This is the second book I am reading from Rakesh. The first being (The Deliverance of Sarpameru). However, the books were released in reverse order. While I liked the story in the Sarpameru book, the writing was not so clean.
But, the debut novel, The Thorough Check, is a far better book. I was not sure what to expect here. The blurb said it is about how Indian Muslims are treated in India. But that is only one aspect of the book.
The hero is a young Muslim undercover police officer, travelling to Gujarat. His cover is to look for a job and learn languages. It is the story of all migrant Keralites who are unable to find a decent job in their own lands and migrate in hordes across the world. Once upon a time, they used to come to Mumbai then moved on to Persian Gulf. US, UK and Australia are high on the current list. Then comes Gujarat, Bangalore and Chennai.
Being a Muslim, the unrecognised officer is readily accepted into the Gujarathi Muslim community. Soon he discovers that things are not as straight forward as they seem. He gathers intelligence which is passed on to the police from time to time. So you get the drift. Here, I will not put in more of the story as it would be a spoiler. The research here is very well done into the working of the Police and undercover officers.
The police officer is doing a great job. But when he has to change to make himself unrecognisable, he faces the bitter truth. In his typical Muslim get up with a skull cap and unkempt beard, he faces an India which is racist, hypocritic. He is being stopped and thoroughly checked at multiple locations, some stare at him, some avoid eye contact. It questions his own belief and his dedication to his profession.
How does one motivate a police officer who faces racism first hand? The book shows us the mirror here. We may have also shown such prejudiced behaviour. We need to come out of this and recognise that it is unfair to treat people from a community as terrorists.
But that is not even what this book is about. It is a story of espionage, counter intelligence and police tactics. The hero faces a highly competent people-politician-religion nexus which is difficult to beat. He struggles to find who is pulling the thread of all the activities going around. Frighteningly, on the surface, everything looks normal.
One of the minor things I did not like in the book is the way the police officer thinks about his love interest Mehrunissa. It could be personal but it is a bit crass and made me cringe. Since the book is in first person one can ignore it as a very male way of thinking. But, please have mercy on us women readers too.
This book kept me at the edge of my seat and I could finish it in a few hours. It was a very interesting read with a mild dash of sarcasm. We want to see more such books from Rakesh.
About the Author
Vadassery Thaiparambil Rakesh was born to Mr. K.A. Menon and Mrs. Rema Menon, in a sleepy village of Kerala, amidst the greenery of paddy fields, overflowing ponds and canals, croaking of frogs and the mysticism of snake worship. He remembers the gruelling travel that he and his elder brother had to go through, to reach the only English medium school in the area, sometimes having to swim across the canals brimming with the monsoon waters. Like most of his generation, Kapil Dev’s bouncers and Gavaskar’s straight drives made an impression in his mind. However, the financial necessity to earn a professional college degree got the better of his cricketing ambitions.He did his B.Tech in Mechanical Engineering from the Government Engineering College, Trissur. All the graduating batches are like the exploding seedpods of Balsam. Amongst the various seeds that were dispersed to the different corners of the world, he landed in the holy land of Gujarat. Having completed his MBA in Marketing from the acclaimed Maharaja Sayajirao University, he works in Baroda for a private company.Bitten by the world of magical realism of a Garcia Marquez, Thriller tales of a Maclean or an Archer, nationalistic fervour of a Tharoor or a Nilekani, he finally took his dive to the deep ocean of writing. Married to Ms. Nisha Ponnoth, they have a son, Rishi.
Twitter : @rakeshvt
Disclaimer : The author sent me a free copy for review in exchange for an honest review.