Today (19th November) is the birth centenary of Mrs. Indira Gandhi, the Iron Lady of India. Today is the birthday of the Rani of Jhaansi – Lakshmibaai also who was born exactly 182 years back (that is, on 19.11.1835). This book review is dedicated to her only.
Hindi novelist Late Ved Prakash Sharma had mastered the art of writing patriotic suspense thrillers during the seventies and the early eighties. During that period, he wrote many such novels which are not only full of suspense and thrill but contain a heavy dose of patriotic sentiments also. If you have even an ounce of patriotism in your heart, such novels of this author may prove to be tear-jerkers for you. The presented review is of one such novel only which tells the imaginary story of the adopted son of Rani Lakshmibaai, the great queen of Jhaansi whose valour and patriotism is a golden chapter of the Indian struggle for independence in 1857. The title of this novel is Inqlaab Zindaabad (long live the revolution).
The novel starts with the happenings in Jhaansi during the decade of 1850 when king Gangadhar Rao was no more and his widow – Lakshmibaai was ruling as the representative of their adopted son – Daamodar who was a minor and his mother – Lakshmibaai was his guardian. The British were trying to usurp Jhaansi under the notorious Doctrine of Lapse propagated by Lord Dalhousie but the patriot queen was not ready to surrender before them. She fought with them tooth and nail but being badly wounded in the final war at a place near Gwalior called Kota-Ki-Saraai (on 17.06.1858), she left for her heavenly abode in a nearby jungle where her horse had carried her to. It is said that her adopted son – Daamodar was tied on her back in that final war.
The real story of Inqlaab Zindabaad starts from this sequence only. Rani Lakshmibaai passes away in the hut of a sage whom the author has termed as her childhood buddy and named him as Kraantikumar. Rani hands over Daamodar to him before dying and seeks a promise from him to make Daamodar a great patriot to fight the British. The author has asserted that the history is silent regarding Daamodar and nothing is mentioned about him in the history books. And therefore, he has penned the story of Daamodar (with Kraantikumar and others) afterwards through his sheer imagination. Kraantikumar fosters Daamodar and makes him a revolutionary to fight the mighty British empire through arms. Grown-up Daamodar is now known as a dangerous bandit and he loots and kills those rich Indians who are pro-British. He lives with Kraantikumar and Rukhsaana, a young girl who has also been fostered by Kraantikumar after the demise of her father. Rukhsaana loves Daamodar but he ignores her feelings because of his living by sword everyday.
However Rukhsaana, being in love with him, is always concerned for his welfare and feels that he is alone and if a few brave and patriot youths join hands with him, he will be much more capable to move ahead on his chosen path and towards his chosen goal (of attaining independence of the nation). She earmarks three brave youths for this purpose and decides to make them patriots (or anti-British, to be precise). They are – 1. Bheekam, a deadly bandit, 2. Johnson, a skilled bank-robber, 3. Ambar, the son of the Superintendent of Police of the city – Mr. Naagar. Among these three, the situation of Ambar is the most peculiar one. In his household, he is closest to his widow sister-in-law – Kaushal who is always supporting the armed revolutionaries fighting against the British whereas Ambar supports the British rule. Ambar is also a member of a special squad formed by the British government to crush the revolutionaries. This special squad is known as Daman Dal (the team for repression) and headed by a mysterious person always covered from head to toe in a golden-coloured fish-shaped garment. This mysterious chief of Daman Dal is called Golden Fish. A member of Daman Dal is supposed to tell this fact to nobody but Ambar being devoted to his Bhaabhi (sister-in-law), has told her about it. A significant fact is that a few years back, she had been raped by certain revolutionaries who had killed her husband (and Ambar’s elder brother) and an Englishman as well who was trying to save her. She has a kid who took birth after the demise of his father.
The story takes a twist when Rukhsaana, without telling anything to Kraantikumar or Daamodar, kills the governor of the state known as King Saheb and gets herself arrested. Before doing that she meets her targets (for turning them as patriots) – Bheekam, Johnson and Ambar separately and apprises each one of them of her (false) love for him. What happens thereafter is something to read directly in the novel because it’s a chain of thrilling events and a shocking revelation in the end. The ending scene is thrilling as well as sentimental and the reader closes the book with a heavy heart.First, let me spell out the minuses of the novel. It is studded with plot holes and inconsistencies. Taking the story in the nineteenth century, the author conveniently overlooked that neither there were motor-vehicles in that period, nor helicopter, nor sophisticated revolvers. Even the slogan – ‘Inqlaab Zindabaad‘ which is the title of the novel and repeated several times in the narrative, did not exist in that time period. It was invented in the next century only. The authoring liberties are aplenty and you have to ignore them to enjoy the novel. Further, the author’s claim that the history is silent regarding Daamodar’s life after the death of his mother, i.e., Rani Lakshmibaai is wrong. Daamodar’s mention is there in the history who lived (an impoverished life) upto 1906. The author only claims to have done a lot of research work. In fact, he does not seem to have actually done it.
Despite the negatives spelled out in the previous paragraph, let me admit wholeheartedly that Inqlaab Zindabaad is a spellbinding novel. As the narrative moves forward from one chapter to another, the pace of the story keeps on increasing only. The final 80-90 pages are just like a roller-coaster ride which have to be read non-stop, holding the breath. The climax is just like a 440 KW shock for the reader.But the USP of Inqlaab Zindabaad is neither the suspense nor the thrill. It’s the patriotic feeling spread throughout right from the word ‘go’ to the final word. The episode of Ambar’s close friend – Rajesh who dies for the motherland, is a real tear-jerker. Otherwise also, the novel is able to stir up the patriotic sentiments in the reader’s heart at many places. The dialogues are damn impressive and alight straight into the depth of the reader’s soul. And that’s the reason, I am able to praise and recommend this novel despite all its deficiencies as well as the undue authoring liberties taken by the novelist.
As at this moment, the danger is right on the Indian frontiers. And one never knows when the real war breaks out which we may not be able to avoid (and it won’t be desirable also to avoid it). In such a situation, I appeal to all the Indian readers of this review to revive their patriotism; rising above the differences of caste, religion, province, language and the like wise. The motherland is calling friends. And no patriot can afford to allow this call to go unheard.
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