The book – Veerappan Chasing The Brigand – was in our radar since long. The long queue of books to be reviewed kept pushing it. However, there came a time when we found it available for Free to read under “Amazon Prime Reading” program. Under this program, Amazon Prime members get a chance to read the books from the catalog of selected books, absolutely free (Kindle EBook). So we went ahead to reshuffle the book review queue. Our main aim was not only just reading the book for free, but also, try to share our unbiased book review while the book is available under this program, with our esteemed readers. So, they can also take benefit of this offer.
|Book Title||:||Veerappan: Chasing the Brigand
|Author||:||K. Vijay Kumar|
|Publisher||:||Rupa Publications India (5 February 2017)|
|# of Pages||:||
10141 KB; 274 (Kindle EBook)
|# of Chapters||:||34-|
Gone the time when bandits and brigands were sharing a large amount of screen space in Bollywood movies, right? Well, yes, absolutely. The “white collar” criminals and heist artists(!) dethroned them! Contemporary time and surroundings are reflected in the movies too.
Veerappan, the name is enough to get a wave of thunderous shivering. He became a legend, but, in a wrong way. He has killed a number of elephants to grab and sell their tusks. He was also the man behind the smuggling of Sandlewood from the jungles. And, his area of functions spread over in part of 3 south Indian states!
He was considered as one of the most brutal and intelligent men who were almost impossible to capture. He and his group kept themselves away from getting captured for decades! Even the teams of Police, special forces, platoons of para-military and others had a tough time finding him. A number of brave soldiers from various forces were killed during hunt for Veerappan. But, despite all these efforts, he remained free!
K. Vijay Kumar and his team, however, was able to get him to justice. The book is the first-hand account of Chasing The Brigand (Veerappan), as the title suggests.
We’ve also got a chance to watch the movie Killing Veerappan by Ram Gopal Verma. I am sure, many of you might also have had that chance. Today, however, we will talk about this book, which I got a chance to read and share reviews on behalf of our team.
Let us take a look at the cover page of the book.
As the title suggests, the book is all about chasing the brigand, Veerappan. So his picture is expected on the cover page. He worked from the deepest parts of the forest and the book is written by the officer who finally got success in the operation to catch him dead or alive. So it is also obvious that you may expect these two elements on the cover page. The cover page is dominated by the photograph of Veerappan only.
Of course, it is justified, but at the same time, the photograph of the author would have been a complementary positive aspect. Not having the photograph of the author on the cover page, however, shows the modesty of the author. He acknowledges the efforts of his entire team, his fellows from the other states, all the other teams which tried capturing the brigand, the informers and many other sung and unsung fellows are part of this decades long chase. In author’s own words:
It’s like a football team. All eleven play, but one scores the goal.
The photograph of the brigand with his iconic mustaches makes the cover page attractive. The designer’s choice of colors is also worth a mention.
Overall, an impressive cover page.
The story is almost known. Though, newspaper/magazine articles, movie(s) and news coverage. So, let us take a bird’s eye view of the story.
The entire chase is documented and presented through 34 chapters which are unevenly distributed into 4 segments as mentioned below
- The Making of a Cop (2 Chapters)
- The Veerappan Files (14 Chapters)
- The Rajkumar Saga and its Fallout (8 Chapters)
- Operation Cocoon (10 Chapters)
The titles of the segments are clear enough to give you an idea of the entire chase.
First two chapters explore the tough training K. Vijay Kumar has gone through. It is rightly said in army schools that “the more you lose your sweat during the training, the less blood you have to lose during the battle“.
Despite being a police officer (and thus already had gone through challenging physical training regime), it was tough for him to get trained under Rossie in Switzerland. It is this training which made him battle-ready or should we say chase-ready for the future.
This segment is followed by the account of cases and incidents filed against Veerappan. It gives you a fair amount of idea of his nature and his deeds. The third segment talks about the incident which made Veerappan famous not only in the entire nation but almost globally. The last segment, as expected, concludes the story.
