It is 24th April today, and I'm standing from the fourth floor balcony of my flat in Chennai, watching the line form on the street below. I have two polling stations next door - one a corporation primary school and another a Women's social club. The trickle of keen early voters that I saw as I was returning from my run this morning has increased steadily. Unfortunately, my application to be included in the voter rolls was lost in the "system" and I'm going to have to sit this one out. My parents, who live with me, fortunately got in.
My father, who served in the Air Force for 39 years, rarely got an opportunity to exercise his franchise in the traditional way (going to a polling booth). Every election, I remember a bright yellow envelope that would come to him with his postal ballot - the constituency he would vote in was the place listed as his "permanent residence" in the Air Force records - his sister's home in Tuticorin, Tamil Nadu. One never knows if those postal ballots reached in time, were counted, or were just lost.
Member of Parliament Rajeev Chandrashekar, son of one of my father's old Air Force friends, launched a successful campaign to give members of the Armed Forces the right to vote in the place where they are posted, as long as they are not in a field location. Kudos to him for taking up this cause and securing the rights of those who work hardest to protect our democracy.
Unfortunately, another class of people who work as hard, and perhaps in less comfortable circumstances, are members of our Para-military forces. During elections, they are rushed from place to place to ensure safe voting for everybody, but they don't have the right to either send an absentee ballot or vote where they are. This is a real travesty and should be addressed soon. Rajeev's work is a good first step, and I hope he takes up the case of members of the CRPF, CISF, BSF and other paramilitary forces soon.
"Don't twist facts to fit your theories; when the facts do not support a theory, throw it out," said Sherlock Holmes to Dr. Watson, a number of times (or something to that effect, anyway). Oh, how could I resist not writing about the MH370 disappearance, given it's link to the themes of The Anza Deception and to, The Sympathy Wave.
I think by now most facts point to either of two possibilities - a deliberate act, or an onboard malfunction that moved so quickly that both pilots could not react quickly enough to save the aircraft.
The malfunction theories point to the possibility of an onboard fire, which started somewhere in the electrical circuits that control the aircraft's communication systems - ACARS (Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System), then spread to the transponder and radios, before engulfing the pilots. They could have detected the fire, and tried to turn the aircraft towards a diversion airport (Langkawi is a possible target) but were overcome by fumes and perished. Under this theory, the aircraft should have crashed somewhere on a straight line between the point it turned and Langkawi. The distance depends on when the fire consumer the autopilot, and when the aircraft ran out of fuel. Boeing 777 aircraft are extremely stable - even with the autopilot disabled, the aircraft could have flown for hours before crashing.
The other theory, that one or both pilots deliberately diverted the aircraft somewhere, is also supported by some datapoints. The best theory I've seen so far is from Capt. A Ranganathan, an experienced airline captain and contributor to The Hindu. Capt. Ranganathan has a coherent explanation for the various altitude changes made by the plane, and believes that it may be hidden somewhere to be used soon in a terrorist attack, a la 9/11. Chilling thought. You can read his article here.
The search is currently being conducted in one of the most remote parts of the planet, off the coast of Australia. It remains to be seen whether the searchers find anything, and till then, we'll keep debating these two theories vigorously.
By now, pundits around the country have done a fairly thorough analysis (given available information) of the mishap that struck INS Sindhuratna and resulted in the death of two brave young Navy officers in Mumbai.
However, the bigger question is of the underlying causes that resulted in the Navy being forced to operate the submarine beyond its original decommissioning date, 2013. This appears to have been because of delays in procuring replacements to the Fleet of Kilo-class submarines.
Does this story sound familiar? To me it definitely does. Many young fighter pilots have lost their lives because of delays in procuring parts and upgrades to our MiG 21 fleet. They have also suffered because we took long to procure an advanced jet trainer that could replace the Kiran Mk II and ease a pilot's transition from a piston trainer to the Mach-2 performance of the MiG 21. Delays continue to plague our procurement of the MMRCA, which is supposed to be the backbone of our Air Force for the next few decades.
