HYDERABAD: Shibu Kochery has seen hope survive in the depths of desperation. While working with hydroelectric projects in some of the harshest regions of the country, he got to meet a variety of people whose very existence depended on hope. During 27 years serving the Indian Army and later working on private sector projects in the
Cauvery, Beas and Teesta basins, Kochery gathered stories that must be told. In 2009, Men and Dreams finally took shape. The book involved four years of committed work including research, writing, editing and publishing. “Most readers are skeptical of Indian writing in English. They are afraid that the book may not have enough substance,” says the author.
But after the book was published, Kochery has managed to win over the sceptical. This is mostly because the book makes an honest enquiry into history to understand the present. The author decided to incorporate two different styles in this book, so it is written partly as a quick read and partly as a contemplative narrative. “I feel this way I have given birth to a new style,” says Kochery.
One of the biggest challenges Indian English writers face is translating their regional context into a foreign language. Kochery has found an innovative way around it, he does not confine himself to English. He uses different languages to transport the reader to different places. To him, language is an ever- evolving thing. “We must strive to find a link between English and other languages, so that people connect to the story,” he says. So, protagonists from all over the world who are faced with similar situations meet on the pages of Men and Dreams.
Writing such a multi-layered piece of work was tough, admits Kochery. “By 2005, I was travelling from Bengaluru to Palampur regularly. I had too many plots in my mind. But when I sat down to write, I told myself: I cannot tell all stories. So I narrowed it down,” he says. He had two aims -- it has to be different and it had to encapsulate camp life. “In 2009, I stopped reading all fiction. I did not want any influence to creep in,” he says.
As for camp life, the book takes a close look at hierarchies, the value systems of a whole new world, where people come together with a definite goal of completing a project in four-five years.
“There were people who would come from Nepal, risking their life, because they believed at the end of the project, they would get paid enough to have a happy life back home,” Shibu recollects. It is the tale of such beliefs that this book captures.
The story traverses different parts of the world, but is set in the foothills of the Himalayas. We meet an engineer from Kerala, a youth displaced from his village in Kashmir and a doctor, a Kathak dancer at heart, in Dhauladhar village. Men and Dreams is available at leading bookstores.