When I was with my friends Neena and Anil in Delhi during the second week of November, while we were discussing books, Anil suggested that I read Combat of Shadows, a book by Manohar Malgonkar. He did this because he knew about my own involvement with the tea plantations in Assam in my late teens and also because I had met the author in his retirement at his jungle retreat up in the hills from Belgaum. I had gone there with a friend who was related to Malgonkar and I found the famous author to be a gracious host and a great raconteur. He insisted that we spend a night up there in the wilderness and it is an experience that I have not forgotten yet.
I had read A Bend In The Ganges, The Princess and A Teller Of Tales during my fiction reading days. Malgonkar was a very readable writer and his stories always very realistic and gripping.
Anil had fond memories of Belgaum where he was posted during his stint in the army and has read some of the other books by Malgonkar. He went searching for the book in his vast library and came up with a copy that was so old that I was scared to turn the pages lest they disintegrate. I straight away ordered for a copy to be delivered to my home in Pune and started to read it on my return and have been able to finish reading it only last night. I was unable to read it in one shot like I normally would when reading fiction because the story simply did not move fast enough for me. Having personally experienced many situations like what the protagonist faces in the story, I could almost anticipate developments and that continued right up to the end.
For all that, for someone not very familiar with the tea plantation life during the times when men from Britain still worked there, and also not familiar with Anglo Indians of those days, the book would make for a very readable experience. Malgonkar is a master storyteller and his command over the English language is admirable. I would recommend it to Indians and Brits of about my age who would like a bit of nostalgia for the good old days of British and immeidate post colonial India and Tea.