Author– Col KK Sharma
Previous Works– Debut novel
Soldiering is a tough job, and guarding the frontiers of the nation is a responsibility shouldered by the soldiers with their lives at stake, leaving behind their kith and kin. While there are few whose valor and bravery are recorded and recognized, there are many others who remain unsung. They live an isolated, rugged, and dangerous life, threatened not only by the enemy but also by nature, where they serve. ‘Paltan Tales’ is a collection of sixteen short stories related to the rigors and tribulations experienced by soldiers who don the uniform as a profession. ‘Random Jottings’ are memoirs of the author’s participation in two wars and counter-insurgency operations. They provide an insight into their world of success, failure, destruction, and death, narrating the mental trauma and the physical dangers, which the soldiers face.
Paltan Tales & Random Jottings by Col KK Sharma is an anthology of short stories that a soldier had picked from his life in the war. Most of the stories are derived from some event or incident that the author had come across in his life. The stories cover a wide range. From the call of the night to the ambush at sight, the reader finds a great variety of stories to relish.
Our soldiers are tried to be paid well in exchange for the sacrifices they have given to their nation. Luckily, the country is at peace for now. Amidst the fight to conquer the virus and the occasional terrorist and Maoists that threaten the wellbeing, our country still stands strong as a nation perfectly able to protect itself, because of the thousands of soldiers who have dedicated their lives to the country. But then the situation wasn’t always the same. There were times of war when the country needed good men at its borders and the book revolves around that time.
The book is composed of 16 short stories and four chapters with random notes of the war-time. The short stories as I mentioned before are, diverse and explore various aspects of life, related to that of a solider. A runaway child, a runaway soldier, encounters with death, a love story lost in the waves of time, a love story lost in the clutches of illiteracy, and a lot more. The last four chapters contain random notes which are probably diary entries. If all taken into consideration, they add up perfectly well and paint the picture of a soldier’s life where suffering is an inescapable truth and the only comfort comes from adjustment.
The stories are definitely worth reading but the attention goes to the jottings in the end. Apart from being informational, as I got to know so many things that I had not known before, you get glimpses of the life a soldier lives. Away from home, with the thought of your loved ones in your head, wanting to go back but stopped by duty. It’s amazing how even after wanting so badly to go home, having the constant fear of death, of not being able to see their families, these men hold the fort and even come to each other’s rescue. Maybe that’s the mayhem of war, you want so much but at the time of need, the country stands first.
I had a notion that soldiers are not afraid. Maybe their training period is so tough that it changes the meaning of life for them and eventually, the nation becomes everything. Thanks to this book, I know the mundane side of that. The soldiers are simple men who have their own set of emotions. They want to be loved and remembered. But when bullets wheeze past and their life is on the line, their unconscious minds make them choose duty, and bravery takes over.
The last four chapters with the random jottings were something like journal entries from the author’s time. I made another observation from those chapters. None of the jottings had any specific information that could have been valuable to anyone reading the entries. All events were recorded after they happened and care was taken that no location is revealed in the settings. If these are actual war-time notes, they have been cleverly written to give the pleasure of writing but care has been taken that it would not be useful if they ever fall in the hands of an enemy.
Ratings- 3.5 stars out of 5
The book is great for a one time read. It isn’t something that you would go back to, but you definitely love to recommend these tales to your friends. It’s worth savoring the experience.
The presentation of the book was fine, but there are some improvements that could be done for a better reading experience. For instance, Random Jottings of 1965 War, the chapter is written in an active voice, while the next chapter is written in a passive voice, making the latter more comfortable for reading. They also prove to be two chapters that provide for comparison.
Reviewed by- Banaja Prakashini
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