Another fascinating novel by Abhay Narayan Sapru, a third by him, that takes you through the challenges, tribulations, sweat, blood and gore of militancy and counter-insurgency in Kashmir. His characteristic inimitable style will keep you engrossed through to the last page of this narrative based on realities.
A fascinating story written in superb language! It will not allow you to put down the book till it is finished. Having operated in counter-militancy operations along the Shamsabari Range and on either side of Pirpanjal Range in Jammu & Kashmir, I find the description of the terrain, locales and combat activities as authentic as can be. Only a Special Forces officer can go into such details.
Only a combat soldier could have written this!
Abhay Sapru’s second book on war from a combat soldier’s perspective is the real McCoy. It catches you by the scruff of your neck and doesn’t let go till the end. A chapter of the Indian Army’s ill-fated adventure into Sri Lanka, fought in dense jungles, against a cornered comrade turned enemy, you can smell the fetid smell of the jungle, mixed with the smell of death, fear, courage and strangely, respect for an enemy who was fighting for its very survival. Only a combat soldier could have written this!
The lucid narration will keep you engrossed to the last word.
The Beckoning Isle is a masterpiece in realistic settings of Sri Lanka during the days of the IPKF. Though it follows the travails of an Indian Special Forces Assault troop crisscrossing the path of an LTTE colonel, it takes you through a bit of history and the whole gambit of politics, intrigue, conflict, human behaviour and the tribulations that surrounded the war between the IPKF and the LTTE. The style of the author who himself was part of the IPKF is excellent and the lucid narration will keep you engrossed to the last word.
A tale of two men, on opposite sides of the battle, united only by the fatalism of their ideologies.
The Beckoning Isle is the story of the degeneration of a society and the vicious politics of retribution. But it is also a tale of two men, on opposite sides of the battle, united only by the fatalism of their ideologies. Abhay Sapru offers a unique perspective of the Sri Lankan War in an engaging, page-turning account of the clash between the Indian Peace Keeping Force and the LTTE, with voices from both sides of what will go down as one of history’s great tragedies.
Descriptions of terrain, actions, emotions, drama and violence keep you spell-bound.
Through his first novel, Abhay shows the class of a seasoned writer. Descriptions of terrain, actions, emotions, drama and violence keep you spell-bound. The tragic reality of Kashmir is so well articulated through this gripping drama, it is guaranteed to win your rapt attention from beginning to end.
The drama is gripping, the characters finely-etched and the plotting authentic.
The aroma of deodar trees mixes with the acrid odour of gunpowder in this taunt adventure story set in Kashmir. The drama is gripping, the characters finely-etched and the plotting authentic. But even as his characters engage in a good-versus-evil battle to the death, Sapru sensitively shows his reader how Kashmir is a tragedy not just for Kashmiris, but equally for the Indian soldier and the Pakistan-backed mercenary.
No frills, No armchair theory – Straight from the Hip.
This is the first combat book written in India, by a Spetsnaz, a Special Forces officer who knows the Kashmir Ops the way it really is – no-frills, no armchair theory – straight from the hip. You can smell the cordite and the fear and most importantly you can get into the head of the enemy!
Great read especially if you want to know what the fuck is going on in Kashmir.
Interesting story delivery.
I read both of his books twice. Interesting story delivery. Especially the narration on personality and landscapes. Never expected so many poems from a gun wielding man. Amazing insight into soldiers’ lives. Am sure not everything is shared in the books but there’s hardly anything written about Indian war experiences. We can’t fathom through Bollywood movies. So kudos to the writer. Thank you so much Abhay.
Action packed riveting Story, keeps you guessing till the end.
Nice read. Strongly recommended. Action-packed riveting Story, keeps you guessing till the end. Good insight into the IPKF operations & Army’s response. Fast-paced, interesting & insightful. Peek inside the life of an SF officer during IPKF ops. Go for it.
Abhay is a great story teller, vivid description of the jungle and fire fights.
Amazing book.. superbly written! woven a great story about the “almost forgotten war which India fought in Sri Lanka”, Abhay is a great storyteller, vivid description of the jungle and firefights, highly recommended.
Full of veritable moments of insights about IPKF & LTTE.
