Book Review: No Man’s Land
“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 land stays where it is unmoved and sterile. That is its beauty”
– Nilesh Shrivastava, Author, No Man’s Land
This is a story of a dysfunctional Indian family and its fights against and within to save their familial agricultural land, which is close to falling prey to the likes of Urban development and greedy landlords. Agastya, a hard-working businessman gives up on his business and decides to take up farming in a 50 acres land in the suburbs of Delhi. With his continued striving’s and perseverance, he builds a wonderful farm that gives him a satisfaction which his previous occupation did not give. Thus, begins his love affair with farming and after 20 years of farm life, he knows he needs to divide his wealth amongst his two sons – Pranay, the younger, well-mannered, legal one and Karan, the elder, rash yet smooth son born out of wedlock. And then there is Shashwat, Agastya’s trusted companion and business help and Shreya, Pranay’s girlfriend with a dark past with Karan. Agastya doesn’t want to sell his land to the never-ending list of interested builders, who have been eyeing his land with great greed. But will his sons preserve his farm like he did?
The story is slow-paced, while the author utilizes it to build his characters. Agastya is truly dislikable, even with his business skills and successes. Pranay and Karan’s characters have been developed well, giving details to their emotions and thoughts. On the other hand, Shreya’s character seems a little hazy. She comes out as a bold and admirable character in the beginning but turns into a darker, unexplainable one as the story proceeds. I am not sure if the author intended it that way or if the character lost its sheen with the complicated plot. Similarly, Shashwat’s character of a trusted confidante, who always seems to know the answer for all of Agastya’s troubles seems to lose sight in the second half.
Rarely do you get to see contemporary Indian authors handling current issues like forcible land acquisition, corruption etc. in a fiction. Mr. Shrivastava has not only highlighted this issue but also invokes in you a feeling of helplessness at the current phase of India’s so-called development that is wiping out the fertile agricultural lands, through his story. He also has a knack for story telling that is seen in the latter half of the book. With intricate characters and mild twists in the plot, the reader tends to forget the slow and somewhat irksome pace of the book. Being the author’s second book, the author shows promise.
Though this book was interesting for me at certain parts, especially the ending, I am not sure if all readers would appreciate it like I did.
This book would make a better movie script than a novel but try it if you are in the mood for a somber read.
Browse through the full list of book reviews in the depths of the Pensieve.