The Sound of Water

A Novel

The Sound of Water

Longlisted for the 2007 Man Asian Prize, a gripping debut novel about an Indian mining disaster as seen from the perspectives of the miners, their families, and the officials charged with rescuing them.

Written by a former director of the Indian Ministry of Coal, and loosely based on the disastrous flood at the Bagdihi colliery in 2001, which trapped and killed dozens of miners, The Sound of Water is written with both an insider’s authority and rare literary style. Its suspenseful narrative is presented from three perspectives: The old miner struggling to save himself and his coworkers hundreds of feet below the surface of the earth; the company and government officials charged with managing the rescue efforts, but who are seemingly far more concerned with managing their careers; and, finally, the miners’ families, who stand to gain life-changing sums as a consequence of their losses.

A searing fictional exposé of the appalling conditions that Indian miners endure and a moving story of the spiritual strength and conviction that enables one to survive against the odds, The Sound of Water dares to inaugurate “alternate realism,” a fresh genre very different from the soul-baring autobiographies and epic family sagas that have characterized so much of recent Indian fiction.
  • Atria Books | 
  • 240 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781416585695 | 
  • June 2009
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Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for The Sound of Water includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Sanjay Bahadur. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.



In a desolate region of India, hundreds of feet below the surface of the earth, the unthinkable happens: a group of workers becomes trapped when a mine floods. In this gripping debut novel, Sanjay Bahadur unfolds their story from three different perspectives: the miners themselves, their families, and company management. 

Underground, the eccentric Raimoti, just months from retirement, draws on his years of experience in the hopes of leading himself and his fellow miners to safety. On the surface, family members of the doomed men wait for word of their fate, some with dread and others thinking of the life-changing sum of money they will receive as compensation in the event of a death. Responsibility for the miners’ rescue lies in the hands of company and government officials who are more concerned with how the crisis will affect their careers than they are with saving lives. 

Loosely based on a real-life i see more

About the Author

Sanjay Bahadur
Photo Credit: Sunil Gautam

Sanjay Bahadur

Sanjay Bahadur has advanced degrees in economics and business administration and has been a member of the Indian Civil Service since 1989. From 2000 to 2004 he was a director in the Indian Ministry of Coal, where he observed the Bagdihi disaster close-up; today he works in Goa, where he is Additional Commissioner of Income Tax. He is hard at work on his second novel, which will be set during the Great Indian Revolt of 1857.