From the author of As Death Stared Back and 7 Hours at Bhata Road comes yet another spine-chilling tale of the unequal distribution of resources. In the Rotten Pits of Hunger not only presents the problems relating to certain social issues but also shows how they are allowed to persist for prolonged periods of time, creating a social crisis. In the Rotten Pits of Hunger is a horror fiction narrative based on certain social issues, with a special focus on food shortages, by scientist-author Ajinkya Bhasme. Food is a basic human necessity, and the analogy drawn in the text to the lack of proper food that will provide nourishment to the human body is in the form of a fruit face wash that has more fruit in it than some people have ever tasted in their lives. This book functions by highlighting several dark themes that mark a certain pattern. It creates an impactful effect on the reader.
Hunger is an issue of social inequality that needs to be immediately addressed by society alongside other social issues like mental health awareness, superstition, the improvement of basic agrarian practices, the implementation of scientific food preservation techniques to combat natural calamities, etc. This happens to be Ajinkya Bhasme’s fourth publication, which adds to his previous works, all of which have been Amazon bestsellers. As another feather in his cap, Bhasme takes on the challenge of narrating an engaging story in this novel while enlightening the audience about some social causes like eradication of hunger that he is passionate about. Using his formal education in forensic psychology and psychotherapy, he explicates the motives, behaviors, and idiosyncrasies of digressive minds through certain characters that he conjures in his narrative.
The plot has its own share of twists and turns, but it is the strength of the content that makes this book such a unique piece of writing. The plot is barely unidirectional. It moves through a maze of unexpected events and sudden changes in scenes that aggravate to a horrifying level as the plot picks up pace towards the multiple climactic scenes. It unravels the consequences of starvation that hit an affluent family known as the Shuklas, who have never known what hunger is all about until a sudden tragic incident happens in the family that shakes all the members to the core. This is the suicide committed by the youngest son of the family, which is a joint family of 14 members from three generations. This is the major climax of the plot which shapes its movement and direction. This dark incident takes place on the same day when their farms do not yield any crops. This is another highlight of the plot. This barrenness and lack of proper vegetative growth lead to the farms being covered in rot.
As a last resort or in the desperation of the moment to get back their dead son and overcome the crop failure, the Shuklas decide to seek help from the supernatural entities. They conjure up the spirit of the ancient deity of food, Annamati. However, the plot takes a sudden twist as the fears and horrors of the Shuklas know no bounds. While Annamati can take up any shape and form, human or reptilian, she is supposed to demand a meal be prepared to her taste and, in return, will bless their farms for 50 years, but their rituals go in the wrong direction as the Shuklas end up calling a darker spirit who wreaks havoc across their house. The dark spirit locks everyone up and cuts off all supplies of food and water. The members grow physically weak and mentally disheveled after being starved to death and left to slowly perish. While the multiple peaks in the plot make for an engaging read, the pace varies as per the needs of the scene but is mostly moderate and can be followed through easily. This allows for easy sinking in of the ideas and underlying themes that are the core of the text.
Characterization is kept to a minimum, though the characters are believable and relatable, but the plot is crowded with characters. These include not only many of the Shuklas, including adults and kids, but also other minor characters in supporting roles. This creates a cluttered effect and requires attentive reading on the part of the reader. Then again, since the core incident of the plot is based on a large family, the varied number of characters conveys the notion of something taking place on a massive scale. This adds to the impactful effect of the incidents on the readers and resonates at multiple levels with multiple meanings. It creates a chain that affects many people and not just a handful, which makes this story worthy of being told.
It is the craft of writing that draws the attention of readers. From the innovative and catchy title of the book to the clean writing style, simple vocabulary yet apt descriptions add to the first-person narrative style of a tale that unfolds to boggle the mind. The text is also interspersed with dialogues, but mostly they serve to take the plot further, advance the incidents of the plot, and gradually let a series of events in action that are unpredictable, but which convey ideas that strike the minds of readers at lightning pace. It is this balance between incredulity and incredibility that is maintained to create a narrative that is almost film-like.
The eye for detail is brilliant. The book contains typological aspects that are worth mentioning. The variation is from the font on the title page inside the book to the slightly decorative chapter numbers, all of which exude a professionalism that is reflective of someone who takes his work seriously, has given attention to presenting it well, and is mindful of the time and energy of readers. Yet, above all, it is the book cover that cannot be described in a handful of words. It maintains the essence of the book, is creative, and has so much going on in terms of the bold but subtle effect that it creates. The book cover is clearly well conceived and well executed at the same time. At 280 pages, In the Rotten Pits of Hunger is a rather lengthy read but clearly one that will be enjoyed by generally all but mainly lovers of horror, gothic fiction, and students of food studies.