Bunker 13 by author and journalist Aniruddha Bahal is remarkably insightful and surprisingly annoying. The novel offers unusual information on an astounding plethora of subjects, including the Indian army, weaponry, paratrooping, flying, drugs and their comparative upshots and downshots, double-dealing, drug trafficking, seduction, antiques, furniture business, terrorism, and corruption. The rhetoric is Americanized with a fair amount of four-letter words liberally bestrewed throughout the book. This is alright, because the authority and wry humour of Bahal’s language seem to require a worldliness and sophistication that only Western slang can provide.
The second person narrative style, however, destroys your composure and fills you with a deep longing to get out of your skin or better still to get through the book as fast as you can. You feel misrepresented and victimized, forced to watch an imposter going about under ‘your’ identity doing stuff in and out of a time warp that don’t make the slightest sense to you. You don’t want to be MM aka Minty Mehta aka Several Other Names, who sprint across the pages plotting, getting into incomprehensibly jargon-filled tight spots, and getting out of them just as randomly and incomprehensibly using more jargon. It’s as if you are embarrassingly high doing things you have absolutely no clue of.
One moment you jump off a plane with meth in your veins, fire bullets at the ‘mossies,’ make drug deals with notorious Russian moguls, carry out complicated cons duping ministers, army officials, wise guys, and Intelligence officers, and in the next you are seducing a foreign journalist, making small talk in Journalese over drinks, and reminiscing about your fractured past as you lie in a hammock. After the complete fire-and-pomp deal, you are barely prepared for the final and rather unnecessary twist thrown in your face.
On the whole, despite learning about fly agaric, the Spetsnaz, the Bank of Aruba, the “politically fucked” minorities of the world, pyrotechnics, and army torture methods like tubocurarine, Bunker 13 feels like a tediously solved but incoherent jigsaw puzzle that might as well have been left unsolved.
CLOWNIN’ Rating: 2/5