Book Review : No Man's Land



The startling cover, which draws your attention to it and pulls you in; the cryptic back-cover story outline all conspire to create a desire to and an interest in reading this book - especially as it comes in the midst of an almost unprecedented land rush in India alongwith its attendant scams, accusations, tragic stories, stories of greed and criminal nexus. The entire first look of the book in your hands is one of an intriguing battle for land and its attendant schemes, making for an intriguing and absorbing tale of deceit, skullduggery and passion. Nothing could be further from the truth - at least in terms of the land battle. The book is an absorbing, intriguing and passionate story - but it has nothing to do about land, and everything to do about intense human emotions, passions and faults, an unforgettable and tragic tale of errors and of human folly. 

CHARACTERS
Agastya - A man of integrity - but twisted ideals and morals in terms of personal relations; the anti-hero - and a rank idiot
Shashwat - Awesome. Simply awesome. 
Ramdev- Agastya's father - and a man. A real man... with a blind spot - where Dushyant hides
Shailja - You be the judge. To me, an amoral and twisted personality
Pranay - A man trying to find his way in the big, bad world...
Karan - befits the name - in every sense of the word...
Shreya - Surprise Package
Shubhangi - Won my heart, and my respect. Period. 
Dushyant - Again, fits the name - Evil, The end justify the means - and never mind integrity
Chhaya - The hidden personality

THE PLOT
This book is not about the land; the land merely forms the principal background to the sequence of events that flow through a family. This is the story of Agastya, a man of integrity, but simultaneously also  a man of twisted morals, a man who has no qualms about keeping an illicit affair gping, a man with no courage to stand up for the woman he purports to have loved - in short, the story of the life of a complicated and complete idiot. It is the story of his follies, and his undeniable talent and hard work. It is the story of his life, his successes and his failures.

The book traces the life, of Agastya from a small shop to a thriving business in a few short years, alongwith with impossible affair with Shailja - which continues after her marriage - resulting in the birth of the illegitimate Karan. It traces his fight with Dushyant, his brother-in-law, and the increasing distance between him and his immediate family. This is where the land comes in - and Agastya, one fine day, decides that if he can do it once, he can do it again. He quits his business, asks only for the land in return, and sets about building it into a thriving agricultural business. This is the story of Agastya, and his best friend Shashwat - who stays by him at all times - through thivk and thin.

This is also the story of Shubhangi, a loyal devoted wife - who quits her husband the moment he confesses to the affair with Shailja. This alienates the entire family, leaving his son Pranay in a boarding school as Shubhangi cannot recover from the shock. This is the story of predatory intent as shown by Dushyant and Chhaya; this is the story of straight-laced and honest decency as shown in Ramdev, Agastya's father. This is the story of his 2 sons - Agastya and Pranay, who fate, and society has pitted in a remorseless vortex that threatens to dissolve into mayhem

And this is the story of the land- the last on the camel's back in an already divided family, a land that becomes pivotal. For the second time, Agastya has built something from scratch. The first time, he walked away from what was his right - given that he and Shashwat built it up. They did it yet again - only, this time, Agastya is bed-ridden, and on his last days. This sets the scene for mayhem, as Pranay, Karan, Shailja, Shreya, Dushyant all get entangled in this mess... all brought about by one man rank idiocy... a story of the mistakes of the life of Agastya!

THE ANALYSIS
From start to finish, the book is an enthralling and absorbing read. It is a compelling story, tragic in some ways, heart-warming in others. The narrative is powerful, engaging and disturbing - despite this, it is a puller, as it doesn't leave a tinge in your heart. Instead, it keeps you wondering what will happen next. This is a book  to be savoured slowly; it is not a book  to read in 2 hours and throw. It is a book to be relished, read slowly and absorbed - letting the characters grow into you

The characterisation has focussed more on the internal attributes that make up each individual in this kaleidoscope on the life of Agastya. You dont form an image of the person as such; but you get deep insights into the personality of each individual. In keeping with the story, each character has several tones, and does not fit into any stereotype. This is a grey story - and all the people are grey - Ramdev, Shubhangi and Shashwat apart, who manage to shine like diamonds in an otherwise amoral bunch of rascals. 

It is a very involved, deep and multi-layered story, focussing on individual relationships, the pulls and pressures that operate on each person, the desires and ambitions of each, and the thoughts and the reactions - which make for a highly charged, passionate, deep and intense human story. It is not a make-believe world, it comes across as a real-world situation, where each character is given several choices - and the choices actually chosen determine the story, and are dependent on the personality of each person. 

It has been very well presented, and keeps the interest alive throughout. The pace is just right for such a deep, multi-layered and intensely human story - slow but not languorous, deliberate but not boring. The reader tends to flow alongwith the story, getting involved, getting angry and frustrated at that fool Agastya, getting angry at the machinations of Dushyant. You start to identify with each character deeply, which indicated that somewhere along the line, the author has managed to make a deep and lasting connect with the reader...  



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