Land of Seekers
by Triveen Nair
Partridge Publishing

"Sadly, for Indians, actual history is not what has been taught…European and Left wing influenced History and social books have destroyed Indian education…and its children’s mindset."

Nair has written a page-turner based on the real life of Hyder Ali, a 1700s general and a last member of the Mogul empire. A large supporting cast of fictional characters unites to change the course of southern India’s history as planned by this Muslim tyrant. With the Indian gift for subtle discussion of distasteful subjects, murder, mayhem, and impending monsoons stalk six travelers entering India who journey over the mountains and along the Arabian Sea from Zanzibar to Oman until they meet on the southwest coast of India.

Early seekers came to trade for spices, especially the valuable Kerala pepper grown in the area. Traders paid for their cargos in gold coins and brought the spices back to eager European buyers. From the 1700s and onward, British, Hindu, and Muslim seekers came more for the gold and the power it could confer. The storyline brings together eight characters arriving by chance and dangerous routes. Adam Weishauft is an apothecary and alchemist from London in search of the method for manufacturing India’s famed wootz steel blades, but he will pay for that information dearly. He rescues Laksha, the daughter of a chieftain trader who died in an earthquake south of the Khyber Pass. Murtza is the master of a slave trade ship that picks up human cargo in Zanzibar to be sold in India. Edward Beale has traveled from England and Reme Diaz from Lisbon. Bhairãva, Madanna, and Rawout are Hindus—each with an agenda. When the band joins together against Hyder and his army in chapter 15, the author reveals the hero of this suicide group is a Nair bent on fulfilling his family’s denied calling of protecting kings of the region. Eventual gruesome deaths will not thwart the safe escape of a few to continue their heritage.

The author shares his Nair family’s knowledge of ancient India and its Hindu customs in this collection of “short stories stitched together with historical events.” Not a caste, Nairs were associated with their task of protecting the Zamorin, rulers of small Hindu kingdoms in southwest India. In order to take gold from these rich Zamorin, Hyder Ali issued an edict that all Nairs were banned from carrying weapons. History says that Hyder had 15,000 Nairs rounded up, roped together around the neck, then marched to Kanara; the majority died on the march.

Land of Seekers requires a listing of major actors at the start. Nair’s well-developed characters easily win the reader’s affection, admiration, or at least acceptance. However, the author’s habit of interspersing mythical names and historical places can create confusion in a complicated storyline that unfolds across 276 pages. A reader not knowledgeable of India’s history must pause to flip pages or do research online in order to learn whether the information included is educational or needed for the plot. Maps are helpful in following the travelers. However, localized sections with callouts in a large font size would improve readability, especially for the e-book version. Nair has shown himself to be a talented writer with the ability to weave his country’s history within seemingly random plot twists for an unpredicted ending. Hopefully, he has barely tapped a rich reservoir of family knowledge, and this will be one of several books.

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