An Indian thriller inspired by Dan Brown & Harrison Ford!

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By The Telegraph Online
  • Published 27.11.13

For a debut novel The Ekkos Clan [Niyogi Books, Rs 350] is quite promising, with echoes of Dan Brown in the storytelling. Bangalore-based engineer Sudipto Das’s thriller will ring a familiar note for anyone with an “Opar Bangla” (East Bengal) connection. Kratu Sen, an engineer in Stanford, suddenly realises that the stories he and his sister have grown up listening to — about their grandmother Kubha — are not as simple as they sound. Meeting Afsar, a linguist palaeontologist, encourages Kratu to decode the “chhele bholanor golpo” (tales told to pacify children). He discovers that the names of the characters and places have a striking similarity with the Rig Veda and the Aryans. Could the stories preserved for centuries have a greater significance?

The plot thickens when Kratu’s sister Kriti and uncle Bhrigu are murdered within a year. Soon Kratu, his best friend Tista and palaeontologist Afsar are on a Rig Veda and Aryan trail.

In the centre of it all is Kratu’s “Thamu” Kubha, who died during the Partition riots in Noakhali in 1947. Kubha’s family hailed from a village in the Hindukush mountains. An ancestor of Tista belonging to the Gupta family of Gaila in Bangladesh had brought Kubha’s ancestors to Gaila, wanting to record their stories and unique rituals. But Tista’s ancestor Prabhat and Kubha’s family were murdered, probably by a Hindu radical group in the 1920s. Only Kubha managed to escape. Prabhat’s diary and Kubha’s stories provide clues that take Kratu & Co. to an ancient civilisation in Arkaim, Russia.

References to astronomy, archaeology and the Rig Veda and cryptic rhymes pepper the novel, making it read sometimes like a complex mathematical problem! But Kratu’s love interests, his relationship with Tista and cousin Jhimli, the searing accounts of Partition and Kubha’s story give the plot a sensitive touch.

The Ekkos Clan is like any fast-paced thriller, replete with murder and miraculous escapes. The end is sensationalised, but we don’t really mind it.

Chandreyee Ghose

t2 caught up with Sudipto Das, the IIT Kharagpur alumnus and former Calcutta boy, over a cup of coffee on Park Street.

What made you start writing?

I used to write as a student, mainly in Bengali and often to impress girls! I started working on The Ekkos Clan in 2008. I wanted to do something that would bear my signature, my imprint. Writing a novel seemed like the only option to me. I’ve always been intrigued by ancient Indian history. I wanted to tell the true story of the origin of Indian culture and languages, but not in an academic way. Like Dan Brown, I decided to weave a thriller around history to make it appealing.

You have roots in Bangladesh. Is that why you chose the Noakhali riots as the backdrop for the first part of the novel?

I realised that almost nothing had been written about the Bengal side of Partition. The Noakhali massacres were one of the worst communal riots in the Indian subcontinent, but most Indians know almost nothing about them. I wanted to talk about this. I have grown up hearing the stories of Partition from a widowed aunt. I had heard the stories so many times that I had a vivid view of everything that happened, even after 30 years. The stories I heard were from Barisal, the place where my family stayed before Partition, but I used Noakhali as I felt that area should be talked about.

Which part of the novel is autobiographical?

The part where three kids escape from Noakhali and reach Calcutta after a long ordeal is autobiographical. My father was seven and my uncle 14 when they travelled all alone from a village called Gaila in Barisal and landed in Calcutta. My father was almost dead, his ribs broken. They had horrific experiences that left them scarred.

The Rig Veda features very prominently in your novel. Have you read the Rig Veda? How was the experience?

Yes, I have read great parts of it in original Sanskrit and my first experience was of awe and amazement. It’s the first book composed by mankind. It’s filled with wonderful poems about people’s love for nature, love for their own people, love for their country and culture. I felt the poems are very secular in nature and rich in historical facts. The importance of the Rig Veda is far more than just a book of scripture. It plays a very vital role in understanding ancient history of India and that of the Indo-Europeans and the development of Sanskrit and the other ancient languages like Greek and Latin.

You have given archaeology an interesting twist...

Steven Spielberg gave the most amazing twist to archaeologists when he got Harrison Ford to play Indiana Jones! Prior to that, the image of archaeologists to most was perhaps that of Waheeda Rehman’s husband in Guide and how she finally ran away from someone who spent nights digging out pots and pans from under the soil! Harrison Ford totally changed this idea and I was very much inspired by that.

What is your next project?

I’ve already completed the first draft of my second book, which is not a sequel to The Ekkos Clan. But I do have plans of writing a trilogy with Afsar-Kratu-Tista and linguistic palaeontology, of which The Ekkos Clan is the first book.

The Geneva Trap [Bloomsbury,Rs 399] is the seventh espionage novel by former MI5 head Stella Rimington featuring British counter-terrorism agent Liz Carlyle.

Liz is trying to track down a mole in Britain’s ministry of defence who is working for an unnamed country, according to Russian intelligence agent Alexander Sorsky. This mole has got a hook in a drone programme, part of the top-secret Operation Clarity. Sorsky refuses to give Liz any more details about his source or his motive.

At a US Air Force base in Nevada, a man testing a drone aircraft finds the drone suddenly ignoring his commands and appearing to have a mind of his own. The first time, they think it’s a glitch. The second time, the drone self-destructs, indicating that Sorsky’s tip was correct.

Meanwhile the Swiss are investigating the death of one of their top spies in an apparent car accident, which may be the handiwork of someone who worked with Sorsky.

The chase to track down the mole and his masters and to keep Operation Clarity safe leads Liz across Europe, involving French, Swiss and British secret service, in an attempt to prevent the superpowers of the world changing forever.

The novel reads authentic. Rimington is a former head of MI5 and naturally gets factual descriptions correct, without any logical flaws. However, though it’s an espionage novel, the plot is linear, with not much intrigue. Also, conversations do not seem to be Rimington’s strong point. Most of them sound forced.

Overall, The Geneva Trap is a good enough read, even as a standalone novel, despite being part of a series.

Disha Raychaudhuri