“These are your targets: First, Sabahuddin Umavi: 26/11 mastermind. Second, Wajid Mir: recruiter, trainer and strategist of Lashkar. Third, Damien Bradley: white American, all-round recon man. Fourth: Mahmoud Azhar: fugitive, terrorist. Fifth, Haaris Saeed: the man in charge, the brains behind Lashkar.
‘Our objective… is to eliminate each of these men. With them gone, the Lashkar-e-Toiba will be directionless without a leader. That’s a step in the direction we want to take – to make India safer.”
In the Author’s Note, the writer jots down “It irks me that our cunning neighbours have always had an upper hand in proxy wars and that our government has often manifested its chronic impotence.” Written as a wish-fulfillment, conceived around the idea of Munich, Mumbai Avengers is a revenge story where Retired Lt Gen. Sayed Ali Waris of the Indian army hatches a plan to seek revenge for 26/11. Inspired by United States and Israel, Gen. Sayed Ali Waris builds the ‘A’ team of a policeman (Iqbal Kang), tech expert (Laila Borges), scientist (Subhrata Ray) and two army officers (Brijesh and Vikrant) to carry out the covert mission of eliminating the masterminds of 26/11; Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, Sajid Mir, Masood Azhar, David Headley and Hafiz Saeed and to avenge the scars that 26/11 left on Indian psyche.
Putting his rogue team in place, Waris begins a hunting game to exterminate the major players responsible for 26/11, although there is a catch. As India is a peaceful and democratic country, “We cannot take the law into our own hands” and therefore “The deaths have to look natural.” Travelling around the globe, from Sweden to Istanbul to London, through Dubai, Pakistan and Singapore, this team leaves no stone unturned to complete their quest of seeking justice for India.
Beginning on agile note, the author manages to retain grip on the narrative till half of the book; however, after that the narrative starts to fall apart.
Tapping the jingoism, the narrator asks: “don’t you want revenge ? don’t you ? huh ? don’t you ?” while maintaining the moral superiority of India, “We are seeking vengeance, yes. We are punishing those who have committed crimes against us. But our mission is not just to get revenge. Fundamentally, our mission is one of justice. To bring justice to those who have been wronged.” The book was primarily written to be adapted into a movie and thereby, the narrative moves like a Bollywood movie with implausible twists and predictable turns.
Former investigative journalist, S. Hussain Zaidi is known for writing well-researched books; however, the present book is more about portraying India as a retributive nation in the face of Chinese and Pakistani aggression. After killing three of the five targets in a wink, the action moves to Pakistan where the A Team enters Pakistan in façade of rich couple in need of kidney transplantation and as archaeologists for UNESCO. Trumping Brigadier Jan Afridi “the Pakistan army’s ace weapon against India” moves to thwart Indian interests, the Waris team pulls one stunt after another to defeat him even in his own terrain, of course, with success. Nick named as “Renegade Angels…Rogue Attackers…The New Vigilantes, Superheroes”, the team is dubbed as messiahs within the narrative. The story of the book had such a wide effect that Retd. General V.K. Singh proclaimed that the “Indian army is very capable. Given a task it will execute it in a much better manner than the Americans did [in the Abbottabad commando raid that killed Osama Bin Laden four years ago]”.
Ending on a triumphant note as the team not only manages to complete the covert mission but also able to escape Pakistan through the same route as the terrorists came to India for 26/11. Sacrificing themselves for the cause, the team had to suffice themselves with the victory, “What I am trying to say is that your victories are India’s victories. But your names will never be known. If they are known, it will be by those who want to hunt you down and kill you. That is the price we pay for our vengeance. I hope you are all at peace with that…”
Mumbai Avengers is a potpourri of Western spy fiction and Bollywood drama and the climax of the book is strained and all too knowing. The author best known for his non-fiction books like Black Friday, Mafia Queens of Mumbai, Dongri to Dubai: Six Decades of the Mumbai Mafia fails to thrill the readers where the plot moves like a badly directed Bollywood movie.
Title: Mumbai Avengers
Author: S. Hussain Zaidi
Publisher: Harper Collins
About the Author:
Investigative journalist and author, S. Hussain Zaidi has covered the Mumbai mafia for nearly two decades. His most notable works are Dongri to Dubai: Six Decades of the Mumbai Mafia, Mafia Queens of Mumbai, Black Friday and My Name is Abu Salem. Zaidi is also the associate producer of the HBO documentary Terror in Mumbai, based on the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai.
To quote S. Hussain Zaidi:
“Man’s most dangerous enemy is the one he was once closest to”
“Power has been called many things. The ultimate aphrodisiac. An absolute corrupter. A mistress. A violin. But its true nature remains elusive. After all, a head of state wields a very different sort of power than”
“As Napoleon Hill said, necessity may be the mother of invention but it is also the father of crime.”