Calling Sehmat is the story of a young girl who had dreams of her own but what fate had in store for her comes to foreground when she loses her father to cancer and was destined to become a spy and that too to do the job in most hostile neighbouring nation Pakistan. Undeterred, how Sehmat agrees to forego her love in Delhi for love of nation and how her tender and little hands are soaked in blood just because she refuses to let the situation go out of hands and makes no compromise with security of her nation is a well written script by Harinder Sikka.
Harinder Sikka has not only done justice with the a bubbling girl turned spy who had ended up relieving villagers of Maler Kotla – a place she chose to settle during her last days, of terror unleashed by local goons but also fairly described how patriotism led a Kashmir girl to sacrifice everything that came her way. First she lost her father to cancer, then her love to her father’s commitment, then her career in any hustling India city followed by her second love in Pakistan and finally her life far away from maddening crowds in a remote village of Punjab bordering Pakistan.
The novel has its pages spread from 1454 CE to 1947 bloody partition and 1971 war. Small anecdotes take one to the era of Sikh’s tenth Guru Guru Gobind Singh Ji where Maler Kotla is described to have a great significance. The same village then stays witness to massacres of 1947 partition but in most peaceful and calm way without getting disturbed from happenings taking place in rest of the country. Lastly, it’s again Maler Kotla that takes a broken Sehmat in its laps and gives her whatever peace she craved for throughout her life.
The well written book in simplest form has though been made into a motion picture ‘Raazi’ yet it has more to offer than the commercial film. The film misses a major portion of novel for the simple reason that it could have cost director or producer a lot to depict 1971 war and role of India’s naval might. How well Indian Navy’s manoeuvering capabilities have been depicted in the novel are worth a read but the film stays complete silent over it.
The first scene of the story in novel – Calling Sehmat written by Delhi based Harinder Sikka opens up in Maler Kotla and last scene ends up in same village describing how Sehmat lived for nation and died for nation and its people. Beautifully woven story of an Indian spy also houses anecdotes of present state of affairs in India that’s still stuck deep in cast and religious divide. How every era of life of Maler Kotla – a predominantly Muslim village has been described is worth a read and takes the readers right inside the village that as per the given conditions of that time should have been in Pakistan during Partition because of its Muslim population.
Though the village stayed in India, it never witnessed any riots and the reasons are also worth reading. Before I get on to the story of Sehmat, story of Maler Kotla is worst describing. Harinder Sikka has done commendable job by taking his readers to the era when Sher Mohammad Khan, the Nawab of Maler Kotla had shown his humanity and courage and walked out of court of Wazir Khan who had ordered two youngest sons of Sikh’s tenth Guru Guru Gobind Singh Ji to be bricked alive. Sher Mohammad had earned blessings of Guru Gobind Singh for showing his humanity and thus the village was always protected by Sikhs ever since then.
While one goes through the pages of Calling Sehmat the readers come through stories of patriotism, sacrifice, love, respect and commitment that were all displayed by different characters. How a savior of nation becomes savior of village Maler Kotla is an awesome read. In between is the story of a girl born to Kashmiri Muslim and a Hindu mother who is a brave heart and not only lived for India but died for India as well. Then there are characters from Pakistan Light Infantry at Lahore Brigadier Sheikh Sayed, his captain son Iqbal Sayed and their servant Abdul who have their loyalties towards Pakistan but miserably fails in front of Sehmat’s moves.
It’s a journey of a spy who from just being an ordinary giggling girl qualifies to be a military agent, crosses over the border as bride but then plots, lays hands on classified information, passes it on to her mentors and as circumstances would have been even kills to ensure that India and its military might stays safe. She sleeps with her enemy, gets impregnated and even destroys the enemy family for the simple reason that training imparted by India never lets her forget that she’s on a mission and not on any truce negotiations. That was her commitment of ‘Nation First’ that stands well written by Sikka.
The most difficult part of her life was that she loved her enemy and despite that finished the family just because they were on the other side of fence and planning to destroy Indian naval ships. Though she remained unsung hero of 1971 war yet the tale told by Harinder Sikka has made her eternal. Had the maker of film Meghna Gulzar put in little more efforts and added scenes of saintly man or a little naval war, the movie Raazi would have been a blend of spying and war besides love. So far as film is concerned Alia Bhatt has done commendable job which is par excellence and needs no certificate from anyone.
Sehmat’s journey from her college, to Kashmir, to school where she taught in Lahore besides troubles that she faced in Pakistan have been very ably narrated in most simple words. Depiction of scenes and dresses, locations and languages and military rules and regulations besides loopholes that are usually found in any establishment have also found a mention by Sikka. Though entire story revolved around Sehmat risking her life to pass of Pakistan’s plans sink INS Vikrant yet one gets involved into it to get into the minutest of details.