Author: Kochery C. Shibu
Edition Language: English
Published in: 2015
Publisher: Niyogi Books
A story which smells like earth. Characters who are diverse and authentic. When you read Kochery C. Shibu’s novel Men and Dreams in the Dhauladhar, you realise he has that ‘Indianness’ in his writing only a very few Indian English authors could boast about. This is a book which is definitely praiseworthy. There is such authenticity to its characters and situations, everything in it seems so real. The lives of the people who are brought together at the Dhauladhar ranges by fate, and their dreams – some fulfilled, some shattered – are narrated in a very down to earth manner.
Nanda – an engineer from Kerala, Rekha – a doctor and a kathak dancer, and Khusru – a terrorist are brought together at a dam construction site in the Dhauladhar ranges by their fate. The construction brings about many changes to the village – most of them unwelcome – which its inhabitants helplessly witness with heavy hearts. Many lives are lost, many dreams shattered.
The book goes through the minds of multiple characters, each chapter is dedicated to one. There was some nostalgic element in the way they were narrated as it strongly reminded me of the way a lot of Malayalam books are presented. Each character is backed up with the author’s keen attention to detail, and it has undoubtedly added to their genuineness. He has described the ancient tradition of Kalarippayattu and the technicalities of the construction site so vividly that you have a clear picture painted for you.
The story flows as easy as a river does. There is nothing forced, nothing artificial. There is just the drama of real life. The language used is also simple, which makes it an easy read.
The character diversity is also a commendable aspect in this novel. Since the story is set around a construction site, it goes without saying that the people there would be from widely different backgrounds. They all are described very well, and no two are alike. Most of the characters are given at least some backstory that they seem absolutely palpable.
Now coming to the aspects I didn’t quite like:
The prose could have been better. I felt that there were detailed descriptions which were not really necessary and affected the reading experience. But in the author’s defense, it was made up beautifully by the genuine feel of the story.
There were just too many characters in the story, and a lot of them are forgettable. But there are also certain very well formed characters, with whom you could really connect with. I also felt that some characters didn’t get the importance they deserved, some got way too much.
I couldn’t connect with many of the characters. Rekha and Khusru didn’t manage to impress me – mainly because I could not understand why they did what they did. I felt that a few of the villagers should have gotten a few more pages for their story.
Considering this is the author’s debut book, it makes a very fine read. It has that Indian charm that very few Indian English novels can boast about.
You should definitely pick this book as your next read if you love authentic and simple stories.
PS: Thanking the author Kochery C. Shibu for kindly sending me the copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I enjoyed reading the book, and definitely look forward to more from him