Friday, November 25, 2011

The murky, muddy river: P A Krishnan

The Muddy River falls under the category of political fiction. Though personally I think its foundation was indeed facts. The book revolves around Ramesh Chandran, a bureaucrat who is based in Delhi. The book starts with details of the personal loss of him and his wife.  Like its title, The Muddy River is a murky tale of a kidnapping and bureaucrat Chandran’s quest to have the victim released. But it seems the victim is held by a group of terrorists and with the involvement of politicians and policemen, the issue gets further murky.
Chandran, in turn, converts his quest into a novel – which is presented to the reader in typewriter font. Parts of the novel is occasionally commented on by his two friends, one a Bengali and the other a British lecturer based in Ampleforth and even reviewed by his wife, Sukanya. All these characters seem like an extension of Chandran somehow. As their commentary begins, the novel takes a side step. This method of weaving a story into a story ­– which is entertaining – can often be difficult to follow. But the writer, P A Krishnan, does a brilliant job of it.
The novel is slow to start and begins with letters and incidents that seem to take their time in coming together. The reader understands that a novel is in progress but what seems to be about the death of a child takes a very different turn. One might even begin to question when the tale of the kidnapping (as written on the back of the book) will actually begin. But, for me, it was worth the wait. The beautifully constructed prose made the reading a delight. Despite the usage of multiple big words (whose meanings I had to look up), the style of writing was refreshing and mature.
Getting back to the story, the issue gets murkier because Chandran discovers corruption within his public sector ranks and with his need for honesty, he reveals that he is aware of it. Quite obviously this starts to affect his life.
The book certainly gives an impression that Krishnan is familiar with the intricacies of the Assamese insurgency groups and their counters. Being a former bureaucrat, faults in his knowledge of public sector circles and memos and counter memos cannot be found. Barring a few typos and a little getting used to the constant change in fonts, I couldn’t find much fault with the book.
The currents that he constantly plays against each other, tangling the fictional Chandran with the real Chandran is amazing. Even after you are done reading, it is hard to say when the lines between fiction and reality blur with the character. And the changes in the font style keep pace with these character changes. Personally, the touch of the letters bowled me over. 
As much as the book is an interesting read, it is also insightful. All in all, I find the book worth a read. And definitely more than once.

About the author: P.A. Krishnan started his career as a teacher, became a bureaucrat in the Government of India and shed that mantle to become the CEO of a research foundation. He is presently a Senior Director of a multinational company. An accomplished writer, both in English and Tamil, he lives in Delhi with his wife, Revathi, who is a teacher.

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at Participate now to get free books!


Psych Babbler™ said...

Sounds interesting...might pick it up when I am in India someday...

Parth Jhala said...

Sounds like one of those books that keeps you on your toes with the narrative! :)

R-A-J said...

Hey Sri, very nice review.. really gv a gist of the book, highlightin the good points of it :)... i particularly liked the way u wrote bout the big words part :)

Good review, Srinidhi ...mite actually pick it up cos of ur review one of these days :)

Reema Sahay said...

Hey, nice review. Even I got it from blogadda for review, and I also quite liked it. The cover page was not encouraging though!