Saturday, 15 December 2012
Book Review: 14 Hours - An Insider's Account Of The Taj Attack
How do you review a book that simply cannot be reviewed, or passed judgement upon? How do you review a book that is evocative of such a harrowing period in our nation's history? How do you review a book that transports you into the corridoors of the Taj during those terrifying days? How do you review a book that offers a ringside view of the horror? How do you review a book that deals with such an emotionally overpowering, close-to-the-heart topic?
You cant. At least, I cant. I cant pass judgement on the writing, on the contents, on the language, on the phraseology... perhaps, these words are the best that can be used to describe this book. It leaves you speechless, and numbed. You are just unable to react in any way whatsoever, and are forced to turn page after page after terrifying page. I finished this book in one sitting flat between Chinchpokli to Kalyan on a local train, and trust me I almost forgot to get down at Kalyan... I even remember vividly that I was on page 134 out of 154 total pages, I recall standing with the book in my hand... I was transfixed. The only way that I can review this emotionally powerful topic is to describe my own reactions, since I do not consider it ethical to question anything, or pass judgement on it.
The topic is close to our hearts, is deeply intertwined in our national consciousness. 26th November 2008 scarred us deeply, and left deep and lasting impressions on our national psyche. No Indian can and will ever forget it; it is an event that has angered the entire nation like nothing has ever done before- and I hope and pray to God that nothing ever will. That is precisely why I cannot and will not pass judgement. Besides, the very fact that I consider myself unable to judge is proof of the quality of the book, and the fact that it makes a connect with the reader. Yes, to be sure, since it is such a vital topic, flaws are bound to be hidden to Indian eyes... but then this book is for Indians only, for only those people with a deep emotional connect to those horrifying days in November 2008
The book showcases the terror in the minds of the people, and brings to the fore the myriad human reactions under terror. The first question is : has the author been honest? Yes, in my opinion he has. You can discern the initial terror, and the freezing; you can see how external stimuli - sometimes a boss, sometimes a colleague- brought the author out of his terror-stricken mindset. The next question is: has the author portrayed himself as larger than life? The answer, in my opinion, is no. The author has just penned a straightforward memoir of those 14 hours. You can see how he obeyed instructions, looked to superiors for orders, you can discern his internal tumult and instinct for self-preservation vying with the requirements of sanity and duty.
The book also brings to the fore the initial chaos, and how the staff reacted to the challenge, and then rose. It is remarkable indeed in that reactions were not automatic; quite obviously the staff were scared, and were interested in self-preservation. And yet, one can see how slowly and surely sanity and good sense, duty and humanity prevail in the large majority of the staff. Hats off to the staff of the Taj Hotel! You can see into the minds of the people, read the terror - and most importantly, the reaction to terror, and how the Human Spirit succeeds in overwhelming the odds and triumphing over fear.
All in all, this book is a must read for all Indians; it will take you to the Taj during those hours, and leave you with a better understanding. But above all this, the book is about hope, about the indomitable human spirit, about how your mind and body get accustomed to the situation; and the way your being adjusts and then finds additional resources within your own self that propels a person to success. This is a sterling account of victory in the most insurmountable of situations, and an account that will teach you to believe in yourself....