Murky Undercurrents

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The Muddy River, P. A. Krishnan, book reviewLike its title, Muddy River is a very muddy indeed, a murky tale of a kidnapping and bureaucrat Ramesh Chandran’s quest to have the victim released from a group of terrorists with politicians and policemen clouding the issue even further. Chandran turns his quest into a novel – which is presented to the reader in typewriter font and this is occasionally commented on by his two friends, one a Bengali and the other a British lecturer based in Ampleforth and reviewed by his wife, Sukanya who also occasionally enters the story.

Chandran and Sukanya have a tragic history – they have lost their five year old daughter Priya which has created divisions between husband and wife. Like a river, the novel is slow to start and begins with letters and incidents that seem to take their time in coming together. The reader is told that a novel is in progress but what seems to be a story of the death of a child and reconciled lives takes a very different turn.

Ramesh Chandran falls foul of a senior bureaucrat who insists on being served hot tea whenever he demands it, is on the brink of being sacked because of a sarcastic memo he writes and is shifted to another Ministry posting on compassionate grounds through the intervention of his father in law. This seems to be a comfort posting – he is in charge of electrical power and has an airconditioned car at his disposal. However, a Bengali engineer in charge of power installations is kidnapped in a district in Assam and Chandran becomes embroiled in negotiations with the kidnappers because of the engineer’s wife.

The kidnapping, of course, is an echo of the tragic circumstances surrounding the Sanjay Ghosh affair, though in militant riddled Assam at one point the kidnappings of teagarden officials and engineers were a dime a dozen. As if that were not complicated enough, the issue gets murkier because Chandra discovers corruption within his public sector ranks and with his blundering honesty reveals that he is privy to the knowledge. Quite obviously this sets wheels within wheels moving,

Krishnan, a former bureaucrat cannot be faulted on his knowledge of public sector circles and their inevitable circle of memos and counter memos. He is also familiar with the intricacies of Assamese insurgency groups and their unique bargaining counters.

He plays currents and crosscurrents against each other, tangling the fictional Chandran with the real Chandran till it is hard to say where one begins and the other ends. And the changes in font keep pace with these changes. In the end, the book lives aptly up to its name.

The Muddy River by P A Krishnan
Published by Tranquebar in India

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Muddy River, The
by P A Krishnan

One Comment on "Murky Undercurrents"

  1. Harvee
    19/11/2011 at 12:48 Permalink

    Sounds like a very interesting book but too bad it became murky. The theme reminds me of the popular book, Bel Canto, which has a samilar story of political kidnapping.

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Written by Anjana Basu
Anjana Basu

Anjana Basu works as an advertising consultant in Calcutta. In 2003, Harper Collins India brought out her novel Curses In Ivory. In 2004, she was awarded a Hawthornden Fellowship in Scotland where she worked on her second novel, Black Tongue, published by Roli in 2007. In February 2010. her children's novel Chinku and the Wolfboy was brought out by Roli. She writes features for travel magazines and reviews for Indian newspapers.

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