Monday, June 03, 2013

Review of "Shoes of the Dead" by Kota Neelima

I received this book for review as part of the Blogadda BookReviews Program. It is a hardcover book , first published in Rainlight by Rupa (2013).

The author, Kota Neelima, is basically a journalist working both as an editor with the Sunday Guardian and as a Research Fellow for South Asia Studies, at John Hopkins University in Washington DC.

She has handled a subject unique to our times. Farmer Suicides. Inaccurate weather forecasting, unpreparedness, bad monsoons, failed crops,  famines, have been a perennial worry.  Over the last several decades, migration of land tillers to cities, for jobs, to bring food to their families, has been a recurrent story.   But what makes these stories today even more shameless, is the politics of greed and power garnering that plays out in "places of plenty"  .

Sudhakar Bhadra, a farmer from the Gopur Village , commits suicide , leaving behind a widow and two small children. Sudhakar's brother, Gangiri, who has actually left the village earlier to work elsewhere, returns, and decides to fight for justice for his brother's family.

Why justice  ?

Because, the widow is supposed to get a compensation.  And whether she gets it or not, depends on how many people claim their real or virtual pound of flesh from it.

The Secretary of The Democratic Party (DP) in Delhi, whose son, Keyur Kashinath, is an elected MP from the Mityala constituency that includes the Gopur village. The fact that there is a politically motivated district committee that is supposed to certify deaths as  suicides either due to farming shortfalls  or  individual vices.  The fact that local moneylenders have a vested interest in the widow being refused compensation, so they can then usurp her land.  The village, Panchayat head, who has political aspirations, and family ambitions, who wants some industries to happen in his area, for personal benefit. The MP, who is disturbed because so many farmer suicides being reported from his constituency, troubles the high command, and he must face the consequences.  The shameless way by which bank managers, and government hospital doctors are co-opted into the sham meetings, that do not certify these deaths as farming suicides.

Gangiri, decides to fight this. It is his luck, that he is aided in this by  a fearless Delhi journalist, and a  lady social science researcher in one of the capital's elite think tanks.  It is another story, that the lady researcher is married to an industrialist with interests in the region that Gangiri hails from.

It is a story of how power corrupts the mind; how so many in positions of power really need to learn how India lives in the hinterland;  a story of bossism , gundagiri and personal power in rural areas; a story of the real facts being hidden from those who come to investigate; the story of how Gangiri with his native intelligence, and knowledge about his village personages and professionals, is able to get the suicide committee to give more honest judgements.

And how, when it came to his own little nephew's health deterioration, he could run around, and  get the doctors to check, but had to beg for money for medicines he needed to buy. To the same folks he fought earlier.

The story comes full circle. 

The book is a story of what actually happens in rural areas. The insult, the trauma, the suffering, the helplessness of those directly affected, and the fearlessness, straight talk, telling-it-like-it-is-and-was  of the women who were left to pick up the pieces.

We've seen the Lutyen's part of the story, daily in newspapers. The MP visits, the news bytes, the press conferences in starched white kurtas, and starched whiter lies. The announcement of waivers of loans. Vote bank politics

This book tells us what really happens. The author has researched very well, and the results are shocking.

Politicians not only steal you blind in life, they also steal you blind in death.

A very good read.


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


  1. Even I read the book as the part of book review program. I really liked the book.
    Look for the review of the book - SHOES of the DEAD by Kota Neelima on my blog:

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