An excellent account, delivered with an intuitive punch. It’s great to have a subject like this narrated in a gripping format that all will find interesting. Coming from Mr Abhay Narayan Sapru, who has seen and experienced the Sri Lankan conflict and situations surrounding it up close and upfront, ‘The Beckoning Isle’ is full of veritable moments of insights about IPKF & LTTE. The book is truly ‘beckoning’ in that sense. A must-read in current times, to get a real peek into the life and workings of our respected armed special forces and their human side. A big thank you to Mr Abhay Sapru for bringing this to us !!
I am sure every incident here is true but for the names of those involved.
Rarely have I read a book from start to finish without putting it down. My father commanded an Infantry battalion in the IPKF and would often tell me his version of the battles. The similarity of rhetoric in this book was so similar, it had to come from a seasoned veteran of war, a thinking soldier who understood the futility of war, yet never hesitated from a warrior’s call to arms.
Though it’s claimed as fiction, I am sure every incident here is true but for the names of those involved.
I have to read Abhay’s earlier book, which I am ordering right now.
A thoroughly enjoyable read.
How many writers do we have in India who would write a war story or historical fiction on the Indian army and its operations? Not many or nil. However, Sapru is easily stepping into the role with this second book of his. And it’s not the chest-thumping, rhetorics filled stories with a superhero fauji but a normal, thinking though motivated protagonist who makes mistakes, loses some wins some but tries his best. And the enemy isn’t a die-hard, thoroughly black-hearted villain but again a normal person with his own story behind all the mayhem he’s creating. And mind you, he’s brave, intelligent and believes in his cause with equal fervour if not more! You may get to sympathise with him and may even at times wish that he wins!
A thoroughly enjoyable read and brings the lesser-known IPKF operations in Sri Lanka out in the open.
Sapru, write more and maybe I’ll put you on a pedestal somewhere near to John Masters!
This gripping novel would make an excellent feature film both at home and abroad.
‘The Beckoning Isle’ is narrated in the same singularly erudite fashion by Major Abhay Narayan Sapru as his first novel ‘In The Valley of Shadows’. ‘The Beckoning Isle’ is in the setting of the IPKF operations in Sri Lanka, while ‘In The Valley of Shadows’ is in the backdrop of countering Pakistan sponsored terrorism in the Kashmir Valley. Abhay, a Special Forces officer, has had extensive experience in counter-insurgency / counter-terrorism including in Sri Lanka and Jammu & Kashmir. How he keeps you engrossed from the first to the last word is because he has operated on every inch of the ground he describes. This plus his classy writing style gives you the experience of a virtual 3-D walkthrough.
‘The Beckoning Isle – the real Special Forces story’ is a novel, but as close to reality as it could be. The story revolves around Captain Hariharan, the Indian Special Forces officer combating the LTTE in Sri Lanka, and Colonel Silvam of LTTE trained at Chakrata in India; both respecting each other’s combat skills but intent on killing the other. The story takes you through a bit of history and the intrigues of politics, human behaviour, emotions and tribulations, fear and death that surrounded the conflict between the IPKF and the LTTE. The dense, dank mines and IEDs infested forests of Sri Lanka plus various accounts of action-packed encounters are real or near-real to what actually happened. These include the ill-fated IPKF raid on Jaffna University and action by an infantry battalion in the Nayaru Lagoon.
‘The Beckoning Isle’ describes the induction of Captain Hariharan and his troop into Kumulmunai post and Nayaru Lagoon post the infantry battalion reverses. The post came under an LTTE attack, which was eliminated by daylight daring action by Hariharan and his boys. Later, they were part of the IPKF operations in attacking the main LTTE camp in Alampil Forest, where Prabhakaran and Mathaya were reportedly holed up. Not many would know that Captain Hariharan in these actions is actually Captain (later Major Abhay Narayan Sapru). I, being his Commanding Officer, know this. Abhay performed exceptionally well in Sri Lanka and won a Sena Medal for gallantry.
Silvam finally meets his end at the hands of Hariharan in the Alampil Forest close to the main LTTE camp, eventually shot by the same G-3 rifle he lost to Hariharan in an ambush described in the opening chapter of the novel, their paths crossing in between as well. This gripping novel would make an excellent feature film both at home and abroad.
