The Muddy River : A Review
I was reading P.A.Krishnan’s “The Muddy River” over this weekend. This book, though a piece of fiction, is inspired by a real world happening and is about an uncompromising bureaucrat’s mission to secure the release of a senior manager of his Public sector company. Bureaucracy and Public sector corruption can be told as the dominant theme of the book , hence we might call it a “bureaucratic fiction” if that term exists.
It’s the story of Ramesh Chandran , a Delhi based bureaucrat, whose too many questions and inquiries into the “contract & account” books of the State owned Power Transmission corporation see him placed as the person responsible to negotiate with an Assam based militant group and secure the release of a hapless and unsuspecting senior manager of the company. Here on, the main field of action shifts to Assam and the bumbling bureaucrat, in his quest to get the hapless human-being rescued, has got to handle the tantrums of the manger’s mistrustful wife, apathy of a cynical police officer, the tricks and manoeuvres of a seasoned Chief minister and the ofcourse the iron fisted extremists who wish to make a kill from the kidnap. He has some assistance from Anupama , a lady torn between her job dharma andher love for her motherland , a veteran Gandhian old but resourceful also tries to help our man. How our passionate bureaucrat handles all this and how he uncovers and exposes a huge financial scam in his own company, is, of course the crux of the book.
The way the novel is narrated deserves a special mention. Chandran wishes to put his trials and travails in the form of a novel, thus this is two stories woven into one. Sukanya , Chandran’s wife, reviews and mails the chapters of his novel to two of his trusted friends and they keep sharing their comments on the way Chandran’s book is shaping up. While it is not easy to tell and retell the same story , the writer indeed did a brilliant job in handling it. The real and fictional lines of story are very close , the real Chandran and his creation the fictional Chandran, have little difference in terms of characterization .The line of difference between fiction and reality is so little that, after reading a piece you might end up wondering whether its real or fiction. Maintaining different fonts for both the streams was a great idea , thanks to that ,or I would have been stumped.
The pace of the story is very slow to begin with , was wondering when the actual plot starts , at times I was tempted to skip some pages and read.However it was worth the wait, as you progress the story catches pace and the wonderfully constructed piece of prose does not let you put the book down. The author’s strong vocabulary at times made me consult the dictionary but I still like the narrative.
I do not want close the review with out speaking about the main characters, Chandran a Tamil Brahmin by birth has Marxist leanings, but that does not make him renounce his vegetarian ways, he abhors the rituals at temples but that does not stop him from accompanying his wife when she wishes to pay her obeisance to Lord.His understanding of the situation and bureaucratic skills look to be impeccable, yet he is not one who can take dispassionate decisions. At times I couldn’t resist but ask the question , was Chandran a fictional version of Krishnan (the author of the book)? Sukanya , Chandran’s wife is a character that appeals the most to me , her stead fast confidence, her support to her husband, the knack she has in getting her stuff done , her review comments on Chadran’s novel appeal the most to me.
Last but not the least we see a lot of Gandhi through out the book, the inspiration the author draws from Gandhi is definitely commendable, I would have been more happy if the author did not let Chandran make those statements that might hurt Tamil Brahmins and Hindus. The rest of the book was a great read. I’d like to sign off by saying it is a good work by the author, not just for the story part but also for the amount of knowledge and the insights he provides, the book is definitely worth a read and if you were me you would read it more than once.
Happy Reading .