Title: Steps in Darkness
Author: Krishna Baldev Vaid
Publisher: Penguin Modern Classics
Genre: Translation, Literary Fiction, Indian Fiction
This is another one of those books I would have never thought of reading and it just happened to me. It is fun when these things happen. The monotony of life gets broken. There is something new to look forward to. Even if it means that it is just about turning pages of a new book. “Steps in Darkness” is one of those books which I had not heard or, neither did I want to read it. It came to me and I read it. I was pleasantly surprised. I started enjoying the nuances brought out by the writer and what I liked the most was that the book has been translated from Hindi by the author himself, so there is a lot of originality which is intact and left sacrosanct.
“Steps in Darkness” is about an Indian family, living in pre-partition times. It is a family living in poverty and each member is struggling with his or her own insecurities and fear. Vaidji has written the book with utmost clarity and fierce honesty. Beero, but a boy, lives through the day to day events, as his family cannot make sense of themselves. His father is a gambler and wife beater. His mother blames him for everything and yet loves him the most or so it seems to him at times. His sister Devi does not know what to do. She is flirting with men all the time. His grandmother is nothing but a nuisance for his mother.
All of this plays out in extreme poverty and sadness of life. All of this is witnessed by a boy on the brink of manhood and yet who cannot understand why things happen the way they do. All Beero wants are snatches of joy and kindness, which he tries very hard to come across at and outside of his home.
Baldev Vaidji’s writing shines in so many places. I could almost imagine and hear the voices as they were written in Hindi. There are a lot of dialogues and inner dialogues as well, which according to me is the highlight of this book.
“Steps in Darkness” is in some way coming of age, but it is also about what it takes to perhaps be human and patient, no matter what life dishes out to you. I also think that there were times when I could not stand to read the book, because of the stark nature of poverty depicted, but I had to, because the book did not leave me with any other option.