A Gripping Narrative from the first page
I have often wondered about how jaded a reader I have become in the past decade or so. Fiction seems incapable of engaging my mind anymore, which groans “ been there, done that ”, even at the best-formed twists and turns. And nonfiction is oh, ever so opinionated!
It was after decades that I got a book in my hands which I felt compelled to read cover to cover, in two two hour sittings, separated by the necessity of my six-hour beauty sleep. The Beckoning Isle by Abhay Narayan Sapru, part of a four-book set I gifted myself for my birthday, reached serendipitously just a day prior and turned out to be amongst the best gifts ever. I am always sceptical of the reviews and review ratings but this short but extremely gripping saga of one of the forgotten wars that the Indian Army has fought, probably forgotten even as it was fought, the Sri Lankan war, vindicated them in my eyes. Probably because it is so seamlessly woven together fact and fiction, two bete noires of a jaded reader, separately, but holding immense charm adding up to more than the sum, when brought together.
The story follows the lives of two protagonists, soldiers both, one in uniform and heart, the other just in heart but equally good. Tracing the destinies, of Harry, short for Hariharan, son of a special forces colonel himself who traces his father’s footsteps and Shiva an unlikely but brilliant soldier who joins the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, the story moves through numerous twists and turns when the two are pitted against each other. The story ends in the final showdown where one dies leaving the other to tell the tale, the storyteller being the thinly disguised author himself. Abhay is breathtaking in his rendition of a tragic ( and not only because it was so bloody) war between an oxymoronically named Indian Peacekeeping Force and Sri Lankan Tamils. His narrative is gripping from the first page and never lets the slack down till the last one. The amazing part is the felicity with which he describes soldiering, with all its feisty, almost childish view of the bloody game war, to the highest perspective where involvement of politicians and intelligence agencies skewes realities and confuses lines. There are no holds barred, no moralities cherished and no delusions of heroism harboured, just an honest soldier’s honest tale, one we all love telling over rum and paani. Abhay tells it as it happened.
For me personally, it was a day to relive all memories, feelings, perceptions, joy and sadness that I had felt in my own 19-month stint in the Emerald Island. It was uncanny how close I could feel to Harry as he related his experiences, with even one of my battalion posts in Mannar described in the book. In those four hours, the blood, gore and grime, faces of comrades lost and friends made, of the thrill of adrenaline rush that only hunting while being hunted can give, of the best and the worst of human behaviour that I witnessed, all came gushing back. One more exorcism ritual maybe.
I wish the best to this book, which comes across as a thrilling chase by a shark, not just skimming the surface like a seagull nor plodding deep waters like a whale. The masterstroke lies in the imagery interwoven in the theme. In Shiva, rechristened Silvam by the LTTE, being killed by the son of the Indian Army officer who had trained him. Symbolises the real tragedy of the War. My respect to the author for the soldier like regard he pays to the Tamil soldier. He was amongst the finest and one can only feel sad to have fought on opposing sides.
A breathless read
That was a breathless read, and apart from naming names, you had them all there: the Alampil ops where Col Bakshi left us, Gurkha Bn, the Guards Cdr, Jaspal, 1 Para who died when I was on my second day in Sri Lanka… etc.
Thoroughly enjoyed the book, reminiscing about those very fateful days. And I agree with you about the strategic mistake of the LTTE in holding ground. I also agree with you regarding the Indian Army being unwanted in Sri Lanka… so very unwanted, it was palpable.
Thanks for that, I enjoyed it as always.
A page turner all the way
I can’t say which book had me more captivated…. The Beckoning Isle or In the Valley of Shadows.
Being an army brat, I am familiar with both areas of operation by the Indian Armed Forces all thanks to various discussions in my parents’ home. Perhaps that is why my Dad recommended both the books to me. I read The Beckoning Isle first more so because that operation is closer to home. Fortunately, I was able to give my feedback both to Dad and to the very talented author.
Unfortunately, Dad passed away before I got around to reading the second book and I feel sad that I was unable to let him know that he recommended the right books to me!
I turned over the last page of ‘In The Valley of Shadows’ just last evening and I have to applaud the author on his writing pace, style and crispness of the plot. Nothing frivolous and unnecessary. It was a page-turner all the way and it left me with mixed feelings … for the protagonist as well as the antagonist … or was it vice versa … ?
Well done Abhay Chacha, looking forward to reading more of your work.