4 out of 4 stars
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Border Post 99 is a short story by KEDAR PATANKAR published by Global Mind Publishing. It raises important questions on the ethics of political or border conflicts, social moral and universal human value.
During a border conflict that opposed India and Pakistan in 1999, in the middle of negotiation between parties for a ceasefire, Lieutenant Mangesh SHARMA, an unexperienced soldier has been sent alone to the India-Pakistan border. Major Jadhave sends him to that strategic post with a specific mission: spy the Pakistanis and report any suspicious movement. He does it in violation of the no-man’s land principles which require the place to be exempted from military operations. Amid the fear of being alone in the jungle while his colleagues are out there in groups of ten and the fear of being gunned down at any moment by Pakistani soldiers, SHARMA has to struggle through home memories and diseases. That external conflict combined with an internal one had it on his health and lead him to an undesired meeting with the “enemy”: a Pakistani soldier.
From the Pakistan side, Captain Abid KHAN is also secretly sent to the no-man’s land with the same mission of spying the Indians, watching the frontline and reporting any suspicious movement to his hierarchy. Compared to Lt SHARMA, KHAN is an old warrior who has experience in those kinds of deployments. Yet, that experience doesn’t erase his home memories and the burden of daily routines though all that will change with his first sight of a military thread on the no-man’s land.
The raising part of the Plot of Border Post 99 stops when the two border guards meet for the first time at the stream which is a natural border between them. Then the climax comes with a comic silent battle between the two soldiers that KHAN opened by destroying the rifle and thermos of SHARMA when the later fainted because of serious fever. SHARMA retaliate by trapping him and this leads to series of retaliations. They sometimes express the desire to use their rifles, but their hierarchies give strict instructions about that: none of them should shoot first. Through this military game, KHAN succeeds getting into SHARMA’s private properties and there he gets a terrible shock: their parents were close friends, lived together, and became neighbors before KHAN’s parents fled India to Pakistan.
This discovery marks the falling part of the plot and brings affection between the two soldiers. Now they have to choose between their military duty and social moral. The later seemingly won over the first. Unfortunately, they will not have time to sympathize because India is ready to declare war against Pakistan and SHARMA leaves Border Post 99 without knowing if his yesterday’s enemy, today’s friend is dead or alive on the other side of the stream.
Through military characters, KEDAR artistically succeeds showing the daily struggle of soldiers who have to face challenging situations in their duty posts and manage the burden of the permanent presence of their families and the whole society in them. It also shows the peace game governments play before cameras through negotiation and how they prepare themselves for it behind cameras, with guns.
Border Post 99 makes us wonder about the essence of all those different political and religious wars which are making innocent victims here and there. We learn from it that the creation and celebration of differences for egocentric political or religious prides is a degrading factor of the universal human being in each of us. KEDAR shows through this book that we have much more in common. Away from our families, we all feel strong remembering them and sick thinking about the distance between us. If only that family tie could be extended and let us appreciate the beauty of the smile on an alien distant human face!
Border post 99 leads us to the depth of military duties. Through it we know how hard it is to be out there in nowhere for months away from friends and relatives planning against someone who is also plotting against you. Sometimes nobody knows the real personal motivation. KHAN and SHARMA know that India and Pakistan are in conflict. However their knowledge of the real reasons of that conflict and what they know about people of those countries depend on what history and their hierarchy want them to know. Disinformation is here seen as a strategical weapon used by governments and other powers for specific selfish goals.
This book is much inspiring. Its denouement leads the reader to the broad sense of humanity that should transcend any social or political divergence. What would the world be like if we all agree on our similarities rather than arguing on our differences? Soldiers will not have to live miles away from their families with all possible risks, government will not have to invest on deployed troupes, and countries will not have to buy heavy weapons to defend their borders.
This book has and artistic merit. The content and form are carefully managed from the first page to the last one. From the beginning to the end, the reader keeps wondering what comes next. At the end of the book, the reader continues wondering how KHAN and SHARMA would feel after failing to fully reconcile and reconnect themselves with their families’ story. It took me one night to read Border Post 99. I recommend it for all passionate readers. I rate it 4 out of 4
Border Post 99
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