Kargil Girl: An Autobiography by Flt Lt Gunjan Saxena (retd) and Kiran Nirvan-Reviews of the books
240pp, Rs 299
Gunjan Saxena has turn into a controversial determine, largely due to the movie that’s stated to have taken liberties with the info of her life. The controversy, which additionally revolves round who was the primary feminine IAF officer to have seen motion within the Kargil struggle and Saxena’s position within the struggle, doesn’t make or break this ebook. This autobiography has loads of thrilling materials; the final quarter describes Saxena’s expertise of struggle. There are vividly described, transferring, enthralling scenes that take us into the cockpit of her helicopter and into the entrance strains. There are at the least two brushes with loss of life for Saxena, that make us maintain our breath.
I used to be pleasantly shocked by the tone of the ebook, which isn’t jingoistic however measured, matter-of-fact. Saxena’s causes for becoming a member of the IAF come throughout as hardly nationalistic however aspirational: she wished to fly and cherished the armed forces life-style. Even when the ebook calls it an honour to die for India, she reveals no propagandist hatred for the individuals who make that ‘honour’ attainable (although she does have just a few selection epithets for them). Furthermore, it’s pleasing to notice that Saxena comes throughout as an armed forces devotee, however by no means glorifies the armed forces.
The Kargil Woman is written in a visible and breezy model that makes for a fast learn. It’s structured as a scrambled narrative, which consists of a collection of obstacles that Saxena should cross. At strategic locations, we’re given a flashback to a formative expertise from her childhood that gave her the qualities or virtues wanted to beat that individual impediment. The construction of the ebook provides weight to its narrative and slows it down sufficient for us to savour it. Whereas key incidents from her childhood and teenage are coated by way of flashbacks, the principle narrative spans from her candidacy for the IAF to her stint within the Kargil struggle.
Saxena’s coaching as an IAF cadet is roofed in vivid element – element sufficient for the martially inclined reader to relish and for the pacifists amongst us (are there any left?) to decry regimentation in its most literal sense. We’re proven how the rule-driven world of the armed forces moulds its inhabitants. This may increasingly carry a frown to the lips of those that suppose for a dwelling: “The navy shouldn’t be the place for many who apply logic to orders… [but] for many who know the way to observe orders in letter and spirit. As a result of when in struggle, logic induces concern and concern induces cowardice… and this whole course of begins within the academy itself”. The acquainted themes come by way of – how navy coaching is bodily arduous, mentally difficult and the way it emphasizes compliance and conformity. Fairly matter-of-factly, Saxena describes ragging by senior cadets: “Another punishments included ingesting mugs of water from a half-filled bucket after which spinning round till they threw up, solely to roll round in one another’s vomit”. Punishments additionally concerned being made to run, doing planks, and different exhausting humiliations. Saxena seems to approve: “… the seniors would give us [punishments] till we turned seniors… we might do the identical to our juniors”.
Saxena is equally frank in her depiction of hostility from her colleagues who resented her success as a girl. When, throughout her days as a cadet, she bought an opportunity to fly a sortie with a visiting pilot, “Many of the male instructors had a glance on their faces that meant, ‘Do you actually suppose you ought to be there?’ … Many of the male cadets felt that I had stolen this chance from them… Among the senior instructors have been solely nervous in regards to the fame of the academy and thought that selecting a feminine cadet would spoil it…” After Saxena did exceptionally effectively throughout the sortie, nonetheless, a lot of her detractors congratulated her, the ebook says.
Saxena’s youth and IAF coaching take up a lot of the ebook, and are engagingly written. The final 20 p.c of The Kargil Woman is dedicated to Saxena’s participation within the Kargil struggle; she flew a number of missions, and, amongst different issues, evacuated injured or lifeless troopers. That is the place the ebook is at its most cinematic and enthralling, and the writers deserve kudos for offering sufficient element to take us to the frontlines of the struggle with out distressing us. There’s a good scene wherein the sight of a lifeless soldier makes Saxena confront her personal mortality and reinforces her sense of sacrifice. There may be additionally a scene the place Saxena evades a missile launched at her air base.
All in all, the ebook makes for completely thrilling studying. One other takeaway for the astute reader is Saxena’s thought of patriotism, which was by no means jingoistic however was rooted in a spirit of service and sacrifice. Hopefully, subsequently, this effectively written and really readable ebook gained’t be used to strengthen regressive concepts of Indian-ness. One can solely hope.
Suhit Kelkar is an unbiased journalist. He lives in Mumbai.