Book Review: Operation Jai Mata Di
The book blurb of Operation Jai Mata Di by Pratik Shah along with its intriguing cover where a pair of eyes are staring back at you through a veiled face piqued my interest quite a bit, and true to its initial impressions, this was a case where even though I judged a book by its cover, the judgment turned out to be spot on.
The basic plot of the book goes thus, when a group of renegade armed terrorists take around 7,000 to 10,000 Vaishno Devi pilgrims on the trekking route to the shrine, all hell breaks loose all over the country. The high visibility of the shrine, the impending general elections and the extremely unconventional methods used by the terrorists all leave the government agencies in a quandary. As if this weren’t enough, their demands were very controversial in nature and had the ability to bring the entire government machinery down to its knees. How the government and the armed forces deal with this situation, do they manage to resolve the hostage crisis, forms the crux of the narrative.
What I particularly liked about the book was its pacing and its relative attention to detail. Not for one moment did I feel like putting down the book when I was reading it, and the pages kept turning themselves one by one. Right from the get go, the action moves at a relatively frenetic pace, and the editing is quite crisp. However, I have to confess that this pace comes at the cost of character development. It would have helped the author if he had sacrificed some of the pace of the narrative, and spent just that little bit of extra time on delving into the psyches of at least some of the main characters involved. Yes, while we do get minor glimpses into some of them, the motives for their actions, the truth remains that most of the antagonists are all painted with broad strokes of character shades.
Another particularly endearing part of the book is that it reflects the political realities of India today rife with widespread corruption, crony capitalism and the chalta hai attitude. And the fact that this forms part of the main foundation on which the narrative arc is built upon makes this book that much more contemporary and relevant. Where I had a small issue was the fact that the author at various levels seems to have lost all hope in the current crop of Indian politicians and seems to suggest that there is just no salvaging the muck that it has become. In fact, this is the second book I have read in recent times where the authors seem to suggest this, and it just goes on to reflect how cynical and pessimistic almost all of us have become about the current system of Indian politics.
In a nutshell, Operation Jai Mata Di will surely be recommended by me as a good read for anybody who loves books in the political thriller genre, with the added bonus that it is set in India and speaks of people and events that all of us can easily relate to.
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