Author: Kamla Markandaya
ISBN/UPC (if available): 9780143102120
The Coffer Dams is an absorbing tale about mechanical strength and spiritual weakness, physical certainties and moral doubts. It is set in modern India but the conflict of values at its heart is universal’—John Masters
Clinton, founder and head of a firm of international construction engineers, arrives in India to build a dam, bringing with him his young wife, Helen, and a strong team of aides and skilled men. They are faced with a formidable project, which involves working in daunting mountain and jungle terrain, within a time schedule dictated by the extreme tropical weather.
Inevitable setbacks occur; accidents and friction among the mixed labor force present further complications. But to Clinton the building of the dam is more than a challenge; it is an obsession—not, however, shared by Helen.
Appalled by her husband’s concern with structures rather than with men, she turns to the local Indian tribesmen, finding in them the human values she finds lacking in the British camp. With relations between the Clintons becoming increasingly raw-edged, the first rains fall and, as the torrents sweep the valley and the level of the river rises, so does the tension in the beleaguered camp.
The vital question looms: to breach the coffer dams, or allow them to stand, thereby placing the lives of the tribesmen in jeopardy. It is a fundamental question that splits the camp exposing the lingering prejudices of a bygone colonial era.
First published in 1969, The Coffer Dams is vintage Kamala Markandaya, a pioneer who influenced many Indian writers in English.