Kerala has always been considered a unique place in the Indian subcontinent in terms of language, culture and people. And, when it comes to a Keralite's stint with the Indian defence, which is a mix of diverse cultures, his or her connect with the rest is curiously observed.
'Son of a Gunner', a novel written by Colonel Reji Koduvath, treads along the path of the same uniqueness by narrating the story of a valiant army officer hailing from Kottayam.
The candid account of the ordinary life in military barracks brings one closer to the facts of how precariously perched are the lives of the personnel who guard our borders and how zealously they find joy in simple things in life when they are not on duty. Apart from shedding light on the real image of the army men in uniform and otherwise, the story depicts the colourful motley of the cultural diversity in India.
'Son of a Gunner' is a fictional story of an army officer named Shaju George Manakkal, who hails from Kottayam, a silent town in Kerala. His engagement with a military operation displaying exceptional courage and grit and the outcome is the crux of the story. The narrative juxtaposes the life a Malayali officer in the Indian army with the traditions of the Orthodox Syrian Christians in Kerala. The minute details of the ordinary life in military regiments along with the subtle nuances of religious harmony are so vividly portrayed that one would feel like walking straight into an army camp all of a sudden.
The novel follows the furrows of India's undulating cultural landscape that stretches from Karugai waterfalls in Munnar to the Pashmina shawls of Kashmir. The tale begins with Joji Manakkal, son of Shaju Manackal-the protagonist of the novel, landing in Kandahar as a military doctor. What is unveiled thereafter is the life of Shaju from the time of his passing out parade in the army.
The details of military operations are so lively that they arouse the curiosity and an adrenaline rush characteristic of an action thriller movie. The long-drawn-out preparation and plan of a military strike lend the readers nailbiting suspense and the actions bespeak of the valour, vigour and camaraderie soldiers exhibit during a mission.
Interestingly, though the book abounds with colloquial terms and military jargon, the writer gives adequate attention to feature explainers and never lets names of official positions, regiments, technical terms or mission codewords come in the way of enjoying the story.
Son of a Gunner is Colonel Koduvath's second novel after Suit Boot and Tie, which is also centred on the premise of the Indian military.