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Thriller inspired by Kandahar

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Just after noon, the sky clouded over without warning and it started to rain. So unrelenting was the downpour that many invitees, as well as host Sanjay Agarwal, the president of the Merchant Chamber of Commerce and the managing director of Century Plyboards, were delayed. A suitably adventurous setting for the launch of a thriller!

(From left) Sanjay Agarwal, Juggi Bhasin and Saira Shah Halim at the book launch. (Arnab Mondal)

Juggi Bhasin has penned a trilogy on terrorism in India for Penguin Books India and The Avenger is the second of the series. Starting with the blowing up of an aeroplane at Delhi airport by a Pakistani terrorist, the story crosses the border and even careens to Palestine and the Gaza strip.

“It’s a geopolitical thriller,” said Bhasin, in conversation with Saira Shah Halim. “There is a lot of Pakistan in the book. I present a quasi-real context where a takeover of the nation by the Taliban is a grim possibility.”

The author admitted that the Kandahar hijacking of an Indian Airlines flight in 1999 had influenced him.

Having been a journalist for seven years — Bhasin was with Doordarshan in the 80s and 90s — he saw Kashmir up close in the trouble-torn years. “The army let us speak to captured terrorists sometimes. The conversations made me realise that many of the Kashmiri boys took up guns for a living as there were no options. They were paid to become insurgents.”

The character of anti-insurgency commando Suvir Suri, who takes out his personal life on the battlefield, is in the thick of things in the first book, The Terrorist, as well as the second one. “And yes, he will be there in the third book too. Even that is ready,” smiled the man who is sitting on a script on Sailen Manna’s famous Barefoot XI.