Book Review: Godhuli – Memoirs of a Zamindar’s Son


Isn’t it fascinating how you and me – a complete strangers separated by miles – are able to share a brief moment through these words? This is also how I got to know Mr. Harihar Panda, the author of Godhuli about which I’m about to share with you.

In 2013 Mr. Harihar Panda contacted me via this blog and shared that he was in process of writing a memoir and would like to share a draft with me for my opinion. At that time he was concerned if his labour of love would find a publisher or not, as most publishers were (still are) interested in bestsellers and not memoirs. I read the draft and I liked it, and I wished him that he would definitely fetch some worthy publisher.
Now fast-forward to 2015, I received a hardbound copy of the book. Worthy things somehow find a way…

I’m not a history buff. I slept through most of our history classes and in the final examinations I wrote the story instead of the facts. And this is how I read Godhuli too: ignored the facts, consumed the story.

The book begins with author’s birth into an affluent zamindar’s (landlord’s) family in a village in Odisha, and then the subsequent chapters move on to recount the lives of his family members. But along with personal details, the repressive zamindari system and its fall carry forward as the main theme of the book.

Godhuli is not only a memoir but a glimpse of an significant era. It is a personal narrative with a glint of history, and I found the writing to be emphatic and articulate. My only reservation with the book is that at times the details appear undirected, and even if you skip few lines or a paragraph, you don’t lose track of the main theme. Also rather than dedicating a chapter to each character, I would have preferred the story to carry forward in one continuous flow.

As it is a first-hand narrative of history, I recommend it to anyone who is curious about how India shaped itself after independence, how it emerged through the long oppressive slavery and reinvented itself. If you’ve penchant for history, this could be a good start for you.

My Rating: ★★☆☆☆


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