I had won the book Shamsuddin’s Grave during the Book Club’s Tornado 2 challenge last year. It lay on my shelf close to 6 months. Positive reviews about the book led me to read it. It is an amazing book and deals with a topic which nobody in our country wants to know or discuss about. It is about the life of Shamsuddin who is a migrant labourer. He finds himself at the bottom of the vote value hierarchy. He says it himself that he is a migrant and also a Muslim. He has no ration card or identification. Being shuttled between Indian and Bangladeshi authorities, he has lost his own sense of identity.
The story is set in North East India in Assam. It talks about how NGOs deal with people who lead wretched lives. Child-trafficking is also a core subject. I was impressed with the level of detailing put in by the author Paromita Goswami. It is impressive to note that it is her debut novel. I have a full-fledged review coming up.
I had asked her how did she research for the book. How many of the characters were based on real life characters?
Thanks Paromita for your beautiful and insightful response.
My protagonist, Latika, is a social activist, therefore the book has lots of NGO activities. The story of my book is based in Guwahati, Assam, my homeland. So I knew about the traditions and culture practiced there. But what I wanted to highlight was the influx of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh that is posing a big threat to the state’s economy as well as the country’s. Because of them, the natives are suffering both economically and politically. Today we are the highest in terms of population and in a way these immigrants have a major contribution in that. How? That you can check out in my book.
My research took one year of getting data, reading articles, speaking to the natives and another year to put facts and figures into the fiction. Child trafficking is one part of the book that I would like to highlight and for that, I would like to mention the help I got from Mr. Rakesh Senger, Bachpan Bachao Andolan, New Delhi. This NGO is working day and night to rescue the trafficked children from all over the country. Hats off to them!
Shamsuddin’s Grave is inspired by real life incidents and many of its characters are for real. You can relate to them in some way or the other, Latika, an independent woman, Shamsuddin, a daily wager, Snehlata, an old lady of the Hindu community who migrated from Bangladesh during the partition. How their circumstances collide and make them dependent on each other for survival and hope.