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Land-grab novel a sell-out
- Penguin India exhausts first print in 12 days

Can a whole nation suddenly disappear? Literally, no. In literary fiction, perhaps.

A bureaucrat-turned-novelist who has attempted to answer this bizarre question in his latest fantastical work on land grabbing has earned an overwhelming response for himself as well as his publisher.

Penguin Books India, which made its Jharkhand debut with of Sri Krishna Institute of Public Administration’s joint director Ranendra’s Hindi novel Gayab Hota Desh, has exhausted the first print in 12 days flat.

Speaking over phone from New Delhi, Penguin Books editor Riyazul Haque admitted that the Hindi work of fiction marked the publishing major’s Jharkhand launch. “The response has been overwhelming and the sales figures very impressive,” he said.

Gayab Hota Desh was released on May 28 and it hit the market on June 2. By June 13, the first print from the publishers’ stock was sold out. Also, Nielsen — the global market research agency — has listed the book as a Hindi bestseller for the week ending on June 19.

Refusing to give exact figures, citing company ethics, Haque said: “We had released just about 100 books as a promotional and the response, as I said, was very good. Prints are demand-based and all I can say is that we have an excellent demand for the book right now.”

For Jharkhand, land has always been an interesting subject. Here, acres — especially those owned by tribals — have given rise to different dynamics. It has introduced the society to new words such as “land sharks” and “displacement”.

The author’s debut novel Global Gaon ke Devta, in which he had efficiently highlighted issues revolving around mining and its effects on the tribal communities of Jharkhand, was released by Bharatiya Gyanpeeth in 2009 and had received good response too.

Based on his rich understanding of the land and its people, Ranendra penned his Gayab Hota Desh. Through his prolific writing, lucid language, witty phrases and in-depth knowledge of the indigenous people, the babu has spun a riveting story around a murdered journalist.

In the novel, Kishan Vidrohi is an investigative reporter determined to weed out corruption and social malaise. He is killed but his body never found.

While trying to unearth the murder mystery, another investigative journalist, who once was an intern under Vidrohi, comes across a series of incidents that exposes him to the ugly truth of how land sharks operate.

The novel has successfully portrayed the naïve tribals who are cunningly evicted from their own land and rendered homeless.

In a nutshell, Gayab Hota Desh has every element that a thriller must and, at the same time, touches burning issues like land grabbing and human trafficking.

The author has dedicated his book to Padma Shri (Late) Ram Dayal Munda.

So, does he see it as a work of fiction or is there more to the story than meets the eye?

“It is a work of fiction, but based of this land. All characters in the story are imaginary, but the circumstances they grappled with reflect our times,” Ranendra said.

The 328-page book is priced at Rs 250.