A war, though sometimes inevitable and essential, leaves a lot of mighty stories and with it a lot of broken hearts behind. Kargil was one such war. Though I was pretty young at that time, however, I still remember the atmosphere all over the country and in my hometown that shares a border with Pakistan. There was always a danger looming around. We were scared but prepared for any eventuality. I guess we had no option! We all did briefly read and heard the stories of the soldiers who fought bravely and laid their lives protecting the sovereignty of our country, but there were still some stories that we missed out on. Or at least the parts of it. I realised this when I read this book – Kargil : Untold Stories from the War by Rachna Bisht Rawat. I picked this book randomly from a book store intrigued by its title.

Kargil : Untold Stories from the War by Rachna Bisht Rawat | Book Review
Kargil : Untold Stories from the War by Rachna Bisht Rawat | Book Review

The book starts with the most heart breaking and crucial event that actually led to the war thereafter. 14th May, 1999, when Capt. Saurabh Kalia went on to check the Bajrang Post at the height of 17,450 ft whether the snow has melted enough for it to be manned again, little did he know that the enemy watching them and waiting for them to come within firing range. “Taking advantage of India’s trust, Pakistan has slowly been moving it’s troops into Bajrang post during the past few months.” “On 9th June Pakistan returned 6 mauled and disfigured bodies to India.” Capt. Saurabh Kalia and 5 other soldiers from 4 JAT were kept in captivity for 22 days and tortured to death by the Pakistani soldiers.

The book continues with stories of other heroes like Col. Sonam Wagnchuk, Capt. B.M. Cariappa, Capt. Haneef, Lt. Vijyant Thapar, etc. The book also shares the story of the lone woman warrior of the Kargil war; Flying Officer Gunjan Saxena. The author, Rachna Bisht Rawat, has also covered a couple of unique and quite unexpected stories in this book. One is of the Mrs. T. Angmo Shuno, station director, All India Radio, Leh and Kargil. She shares her exemplary efforts in making recruitment announcements for the Indian Army amid heavy shelling in the area. The other story is of Capt. Kamal Sher Khan of the Pakistan Army who was martyred at the Tiger Hill during the Kargil war. Such was his bravery that at the recommendation of the Indian Army, he was awarded Nishan-e-Haider by the Pakistan government.

Kargil : Untold Stories from the War by Rachna Bisht Rawat | Book Review

What’s special about this book is that along with the stories of these brave soldiers it also shares the stories of their families. It gives us a peak inside their life outside the forces. How they were like growing up and their personality. In a way the author has tried to share the grief and pride of these families and bringing their feelings and perspective out in front. The story that will perhaps had the most impact on me was of Capt. B.M. Cariappa. It was a perfect example of presence of mind with nerves of steel and complete dedication. His readiness to sacrifice himself in order to get a tactical victory over the enemy, really shook me.

Reading these stories will fill you with immense pride and gratitude. The grit and courage of these brave hearts will inspire generations to come. At many points the book made me emotional. Though there is no way we can feel the pain of the family members of the ones who gave their lives in the war but we can certainly be a part of their grief through this book. This book is not just war stories but also of love, pain, pride, grief and courage. It’s one of a kind and a much needed one. I commend the author for bringing this perspective out of Kargil heroes. A true tribute to them and their beloved families. An inspirational must read!

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