Heart-warming prose
Aparna M. Sridhar

Tarbela Damned – Pakistan Tamed
by C.N. Anand. Indialog Publications, New Delhi. Pages 192. Rs 195.

Tarbela Damned – Pakistan TamedTarbela Damned – Pakistan Tamed is a racy work of fiction set amidst political and social crises in the sub-continent. It is the kind of book one would want to read while waiting for delayed flights or on long tedious train journeys. It is a heady mixture of diplomacy, terrorism and inter-continental intelligence, with a fairy-tale ending in which India brings Pakistan to heel.

The author has used both broad strokes and vivid detail to describe the backdrop of the story, which draws extensively from Indian history and geography, but also gives insights into the Irish revolutionary movement, the status of Indian Jews as well as the socio-political milieu of present-day Pakistan.

It is this seemingly effortless descriptiveness that lifts the novel from being just a pot-boiler, to one which makes the reader pause and introspect about the tragedy of terrorism. There are asides on items like "Irish whiskey" which go down well. He tells us that the word whiskey apparently is a corruption of the Irish term "uiscebeatha" which means "water of life" and surprises us with the little piece of information that the Irish were the ones to first bring the art of distilling to Scotland.

The author sketches a black -and-white picture where all those involved in the plot to blow up the Tarbela Dam instantly build a rapport and there is no cultural or moral questioning. There is no dissension, no hiccups in executing a plot of such grand dimensions and a surprising transnational bonhomie between the characters. The Irishman gets along well with the Indian, the Indian Jew has international links to American universities and can coerce funds easily, revengeful Pakistanis immediately align together at payback time`85.but the author carries it off because of his reliance on facts.

Every time scepticism threatens to creep in, a generous scoop of reality is served up to make one believe. How else will a reader, especially in this part of the world, be able to take in a changed political scenario where at the Wagah border, the high stepping of our soldiers "seem like peacocks (moving) towards each other in a gesture of love."

There is no off-putting jingoism and no cold-bloodedness, and that makes one sympathise with the protagonists’ efforts. Simple prose and heart-warming Indianisms add to the charm of this first work.