“the novel, based on Jean Drèze’s observations as a young researcher in a real-life village, paints a compelling portrait of the darkness and light that invest the lives of villagers in northern India.”
NO MAJOR SPOILERS
Two Europeans with a love for India get together to complete the book that Belgian economist Jean Dreze embarked on in his youth. Rumble in a Village talks about the history of the village of Palanpur from the coming of trains to the 1980’s and the coming of modernity infused with a new state of corruption. Anil Singh, a London banker whose father was the zamindar of Palanpur but chose to abandon the village. Anil Singh’s uncle is murdered in the dramatic first chapter and his property goes to his only surviving relative. Deciding to explore the life of an Indian farmer, Anil comes down to Palanpur, armed with his father’s notes on the village and its intrigues.
He discovers that the present has roots in the past and the more things change, the more they remain the same. Feuds from colonial times are still in progress, the Muraos, the Dalits and the police have their own axes to grind and a frail old Dalit woman who couldn’t possibly have done it, has been arrested for the murder of Anil’s uncle simply because of her caste.
Life is made easier for the joint authors by the fact that past and present can have different styles of writing. Jean Dreze’s notes make for a detailed, humorous picture of village life seen through the eyes of an outsider who is yet an insider and the problems that administrative hierarchy and political machinations create.
Added 21st October 2020