4 out of 4 stars
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How do you save a life with a slingshot? Read the hour-long Border Post 99 by Kedar Patankar to find out.
On opposite sides of the Indian-Pakistani border, a new recruit and a veteran soldier man the border posts while peace talks are happening. The border posts are in no man's land and should not be there. However, both sides, suspicious of each other, have stealthily put up the posts and assigned sentries. Lieutenant Sharma, having recently graduated with no practical experience, was assigned to the post on the Indian side. His major assigned him there to give him experience and thought him relatively safe. War-weary Captain Abid Khan, on the Pakistani side, was excited to have some peace and quiet by himself in the forest as he waited for his deployment to end so he could go home. After weeks of quiet routine bordering on boredom, both of them discover each other's presence.
Both of them are stunned and left wondering, "Am I outmanned by other side? Have traps been laid for me as I go to the river on the border? Will the other side launch an attack despite the international negotiations?" In time, they learn that there's only one person on the other side. They cannot attack because they have been given orders to do so as they didn't want to be the cause of a full-on war. They learn to avoid each other while they use the river and the land for their daily needs. Over time, their natural hatred for the enemy turns into a grudging tolerance for a fellow human being. How long will this uneasy situation last?
I easily imagined a movie based on this story. The looming forest, the solitary temporary posts, and flashback episodes will translate well to the big screen. I appreciated the delicious irony of people being in a no man's land. I also liked that the soldiers were a foil for each other in terms of experience but similar deep down in terms of their yearning for home. My favorite part was when the smell of spices reminded them of home.
Reading this book reminded me of Life is Beautiful and The Book Thief. While it is set in the context of a war between countries that has been going on for years, Border Post 99 is a heartwarming little story about ordinary people who struggle to maintain their humanity. If you love these types of stories, you will love this book. I loved reading this book so much, that I read it again while writing this review. There are some insults said between characters that a reader might find offensive, but they fit well with the story and the characters' personalities. This is why I'm giving this well-written book 4 out of 4 stars.
Border Post 99
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