Author – Nilesh Shrivastava
“Land – you can’t burn it like money, you can’t melt it like gold. You can only buy it, sell it, snatch it, grab it. Titles change, governments change, times change but the land stays where it is unmoved and sterile. That is its beauty. But, somewhere deep down, men want to grab its immortality and slip it into their horribly insecure lives. They never can but they never will stop trying.”
Gurgaon, circa 1998. A city is being born. Ordinary farms are turning into virtual goldmines in the shadow of lofty skyscrapers. Agastya, whose days are numbered, lords over one such estate. He realizes it’s time to pass on the legacy to the next generation his estranged sons, Pranay and Karan who will come from Delhi with blemished pasts, base aspirations and a woman who would divide them. And then, not unlike the Mahabharata, the land would become the stage where their greed, affections and deepest fears would struggle and suffocate. No one would leave the place unscathed, if they would leave at all.
My thoughts –
This book was sent to me by the publishers of the book – Fingerprint Publishing, in exchange of an honest review. I am very thankful to them for sending me a copy of the book. 🙂 However, I am a lil’ late in posting my review. Sorry for the delay, Ms Bharti!
First things first. I readily agreed for accepting a copy of the book for reviewing because the blurb was interesting. Also the book promised something very different from the usual things recent new Indian writers are writing about. And I was not disappointed. 🙂
The plot of the book is spread across three generations – Agastya’s father, he himself & his two sons. Agastya’s father was a small time paint dealer in the crowded lanes of Delhi who was earning enough to take good care of his family & run the business smoothly. When it was Agastya’s turn to take care of his father’s business he was not happy with the state of affairs in the existing business. He had plans to expand it & with the help of his distant cousin & able & trust-worthy friend, he was able to do it. At the same time he was in love (or attracted) with the neighbourhood girl Shalija who was 8 years elder to him. However, their love-life was put to a halt when she was married off to a nearby town. Even Agastya’s marriage is arranged with Shubhangi, his father’s choice. But soon things changed with the arrival of Agastya’s sister & brother-in-law, Dushyant, to live with them forever, owing to some circumstances. Soon the conniving brother-in-law grabbed the reins of the business from Agastya’s hands. In order to avoid friction in their daily lives, Agastya’s decides to move to their ancestral farm land at Gurgaon (a place transforming from ordinary farmlands to soon-to-be-a-city), along with his wife & faithful associate & friend Shaswat. And there, he built a life around that land. But Agastya’s past with Shalija was attached to him in the form of his son with her – Karan. Then there was Pranay his son out of his marriage with Shubhangi.
In his later years, with frail health conditions, Agastya decided to divide the land (valued as equivalent to goldmines in the wake of fast industrialization of the area) between his two sons. And what happens when he tries to do it is an interesting journey of greed, ambition, affection, fears, apprehensions, betrayal and struggle. And in all this Shaswat & Dushyant plays a significant role. One character in the story says, “Land isn’t about a pot of soil and a bunch of papers declaring its ownership. It’s more about the solidity and identity it can bring to a man. Its s physical, visible and more importantly it’s permanent. You can’t burn it like money; you can’t melt it like gold.” Land indeed, is no man’s land.
“Just like heaven. Ever’body wants a little piece of lan’. I read plenty of books out here. Nobody never gets to heaven, and nobody gets no land. It’s just in their head. They’re all the time talkin’ about it, but it’s jus’ in their head.”
― John Steinbeck, Of Mice and Men
The author has done a good job in painting the characteristics of each one of the characters, making them very realistic. In fact the characters drive the story forward. The strings of events right from the first chapter to the last have consistency & falls in place with the story. He has quite nicely shown us the contrast & change in perception & thinking ways of each generation. The entire essence of the story is the immortality of land. The language flows freely & I went from the start to the end smoothly. However, I was little bit disappointed with the ending – the way the author had built up the story to certain heights I had expected a brilliant ending. For me, it was kind of hurried. Inspite of it, I would say that the book is a good job delivered by a debut author.
Overall, a fast paced, good read with well-developed characters. Congratulations to the author for his brilliant debut & all the best for this book & the many more in the future! 🙂
Some excerpts from the book –