I have abused bad books on this blog before. I roasted One Night @ The Call Center and If God was a Banker. But that was only because they were unmitigatedly bad books. On the other hand , Tarbela Damned – Pakistan Tamed has humongous mitigants to the badness. It is a conceptually bad book, the way Jaani Dushman: Ek Anokhi Kahaani (Timepass Pages Review here, Greatbong Review here) is a conceptually bad movie. It makes up for the bad implementation by being based on awesome fundaes.
The back cover speaks for itself:
TARBELA DAMNED – PAKISTAN TAMED is a work of fiction that deals with the coming together of the Indian Intelligence services (RAW), and the Mossad of Israel, with help from the Irish Republican Army, to strike at one of Pakistan’s most prestigious and sensitive structures, the Tarbela Dam, in order to tame a country gradually but definitely becoming a ‘rogue’ state. All this is possible because an Indian Jew who after graduating from IIT Madras, emigrates to Israel to join the Mossad, teams up with his schoolmate, now an officer in RAW. Both of them share an ambition, and are in pursuit of the same goal, namely bringing Pakistan to heel. The two men have been deeply influenced by their teacher in school, the Irishman, Brother Manahan, who has inculcated in them a sense of admiration and empathy with the IRA. The planning, the execution, and the repercussions of their schemes for the substance of this unusual novel.
With concepts like this, you can happily overlook the writing itself. The book violates all the unities. There is no unity of place. The plot jumps from Shillong to Madras to Dubai to Ireland to the NWFP. There isn’t unity of characters either. Characters are brought in, given dialogue that sounds like an Indian National Interest blogpost, and then disappear, never to be seen again. The Indian Jew and the friend in the RAW who are supposedly the main characters make their last appearance fifty pages before the book finishes. In fact the last chapter features Musharraf and Manmohan Singh, neither of whom have appeared at all. And the last chapter is followed up by a non-fiction epilogue detailing the foreign policy of Pakistan since 1947.
The whole book reads like a string of abstracts of counterterrorism and foreign policy papers, which have been converted into fiction by the simple expedient of inserting characters, bad sex and awesomely mixed-metaphor dialogue like ‘I was always of the opinion that these American dogs will use us as condoms!’. You can’t not love it.