Dawood is dead. Really?
Review of ‘Dawood is dead’ by Avik Davar
Do a Google search for Dawood and you’ll be confronted with more than three hundred thousand pages with assorted facts in .41 seconds! Even Quora and Scoopwoop have been talking about him… so it isn’t as if Dawood is a person who is discussed in a hushed tone in the corridors of R&AW only. It is equally true that even the Interpol might be just as fuzzy about him as a common man would be on the streets anywhere in the world.
Dawood is an elusive man and there are people who believe that he isn’t even a gangster. This may be hard to digest but this man certainly has secretiveness written all over his persona which makes him a reasonably good subject for a tale that meanders through imaginative settings. ‘Dawood is Dead’ by Avik Davar or Subramanyam Vidalur Divvaakar is, therefore a thriller that goes beyond the known and the unknown facets of the man and attempts a peek into his mind. I must admit that going through the pages of this novel did justice to the cloak and dagger life he is supposed to be living.
When I met the author a couple of days back, I did tell him that his book has the potential to make every other thriller writer in India go into spams about creativity.
This book has ISI, Pakistan, Mossad, R&AW, guns, gangsters, shoot-outs, and plenty of dead bodies doing a bone-chilling dance with diplomacy, politics, clones, Dubai, Sharjah, Karachi, Dongri, Mumbai, and Israel. If you think this one sentence makes a story transcend the general flow of thrillers written today, you’re absolutely right. When I met the author a couple of days back, I did tell him that his book has the potential to make every other thriller writer in India go into spams about creativity.
The story doesn’t stay fixated on India and the way the known facts go… this would have obviously transformed it into a documentary looking so much like the notes on files that must be doing the rounds of ministries and investigation agencies in both our country and Pakistan. The book goes on from one covert operation to another making the reader mutter, ‘That’s it! This must be the logical end.’ But no, the tale spins into yet another equally mind-boggling narrative as the supposed climax nears… and Dawood goes on unhindered giving his Machiavellian smile every time.
Let me clarify that the book isn’t a sedate account of the blasts in India nor is it about Dawood’s escape and neither about the way he has been staying in exile or about clogged diplomatic channels anywhere. The book doesn’t go on to print a current picture of the Don that none of us anyway have access to, nor does it pin-point to the fact that he is a resident of a house in Clifton Bazaar in Karachi. This man has successfully eluded the world’s best espionage efforts for 23 years and must be having a mind sharper, more informed, and definitely shrewder than everyone included. This is the story of a mind that can come up with unheard of solutions to his predicaments and this is what gives unlimited joy to the reader of a thriller. So, was he finally caught, at least on the pages of this thriller? Maybe… and I wouldn’t go beyond this as at one point in the novel ‘Don Dawood Ibrahim hugged General Iftekhar and lapsed into his Bollywood one-liners. ‘Gentlemen, as the great villain Ajit said, “I am supposed to be dead”.’ But the book does make fun of the way decision-makers dilly-dally over efforts to expose the truth about this man. I loved a Pakistani General voice his apprehensions when he says: ‘Kill the golden goose? Who’ll fund us against terror then? Let’s cut to the chase. When are you turning yourself in?’ The Pakistani authorities are forever in a quandary and sway from being logical to being utterly illogical as they know they cannot be ‘be foolish. Just think. We already have most of his money here. There’s nothing to lose. Let him go and be re-captured somewhere outside Pakistan.’
This is the story of a mind that can come up with unheard of solutions to his predicaments and this is what gives unlimited joy to the reader of a thriller.
Turning himself in? Well, if India is forever running after him, so is Pakistan. All this happens even as the Don calmly reminds us that he misses ‘the balmy air of Bombay and the fragrance of our night jasmine tree. Those were the best days of my life, Mehroo. I miss home so much.’ The story also dives into the world of cloning and the author seems to have researched this aspect rather well because at some point in the narrative ‘it is confirmed that Dawood has been busy readying a double for the Indian officer.’ The writer is an expert in adding a gruesome caress to hilarity in his plot and the surprising twists have the power to punch your own conclusions hard! This is one book where the entire sequence of twists comes in a phased manner and nowhere appears to be contrived or struggling to stay believable… and the best part is that unlike many thrillers that I have read, this one doesn’t give you the complexity of the plot in some final chapter to make everything sound puerile.
By the way, this is one thriller where even the characters chosen to carry out covert missions are shown to have proved that ‘a six mile run, twenty sets of twenty push-ups, twenty sets of five sit-ups, five sets of twelve pull-ups, and seventy-five minutes of non-stop swimming’ is not crossing plausible limits because we do hear a trainer tell the female protagonist that ‘being a seal is not about power; it’s about endurance. It’s mental toughening that we’re going to attain over the next eight weeks. And there’s no room for failure, even if it costs an arm and a leg to succeed.’
Phew! If you’re now thinking that the book really has thrilling elements in it, you haven’t read what happens towards the end. You have no idea what the relationship is between Sister Agatha, David, Samantha, and Angel and why even the Don found the revelations heart-breaking. Even the R&AW chief Vardhan’s tone was a hush. ‘Do you even know what you’re saying, Sister?’ You have no idea what it is to spend days knowing that you are someone walking with the potential to explode and kill hundreds of innocent people. Obviously, you wouldn’t know because you are not Don.
I am not sure if I really wanted the Don to be ’sobbing like a child. ‘They took my wealth, they killed my family, they don’t even let me return. Please send me back to Dongri, huzoor. I can live there with dignity, even if I have to beg to survive. Please!’ I write this even after reading what Kasab says somewhere at the start: ‘Huzoor, if I deserve to be hanged, then you must hang the Don too. He made me do all this, Allah kasam.’
This is one book that I just might read another time… that is, if Juggernaut allows me to. For those interested, the book is available on Juggernaut books for just Rs 10/- until tomorrow. All you need to do is install the Juggernaut app and read. Talking of Juggernaut, I must add that they do have a good selection of books at a reasonable price… but they do not sanction downloading more than twenty books at a time. So if you have bought twenty-two books and are in a non-internet, non-wifi area, and decide to read one that is not in the lucky twenty list, you’re doomed. Requesting my friends at Juggernaut to rectify this error and be less autocratic about decisions that a reader is perfectly sane to take.
To come back to this book, the writer did admit that even if the world declares that Dawood is dead, one needs to be really careful about believing it. The Don isn’t just a person discovered to have had passports of eighteen countries but has successfully evaded every effort to click his picture that was last taken almost twenty years back. He is certainly a subject worthy of a thriller… and all that I am waiting for now is how many thriller writers will read this one and mutter, ‘How I wish I had this brilliant plot in my mind.’
This post is now also published in InsightBuzzar:
10 August 2016