ISRO spy scandal inspires new novel
New Delhi : The infamous ISRO spying case has inspired a new novel by poet-screenwriter C P Surendran which is an incisive critique of the rot at the heart of the society and the corruption that permeates the structures of authority. “Hadal” is a work of fiction and does not go into the details or truth of the spy scandal of 1994.
The spying case of 1994 pertains to charges of transfer of some secret documents on India’s space programme to foreign countries by two scientists and four others, including two Maldivian women.
Scientist Nambi Narayanan was falsely implicated in the case and exonerated by the Supreme Court in 1998 but he spent 50 days in prison and lost his career as an ISRO scientist.
In the novel, published by HarperCollins imprint Fourth Estate, Miriam comes from Maldives to Trivandrum to write a novel, taking a break from her job as internal security officer at the palace of the Maldivian President General Mihad. Honey Kumar is a police officer on a punishment transfer from Delhi to Trivandrum for a spectacular act of graft.
Miriam is a young, attractive and unhappily married woman. Her fingers were long and slender and she wore small stone rings on them. She carried the alphabet of her native language, Dhivehi, etched on her nails.
Her novel is about two young people, a man and a woman, and a dentist. The dentist takes on the dimensions of a political leader, say, General Mihad: someone who makes the right sounds and does the wrong things. The girl must find exactly how her mind works in relation to power.
When Miriam refuses to comply with Kumar’s demands for sexual favours in return for extending her visa, he fabricates an espionage charge against her and arrests her. Before long, Miriam, who has secrets of her own, realises that the tropical vacation spot she has landed in is like a hallucinogenic dream, where everybody has a tale to tell. That they collectively contribute to a fable about her as a spy and a honey trap, shakes her up and shapes her struggle.
Surendran’s poetry collections include “Gemini II”, “Canaries on the Moon”, “Posthumous Poems”, and “Portraits of the Space we Occupy”. He is the author of novels, “An Iron Harvest”, which deals with the human cost of Maoist militancy, and “Lost and Found”, which is based on the Mumbai terror attack in 2008. Anant Mahadevan’s just-released film “GourHari Dastaan” is based on a screenplay by Surendran.