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Calling Sehmat – Harinder Sikka

The story unfolds during the year 1971 as the tensions between India and Pakistan have escalated due to the latter hatching a plot to create havoc in India. Sehmat Khan, a young student studying in Delhi is married off to the son of an influential Pakistani bureaucrat and is entrusted with the task of spying on them. What she uncovers in the process is a lethal secret which is capable of inflicting a serious blow to India’s defence.

Author: Harinder Sikka

Publisher: Penguin Books

Genre: Thriller

Book length: 204 pages

Recommended for: Readers of all age groups

 

Insights on the Plot

Calling Sehmat is based on the true story of Sehmat Khan, a Kashmiri girl who was endowed with the task of surveillance in Pakistan. Hidayat Khan is a successful businessman based out of Kashmir who has garnered success by trading in India and Pakistan. His primary contact in Pakistan was Brigadier Sayeed with whom he had studied together at Lahore.  Little did Sayeed know that Hidayat was acting as an Indian spy in Pakistan!

Hidayat’s aspirations to serve his motherland are dashed when he is detected with a fatal tumour. That is when he hatches a plan to plant his beloved daughter Sehmat in his place by deciding to get her married off to Iqbal Sayeed, the Brigadier’s younger son.

Sehmat gets initiated in the secrets of becoming a spy by Mir who heads RAW. While she adjusts to her life as a new bride in Pakistan, she is left with the task of establishing her identity in the Sayeed household in addition to digging up military secrets and passing them on to her Indian counterparts. All this in the wake of an imminent risk to her life as a spy…

Understanding the Characters

Sehmat Khan is the protagonist who has been portrayed as a gentle and loving girl possessing a razor sharp intelligence. She is usually shy and does not indulge in a lot of socializing even with her roommate Mitali. However, she is an exceptional dancer blessed with beauty which makes her the cynosure of all eyes.

Her marriage to Iqbal Sayeed sets in motion a series of events from which there is no escaping. Sehmat has to go through many difficult tests which include committing murder. This has a great psychological implication on her personality and and this fact has been described well in the book.

Iqbal Sayeed has been shown as a man with mediocre intelligence who starts depending on his wife increasingly as time passes by. He is a youth with a modern outlook towards life and does not believe in restricting Sehmat’s personal freedom after marriage.  Like Sehmat, he too is devoted to his country and would do whatever is right while safeguarding his country’s honour.

Manav Chowdhary aka Mir has been shown as an extremely intelligent man who conducts all sorts of secret missions in order to ensure India’s safety from enemies like Pakistan. He personally takes a keen interest in Sehmat’s training and dishes out the nitty-gritty of RAW’s protocols.

He is a person who does not abandon his team when they are in danger. He himself heads a dangerous mission to extract Sehmat from Pakistan and keeps a protective eye on her during the course of her life even after she ceases to be an asset to his team.

A Reader’s Take

I came across this book after watching it’s film adaptation Raazi. It came as a surprise that the movie was based on a true story. The movie too was shot so brilliantly that I did not think twice before ordering the book. The book in itself is not too long but it has been written marvellously. You would be amazed at the amount of information that would be handed out to you in a book that is a mere 200 pages long.

The story has been carved out meticulously with all the details that make you want to continue reading it. It is full of intrigue and little surprises that make it even more interesting and keeps you on the edge of your chair as you wonder what will happen next.

The character of Sehmat Khan has been carved out quite well. She represents all the girls who are capable of leaving a mark of their own with the right bit of motivation and ambition. That fact that she was able to do so in the 1970s is, in fact, quite laudable and non-stereotypical considering the reservation that girls were subjected to during that time.

The book is what it is because of its characters who, by the way, were real and existed in flesh. The book covers everything that was not included in the movie. It talks about her parents and also gives us an insight into Sehmat’s life which wouldn’t have been possible otherwise. It is unfortunate that such real-life stories are not marketed well enough to be brought to the public eye. Calling Sehmat is a masterpiece that will blow your mind away and make you feel proud of the heroes who remain unsung in our history books.

Death to stock / Angelica

Death to stock / Angelica

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