|Image courtesy Ajay Pandey|
And this, my love for thrillers, is what led me to seek out this enticing book jacket peering out from book shelves. A pair of icy blue eyes, belonging to a face hidden behind a keffiyeh, promised a lot of thrills, and so with gusto I sat down to read it. Resonance : the work of first-time author, Ajay Pandey.
The thriller is based around the time the unfortunate Mumbai terror attacks of 26/11 happened. The plot centres around an ex-ISI General, Imran Shah Malik, who is unable to forget the defeat of the Pakistani army at the hands of the Indian armed forces in the Bangladesh war of 1971. Revenge is foremost on his mind and he starts dreaming of it, till one day he simply disappears and then a video surfaces showing him being thrown into the white waters of the Swat river from a mountainous height no human can survive. His son, Aban Malik, studying in the US, is suddenly arrested and then deported to Pakistan. He becomes a rebel and a poster-boy for Jehadist groups.
In the meantime, Siddharth Rana, a Joint Director in the IB, starts investigating into a possible terror attack on India, which is being plotted with the active participation of some traitorous Indians. He goes on from clue to clue trying to figure out what is "To Pak To", which were the last words of a dying CISF officer. And what he uncovers points to a chilling terror plot which, if executed as planned, would bring death and destruction to the country - a catastrophe of such proportions that its after-effects would destroy India forever.
The book is a thrilling read from the beginning to the end. There is terror, of course. But what sets this book apart from the other stylish and taut thrillers of the West, is that the book does not indulge in demonizing any religion. The author has borrowed heavily from the Sufi traditions of India. Sufism itself evolved as a soothing and soulful blend of the best of Hindu and Islamic beliefs, and hence, the same soulful touch is found in many places in the story. Amidst all the plotting and terror, there is also the tender love story of Aban and Juhi. There are the beliefs of Nausheen Malik, Aban's mother and Imran Shah Malik's wife. There is symbology in terms of the use of Hindu gods like Brahma. There are the beautifully described landscapes of the rugged mountains of the Af-Pak region and the scenic Swat valley. And of course, there is use of technology and of the force of nature itself, in the planned terror attack.
The author, Ajay Pandey, is an officer of the Indian Revenue Service (IRS). During his long and successful career with the IRS, he has had several occasions to work closely with law enforcement. Other than taxation laws, which, of course, are his bread-and-butter work. This kind of exposure has given him a ring-side view of the world of terrorism, terror financing and economic offences, and that exposure has come into play quite evidently in this book.
Over all, a wonderful read. A book which is special because it is written by an Indian in the Indian context. The locations, agencies and agent-prototypes are known and familiar. This is Indian Writing in a different genre, a different class. A good read for this holiday season? Definitely, yes.