Rating : 4.5 / 5
This book stands, beyond any shade of doubt, as one of the most dangerous books I have ever read. Confused – especially after reading the rating above? Welcome to the club. Confused is precisely the word that describes my reaction to this diabolically contrived write-up. Half of me – perhaps a little less, perhaps a little more – appreciates the book. The rest of me loathes it for its plot, its story and its setting. I cannot make up my mind…
RIP stands for Resurgent Indian Patriots – a bunch of retired Army Officers with distinguished service records, led by Colonel Krishna Athawle. This force sets out to rid the country of its biggest scourge: its politicians. This they aim to do by the simple expedient of fear: they threaten to kill one per day – and announce in advance who they target will be. The objective is to create a decent and clean leadership. Now keep in mind that you are talking about a bunch of top commandoes in prime fighting condition: retired they may be; but they retired after a highly successful mission backfired after it ended up killing Colonel Athawale’s wife when they were in their late 30s. So, we are talking about a set of highly trained Army Commandoes who decide to play buzkashi with the political brass. The rest of the book deals with how they go about it, whether they can do it or not, the manhunt and the resultant achievements. This is all set in the backdrop of a huge civil disobedience movement that has paralysed the nation in totality. (Seems familiar, hey? Rings a bell, does it not?). Intertwined in this scenario is a touching and equally confusing love story between 2 lonely souls: 1 in the midst of a divorce, and the other just having lost the spouse a few years ago. The budding love story between 2 confused souls forms the meat of the book, and lends it tremendous depth.
Before I confuse you guys, (and gals), lets do away with the basic stuff. Characterisation – functional, in that it is minimal but sufficient for the story and the plot. This is actually good, as it keeps the pace going. As noted above, the similar minimalist attention to the love story, and the way it has been intertwined with the main plot, add tremendous depth to the book while keeping the relentless pace. The love story does not lessen the furious pace or the tension, which has been kept at fever pitch throughout the book. The writing style is nice and clean, with only a few expletives. The style is effective, and individual – it has a different mark of its own is the way I shall put it. The pace is relentless, and the book is a veritable page-turner.
And yet, despite the plethora of positives enumerated above, I still find this book as the worst I have ever read. It is a highly disturbing read, and is chillingly real. You can almost identify (what almost? 95% of the cases you infer pretty accurately the real life equals) who is who in the book. The narrative is chillingly real; the politics put forward brutal and blunt, and is based and built upon a memory that is still fresh in the people’s mind: the continuing disillusionment with the political class of India and the civil disobedience movements that are striking every so often. You can smell the discomfiture of Vinod Bedi – the CBI top guy who is investigating this case as he comes under political pressure. You can feel Nandakumar’s helplessness, as he has to tell on his boss’ (Vinod) to his political masters. You can see the the story play out in front of your eyes as the dirty games unfold. The book takes you deep into the quagmire that is politics, and wrenches your gut. The action sequences, and the frustration of the RIP can be understood – especially in the current national mood; as also their resolve to set things right.
After all, who but an Armed Forces Officer would show such guts? And that is where my moral sense, my conscience kicks in. First off, it goes against every moral stricture in my body. Killing people – ok, criminals – wantonly cannot be justice. Killing innocents in the process cannot be justice. 2 wrongs do not make a right. Holding a nation to ransom cannot be justice, Expecting sudden catacysmic events to bring in positive change cannot be justice. And, most critically, doing all of the above and basing it on characters who can easily be misconstrued – or identified – with real life characters is decidedly not right. Especially not when the memory of the disobedience movements is still so fresh, and disillusionment with the Government and the political class is at such an all-time high. And, being an Army Officer’s son, I dont think any Army Officer would do such things.
The sheer quality of the writing, its power, and the plot is precisely what makes the book so diabolical: it feels chillingly real. This can happen is a thought that occurs – so powerful is the content. This is further buttressed by the characters having eerie and uncanny commonalities with real life characters. The net result is a blurring of the fictional element with reality, leading you to lose your perspective. You find yourselves empathizing with the anti-heroes, and wanting them to succeed in their wholly evil and amoral venture. You are torn in 2: Half of you – perhaps a little less, perhaps a little more – appreciates the book. The rest of you loathes it for its plot, its story and its setting. You cannot make up your mind…