A Hydel project in the remote HImalayas- three people brought together by fate.
Nanda an engineer from Kerala at the dam construction site, hiding from his past, from the law, torn between the love for his dear ones, and the kalari code of revenge.
Khusru, a youth displaced from his native village in Kashmir, a gambit in the terror plot that threatens to blow up the dam, working as a labourer at the site.
Rekha, a kathak dancer at heart, a doctor by profession, arrives at the campsite as the consort of Khusru.
A village that accepts the dictates of modernity with a heavy heart, its population steeped in superstitions and religious beliefs.
All throng the campsite like moths to a flame, some escape untouched,successful;some miss a step and perish. each has a story to tell and a dream to realise. Men and Dreams in the Dhauladhar is about the aspirations of these people, with their cares and worries woven to the site life. The fury of nature and hardships of project life have no mercy for the weak and no time for the dead.
Like an eternal spectator the Dhauladhar watches as men risk their lives and limb in the quest to fulfil their dreams.
About the author:
Kochery C. Shibu graduated from the prestigious National Defence Academy, Khadakwasla, in 1981. He has served in the Indian Navy and commanded two warships. Post his retirement he has executed hydroelectric projects in the Cauvery river basin in Karnataka, Beas river basin in Himachal and lately Teesta river basin in Sikkim.
He holds a postgraduate degree in Defence studies from Chennai University, and MA in English literature from Pune University.
Men and Dreams in the Dhauladhar is his debut novel. The technical content of the novel, namely the setting up of a hydroelectric project is drawn from his experience in these projects, as are many of the characters inspired from those whom he encountered on site.
He was born in Kochi and now lives in Bangalore with his wife and daughter.
I had read a lot of good reviews of this book which made me want to accept the review request. Men and Dreams in the Dhauladhar is a tech fiction/thriller that is based around a dam construction site and is narrated in multiple point of views.
If I have to describe this book in two words, I would choose the words DESCRIPTIVE and PROBLEMATIC.
Now, obviously, everybody has the right to dislike or like a book. While many of my friends and people that I know of have liked this book, I didn’t quite like it to say the least.
I appreciate the author’s way of describing things in details and I liked how the author wanted to give depth to almost every character. While I appreciate depth in characters and character driven stories, this one was a tad bit TOO descriptive.
There were too many characters and too many stories which proved difficult to remember. They had little to no relevance and it felt like a waste of my time to read about them (Indumati, Neelam, Katariina, her driver boyfriend). Some chapters were too lengthy and didn’t move the plot a single bit.
The plot is slow paced and the writing is very incoherent. It is patchy and doesn’t flow well which makes the reader hard to keep up and understand. I found it really hard to keep reading the book. I even considered putting it down and not finishing it.
I loved how the author described the natural settings in the book, be it Kerala or Mysore or Himachal or Deran. The nature and the imagery described in the book is indeed beautiful and soothing to picturize.
Nanda, considering he is the protagonist, had dialogues that can be literally counted on fingers which irked me way too much.
He barely even had a conversation with anyone at the site. He nodded or smiled or was shocked or traumatised. How can one go on without talking at all like that? It was very unrealistic.
The whole book is not dialogue heavy but prose heavy. So, I would say, if you aren’t into such books, do not pick it up. But if you love descriptions, this would prove to be a great read. I wish it had a balance between the two, though.
Coming to Khusru, I didn’t hate his character but I didn’t love him either. He could have been written in a much better way. He had a lot of potential, in my opinion. Something that disturbed me way too much was the rape incident where Khusru does nothing (even though he admits that it disturbed him), watches as a bystander and then, after the assault, kills the rapists and then, marries the victim? And the victim’s father urges Khusru to marry her? That was a very very disturbing scene. And it wasn’t well written at all.
And despite him talking about other Punjabi men treated kashmiri women as sex objects, all he did was the same.
The book is very problematic because it is highly sexist, in my opinion. Whenever a female character pops up, she is indulged in a sex scene and is portrayed as a sex object.
And the ease at which Khusru married women in such short periods of time, one after another, was cringy. He literally waits just a week to mourn his first wife and marries his dead wife’s sister.
Coming to Rekha, she is another character that I despised. Not just because of her poor choice in men (which was explained later) but also because she disappointed me. She was the only female in the whole book, who I thought, had some potential to be a strong female character but no. Justice was not done to her character either.
There were new characters being introduced even after 80% of the book got over and the plot was still moving at a snail’s pace.
The lives of labourers and lower class workers was beautifully written and portrayed. Nanda’s life and his ancestory reminded me a bit of The Godfather by Puzo, which I liked reading about.
I expected a whole range of events to take place considering the amount of suspense that was built up but what really happened didn’t suffice me.
Overall, I rate this book 2⭐/5.
Thanks to the author for sending me this review copy in exchange for an honest review.