With its large number of positive ratings, I’d hoped to read Kochery C. Shibu’s Men and Dreams in the Dhauladhar someday. And when I got a review copy from Writers Melon, I jumped at the opportunity. It was with the hope that this excitement would be vindicated and that the story would appeal to me that I started reading this book.
Men and Dreams in the Dhauladhar is the story of three people from different backgrounds: Nanda from Kerala, Rekha from Punjab, and Khusru from Kashmir. All three of them escape their pasts and land at the feet of the Dhauladhar mountain range, at an ongoing hydel power project. Will they really be able to escape their past? Or can they come to terms with it? Will they be able to keep up with the superstitious village they are now in?
As the majestic Dhauladhar watches the damage being done to it, it also watches as these people strive to make their dreams come true: Nanda’s desperation to go back to his home, Khusru to forget his past as an accomplice in terrorist activities, and Rekha to finally spend her life with the man who makes her heart go wild.
What I didn’t like about Men and Dreams in the Dhauladhar is that it is a little exhausting to read. The narrative is in simple enough words. But put them together and you’ll need a bit of an effort to read it. I don’t mind reading it, but when a book tires you as you read, you are a little bit put off by the excessive descriptions in places. It could have worked with lesser descriptiveness, too.
There are spelling mistakes, but they don’t take away from the story in any manner because you can understand from the context what the author is trying to say. And moreover, this is not something that reflects on an author and can be heartily ignored.
What I’m about to say next shouldn’t have much of a bearing, either. But halfway through the book, I realize that there are so many characters in there. Quite a few times, I got confused, thinking, “Was it this character who went through that ordeal?” I had to rack my brains to remember the backstory, without which I just couldn’t go ahead. Even 80% into the book, there were more characters debuting and I could help but read on in shock.
In all honesty, Men and Dreams in the Dhauladhar has way more positives than the things that didn’t work for me. And that’s despite construction jargon throughout the narrative. Because, to be fair, people in the construction industry will enjoy this book more than a layman, though there is more than enough to keep me invested, too. Even though it’s awesome that a book is everything you never even knew you wanted, you can’t expect all books to cater just to your tastes.
Men and Dreams in the Dhauladhar is well-researched. From the time of the partition and those following it, the situation in Pakistan and Kashmir, how it is like on the Dhauladhar range, the different mentalities of people in Kashmir then and now, and the Shia and Sunni differences and how it led to families being almost wiped out. The author gets all the nuances right – or at least I think so.
The author, in Men and Dreams in the Dhauladhar, writes about life and people in South and North India with equal ease, and that makes me proud for some reason. It is probably because we have always had this mental block that South Indians and North Indians are beyond the understanding of each other. But this book puts it down well.
Men and Dreams in the Dhauladhar is sometimes stoic in its representation of the main characters, yet it manages to touch emotions. Its variety of characters coming from different nooks and crannies of the country is a welcome change. And even with its bland ending, the story manages to stay on my positive side.
All in all, Men and Dreams in the Dhauladhar is an exhausting but an interesting and an entertaining read.
Rating: 4/5 stars
Picture Courtesy: Amazon India.