Donoor’s Curse is a story woven around the village of Donoor; a village steeped in superstition. Or so it may seem. But when Devdutt Pathak loses his godfather, who has very wisely or unwisely left him clues, Dev heads out to the village to find out why his baba was unceremoniously snatched from him. What follows is a thrilling story of adventure and revelations and shocks, woven in with Dev’s spasms of alcoholic craving.
Donoor’s Curse, in all its thrill, is full of metaphors that say a lot more about life that we’d want them to. And a few quotes that randomly jump out at you from the pages and give you gooseflesh merely because they are so good! Here are a few examples:
His remote had often gone exploring in the past. It had always found its way back. It would this time too.
The harder you wanted to grab on, the slippery they became, these pictures. Everything had to pass, and did.
To make something hard to find, you have to clothe it in something open and legitimate.
There are a few lines in the book that make you pause and ponder. They make you think of what your feelings about the subject in hand actually are. Some lines are heartbreaking even while being merely a way for a character to vent their anger. Agreement, disagreement, anger, joy! The author unleashes every single emotion through those few lines and succeeds in making the reader speculate, not only about the story, but also about life in general.
Dev says: “There is no Baba, so Baba doesn’t matter anymore.” And I disagree wholeheartedly with him. People matter even when they are gone. Their death matters. Their memories, even more so. It reiterates the fact that however estranged you might be, family is family. Even the one you make by choice in the big, bad world.
Donoor’s Curse envelops bizarreness, unparalleled masochism, a world of hallucinations, closure, fury at loneliness, confusing confrontation, fear, pain, angst, well-written and intelligent analogies, dry humor (you don’t know whether to laugh or to cringe; you smile anyway), vague explanations, sinister warnings, eyebrow-raising facts, creating and confirming suspicions, eeriness, and a heady sense of déjà vu into a science fiction thriller that has you on tenterhooks all the time.
Sharath Komarraju has a very colloquial style of writing – it is almost as if he is talking to you. He takes his own sweet time to get to the point, which is actually delightful in some ways. The suspense he builds up and the time he gives the reader to formulate theories of their own are something a reader could revel in. He screams at you from the book, promising you that there will be a reason behind why everyone acts the way they do. The casual mention of sadism brings a certain shock to the reader, and if the author succeeds in doing this, then half the task is done and dusted.
Deep into the story, the author also brings to your notice a striking similarity to The Hound of the Baskervilles, a conclusion you couldn’t come on your own to. He manages to raise questions that you clamor for answer to: Why does the village like to stay quiet and out of the way? Do apparent strangers actually know each other?
The book has a lot of other plus points:
- The brilliant portrayal of the characters’ frustration
- The anticipation of what might happen next
- The way mere words unsettle you and raise your suspicions about whether or not a character is sane
- Preparing you for the eventual pursuit of truth
- Your feeling of impending doom at the complex intermingling of the characters’ lives
- Reasons explaining themselves and enlightening you with sudden realizations while giving you goosebumps
- A character vacillating between two extremities of the reaction radar is fun to read. You never know which end they might end up employing.
- It makes you hate a certain section with such justification that there is no chink in the armor.
- Builds suspense – sometimes at an admirable pace, sometimes too slowly for one’s liking. It does develop and deepen, though, and makes you want to uncover it as soon as possible. And when you finally connect the pieces, everything makes so much more sense.
But the book also has some chinks (in a few places) that are hard to ignore.
- The story drags a little with disconnected descriptions and sentences.
- Unclear actions of certain characters at some points.
- It gets a little cumbersome to keep track of the number of characters coming in and the lengthy introduction/insight into the character’s mind. You need to flip back a few pages to re-read for missing connections. Sometimes, it gets difficult to keep up, both, with the characters as well as their mood swings. But somehow, the story as a whole, justifies it all.
- Some scenes seem unnecessary, and some are confusing. And some references fly over the top of your head.
- A few spelling mistakes and a few missing words here and there. But these are easily overshadowed by the suspense in the story.
- There are a few unexpected shocks and surprises but sometimes it seems too easy. There has GOT to be something eerie here.
Yet, the book is captivating to say the least. Interrogations, speculations, and then suddenly, the savior is here: strategizing, planning, hoodwinking! But the truth does take time to reveal itself and when it does, it sets your heart racing. The slowly connecting dots propel you into heaven and give you a sense of peace. But one question remains – how will people be saved from the curse? Will they be saved from the curse?
The end is a little anticlimactic. You expect something big to happen, the book to go out in a burst of colorful pyrotechnics. But it merely goes off with a slight fizzle, though what the twins may be up to sends chills through your spine.
All in all, though the book is interesting and gives a good vibe throughout, the end somewhat dampens it for me.
But it must be the way Simhachalam, the old timekeeper of Donoor puts it:
“Nobody knows anything, sir. But I sit up here and I look down upon these people. It’s like being a master of a dollhouse.”
Is that how God views us specks? After all, we do not know anything about the wider perspective. Only God does.