the good book corner

Manuscript help, book reviews and author interviews

The Lives of Others – Neel Mukherjee; reviewed by Sravasti Ghosh Dastidar


Fascinating insight into the Naxalite Movement

Born in the late 60s and early 70s, we heard horrific tales of the brightest youth of our family and friends having died or lost during the Naxalite Movement. It was an ardent cause, which faltered due to many reasons. But left many a person thinking, like the interrogator in Neel Mukherjee’s Lives of Others, why the masterminds didn’t dabble in it briefly and return to their comforts? They believed they could change the world. Is it really possible to change the world? To change others’ lives?

Reading the book in the 200th year of Presidency College Kolkata, I felt an unnerving connection to the setting and events. This august institution housed the best brains of the country, quite a few of which were dazzled by the idealism of Charu Mazumdar.

It was an era of terror – in every family in Bengal. To the government, the Naxalites were terrorists. To the downtrodden farmers terrorized by the jotedaars and moneylenders, they were saviours helping them to live decently. The youths’ families were in constant terror of never seeing them return.

Their fight involved backbreaking labour while experiencing the same hunger and thirst that the poor suffered daily. If they returned, they were hunted down and killed either in prisons or in fake encounters. Did this deter the movement? Idealism may not be ruling the minds now but the exploitation of the poor, remains the same. The nomenclature has changed to ‘Maoist movement’ and is still causing sleepless nights for the administration.

Pedantic only at times, Mukherjee succeeded in holding my attention to the saga of the venomous minds of myriad characters of a South Calcutta business family. The decadence that had started setting in at that time in Bengal, has settled well now. The Bengali reader easily relates to the vernacular nuances abundant in the novel. Not sure how a non-Bengali speaking reader will relate to it. However, since it was nominated for the Man Booker Prize in 2014, it must have cut across the barrier due to the sheer strength of the theme and story-weaving skills.

A chapter involving how some city-bred youth lust for the innocent yet sensuous tribal women, reminded me of Ray’s Aranyer Din Ratri. This seemed redundant.

The details of the protagonist’s experiences of village and forest life, and the torture of the Naxal suspects by the police, are riveting, to say the least.

Titli_12525373_10156425547495332_7435685478530759427_o Sravasti started her career as an English Teacher and Lecturer. She changed her career path to the world of IT as a functional expert, technical writer, website developer, and project coordinator in varied domains. She specializes in SEO-based content research. She successfully combines her skills in writing and her hobby in photography to write travel and lifestyle articles for magazines and newspapers.


About artikaaurorabakshi

Artika Aurora Bakshi Artika Aurora Bakshi is the author of three well-acclaimed children’s books,My Little Sikh Handbook, My Little Sikh Handbook 2: Ardas, My Little Sikh Handbook: Travel Journal, and an anthology of stories, Hold On To Me. Her first story, set in Amritsar, during the pre-Partition period, All She Had Left, was published on Story Mirror. She co-manages, a manuscript help and book review site. Her passion for reading has led her to helping other writers with their manuscripts. She comes from a family of lawyers and has a master’s degree in International Banking & Finance. Currently based in Sri Lanka, she teaches Commerce and History on a part-time basis at an international school and enjoys being part of the literary scene in Sri Lanka. A regular at the Galle Literary Festival and other literary events in Sri Lanka, Artika’s articles and book reviews have featured in the Daily Mirror, Daily News, The Ceylon Chronicle, and various blogs, such as,,, She was actively involved with SAARC Women’s Association of Sri Lanka and was President of the Association in 2016. An avid reader, Artika runs an online book club with a membership base of over 600 members. Her quotes are featured under soul.nightingale on Instagram and on Soul Nightingale by Artika Aurora Bakshi on Facebook. Artika is also working on her fourth children’s book in the My Little Sikh Handbook series and a second anthology of stories for adults. You can reach Artika at .

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