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On to the Next Chapter

Author Rachna Bisht on Brave and her book on Tendulkar

Published: 26th August 2014 06:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 26th August 2014 02:33 AM   |  A+A-

BANGALORE: The last year has been emotionally draining for me because the 21 stories I did for Brave were about heroes, who were once  strangers but then became friends  and inhabited my mind and began to walk in and out of my head and then died.

This book  took me to Sirijap in Ladakh where Maj Dhan Singh Thapa sliced necks off with his khukri; and it took me all the way to freezing Rezang La in Chushul where 13 Kumaon’s Major Shaitan Singh and his men (113 in all) were brutally massacred because they were outnumbered completely.

I need a break now. I would like to write a book of stories around the Army with humour, some intrigue... an eclectic mix, some of which I've already written.

And a book that captures the amusing characters who live in the small riverside hill town of Kotdwar in Garhwal, where I come from. Particularly because towns like these and people like those are fast disappearing in an fast changing world..

Other books? There's also the biography of Sachin Tendulkar for children, which is awaiting draft clearance from Ajith Tendulkar, his brother.

I'm not qualified to give tips to budding authors on how to go about writing books but all I can say is that for me good writing needs two qualities - the sensitivity to emotionally understand a particular moment and the command over the craft to be able to put an experience in words.

Brave came to me because Penguin was looking for a writer who also knew the Army. The Army has given me nearly all the men I love. Right from my father, who is a proud paratrooper, to my brother, also a paratrooper, to my husband who is a Sapper officer.

Or if you look at it the other way, I have given the Army nearly all the men I love. Because, I know for them the Army will always come first. Just as it does for every man in uniform.

The publishers wanted stories written about the 21 brave soldiers who had won the highest gallantry award of our country. I felt I understood the fear of losing of a loved one in a war.

I had also, as a reporter with a news paper in Ahmedabad, covered stories related to the Kargil war. We would be sent to cover funerals of soldiers whose bodies came back to their villages wrapped in the tricolour.

My brother was fighting in that war; my husband's unit had been moved to a location from where they could be asked to join the war.

Brave signifies the end of the road that took me to battles where heroes died following orders that said: You will fight till the last man and the last bullet.

When 13 Kumaon sent me a list of Rezang La martyrs, it ran into three pages on my laptop and made my eyes wet.

I met two Rezang La survivors, both 73 now who told me how a dying Maj or Shaitan, with his stomach slashed open, ordered them to leave him behind since he would only lessen their chances of survival.

Soldiers don't die on battlefields; they die when we stop remembering their sacrifice. I feel that when we can tell our children stories of Cinderella and Snow White and Harry Potter and Krish; why aren't we telling them stories of real life heroes? These are the people who should be larger than life and not just names we can't relate to.

When a soldier dies in war (and he need not be a decorated soldier; but any soldier who dies for us) he leaves behind orphaned children, lonely parents, a heartbroken partner. He also leaves behind a debt that we must honour by atleast keeping his memory alive.



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