Thursday, August 1, 2013

There can only be one winner!

Farmer suicides have become such commonplace in India that if Salim-Javed were to script the 1975 blockbuster Sholay today they could skip the explanatory dialogue on suicide 'angrej log jab marte hain, toh usse suicide kehte hain' (when foreigners die it is termed suicide). Successive crop failures and the burden of debt have forced thousands of farmers to consume their lives. Just change the name and the place, the script can hold on to its own.

Sudhakar Bhadra kills himself under similar circumstances. 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. Gangiri's struggle for justice treads through unequal turf. 'It is an unequal fight, but we have the dead on our side.'

Using a familiar plot, Kota Neelima scripts a gripping tale wherein political capital is made out of a social misery. For the political class, farmers are worth the electoral ritual wherein promises are made, but not to be kept. Even political attention following farmers' suicide doesn't last long. No surprise, battlelines get drawn as the protagonist battles for justice against the arrogant politician who fights to hold onto his seat of power, a family legacy. And as is in every battle, there can only be one winner! No rewards for guessing the loser.

While nature has its own way of taming great forces of change, by containing them in mundane characters, destiny waits to choose its villains and victims among the warriors. A victory at times may turn out to be facile for the winner but could easily help the loser climb a moral high ground from where it pricks conscience of the masses. 

Shoes of the Dead is an act of fiction, though not far from real life, which portrays the grim realities confronting the farming communities. It is a story that ought to be told every so often to stir the social and political conscience of people....Link

Shoes of the Dead
by Kota Neelima 
Genre: Fiction
Rainlight/Rupa, New Delhi
274 pages, Rs.495

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