Calling Sehmat: A tale of patriotism with a teaspoon of naive fiction

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Calling Sehmat: A tale of patriotism with a teaspoon of naive fiction
Calling Sehmat: A tale of patriotism with a teaspoon of naive fiction

Dehradun : 'Calling Sehmat' a tale of the unsung heroine of the 1971 Indo-Pak war. A tale of a young Kashmiri girl who is passionate about dance and believes in her Prince charming who is going to take her to his castle on a shining white horse. A castle where she will live the way she was brought up in her parents house - like a princess. But as they say, reality hits hard and for Sehmat it was harder. She had to give up her soulmate for the sake of her father and her ‘Watan’ as she fondly calls her motherland.

The book starts with the death of Sehmat and her son sharing his mother’s story with the world for the very first time. She was born to Hidayat Khan, a Kashmiri Muslim and Tajindar Singh, a Delhi based Sikh girl. Their love story is described in the initial chapters in a crisp manner with a purpose to throw some light on the upbringing Sehmat receives from her parents.

Continuing with Hidayat’s story the writer Harinder Sikka tries to establish the patriotic values, this man holds for the country and how he establishes a full-fledged spy network in Pakistan under the wraps of his trading business. When Hidayat learns that he’s suffering from cancer and will die soon he then decides to send his only daughter to Pakistan to ensure that his channel which is a vital source of information continues to fulfil its agenda. In a parallel story, Sehmat has finally found the love of her life and his weaving the dreams of her future with Aby aka Abhiraj, suddenly she is called back. Where the harsh reality had something else in store for her where she gives up everything to fulfil the last wish of her dying father who taught her that your motherland is above everything. However, dreamy this may sound here but the description of Sehmat and Aby’s college romance seemed unnecessary, exaggerated and soapy. Maybe that’s why this part was entirely chucked out of the movie.

As book proceeds, Sehmat trains to be the spy and is married off to an influential Pakistani Army family. She plans, plots, kills people, held some as hostages also. Mr. Sikka being a retired naval officer did not miss even single point to pour out his love for country using Sehmat’s words. The interesting and most gripping part is when Sehmat got her hands on a file that describes how ISI and Pakistan Army plan to destroy INS Vikrant, the pride of Indian Navy. Now how she provides this information to Indian Intelligence Agency RAW can give goosebumps. Her narrow escape can be a little predictable though. But, again comes a time when the book tries to stir the patriotism in the reader by describing the feelings of our heroine after landing on Indian soil after being parted for so long. One might think that the story ends here but no it continues...

Once she lands she decides to move to a small village in Punjab in order to wash her soul off the guilt of killing people. Sehmat is traumatized but she comes out of this as well. How? That's again one of the surprising elements of the book. She fights the depression she comes not with the help of her mother or the child who she gave birth to after coming to India but because of a Fakir. Yes, a fakir who sang hymns. This happens to be the most dragging part where the hymns, the spiritual gyaan takes a toll on you. Your brain might get into a bizarre state here because you expected a thriller story but got chapters full of philosophy and spirituality.

Not just spirituality but Harinder Sikka did not hesitate to dedicate two chapters entirely to the Navy’s role in the 1971 war and how INS Rajput, destroyed Pakistani submarine, Ghazi. Also, a little pride Pakistan saved by destroying INS Khukri. Though gripping but this again went in some other direction.

Basically, Mr. Sikka kept wandering from the storyline both in the end and at the beginning, the middle part where the main plot is, though is a page-turner.

(Written by Manu Priya Chhabra)