Trade Winds to Meluhha came to me for review long time back. On a recent trip, I pulled it up on my Kindle to read. The title Trade Winds to Meluhha did promise a peep into the ancient world of Indus Valley Civilization. It also promised a view of the Mesopotamian world and the trade that happened between the two. However, the introduction of the book by the author made it even more fascinating. He explains that some of the characters in the book are inspired by two best-known figures of that civilization – the bust of the priest-king and the dancing girl.
Author then goes on to introduce his vast and diverse characters. The names are not easy to remember but you can refer them back while reading.
The story starts with a murder of a Meluhhan merchant in Babili or Babylon. The beginning is great and it ports you back into the times when justice was done in full public view. Punishments were given but the omens of nature were never ignored. Soon the ships enter the story and you learn about the trade and traders. Economics can never be too far from fraud and crime.
The protagonist from Sumeru reaches Meluhha in search of an answer for the reason of murder that he has witnessed and that he has been accused of. All he knows is a name, and he is chasing the same. He goes from port to port, meeting people, finding clues and finding stories for the reader. Finally, he meets a fellow Sumerian woman who is on the same mission as him, but for different reasons.
The story talks about human trafficking, drug abuse, theft of gold and Indigo sold for building temples. Men are always lusting after women. I like the way the author has picked up the pieces of information available from that era. I think he has potentially used all the information available to us.
Buy Trade winds to Meluhha: Novel set in Ancient Mesopotamia & Indus Valley at Amazon
Incidentally, the priest-king and dancing girl inspired characters have a small role to play in the story that is dominated by the characters from Sumeru. That kind of left me a bit disappointed. Maybe because having read about them and having seen the dancing girl at the National Museum in Delhi, I had a sense of knowing them. I wanted to hear their story, even if it came from a figment of the imagination of the author.
Storytelling is weak. The narrative is confusing and I was often lost in who is where and what. The Characters get mixed up. A treasure comes up and goes suddenly. The plot suddenly has a very Hindi Film like ending after a huge built up. One sided love story that started between the protagonist and his wife is never taken forward. I think the author in his attempt to be cobble together all his knowledge of Indus Valley somehow lost the grip on making the story interesting.
Trade deals are well explored, but I wanted more of them.
Having said that, I appreciate Vasant Dave for trying to take us back into that pre-historic era. It is only through stories that we can fully appreciate the past that he inherited. Scholarly books and history textbooks are too dry and can excite only the practitioners. Common man needs the facts wrapped in a beautiful story for them to absorb.
Read Trade Winds to Meluhha if the pre-historic urban settlements interest you.