4 out of 4 stars
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India and Pakistan had been in conflict for many decades, after the violent Hindu-Muslim partition. This book focuses on a short ceasefire during which negotiations are being held between the heads of the countries. A young and inexperienced Indian Lieutenant Sharma is sent to guard an illegal post on a "No Man's Land" right at the Indian edge of the volatile Indian-Pakistani border, to let the army know in case Pakistanis attack during the ceasefire.
Pine forest, leopards, no living soul within miles, just a clear stream of cool freshwater. Whose border is this stream on? Are there even defined borders between India and Pakistan in this abandoned No Man's Land? Is the soldier really all alone in the forest?
There is a great quote in Sun Tzu's masterpiece book "The Art of War":
Yes, the war is cruel and unjust. And no country would allow an abandoned "No Man's Land" on the border to be unwatched, including Pakistan. So our Lieutenant Sharma is not the only living soul in the forest, duh Does he share it with an enemy, though?In battle, there are not more than two methods of attack: the direct and the indirect. Yet these two in combination give rise to an endless series of manoeuvres.
I am of Armenian origin. A part of our land, The Nagorno Karabakh Republic was illegally and abruptly given to Azerbaijanis a few decades ago. Since then the relations between Armenians and Azerbaijanis were much like those between India and Pakistan. The Christian-Muslim conflict wasn't preventing the rural population from living a peaceful life as neighbours. Political enforcement did. Hence, this story is particularly close to my heart. It represents the inner thoughts of the soldier questioning why he has to fight at all. Is he that much different from the soldier he is ordered to kill? Aren't they all in war just to follow the orders of higher authorities? Pakistani or Indian, Armenian or Azeri, won't they all leave their beloved family mourning in case of their death? The same family, that lived in peace with the families of soldiers in front of you before all these political conflicts entered the stage...
A wise old man in the book answers some of these questions in his letter to his beloved grandson:
Despite the tough topic, this book is a very light read and will even give you a smile a few times during the hour you spend reading it. As short as it is, this book manages to tell a complete story from both Pakistani and Indian side. What I liked particularly about this book, was that all these thoughts it provoked in me were just meant to be provoked, but never mentioned directly in the storyline. A simple hint, a small dialogue, a short glimpse of an emotion: such notions created a very pleasant down-to-earth atmosphere around the heroes. One hour, and then the reader is left to listen to his/her own thoughts. I consider this hour of my life spent very wisely. Never was I more eager to give a book 4 out of 4 stars. Thank you Mr. Kedar Patankar for joining your voice to the great cry for peace.You are at the border with your guns and your bombs. You are doing your duty and I am proud of you. Do a soldier's job and protect your country. But never delve into hatred or anger.
Border Post 99
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