Book Review: Lashkar


Lashkar - Mukul Deva
Mukul Deva is a retired Army Officer, a man who has spent 15 years in the Indian Army. He retired as a Major, having spent several years in action as well as counter-insurgency operations in India as well as overseas

It is rare that someone who has an inside tack, as well as actual experience in practical operations actually writes a book based on his / her knowledge. Such rare books are to be treasured; they provide authenticity to the story and plot. And this book is this category, like my previous review/s of Ravi Subramanian. And if the Author has a flair for writing... then the book gets elevated to the status of pure class. Again, no complaints on this aspect!


The Characters
Iqbal - Subah Kaa Bhoolaa Shyaam Ko Kabhi-Kabhaar Laut kar Bhi Aataa Hai...
Colonel Rajan Anbu: Humane, but tough. Can take hard decisions - feelings be damned. 
Omar: Misguided... Misled... 
Brigadier Salim: ISI, Complete Swine, Brutal but sadly highly proficient
Maulana Fazlur Rehman: The Head Terrorist... or so he thinks
Captain Mohommed Sami: Indian, Tough, and of Force - 22
Captain Vikram Tawathia: Ditto
Captain Tony Ahalwat: Ditto
Captain Vikram Katoch: Ditto
Lieutenant Commander Chandan Deopa: Ditto
Lieutenant Commander Ranjit Dhankar: Ditto
Captain Manoj Khare: Ditto - and also a geek
Flight Lieutenant Ankita Bhatnagar: Ditto 


The Plot
The plot is in 2 parts: the terrorist attack, and the Indian response. This makes it a very different book than almost any I have read. Each is gone into in detail, which enables a fuller understanding of the scenario. This engenders a deep understanding, as well as adds to the pace of the plot. The ISI, The USA and Pakistan have been ripped apart in this book - a phase which gives pleasure to Indian readers - and extreme discomfiture of any of US citizens who may be so unlucky as to read this book - or its successor. To put it bluntly, both have been carictured as villains - much more so in the sequel to this book. The second part details the Indian response,  as India decides to take revenge and strike back deep into Pakistani Territory. This is vintage stuff - and I make no bones about it: no fiction author (East Or West) has as yet matched Mukul Deva in military planning, strategy and execution  and their presentation. Read it to believe it. 


The Analysis
This is a book on a terror attack and the attendant response by the victim. Intuitively, there can be no scope for romance or needless dilly-dallying of any sort whatsoever. Happily, there is none. Even the best of western authors cannot resist throwing a pointless female character in the midst, and creating frankly idiotic romantic interludes etc. Even The Day Of The Jackal is no exception to this. This is where the book makes a major hit: there is nothing except the terror attack, and the Indian revenge. The plot itself is so interesting and superbly innovative especially in the revenge part that the need for "masala" is not felt at all. Score one for Mr Deva!

The story covers a vast scope - starting from the terror plot planning at the highest levels of the Pakistani Government, moving onto  the political moves by the Indian Government by the Indian Prime Minister and senior Armed Forces officers, and finally into the execution phase. To keep the book fast-paced, characterisation has been kept to a bare minimum. Surprisingly, this does not impede upon your enjoyment of the book. In fact, quite the reverse - as the story becomes nice and lean and concentrates on the action sequences and the content of the dialogues and intrigues portrayed

Perhaps the biggest fun aspect in the book is the portrayal of the Indian side as aggressive and fast-paced, firm and action oriented. This is in marked contrast to the measured, mature and responsible, at times seemingly meek and muted response that is met with derision by most educated Indians in reality. The Indian Government in this book comes across as aggressive, innovative, bold and ultra-quick in decision making. It makes for a fun read, as you really enjoy the clinical dissection of the USA and Pakistan, as well as the bold decisions of the Indian Government. A must read for this alone. A word of advice- if you are a US citizen - dont read either this book or Salim Must Die. You wont enjoy it! 

Lashkar is a strange book - one that challenges conventional wisdom in fiction writing, and goes into uncharted territory. It uses actual existing political realities, and builds up on them. It does not needlessly vilify any nation - and sticks not to jingoism but to cold hard facts. And if those facts paint any nation black, so be it. It comes across as very objective,as opposed to  the jingoistic portrayals of Iraq, Russia etc in most other western spy thrillers. 

And, most critically, it carries a lesson as well: in the story of Iqbal - an engineer from India who goes astray, and wakens up to the reality very late.. too late almost. In his story is hidden the fundamental problem and inadmissibility of terrorism, and the dishonourable nature of terrorism - as well as the fact that they are mere tools in a much larger geo-political landscape.  Overall this is a book I rate at 5 stars out of 5. No contest!

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