Book Review: Roll of Honour by Amandeep Sandhu
Title: Roll of Honour
Author: Amandeep Sandhu
Paperback: 252 pages
Publisher: Rupa Publications (October 16, 2012)
Genre: Historic Novel
Buy On: Amazon | FlipKart
An honest and moving story about life in a military school, in the days of the Khalistan movement.
1984. Operation Blue Star has just ended and the Indian Army is arresting and killing innocent Sikhs. Appu is back at military school in Jassabad, Punjab, for his final year. He looks forward to three things: being class in-charge, passing out, and securing a place in the National Defence Academy.
Then ex-student Balraj, now a Khalistani militant on the run, takes refuge on campus and the violence outside comes to school. Some of the seniors decide to help Balraj, the decision splits the school along sectarian lines, and students are forced to take sides. There is rampant bullying sodomy being the preferred tool of domination and long-time friends find themselves on opposing sides. As the situation spirals out of control, Appu, who wants nothing more than to live his dreams, is forced to make the impossible choice between community and nation.
Note: Thanks to Amandeep Sandhu for offering me his book to review
Cover: Eye-Treat! I loved the cover. The colours are a treat to the eyes just like the texture is to the fingers.
Paper and font: Smell-Worthy! I don’t like most Indian prints these days. But this book had good paper quality and font size.
Readability, language: Easy on the eye and mind. Has strong language but fits the story.
My parents say as a toddler I called Indira Gandhi my mother. I ran around the house shouting ‘mummy is on TV’. As I grew up I got to know more about her; I admired the woman who stood out in a man’s world. She took on men and won. Then I got to know about Operation Blue Star and how it killed her. I read about it but reading can only tell you so much.
Then a few years ago I travelled to Amritsar and went to the Golden Temple. The marks of the destruction caused by Blue Star in 1984 are still there. I spoke to people who had lived through Operation Blue Star and its aftermath. I don’t say that I stopped admiring Indira Gandhi but I did start to think this was a mistake and a big one.
A couple of weeks ago when A. Sandhu got on touch with me about his book, I saw an opportunity to understand 1984 better and the book was just that. An insight into what the youth went through after 1984.
This is a story about life in the residential military schools of Punjab. Appu tells the story of how life changed after Blue Star. The clear sudden divide between Sikhs and Hindus. The animosity, patriotism and religious zeal driving the people and friends apart.
Appu is a boy in the 12th standard aspiring to join the NDA. He is a teenager questioning authority, his sexuality, religion, relationships, patriotism, the army, humanity and everything else in his life. Then in 1984 new questions arise and answers change as Appu finds his way through school and life in the shadow of Operation Blue Star.
The story is narrated by Appu as he goes down memory lane and writes his story. In between the past we get glimpses of Appu’s current life as he writes the book. The to and fro isn’t tedious and fits together well to portray the whole picture. There is quite a lot of strong language and sexual material in the book but it adds to the story though I’m not sure if this book is a good read for young age groups.
Reading Roll of Honour gave me an insight into the lives of Sikhs after 1984. After partition this was the next big religious event that I was too young and too far geographically to remember, this book helped me understand the people of Punjab better. I’d definitely recommend this book if these kind of stories are your thing.