The story of a brilliant and intrepid frontline journalist Shivan Khamboj and his wife Romona, the archaeologist. Their friends the idealistic Russian journalist Alexei Rumyanstev and his wife Ludmila, the visionary Afghan Prince Farid and his wife Anahita, the English writer Julian Ashford and his beloved Vinita. Set against the backdrop the some of 20th Century’s conflicts in contested lands of Afganistan, Middle East, Iran, Bosnia, their lives cross each other’s paths. Events that as much shaped the destiny of these individuals as it shaped the fate of nations. It is also the story of their love, dreams and betrayals.
From one of India’s accomplished writers, this brilliant novel is a tour de force narrative of power and poignancy.
Achala Moulik, novelist, playwright and cultural historian served in the Indian Administrative Service. She was the Education Secretary to the Government of India and Director General, Archaeological Survey of India. Moulik attended schools in Washington, New York, London and took an honours degree in Economics and International Relations from London University. A prolific writer, Moulik has written extensively on European cultural history, Physical heritage, biographies, novels, poetry and the play, Pushkin’s Last Poem (published by National Book Trust, India).
Achala Moulik was awarded the prestigious Pushkin Medal by the Russian Government for her work on Russian literature and culture and also the Sergei Yesenin Prize.
Achala Moulik lives in Bengaluru.
The great novelist Lev Tolstoy stated that he created his stories within a scaffolding of actual events and characters. This, he observed, heightened the realism of his novels.
In this novel I have set the characters against a backdrop of dramatic geopolitical events of the late 20th century. Some of the Characters partially resemble those I have known.
My husband had an Afghan friend who fleeing from Hekmatyar’s brutal regime in Afghanistan, halted at Delhi. Sitting in the serenity of our home one afternoon, he described the terrible events in Afghanistan in 1922-94 which I have recounted through Princess Anahita. The Afghan friend disappeared in the ensuing maelstrom.
The debates by Soviet leaders in March 1979 on intervention in Afghanistan, and the account of the siege of Taj- Bek Palace, that I have narrated, are based on document that were removed from the archives and later handed to the CIA who placed it on the internet. These documents suggest their reluctance to intervene despite the Afghan government’s plea.
Observations about the print media and events that are presented in some chapters are drawn from the writings and views of celebrated journalists such as S. Mulgaonkar, James Cameron, Francis Williams, Colin Coote, S.R. Pawley, E. Alan Smith, Vivian Brodsky, Stephen Kinzer, Howard Tumber, Frank Webster, John Griffiths and Paranjoy Guha Thakurta.
When I begin writing the novel in 2007 the Islamic State was but a nightmare away. The dangers foreseen and predicted by the principal characters three decades ago have now actualized into terrible reality.
Some of the lines on creativity, writing and cognition have been adapted from the book Last Frontiers of the Mind by Mohandas Moses.
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