Author: Sanjay Bahadur
"Bite of the Black Dogs" | SALUTE SOLDIER!
Sanjay Bahadur’s latest novel, titled ‘Bite of the Black Dogs’ is a fitting tribute to the relentless Indian Army, whose operations of national security span the torrentially challenging Kashmir Valley. A gripping read, the novel would appear to be fictional but is in fact inspired from the real operations conducted by Brigadier Ajay Pasbola who was awarded the Shaurya Chakra for his fight against the notorious terrorists creating havoc in the Kashmir Valley.
The unrest that has been a highlight of Kashmir witnesses multiple discourses, especially on the lines of Human Rights, yet, what often is lost in narratives would be the stories of the army-men who are battling the rotten powers of insurgency and terrorism. As the book chalks out, terrorists are not merely needy men shackled within the chains of poverty or driven by a Puritan philosophy of saving one’s religion. Instead, theirs is a well-knitted network with organised suppliers of the most deadly ammunition with simultaneous control over forging and disseminating counterfeit currency. Their networking amidst the common men and women of the Valley, or any given place, exacerbates the already fuming situation. While they load their helpers with money, often counterfeit, they leave no stone unturned to ambush even the most loyal supporter, if he/she begins to reek of the slightest suspicion, or isn’t fit enough to carry forth the legacy of rampant killing.
With chapters narrating parallel events in Srinagar, Mumbai, Udhampur, and the isolated Pir Panjal range – the novel brings to the forefront the exceptional span of lives that are involved and affected by the might of the deadly terrorists. It also brings to life the networking of the Indian Army and bureaucracy who are relentless in their pace to secure the sanctity of Indian citizens.
With the tracing of counterfeit money on one hand and the inconspicuous functioning of the terrorists on the other, Bahadur very well documents the trajectory of an entire mission – highlighting the multiple ripples it spreads across consequent lives. While initially slow-paced, the second half of the book quickly picks up momentum to provide and unputdownable read where the reader can vividly witness the actions unfolding right in front of their eyes. From the Northern Command Headquarters to the obscure valleys and trails of Kashmir, the fight of the army is graphically documented providing readers with a real piece of encounter shoot-offs.
Largely surrounding the story of Captain Vyom Pokhriyal, whose character is based on Ajay Pasbola, Bahadur chronicles a gripping story that while being a delightful read, nevertheless stuns the reader of the adversities that are battled on-ground by our army-men. In one moment they could be sharing a light laugh, and in the next moment, their enemies would turn them into deadly killers that can send chills running down the spine of even the most hardened terrorist. While based on the details of encounters which highlight the quick thinking and aggression of our army men, the novel is also spruced with camaraderie among the men in uniform – making us privy to the story of the brave hearts of our country – who fight with relentless courage, but somehow, almost magically, manage to still remain humane amidst all the gore and bloodshed.
The plot while intense ends on a lighter note sprinkled with some romance to perhaps balance out the anxiety in the rest of the book. In today’s time when the debates over Kashmir are growing in intensity, this novel comes as a fresh break that retrospects the ground-level events unfolding in the Valley. While we debate on Human Rights’ issues, which is, of course, integral to unravelling the calamities in Kashmir, we often forget the plight of the soldiers who sustain the toughest nights in an attempt to secure the safety of Kashmiris and Indians at large.
A significant message that this book lends is this – a soldier lives and dies in the name of the country. A soldier’s life and philosophy will probably be inapproximable for most civilians who strife to secure their own well-being. Yet, in a soldier, we witness the capacity to surrender life for someone else’s security. As Colonel Sandhu on being asked how he/they manage to live this life very poignantly answers: “I don’t know what other life is more worth living than this... Or worth dying for.”
With this book, Sanjay Bahadur presents a fitting salute to our men in uniform: the only ones who unanimously surrender their lives, martyring their sanctity to protect ours.