Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Book Review - Ri : Homeland of Uncertainty by Paulami DuttaGupta

Author: Paulami DuttaGupta
ISBN-13: 978-8192893730
Binding: Paperback
Publisher: Fablery publications
Number of pages: 127
Genre: Fiction
Language: English
Price: Rs.150 (Got a review copy from the author)

About the book

About the Book: Trapped in the limbo between ideology and conscience, Manbha finds himself part of a terror outfit. An unexpected opportunity, anger, squalor and disillusionment - followed by armed combat and injury lead to the soul-searching that form the substance of this moving tale.

About the Author

Born in Shillong, many moons ago, with schooling at Loreto Convent, and an English Honors from St Edmunds College, Paulami started her career with 'All India Radio Shillong'. She wrote and also gave her voice to a few shows there. Later, she came down to Kolkata and got a post graduate degree in Comparative Literature from Jadavpur University. She had also taken a fancy to learning Spanish, but today confesses that she has forgotten most of it. In the past, she has written for 'The Times of India' in the 'Guwahati- Shillong Plus' edition and also 'The Shillong Times'. Television had always attracted her and was connected to the Bangla TV industry for about 6 years. She was associated with ETV- Bangla, Akash Bangla and Sony Aath in this period. Having left her day job in 2012, Paulami took up full time writing. Her first novel 'Pinjar' released in early 2012. She has also contributed to 'Minds@work' anthology and 'Family Matters' international anthology in 2013. Her second novel 'Unplanned Destiny' released in 2014. She is also the screenplay writer of the National Award winning Khasi film - Ri Homeland of Uncertainty. When she is not writing or watching movies, Paulami is either reading biographies or classic pieces of literature. Cricket, food, cinema, books and music are an integral part of her life.

Gaurav says

Ri, a Khasi word for ‘homeland’ takes us to a journey of the heartlands of Meghalaya, Shillong and the India-Bangladesh borders. Along with the varied geographical locations, this book takes you inside the minds of freedom fighters and law keepers. Political scenario, just after thirty years of independence, was much more intense and gory than it is today. Terrorists were gunning down innocents, who sided with the law. The police were nabbing down extremists through fake encounters. Between these two debacles, the northeastern states become unwitting victims. The civilians are torn between ideologies. They are resenting of the ‘local-outsider’ rift. On the other hand, the media glorifies the continuous failures of the administration to contain terrorism. What’s interesting is the drawn parallels between the thought process of the central freedom fighter, Manbha and the SP of Police, Kyndiah. Both want to fight for their beliefs. The former knows in his heart that freedom is the only solution to the excesses of the military. The latter knows that eradicating terrorizing patriots like Manbha, can truly bring peace.

The novel starts in July at Shillong with Kyndiah, weary of a pesky journalist trying to get a scoop out of him. As he steps out from his car to enter the Secretariat’s Office, journalists hound him for information on a fake encounter. The novel quickly moves on to an infiltration of India-Bangladesh border and from then on, to the terrorist camp. Here we read about fellow liberators Steve, George and Kyrmen who plans to exhibit ‘real fireworks’ on the upcoming Independence Day celebration.  
As the plot thickens, we get to learn about the inner conflicts of Kyndiah. He is conflicted between his work and family. He has distanced himself from his relatives while he considers his junior comrades as his own blood. He is troubled by his job. A good night’s sleep is luxury for him. A social life is a blessing. His inner sanctum of peace and calmness is completely shattered. He is under pressure by his seniors to bring atrocities under check. He despises the media and yet he harbors a strong opinion about Janet, a revered journalist. 

Kyndiah’s dilemmas are perfectly brought in sync with that of Manbha. He is in his 20s who left his home in search of a higher truth-freedom! What interested me is that he is equally disillusioned about his fight. Just like Kyndiah, he takes orders of shooting and bombing from his seniors. He is not sure whether his revolutionary ideologies have lost their meaning. At first sight, he is resolute, composed and ruthless. However, on further inspection, he is soft towards his comrades’ inhumanness, meted out to his own Khasi people. He has lofty dreams of bringing independence to Meghalaya. However, he doubts his own aspirations when confronted with reasonable arguments by one of his hostages, Emika. The ultimate showdown between the police and the terrorists is something to look for in the book. 

In true sense, Ri is indeed a homeland of uncertainty. Every gunshot, bombing and encounter reeks of corruption and military barbarousness. It evokes among the Khasis, one of Shakespeare’s famous quote, ‘to be, or not to be’. It means, they want to break away from the Indian union but not sure whether they’ll survive on their own.

The book is a solid page-turner. Paulami DuttaGupta recites the incidents as if they are unfolding right before your eyes. Never would you find a dull moment in the narrative. It will keep you hooked on to the finale, until you reach the last line and realize the bigger picture at play.

Reviewed by Gaurav Dutta for Dreams and Drama :)

Catch my take on the book release event here.


  1. Everyone is reading amazing books and here I am who has read like 4 or 5 books this year.
    I feel stooopid.

  2. The review is nice and reminds me of 'Boats on Land' by Janice Pariat. It is also based on NE


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