The Lover Boy of Bahawalpur – Review
Rahuls’ previous book titled ‘Our Moon Has Blood Clots’, left me with an overdrive of pleasant and unpleasant memories. I read through each emotion with swollen eyes until the wee hours of the morning. This book still holds the title of being the only book, that speaks ‘as a matter of fact’ about the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits from the valley.
A week back, a friend suggested that I must read Rahul’s new book titled, ‘The Lover Boy of Bahawalpur’ (Juggernaut 2021). I usually don’t have an appetite for non-fiction books, but there was something in the title and the cover that planted its seeds in my mind. The next moment, Amazon delivered the new release. And the book was consumed in the following two days.
Oh boy! What a read it was. Thrilling and riveting between the unpalatable covers of the book. It won’t come as a surprise if his work is adapted soon in a Netflix series. It has all the right elements of intrigue, suspense, conspiracy and the national binder – Pakistan. I can already visualize binge racers, running to refill their coffee mugs. Some of the pre and post events of the Pulwama attack have been juxtaposed so well, it appears as though Rahul had a drone recording this for him.
The book starts with a run-up to the unfortunate terrorist attack. It takes the reader to the ascend of the bloodbath; as rightly put by the author ‘…curtain of blood, stretching till the horizon…” What follows is an array of intriguing titles for each chapter, pinning the attention of the reader.
This book contains factual information and verbatim of the soldiers and the terrorist. However, what this book also cares to reflect on are the personal sides of opposing parties. Brave hearts like Guru, Sukhjinder, Pradeep, Mohan Lal, Jaimal, Jaswinder too had a family like all of us. They had bid adieu to their mother, wife, children and dreams; least thinking that this would be their last one. The author mentions the heart-warming conversations of these CRPF personals aboard the unfortunate bus, with their families living far away in Karnataka, UP, Punjab, Telangana. He has brought to the limelight the sacrifices of these personals.
In the same essence, repentances of accomplices like Shakir saying ‘Ammi ki bohot yaad aa rahi hai’ and Waiz-ul-Islam seeking pardon, shows that the author is not hiding their intent to reform. Perhaps Rahul wants to tell the authorities to keep a tab on people like Waiz and Shakir and nip the evil in the bud.
The book is filled with a lot of intrigues. ‘Sindhi ajrak cap’ moves like the mystery phrase in the book un till the reader reaches the last chapter. The suspense continues in the concluding chapter of the book, where Rahul leaves the reader with another cloak-and-dagger phrase ‘…one mistake…’ I wonder was this name, ‘Sindhi ajrak cap’ picked from the dossier or was this author’s imagination?
Chapter number 5. A very clever idea to give the readers a brief about Pakistani’s sinister plans and how they have been radicalizing the innocent Kashmiri youth into this ring of fire. Since Kashmir is a complex subject and multiple players are playing their cards at multiple levels; apprising the reader about the same favours the author.
In between the chapters, the reader is amused at the way luck had played a role. Delayed departure of the convoy from Jammu, exchange of duties between the soldiers or how the sole survivor Vasudev erroneously boarded the surviving bus, are some of the clenching references from the book. Or the chapter where the NIA head of Kashmir accidentally finds ‘shiny’ stuff and a cut-off thumb. In a few weeks, NIA head again stumbles upon a picture of a terrorist who was an oddball in Adidas. These eventually became the breakthrough events of the Pulwama case. Was the author fortunate to lay his hands on such an electrifying reality or was there tweaking and tapering of the facts to make it a thrill worthy plot? I wonder.
‘The Lover Boy ofBahawalpur’, gives an account of the manipulative, brutal, aggressive, and contradictory lives that the terrorists live – the lies they live with and never think twice before betraying anyone. In particular, was the case of the mastermind, Umar Farooq, who leads a dual life, stretched between a wife in Pakistan and double dating with young girls in Kashmir. Through his sweets talking, he was able to enchant Insha Jan and charm his way through. In the beginning, Insha Jan likes to be the keep of the ‘bad boy’, but breaks down later when the truth about Umar’s ‘lover boy’ imagine is surfaced. Umar’s casanova image contradicted the Puritanical life he had sworn in to lead. He fell in the eyes of his fraternity. The girl along with another confidante of Umar spill the beans and become a reliable source in resolving the Pulwama case claims the book.
Like his previous book, Rahul has a free-flowing style of writing. There is nothing Victorian or archetypical about his expressions. In ‘The Lover Boy of Bahawalpur’, in certain chapters, it looks as
though he is talking to you. Like on page no 83, he breaks from the main story to a sub-story by stating ‘…But we will come to that in a bit…’ Like the title of his books, the author has given a well-thought rather intriguing names to each chapter in ‘The Lover Boy of Bahawalpur’.
JKLF was the first trouble making militant organisation but was soon got replaced by HM and JM. In the book, Rahul has minced no words in describing their web, the hawala flow, their networks, Amazon home deliveries, their training and the vengeance they have against the Indian state. Through the book, he has established that the most fearless and ferocious terrorists are trained in the terrains of Afghanistan. Umar Farooq, the cold-bloodied architect of the Pulwama tragedy was trained in the Jaish run facility at Sangin, in Afghanistan. His Uncle Masood Azhar was trained at the Khost camp in Afghanistan. Likewise, others got trained in the arid valleys of Afghanistan and were later sent to the Kashmir valley by Pakistan to train the local youth of Kashmir. The author claims to have corroborated all the factual information at multiple levels.
‘The Lover Boy of Bahawalpur’, was released before the present turmoil in Afghanistan. Now, in the new state order of Afghanistan, many new training camps will mushroom at free will. This could eventually mean more trouble and terror attacks in India.
The book has a generous display of pictures – of all the villains and their means of destruction. But I am yet to fathom the glorification of the villain on the cover page of the book. I mean, was that necessary or was that simply a marketing plot? Also, there are innumerable characters in the story. It tends to get confusing but the annexure at the end of the book helps. This is a TBR book. It is a gripping narrative of one of the worst national tragedies in India.