Shoes of the Dead – Book Review

Book: Shoes of the Dead
Author: Kota Neelima
Publisher: Rupa Publication
Language: English
Pages: 274
Price: Rs 495

This book is serious business. Coming from someone who is an editor at the Sunday Guardian, I wouldn’t expect any less. With this book, Kota Neelima takes you on a tour of the real world the farmers in our country occupy. Farmer suicides happen in abundance, many because of debts. Others because of successive crop failures. Either case, the farmers’ families want the compensation by claiming it to be a debt related death. The government on the other hand, keeps rejecting claims after claims of debt related deaths, real or not.

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.

 
Not that you should judge a book by it’s cover, but I really liked the simple yet compelling cover of Shoes of the Dead. A barren drought affected land at one end, and Rashtrapti Bhawan, the corridors of power at the other.Separated by “Shoes of the Dead” (Not literally though!)
The book deals with the farmers’ suicides in the much publicized Vidarbha region of Maharashtra. The book is gripping because as you read, you realize you are reading something that is true, even though you wish it weren’t. It gives you deep insights into the so-called democratic system of the country where the only driving factor for the political babus is public votes. Pursuing the chair and sticking to it is the only thing that matters. An account of how dynasty politics still runs in the system. The book will scare you as you realize the ministers care a hoot about the farmers. And if this trend of suicides continue, who’s going to produce grains and food for a country of 1.25 billion?
Even though this is not fiction, names have been suitable changed and the author has done justice to character building in the book. The language is simple and the book is a clear winner as it stands on a strong foundation of good content, etched out beautifully. 

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A letter to Congress…..

Dear Congress,
I really don’t hope you are doing well. But the bitter truth is that you are doing way better than what we would like to think. What with inflation ripping through the roofs, every minister in your damned cabinet having a scam to his credit, sitting with an odd-lakh crore of OUR tax money, and then the whole Democracy thing. You guys are sure hell bent on beating the poor thing to death. Well, congratulations…!!! You are almost there.
I really wonder how road rage kills so many people in India, esp. Delhi. The reports say the tolerance levels have gone down. I beg to differ. I think we guys have oodles and oodles of   patience, and then some more. The government loots us in the form of taxes, levying taxes on taxes on taxes. We just never come out of the Tax Chakravyuh. They will keep increasing the prices of petrol, milk, fruits, veggies… we will deprive ourselves of nutrition and still keep paying more. Out of this truck load of money, these guys build one flyover, again charge a toll on it and pile up 100 times of the actual investment. Now, these so-called-ministers, most of who boast of a criminal background and others, whose educational profiles hardly go above a 7th or 8th standard, know only one way of utilizing this money – save it in the Swiss banks. But we will still keep quiet. At the max, an FB update or “like” the “Get the Swiss money Home’ FB page.
Then, decades later, a gutsy Indian, Anna Hazare decides that enough is enough. He imitates Bapu’s ideologies. Our govt. which has photos of Bapu in every Govt. office and on every damned currency note in the country, says fast-unto-death will not be tolerated. And did our honorable PM just say yesterday that we live in a D-E-M-O-C-R-A-T-I-C country? Sir, would you please like to spell that out for us?
@The PM: Your impressive resume and balanced approach had instilled in us, a hope that finally, the reins of this country were in good and able hands. But you proved to be a mere puppet in foreign hands. You have let us down and left the country’s future in lurch. It’s going to the dogs. You make us believe that education really has no meaning in our Parliament. It is, and will remain in the hands of power hungry and illiterate ministers. Your only mantra seems to be “Silence is Golden”. But when it comes to the future of this country, the Golden is only Poison, which is eating away the country at its very roots. Thanks for preparing us that we will always be a third-world country because of you and your third-grade cabinet of fools.
From,
Enraged, Frustrated and Disgusted citizens of the country