India has always been subjected to feudalism, be it either by the British or later by our own people who were powerful enough to suppress others in the society. The book, Alms in the Name of a Blind Horse, originally written by the revered novelist Gurdial Singh and titled ‘Anhe Ghore Da Daan’ is a macro-narrative that revolves around the lives of people of a village.
Translated from Punjabi by Rana Nayar, this novella is set against the backdrop of a village in Punjab. The story constitutes narration of a few people’s lives that belong to that village. Keeping the same background, the story keeps shifting from one person to the other, thus, making it a collection of micro-narratives in one single book.
While Gurdial Singh’s capability to shift from one character to the other has been complimented widely, this can at times, be distractive for a reader who finds himself in the midst of something else out of the blue.
A powerful factory owner razes the house of a villager whose plot happens to fall on the land owned by the factory. As an obvious reaction, the elders of the village gather to decide the future course of action.
They keep running from pillar to post in order to find a solution but the question is: will they succeed in doing so? For that, you need to read the book before watching its movie adaptation which goes by the same title, ‘Anhey Ghore Da Daan’ and has been directed by Gurvinder Singh.
At times, the book can be boring to read as it is devoid of plot points and has no commercial material to cater to the needs of an Indian reader. However, we should also not forget that Gurdial Singh was an author of the days when the art of writing was not a commercial affair but largely done out of sheer passion for literature coming from a rich intellectual background.
Singh carefully set in motion right from the beginning the obvious fallout of the story, however, careful enough to not give out the catharsis. Nayar, too, maintains the same quite professionally. In the onset, through several markers and indicators, Singh has painted a grim picture that gives a reader an understanding that the end is going to be equally gloomy.
However, to know what happens, you must go through the book till the end.