A collection of thirteen stories about life beyond cantonment limits. Tales that describe the pride, honour, self-respect, discipline and sense of duty of the men in uniform, and the anguish, frustration, and quiet resignation of their loved ones. Deeply felt, touchingly told, by someone who knows.
Reviewed in Deccan Herald
Hold on to your berets by Cheryl D’Couto
“Paltan Tales is a set of 13 stories that go by the name of ‘Cantonment Chronicles’. The author has managed to cover all manner of military hierarchy and landscape in the book.
Her voice is a rich and gender-neutral one. It is also an authentic one. Madhavi Mahadevan, an army child, soaked up cantt life and spent her early years following the drum. That is why she is able to tell the stories of a cross-section of people– army wives, parents, loyal batmen, soldiers in the field, young cadets and even the odd Major General.
The tales describe the army experience from their point of view. Each has a distinct flavour; some are sombre but the common thread of Corps spirit runs through all.
In stories like ‘Annual Leave’, the army simmers somewhere in the background while the lives of the protagonists are played out in a more civilian set-up.
Others like ‘The Mascot’ are Olive Green all the way. Two brothers recall a story told to them by their father’s batman years ago. How they react to the story– which incidentally is a truly heartwarming one– serves to highlight the innate difference between the two. One brother joins the army and inherits its rich traditions, the other (unabashedly civilian) looks upon them as quaint but redundant.
The last story in the book is about retirement and the sense of ‘unbelonging’ that every soldier feels at leaving the army. The only identity of a fauji is his uniform. It is what roots him to himself in many ways. This angst is captured in a subtle and gently ironic way by the author in ‘Rebirth’.
This book may be likened to a river where the brooks of many lives join and flow in the same direction– ‘for men may come and men may go, but the Paltan goes on forever’.”