03 August, 2021

Underwater Exploration

A novel populated with dogs, elephants, wise teenagers and unwise scientists is a deep dive into the state of India

Manoj Kumar
Underwater Exploration

As a piece of contemporary literature, there are many asp­ects to Hadal. First and most basic, it may be admired for its unwavering plot and its lifelike characters, presented in a manner which keeps the reader engaged. As such, it could easily find its feet in a burgeoning marketplace of newcomer readers whose tastes may be ready to move on from Ravinder Singh and Chetan Bhagat.

Second, as author C.P. Surendran acknowledges, the book is not pleasingly exotic or prettily clever and correct. It is inspired by a true story: the story of an Indian rocket scientist fals­ely accused of selling secrets of the Indian space research programme. Also, one of its main characters is a confused, wishy-washy, inappropriate role-model, victim of a woman. For a publishing industry grappling with self-esteem issues since historic times (and one whose decision-makers today are mostly women), it marks a kind of coming of age to have let through an important book without a ‘wow!’ theme with a nondescript protagonist.

Another aspect of Hadal is a fabric of...

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