Title: Trade Winds to Meluhha
Author: Vasant Davé
Genre: Historical Fiction
‘Trade winds to Meluhha’ is set in the Bronze Age. It narrates a young man SAMASIN’s adventure in Mesopotamia and Indus Valley Civilization. He is charged with murder and escapes death through a rare astronomical event which is actually recorded in clay tablets excavated in ancient Babylon. He lands in Meluhha (Indus Valley) where besides the query he also finds wealth and love.
In 1977, Thor Heyerdahl of Kon-Tiki fame undertook a voyage in an 18 metre long reed-boat named ‘Tigris’. He was convinced that such ships were capable of carrying up to 50 ton cargo and could therefore have been used as trade vessels. He sailed from Iraq (Mesopotamia) via Oman (Magan) to Pakistan (Indus Valley). To Vasant Davé, Heyerdahl’s validation offered a remarkable setting for a narrative based on adventure and interaction between the two widely diverse cultures 4,000 years ago.
With a wide geographical spread from the present day Iraq to India, ultimately what is the plot?
In the year 2138 BC, Samasin worked as a stable boy with a wealthy Babylonian named NERGAL. One day he was falsely implicated in the murder of a foreign trader. Tipped off by Nergal’s divorced wife ELLA about risk to his life, he fled to the distant land of Meluhha in search of SIWA SAQRA whose name the dying man had uttered. During the voyage, he met a beautiful damsel, VELLI. He fell in her love but was dismayed to find that she was still devoted to a person who had jilted her. He also met ANN, a Mesopotamian woman who concealed her identity because she was determined to search out a couple of faceless men for revenge.
On the way, Samasin learnt about a board etched with ten glyphs (actually excavated on the site of Dholavira) and with Ann’s help deciphered them, leading to an adventure in the ravines of the Saraswathi. He faced a series of obstacles including a few which almost killed him. Then he found that they were manoeuvred. Finally when he met Siwa Saqra, he learnt that there was more to the murder in Babylon than met the eye.
Circumstances brought all the characters together in Babylon when with awe they discovered the stark reality about the trade between Meluhha and Mesopotamia.
One of the reasons I picked up this book when it came as a part of the Making Connections Group was that the writer was Indian (=Or Indian Origin!!) And I feel a little encouragement from fellow authors/ bloggers and country women 😉 does a good deal to push the book and give the author confidence.
The book starts with a haze of events. Samasin finds himself in the thick of things when he is witness to a murder. After a failed execution, he decides to flee the place and find Siwa Saqra, the person whose name the now dead person calls out.
There begin Sam’s adventures as he navigates foreign lands trying to find the mysterious man called Siwa Saqra. He meets Velli, a girl who he cannot forget, and Ann who is a victim of a brutal rape. Sam finds himself looking out for a treasure and also finds himself a target of repeated attacks on his life.
When he finally meets Siwa Saqra, mysteries are solved, questions are answered. But what is the mystery behind the murder and what happens to Sam’s life now?
What I have to appreciate is the research which has gone into the book. It is not easy to write something which is spun around a part of history that not many people know about. Especially a thriller with a thick plot with characters.
I found the fast pace of the book in the first half to be very refreshing. I felt the history and terms and language used was a little heavy sometimes because I lost track of what happened in the plot.
I think the main characters of the book are very strong and the underlying story is well written. The author dangles facts with fiction and while this is a dangerous area, for fear of rebuke, I must say the author has done a good job.
I felt that some part of the story could have been dropped in favour of a crisper narrative. Sometimes what I feel happens is we spend too long deconstructing how a scene should look rather than let the story naturally flesh out and that is what I feel has happened here. I wish the book would have come through in 2 parts because there were parts of the story that seemed not necessary to the whole story. Also I was thoroughly confused with which character and what he was supposed to be doing. But that may be my own diverted reading.
BUT BUT BUT! That isn’t all. This is by no means an indicator that the book should not be something you should buy and read.
While the reviewer in me wrote like a priss above, feeling a little cheated out of the story because so many things were unexplained, another part of me was PROUD!! This is a phenomenal book. I have always been in AWE
of the INDUS VALLEY CIVILISATION. And I have never been taught that as a part of history in school. My teachers thought it would be a good deal to read about the Indian Freedom Struggle or the Russian Revolution but not ancient Indian civilisations that flourished in our country.
Much as I would love to catch a good book about the Indus Valley Civilisation but I doubt if I’d have the time. And in such a case, I felt this was an EXCELLENT READ. I could capture so many snippets about how people lived at that time.
I really wish I could visit a site where they excavated remains of the civilisation and actually travel through time because I’d be so fascinated. Maybe like Dr. Brown from Back to Future, I’d not come back 😉
My Rating: 3.5/5
This book deserves a dekko because you learn that THERE IS SO MUCH THAT HAS HAPPENED IN THE WORLD THAT YOU KNEW NOTHING ABOUT!! And feeling the boundaries of your To-Be-Learnt space expand, is a really amazing feeling