During the course, you come to know about many characters from the law and order departments, politics, Veerappan’s gang, informers and villagers, family members of various characters, and others. The long list includes Rossie, Walter Davaram, Sanjay, Mallikarjun Kahrge, DGP Dinakar, Krishna, Parvatthamma, Jayalalitha, Gopal, Govindan, Durai, Trippy, Hussain, Mohan Nawaz, Karuppusamy, Rajarajan, Ashok Kumar, Sampath, Ramalingam, Kannan, Mutthulakshmi, and more. Yes, a special mention to the author’s family Meena (wife), Arjun (son) and Ashwini (daughter). The incidents took place in the jungles of South India, especially around Dhibam hills, Sathy, areas near the mighty river Cauvery. There are references to various cities and towns from Karnataka and Tamilnadu there along with other states/cities like Kashmir and Delhi.
Writing a first-hand account of anything is like walking on a tightrope. It is like writing a partial autobiography. It is natural to be self-praising or justifying one’s own actions while writing such notes. The author, however, has proved that he can be objective even when he himself is involved in the incidents. He makes it clear that he in no way wants to convey that the other teams or officers did anything wrong or their courage, efforts or techniques are of any less standard. There are many other threads of events and operations held in the same arena with the aim to catch the brigand. All of them have their own perspectives and course of action. This book is simply the account of the actions involving (and known to) the author.
I like the way the book starts. Many readers may think that the “Making of a cop” segment can be edited out or it is for self-praising. It is not the case. This segment makes it clear that for tougher jobs fitter and tougher candidates are required. Despite being a fit officer, the training was nothing less than an experience of hell for K. Vijay Kumar. He says:
When I finally reached the top, Rossie hauled me to my feet. “You look like hell,” he said.
“That’s exactly how I feel,” I thought, but wisely kept my mouth shut.
While you can see dark humor and wordplay in the lines, they are clear enough to convey the tough-ness of the training.
The author sarcastically explains the nature of his trainer there
Rossie was liberal in doling out both verbal and physical punishment.
You can ask it to any cadet, and his/her feelings will be same for his/her trainer in most of the cases 🙂
The story has thrills and explorations of tactical plannings, setup and execution of search operations and ambushes. But, most importantly, it tries to explore the emotional side of the people associated with these tasks. Be it the police officer or his family, or informers or politicians, they all are human beings and they too have emotions like all of us.
Going through a tough training regime doesn’t make them less mortal or emotional!
Some aspects of the members of the teams who have spent a significant aspects of their lives in this chase, are rather unknown to the common-folks. The author mentioned in the book that some willy members took a vow to not to get married till they catch Veerappan!
I had seen them join the force as fresh-faced recruits. Now, they were middle-aged men, their youth lost somewhere in the mountains and hills through which they trudged, searching for their wily target.
And, a person can remain focused on his/her target only if there are no distractions. Especially at the family level. One has to be extremely lucky to have such understanding family members. You can recognise the sacrifices of them in various lines of the book:
On our first Diwali as a couple, I was out all night raiding illegal gambling and hooch dens. I returned home the next morning to find her waiting patiently in the balcony. She served me breakfast and went about her activities without any fuss.
… Many years later, I learned that she had once quietly exchanged some jewellery to help meet the needs of our family.
The things we love to watch and admire on screen as a movie or a TV Serial, are not so glamorous in real life. The situations in the jungle are even more dangerous. The book gives a hint about various tricky situations through some simple yet effective lines:
… “But darkness, like the jungle, is neutral,” reasoned Sanjay. “If you master it better than your foe, it becomes an advantage.”
A guerrilla is like a poet, keen to the rustle of leaves, the break of the wigs, the ripples of the river.
In the forest, a fire is a tactical blunder if one hopes to stay concealed, as even a glowing ember can reveal one’s position to the enemy. But the strictest of rules can prove ineffective against human nature.
The author is a keen observer and learner. His knowledge and analysis of various historical incidents are evident in the book at many places:
An epaulette or badge can be spotted from miles away. That’s how LTTE snipers perched atop coconut trees had picked off Indian Peace Keeping Force officers in Jaffna, back in 1988.
When he talks about Govindan’s escape from death, he also refers to attempts on Theodore Roosevelt and Kamal Ataturk’s life in filmy way and how they have survived. To avoid spoiler, I am not mentioning the details of this incident, but, you have had seen it in commercial Bollywood movies (yes, more than once).
