Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Trade Winds to Meluhha by Vasant Dave

Title : Trade Winds to Meluhha
Author : Vasant Dave
Publisher : Vasant Dave (Self Published)
Pages : 329
Genre : Historical Fiction
My Rating : 7.5/10
Reviewed For : Author (http://vasantdave.weebly.com/index.html)


My Review:

From the outset, the one aspect that I found most striking about this novel while reading it was that it was a well researched work. The author has taken the backdrop of a prehistoric setting and used the archaeological evidence available whilst donning a creative cap to paint a story that keeps the reader intrigued. In 1977, an explorer -Thor Heyerdahl undertook a voyage in reed-boat named 'Tigris'. He sailed from Iraq (Mesopotamia) via Oman (Magan) to Pakistan (Indus Valley). The author has started from this point of fact and has worked towards a plot that is fiction. I did not pay attention to the minute technical details since I feel that once you start getting absorbed in the story, these things tend to take a background.

Trade winds to Meluhha is based in the Bronze Age, with the plot spanning across a wide geographical spread  but majorly revolving in Sumeria (Mesopotamia) and Meluhha (Indus Valley). The plot kick starts with a young stable boy Samasin who is falsely accused of murder of a Meluhhan tradesman & then the plot charts Samasin’s adventuristic voyage and his metamorphosis from an innocent boy to a street-smart man. In addition to the adventures, the plot is interspiced with mystery, romance, revenge, heart-break and black market activities. The author has included a map, too, for the reader’s ready reference!!


Samasin works as a stable boy to a wealthy Babylonian named Nergal. On an unfortunate day when Samasin receives a reward for his year long services to the royal family, he also stands witness to the murder of a Meluhhan tradesman. Before dying in Samasin’s lap, the tradesman from the strange land (Meluhha) gives Samasin a bronze fish hook & utters the name “Siwa Saqra” along with a stranger message(in foreign language). This triggers off a chain of events, at the epicentre of which Samasin is sucked like a lone piece of leaf in a hurricane. Samasin, whose only fault was that he was in the wrong place at the wrong time, is falsely accused in the murder of the foreign trader & is captured by Sumerian authorities. However, he manages to escape due to twin unique astronomical events (these events have actually happened in real!!!). After escaping, Samasin sets off on a voyage in search of the elusive Siwa Saqra armed only with the parting relic given to him by the dying man. In his conquest, Samasin is helped by Nergal’s ex-wife-Elati & Captain of a Meluhhan ship – Paravar to escape from Sumeria. During his voyage, he comes across a damoiselle – Velli with whom Samasin falls heads over heels in love at the first sight but the emotion is not reciprocated!! Also along the road, he stumbles across Anu – a Mesopotamian woman with a concealed identity & greater hidden purpose. Samasin has an interesting quest with lots of twists & turns where he falls in love, deals with bandits, goes on treasure hunt, combats with pythons but inspite of all this, Samasin doesn’t give up on his original search for Siwa Saqra.
The author has filled the plot with motley of people. Initially, I was a bit overwhelmed by the vast array of characters but as the plot advanced, I realised that each & every character is important. While reading, I could not help but think of these characters as pawns in the game of chess, however, powerful or insignificant each one is, ultimately they all serve the same purpose of defeating the antagonist!! Also, what I found really helpful was that the author has provided links to each character’s name which leads to an appendix where the character is briefly described.

Another major highlight was the subplots. As I said earlier, there are a lot of characters & each has his/her own story. However, in the end I found that each such story / subplot is like a piece in a big jigsaw puzzle. These subplots are interwoven seamlessly into each other & in the end we finally unravel the main big picture. Also, these characters are relatable in their traits & actions!

The only thing that held me back was the slow pace of the novel. I guess that was essential since Samasin’s voyage takes him through different locales & he interacts with different people but it could have a bit more on the edge. However, it cannot be denied that the author has spun a gripping fictional tale yet taking a meticulous effort at being authentic to the period. As a debut work & so much effort, the author definitely deserves kudos.
About the Author:

Vasant Davé was born in Kenya to immigrant parents from India. He was schooled there under teachers coming from all the races living in East Africa during British rule. He passed Bachelor of Engineering from the University of Bombay and served for 24 years in companies manufacturing electrical and electronic capital goods. For another 8 years, he took up industrial market research contracts from consultants based in Singapore and Hong Kong. He conducted face-to-face and telephonic surveys in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh for multinational end-users such as Siemens, BASF, Henkel, Dow Chemical, AkzoNobel and Linde. His work in Industrial Market Research often took him to remote parts of the country where he could visit nearby archaeological sites too.

His interest in the ancient past of the sub-continent led him to write a historical novel after retirement in 2008. His technical background helped him to understand and apply historical, geographical, environmental and cultural nuances bearing upon the life during 3rd millennium BC, the period in which Trade winds to Meluhha is set.


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