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Book Review: ‘The Confession’ by John Grisham

February 3, 2014

I think I have read up all of Grisham’s fictions except perhaps the last one or two.

Have a soft spot for him always because I am thoroughly impressed with his sense of social justice.   Of all the authors (i mean handful of) I have read, I like him the best, because he seems most neutral and not judgmental or prejudiced, which I guess is a rare gift (that I for onething certainly lack). There is this innate compassion in him for the weakest, the depraved, and what is important is, this looks like real and not faked upon.   I am writing reviews on Indian pictures as well (for my personal satisfaction) (to kill time mainly!)  and I  owe it to Grisham for shaping up my mind to think the way I do – some 50% atleast.  (the rest of me is irredeemable sorry, after all i am human!)  But even with this kind of  (rebellious?!) thinking,  I am often criticized for ‘taking the wrong side’ even if only philosophically, with so-called ‘misconstrued’ or ‘perverted’ sense of justice, by those around me who adroitly refuse to be convinced otherwise.  So I can imagine what it must be for Grisham to think and write the way he does, fiction or otherwise. After Ken Follet’s bourgeois overdose, Grisham seems real refreshing and pleasantly different – in attitude, style, narration, ideology everything.  Simplicity rules in heart and mind.  There is a soul to every story – and this soul touches your very heart.  It definitely touches my peasant heart!

Silently wept through the entire book.  Wept at how Donte was fast losing his hopes turning into a wreck; for the ruthless, careless manner in which the whole system handled things, functioned,  coordinated and orchestrated together such a grand lie and total farce and did not stop until the  injustice was inevitably and impeccably delivered; and for the quiet and submissive manner the young innocent man ‘falls into the line’ laying down his life, wasted in its prime.  The deterioration in morale is systematic.

Okay this is plausible or possible in a place like India, but never in US or so I thought.  It is shocking that this kind of injustice and unfair practices exist in a more civilized and better world called the US of A where things are supposedly neatly streamlined and processes, legal or whatever, take their own courses.  Well this is somewhat true even in Donte’s case looking at the manner in which the deciding authority gets powerful with respect to hierarchy, but all the streamlining, orderliness, neatness and efficacy of the system could not prevent a (literally) grave injustice from being carried out, which is what got me totally.  Those who must have discharged impartial justice failed in an inconceivable manner in their onerous task of delivering justice and seeing to that an innocent man is not wronged.  The way it happens layer by layer from top to bottom is astonishing.  So many loopholes to be plugged are overlooked deliberately or whatever…This is a grand failure of an entire structure or system.  I may not have been to the US but I somehow nurture more respect for their judiciary and would trust them anyday over the one in India (from my perceptions thanks to Hollywood pictures, media and books).  (Must speak a lot about the gross injustice prevalent in Indian courts and India in general).   After reading many Grisham fictions (most are fictions based on real life incidents i deduce), I am not so sure now.  (And if this is the case with democracies, think of the authoritarian states).

All the circumstances and characters collaborated or rather corroborated to see to that Drum was administered wrongfully the lethal injection.   In India, we have this culture of blaming it all on ‘Karma’ which is a reason we are tolerating and living with widespread inequality in an awfully screwed-up system.  Even Donte’s parents would have invoked the ‘karma’ had they been Indians!  They wouldn’t have put up such an unrelenting fight, they would have lost all hope, and finally a man like Robbie Flak wouldn’t have been born or raised in India to come to the rescue of someone like Donte Drum.    Hats off to this simple great guy, hero in real life.  (Or can I cite Ram Jethmalani here like Robbie Flak?!   Would love to add a few lines on this one – for and against , against mostly –  but don’t want to get sued – after all I am blogging for pastime!)

On reading ‘The confession’ I have no more doubts in my mind on reservation quotas for minority Dalits (SCs/STs) in India.  There is a huge uproar in the country for these most backward communities  being provided with governmental assistance and aid in everything ranging from academics to employment to uplift them from their stagnated miserable lives.  Come what may, the reservations have to go on for another half a century atleast.  The reforms have to be pushed through with a renewed vigour, except in sensitive areas and institutions like IITs and IIMs and ISRO, IIS, medical schools etc.  This is imperative to ensure that the imbalances and disparities we have in our midst are eliminated at the quickest possible time.  I cannot think of another time-tested way of bringing in social justice to one and all than this reservation policy.  Someone enlighten me if I am wrong.

Grisham reminds me these days of Arvind Kejriwal and his ‘Aam Aadmi’ identity.  I am ‘aam aadmi’ and I can identify with both these men somewhat.  Kejriwal has a long, long way to go, he has just begun his journey.

Someone has to take up the cudgels, someone has to champion the cause, someone has to spearhead a movement.

Inequality and partiality and flawed sense of justice are not mere communal vices.  If you ask me, all these spring up right from our homes, and are individual characteristics basically. Everyday is a struggle for many of us, may be not always in the sense Grisham means, but of a different kind perhaps.  From school to college to work to in-laws home, I have seen it all.   There is no more urge to ‘prove’ , no more desire to tell ‘my story.’ Being born a woman in India by itself makes you unequal from birth.  Where to begin your fight through all this?  I have learned to ignore and move on.  Something is important only when you accord it such an importance. Nothing is worth our peace of mind.  But how can one generalize this solution to a social malaise.

Inequality is sowed in this society the day a child goes to a posh convent in a chauffeur-driven car from his upscale home, whereas his neighbour in a thatched hut  walks shoe-less to the municipal school in ragged uniforms.  From here, inequality grows in leaps and bounds, stage by stage and someday reaches such a huge proportion that equality is already QUITE NOT POSSIBLE.  Not any more, even if there could have been hope against hope at one stage.  There are some ‘rags to riches’ stories but these are rare cases.

Is there a way out of this loop, of this vicious circle?  Only the setting is different.  I am here in unequal India, whereas Grisham is writing the Drum story in America.  Tell me Kejriwal, why should one child in this nation attend a coveted convent when his next door neighbour has to squat in a roofless municipal institution that serves cold and insipid free meal for lunch?  Is there a way equality can be brought in here at grassroots level?

So this is how I personally envision what Grisham says in my everyday life.   In a broader perspective, it could come to encompass a community, a group like that.  The system is flawed, the mind-set is hopeless.  Meekly submitting to the scheme of working here the way Donte Drum is resigned to his fate in ‘The confession.’  As I sign off, i want to stress once again how time is ripe presently for a second phase of both rural and urban land ceiling in India.  Long time since the first phase was enforced and it did equalize the Zamindars with Aam Aadmi, but we need a fresh set of reforms right now.

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