Book Review: ‘A Speck of Coal Dust’ by Rohit Manchanda

Book Title: A Speck of Coal Dust
Author: Rohit Manchanda
Publisher: Fourth Estate
Number of Pages: 240
ISBN: 978-9354898853
Date Published: May. 27, 2024
Price: INR 339

A Speck of Coal Dust by Rohit Manchanda Book Cover

Book Review

The compelling coming-of-age tale in “A Speck of Coal Dust” by Rohit Manchanda is set against the coal-mining regions in eastern India with a backdrop of India’s changing social and economic landscape in the late 2000s. Through the eyes of two young boys, Sameer and Vipul, whose father is the manager of a colliery, their life takes an interesting turn.

Through the characters Ratna and Chetna, who differ from their father, a mining engineer, in the novel by author Manchanda, issues of identity and societal change are explored. The village is depicted vividly in the novel as being forever covered in the dust of its coal mines.

Readers are introduced to a kaleidoscope of characters via Vipul’s naive yet perceptive eyes, including eccentric companions, capricious professors, a comic book-loving swami, and tinpot rogues. Vipul’s perception of the world is expanded with each encounter, exposing the contrast between cruelty and beauty as well as happiness and sadness.

Check out our Latest Book Reviews

The story moves slowly, echoing the rhythms of country life. Vipul is the younger son of middle-class parents who relocated due to his father’s engagement in the coal boom. He enjoys mosquito battles and American comic novels. Vipul’s experiences as a member of the first generation to grow up in independent India are imbued with a palpable sense of a wild new world. His contacts with a diverse range of individuals, including Father Rocqueforte, a former Lithuanian Jew who is now a Catholic missionary, push him to contemplate the greater societal changes occurring in his milieu and the globe around him. The narrative is also realistic, describing the entrance of house visitors, school problems, and kid experiences along the Damodar River. The story brings to life the small-town charm of Khajoori, from dinner at sweeper Thapa’s place to watching the local Ramlila performances.

All things considered, “A Speck of Coal Dust” is a neglected masterpiece that merits a second look. The book stands out with its simplicity, sensitivity, and elegant prose, depicting the near-realistic, pulsating life in the cloistered existence of a coalfield, a testament to the skilled workforce that powers the economy.

Get a copy now!