Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Shoes That Fit, Perfectly

Agriculture is considered to be the major occupation in rural India. In terms of farm output, India currently ranks second in the world. The agricultural sector in India accounts for almost 16 percent of GDP and 10 percent of export earnings. The importance of agriculture and farming in this country can thus never be undermined.

However, the irony lies in the fact that the welfare of the farmers, who play the most important role in this occupation, are often neglected and ignored. The poor farmers cannot afford advanced technologies and thus depend on rainfall and other sources of nature to grow their crops. At times the farms fail to produce the desired yield, perhaps due to scanty rainfall or lack of proper planning, leading to poverty and deprivation. The farmers then have to borrow money from the money lenders at high rates of interest to survive and to sustain their families, with hope that they can repay the loan with a prosperous yield in the next season. However, when fate deserts them, they find themselves standing at the cross-roads of failure and hopelessness, under the burden of heavy debts. The poor miserable farmers then resort to their last option, suicide.

Kota Neelima’s 'Shoes Of The Dead' highlights the agony of farmers and their families in this political fiction based on the backdrop of debt-driven farmer suicide. The story starts with the suicide of Sudhakar  Bhadra who fails to bear the huge burden of debt. However, the district committee of Mityala, comprising of powerful individuals, dismisses the suicide and refuses compensation to the widow. Sudhakar’s brother, Gangiri, makes it the mission of his life to bring justice to the dead by influencing the committee to validate similar cases of farmer suicides.

Gangiri faces severe hurdles on the way, from politicians and other prominent members of the district committee. However, it is his firm determination that leads him on. He is supported by Nazar, a well known journalist, who publishes his story of struggle and resoluteness, thus shaking the very foundation of power in the state. Keyur Kashinath of the Democratic Party, and first time member of Parliament from Mityala, feels the heat and tries several ways to gain control of his first major crisis. Keyur is the son of Vaishnav Kashinath, the party’s General Secretary, and is all set to inherit his father’s power in Delhi politics.

The book is slow to start with. However, that is justified since characterization plays a key role in this story, and the first few chapters lead to the setting of the plot and introduce the primary characters to the readers. Gangiri is caring, loyal, hard-working, and devoted to his goals, and he gradually creates a place in your heart. You smile when he rises, and feel sorry when he falls, but you never leave his side even for a single moment in the story. Keyur is another memorable character in the story who brings out the true shades of a normal human being, the inability to distinguish between good and bad, and fails to strike the perfect balance in his actions and deeds. Other characters like Lambodar, Vadrangi, Nazar, Gul and Videhi keep the story alive, as the line between fiction and reality blurs eventually.

Kota Neelima meticulously deals with the problems surrounding farmer suicides, and tries to come out with a solution or two. She manages to transport us in the world where peasants and farmers feed on their tears and survive with an everlasting fear of loss and defeat. She is a political editor with The Sunday Guardian which clearly showcases her prowess with the subject. She is also a Research Fellow for South Asia Studies at The Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University, Washington, DC. Her previously published work includes the novels Riverstones and Death of a Moneylender.

Somewhere in the story, the conversation between two main characters is as follows:

 “You must be a fool to forgive so easily.”
 “Or a farmer.”

Strange but true – it’s tough being a farmer in the land of farming. This 'Shoes Of The Dead' fits perfectly in the heart, mind, and soul of its readers.

Title: Shoes Of The Dead
Author: Kota Neelima
Publisher: Rupa Publications
Publication Year: 2013
Language: English
Binding: Hardcover
Number of Pages: 288
Genre: Literary Fiction
My Rating: 4/5

Thank You Blog Adda for providing me with the wonderful opportunity to review this book.

This review is a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!


  1. Shoes that can't be filled indeed, the pittance the farmers earn and the pitiful conditions they endure...high time we open our eyes before the plight of farmers results in a hungry world...

    1. Very true Reshma ... we really need to be aware !!!

  2. The importance of farmers cannot be overstated. They play such a vital vital role. My grandfather was a farmer :)

    1. Great to know about your grandfather ... farmers nurture the crops of growth !!

  3. I read about the "GM" induced suicides of farmers in India (Genetically Modified cotton apparently causing farmers to suicide) ... but the jury is still out on that, I guess. My own theory is: A man can not provide for his family, so there comes a point, when he cannot bear to live anymore ... Tears. Always, cat.

    1. Well, sometimes life can be miserable, and it is sad that farmers, who provide the world with food, have to face such hardships.

  4. It should be a interesting read.Will try to read this one.
    Thanks for visiting !