India Crystal
Author: Setsuko Shinoda
Specifications: ISBN  978-4041013526
541 pages
13.5 x 19.6 cm / 5.4 x 7.8 in (WxH)
Category: Fiction
Publisher: Kadokawa Corporation
Tokyo, 2014
www.kadokawa.co.jp
Awards: Chuo Koron Literary Prize, 2015
Buy now: amazon.co.jp

Synopsis

Set in a remote village in India, this is the story of a Japanese businessman who seeks to gain a supply of the natural crystals required for his small manufacturing business. He is rescued repeatedly from difficulties by the mysterious heroine Rosa.

Fujioka is the president of Sankyō Dorje, a small company that holds the most advanced technology in Japan for making the ultra-high-quality quartz oscillators needed for electronic equipment. Synthetic quartz crystals are used in manufacture, but natural seed crystals are required to grow them. Fujioka must find more than 100 kilograms of crystals that display uniform structure and have an extremely low impurity content—no easy feat. As the new president of the company, married to the daughter of his predecessor, he personally takes on the role of buyer for this resource that is so crucial to the company’s lifeline, and travels to the fictitious village of Kodhuri in eastern India.

A man named Chowdhury runs the mining company that owns all mineral rights to the area, and he has arranged lodgings at a guesthouse, where Rosa appears at Fujioka’s door. She has been sent to his room to offer sexual companionship, but he refuses. From the dark tone of her skin and her large eyes and nose, Fujioka surmises that she carries aboriginal blood distinct from the broader Indo-Aryan population. He plays chess with Rosa, and is astonished by her powers of memory: even though she began without knowing the first thing about the game, she is able to reproduce every move in the contest without a single error. He also discovers that she is capable of reproducing conversations in every detail—even when overhearing languages not familiar to her. Fujioka eventually realizes that Rosa is none other than a girl he had seen at a festival in a southern Indian village several years before, where she had been feted as a living god.

Chowdhury calls Rosa a “bad seed,” but Fujioka helps her to escape a life of prostitution by finding her a place as an office intern at Sanga Research (SR), an NGO engaged in development work in a part of Kodhuri with an aboriginal population. With the help of both Rosa and SR, Fujioka enters into a mining contract with the village chief and even extends a no-interest loan to secure a steady supply of the crystals that he came for. But soon it becomes clear that he has become entangled in a grand vendetta scheme plotted by Rosa.

Born in Kudhi, a small village in the south of India, Rosa was recognized as a living god when she was two and a half, and grew up for the next ten years spared from any work—instead spending all her time reciting sutras. Then uranium deposits were discovered, and the aboriginal villagers were pressured to give up their land and leave. During a festival, some terrorists wrapped Rosa in explosives and made her into a human bomb. The bomb failed to explode but burst into flames; Rosa was severely burned, orphaned, and taken in by Chowdhury’s older sister.

In Kodhuri, too, it’s discovered that the veins of crystal are interlaced with uranium deposits when villagers doing the mining begin to fall ill with symptoms of radiation poisoning. If Fujioka’s development plans cause this to come to light, Kodhuri will be driven to ruin just like Kudhi. Having gained some sway in the village as a member of the SR staff, Rosa joins hands with extremist anti-government guerrillas to plan an uprising. The incited guerrillas and villagers hack a landlord and his family to death, demolish a number of roads, and force the closure of the crystal mine. Amid the grisly events unfolding throughout the village, Fujioka narrowly escapes death when Rosa leads him to safety. Fujioka must leave India without having acquired his source of crystals after all, but several years later the company discovers a means of growing highly stable synthetic crystals without the need for natural seed crystals.

Through the eyes of a Japanese businessman struggling to obtain what he needs in an alien environment, author Setsuko Shinoda shines a light on the conditions faced by oppressed populations within that multiethnic culture, bringing into relief the complex and deep-rooted problems that persist in its mix of ancient traditions, ethnic strife, caste distinctions, women’s-rights issues, and the tug-of-war between popular rights and vested business interests—and poses the question of whether it is ethical for more advanced nations to ignore those problems on the grounds of cultural differences. Backed by meticulous research, this first-rate entertainment carries a compelling sense of authenticity that will keep readers turning pages right through to the end.