Very few books have elements of spying, patriotism, courage, guilt and remorse all under the same roof! “Calling Sehmat” just walks the tightrope, balancing all these elements of humane psyche with finesse.
It was actually the movie, which fueled my interest to go behind finding the actual book.
“Calling Sehmat” was a fine revelation and all thanks to Harinder Sikka, the author, who took the pains, to chalk out the life of the protagonist, pre and post her life as a spy, by researching about the character’s life for a period of 8 years!
It isn’t easy for a young twenty year old girl, to surrender all her dreams, her love, to only fulfill the vision of her parents, which is protecting the country. This level of parental devotion or rather patriotism towards one’s country is initially thought as stupid or rather far-fetched, but for a young girl, for whom this also was a dying father’s last wish, the act made sense.
Considering that the book is inspired from a real life hero, whose name is chosen to be kept as anonymous with just a pen name “Sehmat”, I would take this opportunity to call her as truly heroic, courageous and above all, a gem of a human being.
What she did was unfathomable! Not many trained spies could do that, and live to tell the tale, but she did!
Being a Kashmiri Indian girl, Sehmat was married and sent to Pakistan, to serve as an Indian Spy. The plot and story line is what makes the plot gripping and on the edge all the times.
Sehmat’s unfettered attention and observation to detail to plot schemes and strategies, to get into the good books of her Pakistani marital household, coupled with her attempts to dodge the eyes of suspects, is what makes this book a real thriller.
The book gets its pace, post the main protagonist’s arrival in Pakistan. The way, she uncovers secrets, finds resources and transmits messages, all in the garb of a newlywed innocent daughter-in-law, is surprising and nothing less than brave. Her pretentious act of being a good wife, and a daughter-in-law, with the underlying hidden motive of extracting information for Indian counterparts is flawless, brave and above all, mind blowing.
However, since Sehmat was not a trained spy, her character has been shown as vulnerable, especially in the moments of pain and hurt. Her acts of crime and killings are brutal and chilling, but they simultaneously show the humane side of her, pain and remorse envelop her heart with guilt. However, her spy mind is always at work and this contradiction of her ruthlessness as a spy versus the simplicity and love for life as a human, is what makes the tale interesting.
Killings and crimes come with a price, which was also quoted for Sehmat. Although, post her stint as a spy, she led a life away from the prying eyes of government, but she couldn’t escape her own. Her own guilt and remorse led her to live a life in isolation, almost on the edge of going insane. The pain and remorse was something that even prevented her to take care of her own child, something that simply added to her woes. She could never have a normal mother-son relationship, something which even the author confessed.
Her coming back to life via the route of spirituality was touching and heartfelt. In short, her life was brave and courageous, not just replete with patriotism and devotion towards her own country, but also marked with respect for every human who touched her life, whether Indian or Pakistani.
Her re-settling in Maler Kotla, a small city in Punjab, post her “Spy” days, said it all. While her act of spying was to respect her father’s, an Indian’s wishes, her settling in Maler Kotla, was an act of sheer repentance towards someone, who she had mercilessly killed in the path of spying. Not everyone has this heart and mind to recognize and respect all, including those who usually are at the end of receiving wrath from us!
This book talks about a character, which seems to be a story, but it just was real. The only real and heartbreaking is the truth and price of being a spy. No spy is happy killing or committing crime, but like the movie tagline says, “Nothing in front of nation” and that is what made Sehmat pay a very heavy price, but earned her a lot of respect.
The book definitely raises the doubt, whether putting everything at stake for a country’s pride and safety, is actually worthwhile, especially when your own identity and life is at stake, even after providing life saving information?
This book has been adapted into the incredible movie “Raazi”. You can watch the trailer of the movie, now available on Netflix.
What are you willing to do for your country?