Numerous men and their infinite dreams. What happens when they come together at a place? How do they manage to keep themselves up and going in a melee?
Set in the valleys with the Dhauladhar ranges looking over them, Men and Dreams in the Dhauladhar by Kochery C. Shibu is a tale of love, hate, revenge, life, death, survival, and above all, a tale of dreams of the men and women that make it up.
The story unfolds with multiple characters, all of them way different from each other, yet bound by fate. Nanda, an engineer from Kerala finds himself running for his life, from the law and from his enemies alike, finds himself at the campsite for a hydro project under the shadow of the Dhauladhars. Khusru, a young displaced Kashmiri, crawls his way to the same campsite along with Rekha, a doctor and a Kathak dancer, and much more accomplished than him, as his consort. Unknown to them, each is hiding a past, a secret from which they are running, and the only solace they find is in the mighty Dhauladhars, which seems to speak to them via its snow-capped peaks.
Also present are the secondary characters of Lalaji, Vijay, Sandeep, Sherpa, Katriina, Laila, Maya, and many more, who together form a story of their own, unique to each and coiled with each other.
When I agreed to review this book, I took it as a chance to venture beyond my comfort zone of light-hearted reads and foray into a heavy on the mind, criminal/suspense/terrorist kinda plot as seemed from the blurb. Also, having read a good book in the past based in Kashmir by the same publisher, I speculated it must be worthy of at least a single read. And yes, I was right. Narrated in the third person, the language and the writing style were lucid. I found no mistakes or loopholes in terms of grammar or editing whatsoever. The characters, all of them, major or minor, were well-drafted and their amalgamation towards the focal point was efficient. As against the blurb, which talks about only three people, in particular, the story has a lot of characters, some significant to the central plotline, and some just present as an additional side story. At times, I felt that a couple of characters who were given little space should have been put into the limelight more due to their importance to the plot, and those who were not quite necessary could have been omitted entirely to avoid creating a ruckus of names. Although it seemed that Nanda would be the protagonist, it was towards the second half of the book that I realized that there was no singular lead. While the story didn’t hold onto anybody specifically, what bound the characters was the range of Dhauladhar. With the towering peaks in the background, the author has spun a web, and the lives of those living at the camp entangled into it, along with the proximity to nature and its forces.
Though human emotions are not very evident in the story, life and death formed an integral part of it, as difficult as life is, as easy is death. The relation between men and women is shown in a very light manner. Unlike other authors, who either forcefully put in a sex scene, or glorify one if they already have it in the script, the author here lets such scenes pass casually with dignified words and doesn’t dwell on it for long. It speaks volumes about the book and the author, that they ain’t gonna sink to sell.
I got highly confused with the timelines, however much I tried to figure out, the past and the present seemed so tightly intertwined that after a point of time, I gave up and started focusing solely on the story and the characters. There were a lot of backstories, in fact, all the characters have one which gave me a peek into their past to understand their present. Also, the background of the hydro project was too much for me to decipher with all its technicalities and words, I had hoped for a map and an explanation at the beginning, or maybe a glossary at the end which was missing.
The story moved effortlessly initially, the storytelling kept me hooked and excited. But something happened, I don’t know the exact starting point, that loosened the grip on me, and by the end, I felt dissatisfied. The ending felt hastened, rushed, and cramped into a non-significant number of pages as compared to the length the author took to introduce the characters and the plot, with the focus being shifted to the background rather than the characters and the plot. Had the flow not broken, it would have been a different kinda good book, unlike all the other romances and mythologies thronging the market. But still, it’s not a bad one, and definitely can be read for good.