Lastly, DRDO has to take a large share of the blame. By making big and bold promises to ill informed politicians and bureaucrats in Delhi, and playing both the political game and the nationalist card to the hilt, they have delayed or deferred the procurement of foreign matériel but at the same time failed to deliver. The Air Force has stopped waiting for it's squadrons of LCA aircraft, and the grand project is likely to go the way of the HF24 Marut, which never made much of an impact on our force levels or capabilities.
George Fernandes, when he was Defence Minister, famously posted a few Babus to Siachen to show them the effects of their delays in procuring winter equipment for the soldiers fighting under those challenging conditions. Will AK Antony do the same? A stint in the battery room of a submarine for a few months will surely be an eye opener for the paper pushers in the MoD.
Book Shop of India (www.bookshopofindia.com) has a nice review of The Sympathy Wave:
A racy political and investigative thriller. Matured writing. Unputdownable !! From military slush funds to shady land deals, from assassins and contract killings to loyal kingmakers, from cover ups to expose, from supercomputers snooping on the citizens to press conference on youtube and from Bogota to Bikaner, this novel has got everything and fills the void in quality Indian reading. The book is a racy political and investigative thriller. The plot and subplots are meticulously laid out by the author and aspects kept hidden from the reader only to be revealed at an appropriate time. Men of honour (officers from the military/RAW) are the sleuths who work like the CIA or Mossad. They work at great risk and little resources and fight the mighty machinery available to the megalomaniacs who have ridden a mock sympathy wave. The characters are strong. A Ludlum or Maclean was always missing in Indian writing. Ganapathy enters the arena with a bang to fill the void. I am eagerly awaiting his next novel.
Thank you, book reviewers at Book Shop of India!!
Vishal Kale reviews The Sympathy Wave on his blog (link below).
I was really impressed that he got the book and reviewed it almost immediately (the post is dated 24 Dec) and he has really got to the essence of the book. I'd love to know what the "one flaw" is, but he perceptively gets to one dilemma I struggled with (and I'm sure many writers do too) - how to strike the right balance between building characters and describing scenes, vs. moving the story along!
You can view the review here.
Following the soft launch of The Sympathy Wave on Monday, 6th January, 2014, articles have begun to appear in the press about the book. Here's what Deccan Chronicle had to say.
In a packed Chamiers Cafe yesterday evening, I launched The Sympathy Wave on Chennai Live 104.8 FM's "Cover to Cover" radio program. This program, sponsored by my publishers, Westland Books, is designed to go to interesting places with authors of books, to get them to connect with the audience.
The show was hosted by Chennai Live's self-styled "book-chick", Jane Ram, and also featured romantic comedy writer Judy Balan. Jane enjoyed needling the two of us, given that we were from two dramatically different genres, and watching us do battle.
At one point she also brought by son in from the audience, and had a lively discussion with him on his reading habits (he's a voracious reader of Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson series). The 10-year old kid handled the questions easily and with confidence, saying that he liked those books because of the violence, but not mine because it's "disgusting".
The program will be broadcast on Saturday, 18 Jan 2014, on 104.8 FM in Chennai.
There were several journalists in attendance, and their interviews with me should begin to appear in newspapers soon! I'll also upload the recording when I get a copy!
One of the abiding pleasures of authorship is when you see your book in print, and see it in bookstores. I've been to a few bookstores in Bangalore and was delighted to find that they had copies in stock. Here's a picture a friend sent me when she received her copy on Flipkart.
If the bookstore wants me to, I will sign copies for them, and in turn, request them to display it prominently.
If you find a store that doesn't have a copy, please let me know, and I will ask my publisher to ensure that they get copies!
Happy New Year, everyone!
The Sympathy Wave is now available on Flipkart. It should be in stores shortly. Please buy, read and review! Spread the word!
As my second book, The Sympathy Wave goes to print, here's a quick preview of what the cover looks like!
Please let me know what you think!
The book should be in stores by the end of December, 2013.
Executive, entrepreneur, investor and mentor to social entrepreneurs, golf and squash addict, author of thrillers... In short, an amateur dabbler in new experiences, and provoker of thoughts.