Top positive review
31 July 2018
Rating - 4/5
There are times when you pick a book for the author. You love and respect the authors writing style, the way he weaves the narrative, basically you love the way he tells you the story.
Then you sometimes come across a story which has so much substance to it that you just have to know/read irrespective of the storyteller. ‘Calling Sehmat’ is one such book I have come across. The author has really tried his best to do justice to Sehmat’s story and I think if she had read it she would have been happy about it. The writing style may not be the smoothest flowing but there is so much power in the story that you tend to ignore it.
This book was first published in 2008 (as per Goodreads) and I am ashamed to know that I had no idea of such a hero until I saw the movie. Recently when I saw the movie , I kept feeling this should be known to everybody, there should be a book about Sehmat’s and her families sacrifices and thats when I learnt that the movie was based on the book. Meghna Gulzar has done a fabulous job of portraying Sehmat’s story but there is always a point where the movie ends and the book continues.
Personally, I feel that I have failed as an Indian if I know about the supreme sacrifices done by European war heroes during the WWII but am oblivious to such heroes in our own backyard. Sehmat’s story is one of love, heartbreak, courage, respect and most of all patriotism. With everybody nowadays coming out with their own definition of patriotism, it is important that we throw this book in their faces to teach them the real meaning.
I can speak for myself when I say this that I would never have the balls to do what she did, be it breaking off her relationship, stopping a possibly bright career and becoming a spy because my father wished me to be one to carry forward his work. I doubt if anybody from the current generation would be able to take such a decision.
Sehmat is truely a hero India had but did not deserve. We failed her if we did not know about her role in winning us a war!!
There is a reason why it is necessary to read the book even if you have watched the movie. Sehmat’s sacrifices were built up on or inspired various other smaller sacrifices from people around her. There are the smaller but parallel stories of her mother and Aby who made a lot of sacrifices of their hopes and future to put Sehmat at ease before she left for Pakistan and for taking care of Sehmat after she was brought back. I cannot imagine the pain her mother must have gone through when she was asked by her husband to allow their only daughter to become a spy behind enemy lines, she must have died every night when the tensions were building around the ‘71 war fully knowing that her daughter was playing a role in the storm. I do not know what these mothers are made up of but they sure as hell make us kids stronger.
Aby is a character which I felt should have been given some footage in the movie but it’s a director’s call and maybe they thought it would take away from the real story they wanted to narrate.
The movie in the ending credits only specifies that Sehmat spent her days in India at Maler Kotla as a pennance for what she did to Abdul, the book explains what really happened once she came back to India.
Please read this book and make your kids read it as well. It is time that we need to realise that there are heroes working for us and they need not always wear a uniform and carry a gun. Just like we depend on the armed forces to keep us safe, the armed forces rely on these heroes to do their job as well as they do.
PS - While reading about Sehmat on the internet I came across an article wherein the author received a letter from Farooque Abdullah asking him to refrain from revealing the true identity of Sehmat in the book because there were many such Sehmats operating in the valley and this may put their families ( Sehmat’s and similar families) in grave danger. Wow, I mean just wow, what have we done to deserve such heroes and what have they done other than being born in the valley to deserve this life.
To all the Sehmats and Tejs in the world - Shat Shat Naman!!!