhauladhar to be a meeting point for characters with incredible pasts and indomitable spirits, in many ways another new in Indian Literature.
The author has covered extensively the life in the Dhauladhar and of the villagers. The novel covers the customs and traditions, the simplicity of the villagers and their struggle to come to terms with the winds of change that blows when a mega project is set up in the area. The life of the shepherd community is covered well through the eyes of Mangu Ram who is representative of the village, their aspirations and dreams. It is pleasing to see such authentic and well researched writing in this debutant Indian Literature novel.
Another aspect has been the folklore and traditions of the villagers covered in the novel. The stories of Kurla- Kurli and many such brings the reader very close to the life of the villagers. There is always an impression of the happiness of the villagers in the simple life that they are leading that the author is trying to convey. May be one cannot be blamed for even beginning to believe that there could be an impression being conveyed that it is the city folks who are bringing miseries to the village life. Some of the traditions being followed in marriages and the ceremonies have been well brought out in the novel. It possibly must be the only one of its kind novel Indian Literature with the back ground of the novel so well researched and written in a classic style.
The life of the workers in the camp is an amazing insight. The relationship between the petty and the thekkedar, the thekkedar and the labour mate and the other many characters have been well brought out and possibly would be the first authentic write up by any Indian Literature novel in any language. Of course there always the heart wrenching stories of so many of them who are struggling to make a living and risking their limb and life for a few rupees more. In many ways the novel is also representative of the man vs nature struggle. Some times the helplessness of the workers seems so distressing even to the reader. Even in distress there are the stories of the contractors who are seen to be unethical. There is also the approach of the contractors who are indicating that the workers are better off living on the crumbs that he throws than get in to a tango with the administration.
Now, the characters. Honestly, there are so many that I wonder how the author managed to weave them together so well in the novel. Though I must confess that I don’t remember all of them. This author and his approach to Indian Literature and characters are very different. I for one couldn’t connect with any of them and I didn’t understand why some of them behaved the way they did. The well accomplished and talented dancer doctor Rekha falling in love with a terrorist and for that matter the arc between Khusru and Rekha, for example, was ridiculous.
Writing wise, the book is written well, and there is a freshness to the writing that is amazing. The classic style writing with the life of the villagers and the project workers form a very interesting part and a very different style of writing within the novel. The fiction story and the plot that is woven through this classic life and a plethora of characters is phenomenal. The author has made deliberate efforts to bring in so many Indian languages in this maiden Indian Literature effort. As the reader gets lost in the world of the life of the construction workers and the nuances of the relations ship in a camp site, one cannot stop but wonder about the life in such places.
This book is a bench mark in Indian Literature and a must read and a must have in your personal collection.