"Operation Jinnah" | Story of retribution for personal loss
Shiv Aroor’s ‘Operation Jinnah’ initiates a new genre of fiction. It’s a thriller with a cause, be it gender equality or fighting terrorism or even wishing India’s success in being capable of designing an answer to an American stealth bomber.
The first chapter introduces the principle characters of the novel, Admiral Rana and his trusted lieutenant commanders, Vikramaditya Singh, Saraswati Subramanyam and Akeela Thomas in a submarine firing cruise missiles at the Jinnah Naval Base in Pakistan. While the mission gets aborted it gives a clearer idea that this novel is about a battle for supremacy between India and Pakistan. The story continues with its two narrators, the young lieutenant commanders and the admiral. It explores their personal stories and the fierce loyalty that binds all of them. The other strand brings us to Kashmir and the kidnapping of Varuna Rana, the daughter of the admiral. This novel is a story of retribution for personal loss as much as fighting against terrorism induced by Pakistan.
As we are drawn into personal angles, we learn that Akeela Thomas is a maths wizard and grew up at an orphanage in Kerala. Rana met her at an event organised to honour Kerala’s military heroes. As Rana heard her formal speech on the occasion, he on an impulse decided to ensure that she made it to the navy. She later became the first female Special Forces soldier. Saraswati’s background is unusual too. Born as Sravanan, he lost both his parents to a cyclonic storm and grew up in various orphanages. He always saw himself as a woman as a result of which he joined the Navy as cis gender and later became a trans-woman with a new name Saraswati. Vikramaditya Singh and Admiral Rana both lost their family members to terrorist attacks. The first two lieutenant commanders are indebted to Rana for the opportunity that changed their lives. But between Vikramaditya and Admiral Rana there is a common bond of grief which makes them fight terrorism unleashed by Pakistan on a level that goes beyond the call of duty.
The kidnapper Ataullah too has an axe to grind against Admiral Rana. As a thirteen year old boy he was a witness to the act of killing his father by the Admiral and his team. This task was the first successful mission for avenging the terrorist attacks in Bombay in which Ataullah’s father was a key person. The daredevil act is narrated using a timeline which builds up the suspense and gives the reader a feeling of participation in this mission.
This is a novel which has covered a time-span of seven years. It starts with the aborted mission of Operation Jinnah and ends with the successful completion of the same. Between these two actions there is the account of Rana and his team entering PoK, and successfully completing their mission on two occasions. There is a painstaking effort to build up technological background of the mission along with maps and diagrams to guide the reader. The international press, the Indian prime minister, the Pakistani president and even the US president are involved in this game of terrorism and counter terrorism.
The novel has a pace and a well structured plot. The thought that the Navy or the Defence Services in general should be accessible to any gender is expressed with subtlety. The novel talks of a day when Pakistan’s involvement with terrorist activities would be acknowledged by the United States and India would be capable of a retaliation Pakistan deserves.
However there is a loose end, which is almost acknowledged in the book as something for which there is no explanation – Akeela’s contact person in PoK. The escape in the second mission in PoK owed as much to luck as to the bravery of the participants. ‘Operation Jinnah’ keeps one engrossed while reading and we can be hopeful about novels of similar genres in future. This review though reveals the backgrounds of most of the participants, does not talk about the details of the surgical strikes. Those are for the readers to discover.