Out of courtesy, most of them ask us our name and publication. When one starts inquiring about the strength of your team and the technicalities of reporting, you know the field he belongs to. He doesn’t, however, disclose his designation or publication at once.
We catch up with V Sudarshan, executive editor of The New Indian Express, Chennai, at Literati 2013, as he talks about both his ‘narrative non-fictions’ — Anatomy of an Abduction: How the Indian Hostages in Iraq were Freed, Adrift: A True Story of Survival at Sea.
About Anatomy of an Abduction…he says, “When Prime Minister Manmohan Singh came into power, three men — Antaryami, Sukhdev and Tilak Raj — who used to work for an organisation called KGL, were abducted in Iraq. I used to cover the Ministry of External Affairs back then. I started writing the book in 2004 and completed it in 2007. The book also talks about crisis management and gives a 360 degree view of what’s going on inside.” Bollywood director Dibakar Bannerji has already bought the rights the book.
Doesn’t a journalist-turned-author get into trouble for disclosing such facts? “My books are narrative non-fiction. If you quote a document, you can get into trouble; dramatising a document is not harmful.”
His recently released book, Adrift: A true Story of Survival at Sea, is set in Andaman and Nicobar Islands, where Sudarshan spent his childhood. Talking about the connection of this book with Punjab, he says, “Naval officer, Commander Avtar Singh Baath, who hails from a village in Haryana, resides with his mother in Mohali now. Adrift… is a skilful narration of a dive trip in a boat from Port Blair to Sir Hugh Rose Island, 20 nautical miles away, which eventually turned out to be a dreadful sea adventure, as the crew lost its way and was adrift for a week. Have you ever read a book about a boat getting lost?”
The sheer curiosity of a journalist facing hassles brings up the topic again, about which, he says, “We are journalists; we have access to the ring side. How many people have that? How many journalists were present in Mumbai during 9/11? How many books have you come across on the topic? Instead, a couple of firangis wrote a book called The Siege, which is fantastic.
The sources of these firangis are the same as any journalist. The same set of people have written another book called The Meadow, which is on a kidnapping in Jammu & Kashmir. It’s quite shameful for us.”