Escape to Nowhere by Amar Bhushan
A friend whose book choices I have usually liked recommended me this book Escape to Nowhere. I was told that I would have to ignore the writing style. And I tried doing that while I was reading this book. Well, the story inspired from a real life incident talks about the Indian intelligence agency. And how it deals with an officer who is suspected to be spying for another agency.
Deputy chief of the agency seems to be an alter ego of the author. And the key authority behind nabbing the suspect project. I am sure there is more to the real version. But in the book, he starts the investigation on a simple tip from one of the junior officers that only says the said officer is asking too many questions to people from other departments. And is spending way beyond his means on luxuries. From here, the author gives a day-by-day account of the investigation. A format that I do not remember reading elsewhere.
He tells you what they do to investigate the suspect every day. They start by following him everywhere. And trying to figure out whom he meets and what he talks to them. They do not discover anything worthwhile but in the process. There are lots of meetings that they do not bother to investigate further beyond the obvious. Then they tap his phones including putting one in his official car and they still cannot find anything. They move on to install a photocopier that tells them what he has photocopied each day. Then they go on to install cameras in his office followed by his home. They try to find out if his wife is a party to the crime – which they are yet to put a finger to.
Eventually, they launch a full-fledged operation to nail him. But are unable to take a decision on suspending him on the basis of doubt and in the absence of clear evidence. Finally, the suspect and his wife escape under a new name via Nepal. And live a life of anonymity somewhere in the USA.
What this story tells you is how an intelligence agency works. How much it needs to do to nail down someone in their own office. And how the senior officers hold the careers and lives of their juniors in their hands. Author has really zoomed into the details of the story. Had he zoomed out a little bit to give the perspective of how things work and what considerations went into picking up and investigating the suspect? And why nailing him is important. What potential dangers can this situation lead at a national and international level – the book would have been a must read for an insight into the workings of an intelligence agency with a particular case as a pivot.
The fact that they spent so much time, energy and resources on this particular case without getting anything in return only shows the failure of the bureaucratic agency. If that was the intent of the author, he has been fairly successful. But if not I was unable to figure out his objective of telling this story in such microscopic details.
While reading the book Escape to Nowhere, at times I wondered if an agency did anything other than keeping tabs on each other or if they can not nail someone so close to them, how would they handle someone they have to chase literally. You wonder if the unlimited budgets that they have to nurture sources and other expenses, are they really worth it. These are my thoughts after reading this book that has obviously been written by an insider, otherwise, I have no views on the intelligence agencies whatsoever. If a book raises so much curiosity, it does succeed at a level.
Read it if you like spy stories – but let me tell this one is quite glamorous.