Synopses & Reviews
On August 11, 1979, after a week of extraordinary monsoon rains in the Indian state of Gujarat, the two mile-long Machhu Dam-II disintegrated. The waters released from the dams massive reservoir rushed through the heavily populated downstream area, devastating the industrial city of Morbi and its surrounding agricultural villages. As the torrents thirty-foot-tall leading edge cut its way through the Machhu River valley, massive bridges gave way, factories crumbled, and thousands of houses collapsed. While no firm figure has ever been set on the disasters final death count, estimates in the floods wake ran as high as 25,000. Despite the enormous scale of the devastation, few people today have ever heard of this terrible event. The Guinness Book of World Records and a few obscure articles contain the scant publicly available information about it. This book tells, for the first time, the suspenseful and multifaceted story of the Machhu dam disaster. Based on over 130 interviews and extensive archival research, the authors recount the disaster and its aftermath in vivid firsthand detail. The book progresses sequentially, beginning with a centuries-old folktale that foretells Morbis destruction and ending with an examination of the floods present-day legacy in the lives of its survivors. Whenever possible, the story of the flood and its aftermath is told through the voices and viewed through the eyes of the people who survived the devastation. Moreover, the book presents important findings culled from formerly classified government documents that reveal the long-hidden failures that culminated in one of the deadliest floods in history. The authors follow characters whose lives were interrupted and forever altered by the flood; provide vivid first-hand descriptions of the disaster and its aftermath; and shed light on the never-completed judicial investigation into the dams collapse. With its suspenseful plot, compelling characters, and moving nonfiction narrative, this book reads more like a novel than a nonfiction account, revealing the profound human tragedy behind the dry statistics and painting a portrait of an India torn between its feudal past and its industrial future.
"On August 11, 1979, tens of thousands of Indians were killed in the eastern state of Gujarat when a two-mile damn broke during an unusually fierce monsoon and the surrounding towns were flooded. Like many catastrophes endured by the impoverished, the Macchu Dam disaster has been largely lost to history. Now, through oral histories and significantly varied personal profiles from the Mayor to a selfless prisoner to a tobacco stall owner this tragedy finds an excavation in the memories of those who experienced it, and the authors deserve credit for their extensive research and clearly invested compassion (Sandesara is the son of a Machhu flood survivor; Wooten, a former Harvard Kennedy School research fellow, teaches writing at a KIPP school in New Orleans). Unfortunately, as written, the context, outcome, and contributing factors both manmade and otherwise become quizzically hard to follow. While the multitude of voices and experiences collected here should reflect the massive scale on which the destruction occurred, the text itself feels confused, jumbled; no unifying narrative culls together a clear shape of the events or their impact, resulting in a history that continues to remain largely untold. (May)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
With its suspenseful plot, compelling characters, and moving nonfiction narrative, No One Had a Tongue to Speak reads more like a novel than a nonfiction account, revealing the profound human tragedy of the 1979 Machhu dam disaster.
(Philadelphia, PA), the son of a Machhu flood survivor, is pursuing an MD and a PhD in social anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania. As a Harvard Frederick Sheldon Prize Fellow, he worked as a researcher for Peru’s Ministry of Health, preparing a report on the integration of prenatal care with testing and treatment of HIV and syphilis in the national health system.
Tom Wooten (New Orleans, LA) teaches writing at KIPP McDonogh 15 School for the Creative Arts in New Orleans as a Teach for America corps member. As a Harvard Kennedy School research fellow, he traveled to New Orleans to conduct interviews with the leaders of the city’s neighborhood-based recovery efforts.
While pursuing degrees in Harvard University’s Social Studies program, the authors traveled to India, where they did the field research that is the foundation of this book.