Mumbai

Stripping intelligence agents of the James Bond aura

State DGP Datta Padsalgikar (centre) and ADGP Atulchandra Kulkarni unveil a book written by former IB officer Balakrishna Kamath (left) at Azad Maidan on Saturday.   | Photo Credit: Emmanual Yogini

The Velvet Gloves, a novel written by former Intelligence Bureau (IB) officer Balakrishna Kamath, was released in Mumbai on Saturday by Datta Padsalgikar, Maharashtra Director General of Police, in the presence of Atulchandra Kulkarni, Additional Director General of Police, Maharashtra Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS).

Referring to the glamour attached to intelligence work by movies like the James Bond series, Mr. Kamath said that the book was an attempt to project what the work and the lives of intelligence officers were really like.

He said, “In reality, our lives are quite monotonous and non-glamorous. Although I can not reveal details of any actual operations, I have attempted to portray techniques employed by intelligence officers in tasks like surveillance, investigation and interrogation.”

Dedicated to the memory of Mr. Kamath’s wife Rema, the novel revolves around a retired intelligence officer who finds himself in the midst of a sinister plot that begins the same day that he retires. The story unravels in India and abroad with Indian intelligence agencies locking horns with the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Mr. Kamath said, “Having lived in the shadows all my life, I am not used to this attention and spotlight. I am trying to keep the butterflies in my belly on a leash as I speak. The book reflects the desire in me to throw light on the work and lives of intel officers who face so many challenges. The only time the public talks about intelligence agencies is to blame them for intelligence failures. We are like the goalkeepers who are remembered for the one goal that they miss, but never for the 99 goals that are saved.”

Unique plot

Malini Nair, head of publishing at Leadstart Publishing, said the unique plot led to her select the book for publication. She said, “I know this sounds like the easiest compliment to pay. But all those like me who are exposed to international content on Netflix and Amazon about the Central Intelligence Agency and the FBI saving the day have always wondered why there aren’t as many stories about Indian heroes. With this book, we are finally talking about the IB. The best part about The Velvet Gloves is that the IB does not bow down to any foreign agency, but holds its ground.”

Both Mr. Padsalgikar and Mr. Kulkarni, who have worked with Mr. Kamath during their respective stints with the IB, were full of praise for his service. Mr. Kulkarni, “I look at myself as a beneficiary of Mr. Kamath. I got to know him when I first entered the IB on deputation and over the years I came to count on him and knew I could trouble him at any hour of the day. I also took his help while heading the Mumbai Crime Branch and still do in my work with the ATS. I just want to assure everyone that the good words said about Mr. Kamath are applicable for every intelligence officer. They have served the country and have remained faceless.”

Mr. Padsalgikar said that he was extremely thrilled and at a loss for words. He said, “We were once working on a case and the only input we had was a three-digit number, which we suspected was scrambled. Mr. Kamath asked for an hour, and when he came back 30 minutes later, he had the details of the person we were pursuing, his address, current location and information about the software and hardware he was using. The person was based outside the city and we were still able to pick him up within an hour.”

The State police chief then read out a passage from the book which he said reflected the inner feelings of an intelligence officer. Mr. Padsalgikar said, “Earlier, everything that Mr. Kamath wrote went up to the highest levels without anyone knowing who the author is. It is heartening to see him now getting his due. I know we can expect more books soon. Mr. Kamath would not sit quiet because it is not in his nature. Finally, the book is a fitting tribute to his wife for all she had to go through during his career.”


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Printable version | Jul 29, 2021 1:03:00 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/stripping-intelligence-agents-of-the-james-bond-aura/article25528845.ece

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