Driving in and out of hell
Anatomy of an Abduction
PENGUIN Rs 295 PP 219
Many years ago I ran into a fellow Bihari in Kargil. I was there covering the war started by an ambitious Pakistani general. And the other man was there selling, you won't believe it, channe (roasted grams).
I asked him what the hell was he doing so far away from home. That was a stupid question, of course. But he granted me the benefit of doubt and answered without a hint of sarcasm, "Earning a livelihood."
The same reason why I was in Afghanistan a few years later reporting a war that to most people was a game of cat-and-mouse played with real weapons that could be watched live from their livmg rooms.
Many years later, Antaryami, Tilak Raj and Sukhdev found themselves in a war torn Iraq working as drivers - earning their livelihood, once again.
Their job as drivers was to deliver consignments - whatever, however much - across Iraq unmindful of the war, the insurgents and the explosions. All was fine in the beginning but they would get unlucky some day and they did.
On their way to a delivery drop in Iraq, the three Indians were abducted with four other drivers by a group of Iraqi insurgents.
Bound and blindfolded, they disappeared from the face of the Earth. V Sudarshan's Anatomy of an Abduction, is not their story, but it's about their abduction and how India brought them back, struggling every step of the way against a policy that prohibited negotiations.
The writer is a journalist and brings to the book a reporter's eye for detail. He gives you a ringside view of the ups and downs in the process that lasted 40 days.
It's a meticulously researched book based on interviews with all the major players starting with the Minister of State in the External Affairs Ministry E. Ahamed; leader of the crisis management team in Baghdad Talmiz Ahmad, and Ambassador to Iraq B. B. Tyagi.
Sudarshan's hero, of course, is the George Smiley type character Zikrur Rehman.
The story, of course, ends happily for everyone - including the kidnappers who made a cool $ 500,000 from the 'deal'. The narrative never flags. And that's the book's USE Sudarshan keeps you on a tight leash - not with smart writing (sadly a tool used my many lazy writers to cover the obvious inadequacies), but with an unrelenting flow of solid details and information.