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Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Legend of Ramulamma by Vithal Rajan

Title:  The Legend of Ramulamma
Authors: Vithal Rajan
Category: Fiction
Publisher: Hachette India
Date: 2014
Price: Rs. 350
Pages: 200

Snapshot: This book has a very fresh concept about a forty year old lady (a dalit midwife) playin a detective. 

The Review: The book had it all, an impressive blurb which promised adventures of an unusual character, plus a great cover page to get me reading it the very day it arrived. Ramulamma is a dalit mid-wife, called dai in India, who lives by doing odd jobs and helping people by here clever observations and quick summation of facts. 

 The first story is the best one where she manages to bring justice to the case of a poor low caste girl being raped by rich spoilt brats. What was more realistic was that the justice was realistic and practical, something that forms the solid core of all the stories. The outcome of the cases was the most critical balance and a huge challenge for the author. 

The stories like She Closes The Case and The Case Of The Missing Necklace became my next favourites wherein Ramulamma scores again in her simple, indirect yet emphatic manner. While in stories like The Grandest Wedding In Town and The Visitor,  Ramulamma is that silent spectator who simply acts in the end like the schocking twist in a movie. 

The book in many ways highlights the plight of the poor and the middle class. How birth could dictate more than it should. On the other hand it also provides light at the end of the tunnel in the form of a central character that within its limits ensures that justice in the least, may not be direct, even if indirect is served to the innocent. Also as I always mention in each review where a collection of short stories by just one author is involved that maintaining uniqueness in each of them is crucial and Vithal Rajan manages to do that quiet effortlessly.

Positives: The concept is fresh and unheard of. A brave attempt with an unusual central character who acts Sherlock. Each story is crisp, unique and most plots are good. The language is simple. The most impressive part being that the cases are not blown up, nor is the character to do justice to the outcome of the cases. Each outcome is measurable, achievable and very realistic.

Negatives:  In the story A Cure For Sugunamma the fact that she knew more than doctors was hard to digest for the biologist in me. In fact the entire story was out of theme and couldn't match up to the others and should have been replaced by a case. The story A Million Protesters again does establish principles and adds one more chapter confirming Ramulamma's observations but fails compared to the others in terms of plot and execution.

Overall better selection of stories could have made this book exemplary and Ramulamma's character could have been The Sherlock Dai of India, but that is missed by a few points. 

The Verdict: Having said everything because I did enjoy the rest of the stories I would love to have the author tell us more of Ramulamma's adventures and if there ever is a second book I shall be the first one to pick it up, for the character is brilliant. 3.5 stars on 5. Definitely worth a read.

I am eager to read other books by the author like: Holmes of The Raj, the Year of High Treason and Jungu -The Baiga princess.

About the Author

Vithal Rajan did his PhD from the London School of Economics. He was the first executive director of the Right Livelihood Award Foundation, Sweden, popularly known as the Alternative Nobel Prize. He has founded and managed several NGOs in India. In 2006, he was made an officer of the order of Canada for high merit and lifetime achievement in the service of humanity. He is also the author of Holmes of the Raj, Sharmaji Padmashree, The Legend of Ramulamma and several short stories.

I thank Hachette India for a review copy.