Rupa Publications’s latest novel Feet in the Valley is the story of a young man Somen, son of an honest railway official, who is trying desperately to redeem himself in the eyes of his small railway town community in Odisha—they have already written him off as a ‘failure’ who could not clear the Indian civil service exams.
Authored by Aswini Kumar Mishra, Feet in the Valley describes how, with the support of his family, Somen negotiates the serpentine path to success. Along the way, he must come to terms with many challenges and frustrations both at a personal and social level—from the venal and widespread corruption of the local public administration officials who treat drought relief funds as their personal bonuses, to the shameless culture of kowtowing to senior officials in exchange for favours; from the anger and satisfaction of supporting the forest dwellers in their struggles, to sorting out his own love-life. More than once, Somen is tempted to take the easy way out and abandon his ethics in pursuit of material success, but with the example of his honest father before him and his mother’s unwavering faith, he soldiers on.
The book gives the reader an unstinting picture of how corruption, nepotism and the culture of ‘bada sahibs’ pans out at a local level. It also paints a sharp outline of the pressures and pleasures of small-town social life, the idealism of love based on trust and mutual respect, and reinforces the message that the small guy can not only survive, but even triumph!
About the author:
Aswini Kumar Mishra is the current Secretary of the Odisha Sahitya Akademi. Feet in the Valley is his maiden English novel. He is a retired officer of Odisha’s state civil service.