3 out of 4 stars
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Border Post 99 is a heartwarming tale of Indian and Pakistani soldier sharing the same ground with a totally different aim in a no man’s land. I surprised even myself that I described this as “heartwarming tale” given its theme. Personally, I associate soldiers to guns, then guns to violence. However, Mr. Kedar Petakar managed to give another novel perspective about the life of soldiers through this writing.
Set in 2011, the story started when 25-year-old Lieutenant Mangesh Sharma was assigned in Border Post 99 amidst the ongoing peace talk between India and Pakistan. Moreover, this border stretches out to the only road connecting the two countries and does not exist in any official army map. In fact, it is considered as a no man’s land. Lt. Sharma is fresh from military school and this was his first assignment. He was ordered to stay as a lookout and observe if there are any unlikely movements from the Pakistan side. Although he has a zero real-life battlefield experience, the commander was pretty confident that this area is safe thus assigning him with this mission. During the first few days of his duty, he started to establish his routine. He’d patrol the area daily then report back to his commander. While he found the days long and the night scary, he was still positive that he’d survive the next six weeks of his life alone in this isolated land. But… was he really alone? One morning while he was doing his usual tasks, a Pakistani soldier showed up and slowly, everything in that deserted post went topsy-turvy. (Pun intended. –Read this book for you to get it!)
The book is roughly around only 180 pages, but I find it fitting to its overall content. Honestly, if it was written longer than its current length, I probably won’t enjoy it as much as I did. The flow of the story was slow at first because it started by introducing the characters and describing the setting. As what you would expect in a description of a no man’s land, you’d find the first parts dull. However, as the story went on, the pace gradually picked up and you would be glad that you continued reading. Additionally, I really appreciate the close third person narration in this story as I had an omniscient picture of the setting while deeply understanding the emotions of the characters too. If this will be adapted into a movie and I’d be given a chance to direct it, better anticipate a comedy film! I mean, despite the serious theme of this book, I found myself laughing in some parts because I see things from two perspectives simultaneously: one, why the character is doing this thing; two, how silly he looks like while doing that thing. It may sound confusing but really, that is how I felt while reading!
Moving on, the flaw I could mention is that the writing style of the author is not too engaging. In fact, there were times that the characters were like having a monologue. Also, the description of the setting is too general and mundane. I am not sure if it is intended that way, but since the title of the book is Border Post 99, I kind of expected something special to it. Something you would only find there. But perhaps, the author just wanted his readers to focus more on the characters.
Overall, I am giving this book 3 out of 4 stars. The length is perfect for the content, the pacing of the story is good, and there isn’t much complication that made this an enjoyable read. Fairly, I could have given this a full rating but l backtracked because I think that the writing style and the format of how it is written could still be improved. I recommend this to readers who want a short heartwarming story to drown in. This is the type of book you would want to read on a rainy day while wrapped under the sheets!
Border Post 99
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