I had first read Afterglow – authored by Brahm Dev – in the Amazon-Kindle version and did find it captivating although the typos were quite unsettling, coming from the house of Amazon.
The New Thomson Press release is thankfully free of blemish and is also easy on the eyes. I have got to know the author at Delhi through our family friends and was struck with his zest for life coupled with an enviable literary taste in his formidable medical arena of surgery.
Inevitably the debut novella is a vast panoramic biopic stretching over a full half century and more of a green soldier and a surgeon.
The 1962 Chinese onslaught gets a first had war theatre rendition and the dismal failure of the military intelligence and army preparedness combined with lopsided government level fiasco is brought out candidly, vindicating Gen Henderson Brooks’s report.
The 1965 Indo-Pak war is chronicled from the surgeon’s tent in a forward hospital based in Sialkot. The VIP visit of then Information and Broadcasting minister Indira Gandhi accompanied by the redoubtable yoga guru Dhirendra Brahmachari takes one down memory lane.
“And then without a preamble we had visitors. This time the army jonga driven by a godly man in loincloth brought us our VIP visitor, the I&B minister Indira Gandhi. Ms Gandhi was demure and oozed youthful charm while her secretary Mr Fernandes was suave and civil…
Brahmchari had an air about him and even in the wintry cold had draped himself in the flimsiest of a dhoti…
I asked Ms Gandhi if she would care for tea. She looked directly into my eyes and said with a smile, “Being a good Kashmiri, I shan’t say no to tea.” Mr Fernandes and Brahmchari joined us then, the latter declining tea. “Only saffron and honey for me,” he quipped. Ms Gandhi suppressed a knowing smile.
The author would live to seem to live the adage – all if fair in love and war –and his passionate love affair in Mount Abu with an Anglo Indian woman brings more agony than ecstasy. Later he finds himself posted at Chandigarh as the sole surgeon and falls inexorably for a Sikh medico even while being wedded to a gentle soul.
The loverly escapades of the love birds to Simla, Srinagar and Kathmandu make for riveting reading.
Lastly with the Saudis as their neuro surgeon at the King’s hospital, he paints the times and customs of the natives vividly. He then lives through the entire Gulf war (based close to the Iraq border) that was to eclipse Saddam Hussein from power in an incredible novel manoeuvre bring in the US military might in the Holy Land for good.
Cover jacket is by Dr Ankur Dev, the author’s only son who passed away in 2013