Farmer suicides are unfortunately a ‘dog bites man’ story in journalism parlance, but Falak Anand is sent to a remote village in south central India to cover an almost ‘man bites dog’ version- a money lender has been found hanging, and an entire village is suspect.
I quite liked the book for the premise, and the subject matter, because while this is a work of fiction, it gives a lot of perspective on the conditions and circumstances that forces a farmer to take his own life – crop cycles, dependence on rain/sun, credit facilities which show the reasons why farmers are forced to go to moneylenders despite the existence of banks, market economics and the wily middlemen, and the abject poverty that all these factors collectively land the farmer in. Add to this, a corrupt set of politicians and file-pushing bureaucrats, and the farmer is left with no other choice.
In the context of the book, it takes the death of a decent moneylender who wishes well for the farmers, for this stranglehold to be loosened.
Now, while I understand that the author has taken pains to ensure that the inhumanity of it all gets drilled into us, I felt that, as a work of fiction, it could’ve been edited better, especially the last 30 (about) pages, especially since the climax is quite predictable and given away by the summary.
Also, except for Falak’s character, which dominates the proceedings, the others tend to be just supportive and all too stereotyped, despite a setting I haven’t encountered much before.
But I’d still recommend it for sensitizing us to an India that is somehow forgotten amidst our relatively trivial urban dramas.