Life in the Indian Army – a riveting memoir

Colonel Mahip Chadha has written “Soljer, Soljer” published by Author House, an absorbing fictionalized account of an infantry battalion of The Third Gorkha Rifles. The book is crammed with stories of the 800 men, their lives, codes of honor, bravery, fortitude, national integration and more importantly the invaluable contribution of the Armed Forces to the country.

The Indian Army to many is an abstract image of soldiers in their glittering finery on Republic Day strutting down the roads of New Delhi or a vague stirring of loyalty when the soldiers are involved in skirmishes on the borders of India. There are no big wars at the moment but we are jolted out of our complacency by this compelling page turner of a book. In effective detail
Colonel Chadha writes with personal insightful detail of men who train rigorously with determination, intelligence, drawing deeply on physical and mental strengths and filled with an unswerving devotion to tradition, values, brotherhood, family and country. They are profiled in this engrossing book that blends reality and fiction.

It is the story of a father Surinder Singh Sahni and his son Jaskaran serving together in the Sixth Battalion of the Indian Armed Forces and introduces fascinating characters, dangerous missions and the hardships of military life. And then Jaskaran goes missing, believed killed after a skirmish with enemy militants. The daughter in law has to battle her own traumatic problems while Surinder Singh has to make a crucial decision as head of the family.

Within the parameters of the plot, the author captures the rigorous discipline of smart drill practice, marching at 140 paces per minute, and chronicles in interesting detail of bugle calls, boxing matches, celebratory bottles of rum , pampering Army wives, evenings of song and dance, marriage life in a cantonment, boisterous pranks on one another, bawdy jokes, and brotherhood.

And then there is the clarion call to duty. Hail, sleet, bitter winds, scorching heat and flies, the ravages of hunger, tasteless food. The book is fast paced story telling with vivid descriptions providing insights and often genuinely funny. Admiring portraits of soldiers and the breezy prose sets the tone for capturing the experience of the Indian Army.

Colonel Chadha served in one of the finest battalions of the world which distinguished itself in World War 1 by winning two of the first Victoria Crosses in the War. He himself served for 34 years in the Army and then worked in civilian jobs till he retired as the President of Helios Aviation, New Delhi. He is also the author of Grits, Guts and Gallantry a book that motivates young people to consider a career in the Army.

The book has a compelling Foreword by Lt Gen Mohan Bhandari of the Garhwal Rifles who commandeers our attention by stating there are a definite lack of awareness about matters military and the sacrifices of the Armed Forces for the country.

PREM KISHORE

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