A rivalry in the realistic setting of a forgotten war (Review)
Title: The Beckoning Isle; Author: Abhay Narayan Sapru;
Publisher: Wisdom Tree; Pages: 157; Price: Rs 245
The operation against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) by the Indian
Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) in Sri Lanka in the 1980s may have been a doomed
venture, but this riveting tale of rivalry between an Indian Special Forces
officer and a battle-hardened LTTE commander based on realistic settings comes
as a breath of fresh air in a market where war books are few and far between.
Abhay Narayan Sapru's "The Beckoning Isle" is a gripping account of the IPKF's
operation versus the LTTE guerrillas and is his second book on war from a combat
Sapru, who himself served in the elite Special Forces and now works in a private
bank, makes it clear in the preface that while a plot has been interwoven, most
of the incidents, places and experiences are factual.
While the book gives a peek into the history of that war, it also describes in
graphic detail what the Indian soldiers had to contend with in what was
essentially a peace-keeping venture.
"Untrained in fighting on the local terrain, ill-equipped and burdened with a
conventional military mindset, it was the Indian Army's Vietnam and by the time
the IPKF pulled out, it was minus 1,200 men, cremated on a foreign soil and
nearly 3,000-plus wounded," Sapru states in the preface.
"In contrast to the Kargil conflict, which was covered extensively by the media,
the military entanglement in Sri Lanka is a forgotten war -- and was one even
while it was being fought -- with the last vestiges finally obliterated by the
passage of time."
The tale of the young and dedicated Captain Hariharan and LTTE commander Silvam
criss-crossing each other's paths takes the reader through the dank, humid,
mine-infested dense jungles of Sri Lanka and brings to light the sheer intensity
the Tamil Tigers brought to the conflict.
It is a tale of two men on opposing sides but fatalistic in their beliefs and
shows human behaviour, politics and the intrigue surrounding the whole conflict.
The very fact that Silvam was trained by Captain Hariharan's father at a
cantonment town in the Himalayas shows that the Indian Army too should be given
credit for having trained, at the instance of the Research and Analysis Wing
(RAW) spy agency, 15,000 Sri Lankan Tamil Tigers from various political parties
and turning them into what they were -- giving no quarter and asking for none.
The circumstances under which Silvam, who worked as an accountant, took up arms
and kept a cyanide capsule to avoid surrender, show how the Tigers were
determined in their belief and individually fiercely dedicated to the job at
Silvam's fleeting trysts with his wife and son also give a glimpse into the
personal life of a Tamil Tiger who puts cause over family. Towards the end of
the book, one can feel the respect an Indian had for the enemy despite the
intensity and sheer viciousness of the conflict.
"The Beckoning Isle" is an action-packed and fast-paced read.
TAGS: The Beckoning Isle
, Abhay Narayan Sapru
, Indian peace keeping force
, book review