‘The Vortex: A True Story of History's Deadliest Storm, an Unspeakable War, and Liberation’–at the first instance, I found the title of the book quite intriguing. I was further intrigued when I physically saw the book—it was quite voluminous and surprisingly written by two Westerners.

For the uninitiated, the book is basically about the 1971 War and liberation of Bangladesh, a war most of us Indians know about, but I have not seen any detailed western accounts of the same so far.

In November 1970, a huge tropical “Cyclone Bhola” (which I’m sure none of the readers would have heard of or remember) hit the densely populated Ganges delta and would eventually kill half a million people in erstwhile East Pakistan.

The book examines how this calamitous natural event was the last nail in the coffin of Pakistan’s repressive rule in the Eastern part of the country. The Vortex is this dramatic story of how that storm sparked a country to revolution.

The imagery of the physical cyclone vis-a-vis the geo-political storm of equal intensity brewing in the same geography paints a very poignant and enthralling tale of heroism and courage, deceit and war as also tragedy and the triumph of common people against great odds.

It has strong women characters accomplishing the near-impossible, good people helping others, and characters you can't help but care fiercely about.

The storm that set it all in motion calls to mind the increasingly destructive weather events we're seeing now.

It makes this riveting story all the more relevant to our world, and our political realities. This book captures the prelude of deaths, genocide and war which led to the creation of Bangladesh.

In November 1970, a storm set a collision course with the most densely populated coastline on Earth.

Over the course of just a few hours, the Great Bhola Cyclone would kill 5,00,000 people and begin a chain reaction of turmoil, genocide, and war. The Vortex is the dramatic story of how that storm sparked a country to revolution.

Cyclone Bhola made landfall during a fragile time, when Pakistan was on the brink of a historic election.

The fallout ignited a conflagration of political intrigue, corruption, violence, idealism, and bravery that played out in the lives of tens of millions of Bangladeshis.

Authors Scott Carney and Jason Miklian take us deep into the story of the cyclone and its aftermath, told through the eyes of myriad men and women from different walks of life who lived through it, including the infamous president of Pakistan, General Yahya Khan, and his close friend Richard Nixon; American expats Jon and Candy Rhode; soccer star-turned-soldier Hafiz Uddin Ahmad; and a young Bengali revolutionary, Mohammed Hai.

The tale not only spins beautifully around all these contrasting protagonists but also sets a thrilling pace to the narrative.

The Vortex is not just a story about the painful birth of a new nation but also a universal tale of resilience and liberation in the face of climate emergency that affects every single person on the planet and how a long forgotten climate event was the final trigger in the strife and war which lead the birth of a new nation—Bangladesh.

Overall, the authors have indeed done justice to this not so well remembered theme and narrated it in an unconventional manner to make the tale interesting.

Definitely recommended for all history and geo-politics buffs as well as to the readers of the younger generation for who it will give a very good insight of a very important event which took place over 50 years ago in which India played a major part.

Pros
  • It is a painstakingly detailed account of one of the most significant and decisive military conflicts fought after the Second World War which eventually led to the liberation and formation of an independent nation.
  • Most of us know about the 1971 Bangladesh War but did not know much about the natural calamity which was an important catalyst in triggering it. This book is able to establish this not so well understood link between climatic events and political happenings.
  • The narration is very well-paced and the writing style is gripping which makes this piece of historical writing a stirring and interesting read.
  • The political drama and intrigue featuring major historical figures such as Nixon, Yahya Khan, Mujib and Indira Gandhi makes the narrative completely believable and compelling.
  • The Vortex brings to light the immense struggles and valour of the Bengali freedom fighters, who fought against great odds and at great risk against a ruthless and immoral oppressor.
Cons

In spite of the extensive research I found a few errors in the dates of certain events mentioned in the book.

Colonel Arun Hariharan is a military veteran and an experienced security and business continuity professional

Check out the book on Amazon

About the Book

Title: The Vortex: A True Story of History's Deadliest Storm, an Unspeakable War, and Liberation

Authors: Scott Carney and Jason Miklian

Publisher: HarperCollins India

Price: ₹599 (528 pages)

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