The life of a young Army officer, replete with challenges and exciting adventures, fascinates most young people across the world, and especially so in India, where soldiering is deemed to be a noble and revered profession.
In his book, "Soldiering - A Life on the Edge," the author Brigadier P S Gothra has a young Army Captain as the main protagonist. The book is set against the back drop of the Line of Control (LOC) in Jammu and Kashmir where young Captain Bharat is posted.
Captain Bharat on being posted to the LOC demonstrates exemplary courage and presence of mind and inflicts casualties on the enemy crossing the LOC with the intention to kill Indian troops. His seniors repose enough faith in his ability to entrust to him the very dangerous task of crossing over to enemy territory to avenge the beheading of one of his subordinate soldiers.
He conducts the operation successfully and brings laurels to his Army and his Nation.
The book has drawn inspiration from the incidents of beheading of our soldiers and the surgical strike carried out by Indian troops deep into Pakistani territory in September 2016. Notably, the surgical strike was a highly successful military response to a series of terrorist strikes in Indian territory by terrorists trained and abetted by Pakistan.
By narrating incidents of military consequence, the author has succeeded in lucidly describing the detailed planning and execution of counter-terrorism operations in Jammu and Kashmir. In an honest though subtle manner the author touches upon drawbacks and errors of judgement that are part and parcel of the army's very challenging operational role in the trouble torn state.
The honest appraisal gives a humane face to the Army explains its vulnerabilities and also highlights important lessons to the younger lot of soldiers now operating in the state. The book also gives an insight into the terrorist infiltration abetted by the enemy.
The book gives a brief glimpse of the woes of the society in the terrorist affected areas. It touches upon the problems that the people face while living under the shadow of the gun due to foreign sponsored terrorism. It highlights the civil society, mainly the women and the children, as the main sufferers of this scourge.
Even though the book is a work of fiction, it reflects the hands on experience of the author. It builds the narrative very cogently and with a fair degree of honesty. There is no attempt to give a super-hero or demi-God status to the soldiers. In fact, the sensitivity of their emotions and their vulnerability gets pragmatic treatment.
The book engages the attention of the reader from the beginning to the end as it flows from one incident to the other in a smooth, interesting, crisp and succinct manner. There are some minor irritants with the language and use of military jargon that could have been avoided.
The author, Brigadier P S Gothra is a senior army officer with vast experience in counter terrorist operations. A post graduate in history and defence studies, he has also handled intelligence and information warfare assignments.he hails from a family of soldiers and is the fourth generation serving in the Army.
It is good reading for those who wish to get an insight into life of a soldier in an environment of new age combat and for the soldiers who are stepping into the operational environment as obtainable in Jammu and Kashmir.