Author: Kochery C. Shibu
Indian publishing industry is in a boom nowadays. A lot of books by Indian authors are being published, but all of them can’t be called truly Indian in their character. A lot of Indian authors in their quest of writing a good book are copying the foreign authors and ending up with narratives and nuances beset with foreignness, while others who indeed write about the Indian milieu are not able to do justice to its subtle vibes. In such a literary scenario comes the book “Men and Dreams in the Dhauladhar” by Kochery C. Shibu that captures the Indian distinctiveness veraciously. I had thought of going with the words Zeitgeist and élan du jour for the title of this write-up, but such was the impact of this book that I went with the present heading to portray its Indian context, for ‘Capturing the Indian zeitgeist or élan du jour’ had German and French connotations respectively.
The book revolves around the lives of three protagonists- Nanda, Khusru and Rekha, with a construction of a dam going on in the Dhauladhar as the setting. There are however a coterie of other characters that find a place in the book and help in carrying the narrative forward. Nanda is an engineer from Kerela working at the dam construction site who is hiding from the past and the law, and torn between the love of his dear ones and the kalari code of revenge. Khusru is a displaced youth from Kashmir working as a labourer at the site. Rekha is a Kathak dancer at heart and a doctor by profession, who arrives at the campsite as the consort of Khusru. There is also a terror plot brewing up that threatens to blow up the dam, in which Khusru is a gambit.
Apart from the Indian vibes that I am repetitively mentioning (I’m in awe with this book, that’s what I can say in my defence), the book puts forward many surprises and twists in its narrative. The characters have backstories and names keep changing as the characters move from one setting to the other.
The book cover shows the peaks of the Dhauladhar- which is also portrayed like a character in the book. People in the mountains consider it as a person, and the characters too look towards it- with its snow-clad, cloud-covered or snow-trailed peaks- with their dreams, feelings, fears and aspirations and wondering what is in store for them.
The technical details of the construction of the dam are detailed well but can be sometimes overwhelming. This is also because the author, who was in the Navy and commanded two warships, and post his retirement executed hydroelectric projects in Karnataka, Himachal and Sikkim, has derived the technical content from his experiences in these projects.
This is a book that should be read for its Indianness- Indian connectedness and vibes are the strength of this book apart from an equally strong storyline, and a narrative that forays into the Indian cities and urban landscapes, and also the rural villages and mofussil lands, without once leaving touch with its Indian character.
I was lucky to have come across this book and having delved into its pages, I feel like recommending this book to all literary enthusiasts and anyone who wants to read a story that is a fresh respite from all the monotonous love stories and other clichéd fiction writings by Indian authors. Although when I review books I mainly bring out the positive and negative points of the story and recommendations are few, this is a book that is highly recommended. Readers, go grab a copy!
Written by: CHIRDEEP MALHOTRA