WRITING STYLE: 3.5/5
ENTERTAINMENT QUOTIENT: 3.5/5
Though November is supposed to be a non-fiction month (see non-fiction November), I somehow find myself devouring an increasing number of fictions as the days go by. Men and Dreams: In the Dhauladhar was sent to me by the author Kochery C. Shibu just a couple of days back. The cover and blurb were interesting enough and I postponed reading a couple of non-fiction books which I had been planning to read.
Let’s dig the story
A major part of Men and Dreams: In the Dhauladhar is set in the backdrop of Dhauladhar mountain range of the Himalayas. Nanda is a civil engineer who has been evading the law. He ran away from his home in Kerala after a fiasco he was unwillingly involved in. He found distraction and tranquillity in the snowy caps of Dhauladhar, where he has been working on a hydropower dam project.
Khusru, a Kashmiri lad, is yet another character who was left to the quirks of destiny when he was recruited by the enemy as one of “Allah’s fighters”. Torn between the love for his life and the love for his motherland, Khusru unwittingly becomes a wanted face on both sides of the border.
Rekha is a talented Kathak dancer whose love for classical fusion has made her a known face all over the world. But even with so many suitable men at her feet, the guy who will make her heart go “Dha Dhin Dhin Dha” remains elusive. This beautiful story sees the world of Nanda, Khusru and Rekha collide and brings them together on a challenging path.
Because variety is the very spice of life
The thing that strikes you the most about Men and Dreams: In the Dhauladhar is the variety of its characters. The characters hail from totally different backgrounds and yet the story effortlessly brings them together with a narrative which is both absorbing and stimulating. The story takes the reader from the sleepy villages of Kerala to the performance theatres of Europe to the dusty lanes of Karachi to finally the beautiful snow-capped mountains of Dhauladhar. It was also great fun to read about the ethnic backgrounds of the characters. Knowing about the Kalari form of martial arts was as interesting as knowing about Urdu speaking Mohajirs of Pakistan.
It has that perfect mix of interesting plots, subplots, characters, and mysterious build-ups that make a book worth reading.
The plot is absolutely brilliant
Before I go into what this book lacks, I must tell you that I was unquestionably impressed by the storyline and theme. It has that perfect mix of interesting plots, subplots, characters, and mysterious build-ups that make a book worth reading. Shibu manages to bring together a story that is uniquely and refreshingly different.
The characters grow on you
I simply loved how the characters evolved with the plot’s progress. There was not an ounce of similarity in the three main characters and yet, in the end, they blended in effortlessly with the story and with each other. As I read more and more about them, they started to grow on me. I also enjoyed how the background of the characters was imagined, with stories often going back two to three generations.
Mixed thought about the writing style
When it comes to the prose, I have mixed feelings about Men and Dreams: In the Dhauladhar. The book started off really well. The book’s beginning seemed to flow naturally. Subsequently, the storyline becomes sluggish. As the mystery slowly weans off, the book becomes monotonous. The character introduction which was the best part of the book in its first 100 pages, became a deadbeat when they didn’t stop even halfway through the book.
That which made me sad
What upset me the most about Men and Dreams: In the Dhauladhar, was that there were more pages dedicated to the characters’ development and their individual subplots than to the main plot. Instead of making the story move forward, the book illogically kept focusing on the completion of the Dam project. There were pages and pages dedicated to the boring technical details of the project. I would have loved if the ISI and Mossad angle was explored a bit more instead of the labour issues and the mundane daily life at the project site. I read from the introduction that the author wrote this part from his experience at various such projects but such technicalities, I guess, were a bit too much for an average reader like me.
Climax was a let-down
The climax could have been better. It should have been action filled, fast paced and intriguing. But these approaches weren’t explored substantially. The book drew off to a speedy and abrupt end. I didn’t get a fair conclusiveness as there were too many loose ends in the story. I was too invested in the stories of Khusru and Rekha, but in the end, their story was hurriedly concluded.
Entertaining, eh? Some mixed thoughts here as well
I read Men and Dreams: In the Dhauladhar in three parts – first 80 pages, next 100 pages and finally right until the end. The first 80 pages were thrilling. I just fell love with Shibu’s writing and I just couldn’t wait to get to the end. But the next 100 pages literally lulled me to sleep. The story became dull with zero action and the character introductions became repetitive. But once I manoeuvred my way through these 100 pages, the momentum picked up again. In the end, despite these minor flaws (which I am sure will improve as the author’s writing matures), the book was a good read – definitely worth one’s time, effort and money.
Stay away if
Stay away from Men and Dreams: In the Dhauladhar if you can’t stomach too much technical information especially those about dam constructions.
Pick it up if
Pick it up if you are looking for a fresh story and you easily fall in love with fictional characters. This book is a good piece of Indian fiction with a refreshing story and an exclusive cast of characters.