Book Review - The Folded Earth

by Anuradha Roy

I had this book in my library for a few months and did not start reading it until today. The setting is a small mountain town in Uttarakand on the slopes of Himalayas. This is one of those books that does not take itself seriously. The story intervenes the life of people separated by caste, economy, social stature and thankfully the book does not judge these people but the writing makes the reader painfully aware of the injustice in the name of religion, politics, caste and makes the reader apply these injustices to the world he lives in and question the status-quo.

Maya is a widow living in Raniket, a quiet hill town still untouched by the modernism of the world trying to put her painful past behind unsuccessfully. A love marriage without her parent’s approval means she is effectively an orphan even though she had relatives. She lives in a cottage rented from Diwan Sahib, a proud man of Nehru era. Slowly in the book, we are introduced to a multitude of characters like Charu, veer, Charu’s uncle and grandmother.

The book clearly showcases how we destroy everything that is innocent in the name of culture. A man not right in his mind is bullied, beaten and thrown in jail because he is filthy and does not deserve the civilization that is visualized by a man who believes he is epitome of what culture is about. Then Politics wrecks havoc on the town promising development, wealth and all that people get in the end is violence and cynicism about the nature of government.

The future of Maya’s school, her town where people are connected to nature comes under threat in the form of new town administration and elections. The book traces the effect of these on the town and people, how it changes them and the indirect cost that people pay in the end. The character I most identified and sympathized with is Puran, a man who loves animals and not right in his head who is repeatedly tortured under the guise of improving social condition. Then there is his cousin Charu who inadventently hurts Puran when she is consumed by her pain. She is in pain, she forgot her uncle who is dependent on her for a lot of things(one of the two who care about Puran) and that is natural. We all sometimes hurt our friends and family when we are going through tough times. I think this is what endeared me to this book, it shows different shades of each character but does not judge them in any way leaving the burden to the reader’s conscience. This is the first book that made me understand the phrase often I see in movie reviews this movie does not judge but tells a story.

To me the only thing that got on my nerves is the sub-plot between Maya and Veer. I found it unnecessary to the overall plot arch, just tacked on because the protagonist is expected to love someone. The way their story was concluded was unbelievable in the sense that the odds of something happening like in the book is very very low. It just was an unnecessary sub-plot that did not do anything to Maya’s character expect make her a bitter person in the end for no reason except to be.

I have dreamed for a long time to escape the city life and move to a quieter place like the one described in the book, you know live with nature😉 but this book is a stark reminder that the pain I experience is not because of the city but because of humans and you cannot just escape the place where you are but learn to accept and deal with the things that you don’t agree with.

This is a great book that doesn’t try itself to be intelligent but rather get on with the story. It leaves some sub-plots unresolved but I liked them that way.