Book Review - Tanzeem by Mukul Deva

The one I missed… this is a book I read more than a couple of years ago, and forgot to review it then. As luck would have it, I dug deep into my pitaaraa two days ago, and thought of re-reading this one to check up on how exactly Iqbal ended up. The immediate stimulus was a twitter conversation with the Author himself. And so it was that I found that this excellent book was spared my attention in the list of books reviewed, which is a real pity; I would rate this as being among the Author’s very best. If any of you haven’t already read it – do so; you will not regret it.

THE PLOT
Image result for tanzeem mukul devaThis is the 4th book of the Lashkar series; and this one is all about Iqbal from start to finish. A shattered Iqbal comes out of Blowback with hatred and revenge the only two alternating emotions in his heart; a heart burning with one desire, and one desire alone. And a mind filled with alternating thoughts of Tanaz, and the man / men who were ultimately responsible for her condition… the combination of the mind and the heart propels Iqbal towards his goal, his purpose, and gives him resolve. And his resolve, his goal? The destruction of the entire people behind the most sordid Saga of his life.

Alongside this overpowering emotional state, is the realization that his personal enemies are also his national enemies; the patriot in him does not lose sight of this reality. He is keenly aware that something big is being planned by the Pakistanis and the terror machine; only this time – he wants to go after them alone. The current book is that story – the story of his infiltration into the vicious terror machine. The entire book is built around this one theme…

THE REVIEW
As is usual for a Mukul Deva book, this is, once again, a hurtling, breakneck speed and incredibly fast-paced story, written in his signature style. And, again as usual, this story is also completely unique in every respect; different from Lashkar, or Salim Must Die, or even Blowback in this very series itself; to say nothing of the other fiction titles of this author. And as a tribute to his skills, let me add that despite this complete difference in the books of the series, the books represent and make one complete fully connected story; the story of Iqbal. For that is what the Lashkar series is all about – the story of one man, one incredible man – Iqbal.

There are two or three things that need to be highlighted in this story. The first aspect is the shocking attention to the scenes of brutality,  including torture – the attention to detail as well as the way they are woven into the story so as to make them not just integral to the story, but also central to carrying the story forward. The second aspect is the graphic descriptions and narrative style that is used to  both capture your attention and build up speed and tension. The beauty is that the story doesn’t lose out on the pace due to the graphic details included.

The third, and as per me, the most critical aspect of this book is the history lesson that it tried to create for the reader. The entire 44 page section dealing with the Ameer’s flashback tells a history lesson that achieves two objectives : firstly, it creates a complete character sketch in the readers’ minds of the principle antagonist,  taking you deep into his psyche and behaviour. Secondly, It uses contemporary history which is certain to capture the attention of the target audience, which is largely Indian; and gives what I regard as a history lesson {almost – let us not lose sight that this is a work of fiction. That said, I took the trouble of cross-checking some 6-8 facts in this section – turned out completely accurate in every respect} in the background to the Af-Pak regions’ headlong rush into disaster.

It also makes for a slightly emotional read for us Indians, as this “aid” to Pakistan was diverted towards fighting India. You could feel a tinge of stunned shock at the clear US stupidity of acceding to Zia’s demand for what tantamounted to unrestrained control of the aid package. Anyone with even a small tiny iota of intelligence should have known that this would be diverted to fighting India! But let us move on… I hope now at least the great USA realizes is folly, its stupid and na├»ve support of Pakistan through – aah -  aid! This does not make for an easy read for a Western reader; the USA has been, quite literally, taken apart for its role in Af-Pak, as has Russia and its role. This is not a novel that projects either in a positive light; by and large. Even in the climax, it forcefully underscores the USA’s shortcomings, as it is the Indian forces who are in complete control of the operation.

To summarise, this book once again rates an easy 5 stars out of 5. And, as you turn the last page, you realize with more than a tinge of regret that this is the last time you are reading of Iqbal, and of Force 22. I still believe there is a scope of a couple more based on Iqbal; and I am certain that the author can build a new series around Force 22, making them a series as avidly followed as Lashkar was, and the current Ravinder Singh Gill series is. There is tremendous potential for these two story ideas; I hope Mr Deva is reading these words… 

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