Author – Kochery C. Shibu
Publisher – Niyogi Books
Pages – 283
Genre – Fiction
Ratings – 3/5
Nanda, an engineer from Kerala at the dam construction site, hiding from his past, from the law, torn between the love of his dear ones and the kalari code of revenge. Khusru, a youth displaced from his native village in Kashmir, a gambit in the terror plot that threatens to blow up the dam, working as a labourer at the site. Rekha, a Kathak dancer at heart, a doctor by profession, arrives at the campsite as the consort of Khusru. A village that accepts the dictates of modernity with a heavy heart, its population steeped in superstitions and religious beliefs.
All throng the campsite like moths to a flame, some escape untouched, successful; some miss a step and perish. Each has a story to tell and a dream to realise. Men and Dreams in the Dhauladhar is about aspirations of these people, with their cares and worries woven into the site life. The fury of nature and the hardships of project life have no mercy for the weak and no time for the dead. Like an eternal spectator the Dhauladhar watches as men risk their life and limb in the quest to fulfil their dreams.
The story revolves around the life of many characters with Nanda, Khusru and Rekha being the protagonists. The character of Nanda is that of a silent, dutiful observer, Khusru is initially a pawn in the hands of the terrorist group and Rekha is the one who dares to dream and follow it. There are some novels which tell the plot rather showing and Men and Dreams in the Dhauladhar fall in to such category. The recurrent theme in the novel is that of how life links us all in one way or another and how we despite of not knowing each other become more than a stranger. The nuances of the life of workers are scattered all over the story. The three protagonists of the novel have their own story to tell, surviving and escaping from the past without knowing what Dhauladhar holds for them. The language is colloquial making it an easy read and though the first few chapters are just instrumental for the exposition they eventually develop and fit in the plot. I loved author’s art of characterisation as it felt that the characters are not fictional but living with us in reality.
The novel is pervaded with autobiographical elements, drawing from the author’s life and profession. It gives you more like an essay or documentary feel giving better insight in to the construction of a dam. The theme of the novel revolves around the realities of the life of people living or working in Dhauladhar range and how it brings them together.
The book does seem a nice read but failed to impress me as I am lover of novels that leads its reader to think rather than rendering details to an extreme extent, there were many instances where I felt that author should just have dropped the hint rather than giving a comprehensive content. It is a tale of realities embedded in to a fictional world and the author has delivered it very well but for me it still lacks the factor that would make it an interesting read. As a reader and reviewer, I felt it could have developed more but perhaps that’s just my perspective as I don’t have penchant for novels dealing with technical background.
I would recommend it to anyone keen to know about the realities of life of people living in the hills, I personally loved the character of Mangu Ram who is the voice of traditions and antiquities of the hills.
The book was provided to me by the author for an unbiased and honest review.