The author also talks about the importance of communication during operation. Actually, he is referring to the requirement of a strong electronic communication network when he referred to incidents associated with World war II, where “camel ruptured” is misunderstood as “Rommel captured”. Such lines make the book reading experience of the next level :).
It is not only historical and war references you can find in the book. The author also referred to a scene from “Enter The Dragon” movie and even made a reference to “Killing Veerappan” movie by Ram Gopal Verma. K. Vijay Kumar quoted various interesting persona and their remarkable quotes in the book, for example Carl Von Clausewitz. He moves even a step further when he compares Durai’s attempt to lit up the trail to Hansel’s pebbles, in the kids special story of “Hansel and Gretel”. He amuses us when he compares the safety ran of a police officer to the running of Usain bolt.
Veerappan: Chasing The Brigand – contains various powerful lines which remain with you even after you complete reading the book. Here are some of them:
As the adrenalin of the sudden encounter wore off, his tactical brain took over.
…”There is no atheist in jungle combat”…
Anyway, a leopard cannot change its spots.
… in stressful situations, people seek the same qualities form their leaders – calmness, faith and tenacity.
I would rather have a few dedicated men that I can count on than lots of people marking time.
one should not confuse activity for progress.
If the enemy is in range, so are you.
A leader of such special teams cannot remain just academic. His knowledge should be comprehensive. He must have to have the ability to determine the food the people ate (and thus their possible identity, at least to which group they belong) and when they have passed from the specific place, by observing stool. Basic knowledge of human anatomy is also required (which is often acquired automatically through field experience if you have an observant eye). In the author’s words:
For the trained eye, blood has its own distinctive signature, If frothy, it must have emerged from the lungs. If heavy and slimy it is most likely from the head. And if it resembles gelatin, it has probably come from the abdomen, perhaps mixed with digestive juices.
When talking about Rajkumar saga, the author talks about the psychological impacts of such incidents on the public.
Any police officer can tell you that there is far more economic loss involved in, say, electricity theft than in a street crime. But such crimes evoke far greater fear in the minds of citizens, because each person instinctively thinks: “It could have been me”.
And, he doesn’t stop there. He also talks about the sympathy bond which is found developed between the captor and the captured.
There were all the chances that the book could have been just a thriller, with almost no relief moments. A reader may leave the book midway in that case. The author has added some light moments in the book, without being cheesy:
I’m normally a sound sleeper. At home, with my default alarm Meena around, I usually sleep like a dog.
Once a history lecturer, Durai decided he would rather teach lessons to hardened criminals.
After all the brickbats, it was nice to receive some bouquets, both literal and verbal.
Here is one of the most interesting sarcasm from the book:
We also tried to draft dogs, mostly seized from hunters, into the STF ranks. For a few days they outperformed the STF’s trained Dobermanns and German Shepherds. But once they acquired a permanent government job, they became lazy and ineffective.
If you ask me to refer a conversation where sarcasm, fun, trust, faith, joy, family bond and many more feelings altogether, from the book, I will refer to the following conversation:
While we were packing our stuff for the move, Meena told me, “You have eight years of service left. Even if it takes that long to get the job done, don’t worry.”
“You think it will take me eight years to catch Veerappan? Thanks for your touching faith,” I teased.
“Well, considering that you can’t even find your own slippers at home, it would be quite an achievement if you could actually nab Veerappan,” was her quick retort.
I have tried to keep as many spoilers as possible at the bay. The quotes mentioned above must have give you an idea about the quality of writing you can expect in the book. Of course, there are many other aspects I would like to mention, but then, there will be spoilers, so I have to stop here.
You may find that the story is stretched at places. As you want to see the operation getting successful, based on the efforts put behind. In reality, however, the chase ran for decades.
The book also doesn’t discuss in-depth about the elephant killings and robbery of sandalwood by Veerappan and his gang. This might be disappointing for some readers. The reason I can deduce is, the book remains focused on the chase of the brigand.
A well documented record of chasing Veerappan through his stronghold from K. Vijay Kumar’s perspective, presented in a thrilling and interesting manner. The book sidelines other aspects and remains focused on this single line. It also talks about the “behind the scene” lives of the people associated with such forces and how their personal and family lives got affected.
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Around 8 to 8.5 stars out of 10.
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