Book Review- Shoes of the Dead
About the Book
Title: Shoes of the Dead
Author: Kota Neelima
Publisher: Rupa Publications
No. of Pages: 274
Price: 495 INR
About the Author
Kota Neelima is a political editor with The Sunday Guardian and a Research Fellow for South Asia Studies at The Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University, Washington, DC. Her previously published work includes the novels Riverstones and Death of a Moneylender. Neelima lives in New Delhi and Washington, DC.
The Cover Speaks
The dust jacket acclaims the author with the words:
"Kota Neelima effortlessly blends farmers' suicides, the ethics of journalism and politics into a gripping tale."
- THE WEEK
The cover of the book depicts a barren drought affected land at one end, and Rashtrapti Bhawan, the corridors of power at the other with a tinge of yellow imbibing "Shoes of the Dead". It is simple yet compelling picturesque.
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. Passionate and startlingly insightful, Shoes of the Dead is a chilling parable of modern-day India.
This novel features characters that readers of contemporary Indian English fiction don't encounter too often - rapacious money lenders, farmers burdened by debt, unscrupulous middle men and district collectors struggling to work with, and despite, the vested interests that dominate local bodies.
The novel's examination of how a particular farmer's suicide - his brother, who is determined to change the status quo in Mityala, a district in south central India, is one of the protagonists - sets off a chain of events that threatens to derail the career of an ambitious young politician, provides rich insights into how mofussil India, especially, works.
It's clear that years of reportage on farmer suicides - the author's note mentions that "stories of the Vidarbha region of Maharashtra are the soul of this book" - have informed this novel.
This occasionally makes the novel read like serious rural reportage transmogrified into fiction. Still, this is a book that gives readers a deeper understanding of the complexities at the heart of this nation.
In a Nutshell
This book will make you stroll through India’s corridors of power and politics with a perfect portrayal of how its consequences creep into the lives of the farmers forcing them to commit suicide.
Hioy'oy Hoi Polloi