Saturday, October 25, 2014

Book Review: Wings of Courage by Sanjay Kumar

It's been a while since I wrote on the blog. Let not that make you believe I haven't missed writing. It's just that, whenever I had a story idea in mind, my internet went for toss. And when the internet was working, I'd no longer have the time or inspiration to write. I had all but given up on this blog, when along came motivation in the form of a book review that I lunged at to break free of this spell of literary inactivity. 

Wings of Courage is a novel that aims at making its readers sit back and think. It puts forward the author's vision for a better India of tomorrow - low on crime and hatred, high on humanity and justice. And it does so by means, not of the Shashi Tharoor-esque visionary writing and idealization, but through a fictional thriller of a plot that draws on recent real-life incidents to drive home the author's idea of an ideal India. 

Penned by debutant author Mr. Sanjay Kumar (you can find him here), the book comes at an opportune time as India is currently witnessing a massive social upheaval buttressed by people's assertion of their rights as citizens and human beings. The Indian society is afflicted by a host of issues today - atrocities and discrimination against women, corruption in politics and public services, road rage, bribery, honour killings, social apathy and a general lack of humanity. These social evils aren't isolated incidents, but have deepened their roots into the very fabric of our being and thus affect us all as members of society, making our world a scary place to live in. Normally a country's government and security agencies would be concerned about ridding the society of crime and social ills, but when the political class itself has become an integral part of the entire setup, the onus of social change and reform comes down to the common people.

What our society needs today is for these very common people to realize what an infinite potential they hold inside them to change their life conditions and those of the world around them. Wings of Courage is a worthy step by the author towards fulfilling his responsibility in that direction and bringing awareness to young readers. By picking up incidents that have come to light in recent times, evoking public hue and cry and mobilizing the youth towards social causes, the author establishes an instant connect with his target audience - the youth which is full of energy and dissent towards social and political injustices.

The story starts with an introduction of its main characters Saksham, Divya, Asif and Aditya, a group of final year students looking forward to lucrative corporate careers, far removed from any realization of how the big bad world out there works. Their lives and friendships are transformed forever when Asif and Saksham board a bus one night. Here the author has successfully tried to give a fresh perspective on the recent tragic gang-rape incident by recounting, from the eyes of two passengers of that fateful bus, the events that preceded the gang-rape of the hapless young woman on 16th December 2012. The realization and the immense guilt that follow the next day when Saksham and Asif hear of the incident that occurred after they alighted from the bus the previous night, set the base for a series of episodes throughout the rest of the book where Saksham demonstrates the potential of a responsible common citizen towards ridding the society of its problems.

As the story progresses, the protagonist Saksham goes on to become a new-age hero - a harbinger of change. In collusion with the Almighty (yes, there's a slightly unreal twist to the story - Saksham can actually talk to God!) he tries to understand the problems of the world and to find out solutions to them. Several common problems like hit-and-run, petty corruption, bribery, political apathy and farmers' plights have been dealt with in a comprehensive and solution-oriented manner by the author. The book is gripping, interspersed with philosophical discourse, romance and even a hint of idealistic banter, yet not so much as to bore the reader. The end is a bit too dramatic for my taste, but it seemed like the only suitable end to the story and hence, gets a pass.

Having personally been involved in social work all of my adult life and being a reader and an observer, I know how deeply rooted our society's problems are. And yet they aren't irreparable. It could be a change as little as turning around your personal life, or as big as cleansing the country of corruption, but it's ultimately the action you take that matters, and not mere knowledge or intention. For me that is the mantra of the author that comes out well throughout the book.

The book is 312 pages long, priced at INR 250 and can be purchased here. Considering that it is the author's first book and his treatment of such sensitive subject matter is laudable, I would give it a rating of 3.5 on 5. Keep writing, Mr. Kumar!