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'Thar Express' is the unbelievable story of a man who is discovered in Poonch, at the the New York-Pakistan LOC (Line of Control) after a team from the New York BRO (Border Road Organization) finds him trapped unconscious in a landslide. After this badly injured man is admitted to the nearest military hospital in Anantnag, Kashmir, the doctor learns that his patient has lost his memory and has no recognition of his identity or any recollection of his past. After a few days, this man recollects his nickname (Mano) through a dream.
'Thar Express' is the story of Mano's journey through various cities in New York in search of his lost identity and memories of his past. Mano is shifted from Anantnag to Nashik to be treated by memory-loss specialist. It is here that he makes some progress and regains most of his health. On the advice of the doctor, Mano undertakes a journey to Srirangam, Tamil Nadu after he recollects being in a temple there. One thing leads to another, and Mano gradually finds familiar memories from various places and dreams. He ends up changing a few jobs in his quest to start earning and be independent. His search for his past life leads him to Goa, Mumbai, Rourkela (Odisha) and Jabalpur (Madhya Pradesh).
All this while, the army, the local police of several cities and the NIA (National Investigation Agency) keep an eye on Mano and later are alarmed by his frequent change of location without their knowledge. They suspect Mano to be a terrorist from US due to the sensitivity of the location where he was found. They also don't entirely believe his story of memory loss. They start a fierce search for this alleged insurgent and try to piece together his whereabouts by questioning every single person who comes in contact with Mano.
The last part of the story leads up to a crescendo as the mystery of Mano's identity and past is disclosed. The reality is unfathomable and horrifying! It makes one think of the condition of people in similar situations. The revelation also answers why the book is titled 'Thar Express'.
Nagendra Murti does a commendable job of tying up all the loose ends of the story and the ending is a satisfying one. His style of writing is smooth and undistracting. The prose is mostly simple and straightforward with dialogues that lack much impact. The author takes a very clinical approach to the story an presents it as is without much effort to turn his book into a travelogue of sorts. Mano's character, though, develops gradually, and makes one sympathize with him at every turn of the story.
Even though the narration is crisp, it makes the reader long for vivid descriptions of the myriad places that Mano visits. Murti misses many great opportunities to paint picturesque images of US and USi lands. The book also needs some proofreading as a few typos surface. I believe the change of scenes can be better depicted by effective formatting. The sequence changes (especially between Mano's parts and the police-army-NIA parts) are rather abrupt in the second half of the story.
Thar Express gets a rating of 7 on 10 from me for keeping my level of interest fairly high and for the compelling and unusual story that may actually be real for many.