After she finished writing her first novel Riverstones,which Kota Neelima describes as an intimidating task for a journalist,she realised she had one more hidden inside her. Two years on,Death of a Moneylender,her second book,which is also an account of the plight of the farmers in rural India,was released in the city today.
The book was launched by publishers Roli Books at the Constitution Club in Delhi. The event was attended by Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit and Corporate and Minority Affairs minister Salman Khurshid.
In 2005,Neelima,a former correspondent with The Indian Express,began travelling through villages in Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra,talking to farmers,assessing their lives and in the course collecting material for her first book. But while the first book was about the extent and cause of farmer suicides,the second novel delves deep into the dilemmas of a journalist assigned to a remote village in south-central India where a moneylender has been found hanging from a lamp-post in front of his house. When Falak,a reporter and one of the main characters in the novel,reaches the village,he realises theres more to the death than just the angst of the villagers suffering under the yoke of failed crops.
The moneylender was a generous man who could have written off the loans but was killed to intimidate other moneylenders.
This is an idea that developed because of my travels, she added. Neelima,who has been a journalist for 15 years covering politics and agriculture,said each time she was sent on a reporting assignment,she came back to the newsroom with two stories.
One story was journalistic,while and the other one was based on my perceptions, she said. The village could be anywhere in India. I want to tell the stories the way they are.
In this book she has sought to detail a reporters obsession with a front-page byline,laced with her experience on the field.
Responding to a question asked by Jamia Millia University spokesperson Rakshanda Jaleel,Neelima said she was inspired by her father,also a senior journalist,who she observed during the 1980s.
CM Sheila Dikshit said Neelimas travels lend the fictional account certain genuineness. I know it is a genuine book. Neelima is a wonderful,concerned human being. She tries to understand things, she said.
When asked if there was any solution to the problems faced by the farmers,Neelima said loan waivers had helped but they came a little late:
The farmers should be offered better prices. And announcements of help should not wait for the elections.