Tuesday, February 4, 2014

#BookReview: Four Miles To Freedom: Escape From A Pakistani POW Camp by Faith Johnston

On the jacket:

When Flight Lieutenant Dilip Parulkar was shot down over Pakistan on 10 December 1971, he quickly turned that catastrophe into the greatest adventure of his life. On 13 August 1972 Parulkar, along with Malvinder Singh Grewal and Harish Sinhji escaped from a POW camp in Rawalpindi. Four Miles To Freedom is their story.  Based on interviews with eight Indian fighter pilots who helped prepare the escape and two who escaped, as well as research into other sources, Four Miles is also the moving, sometimes amusing, account of how twelve fighter pilots from different ranks and backgrounds coped with deprivation, forced intimacy, and the pervasive uncertainty of a year in captivity, and how they came together to support Parulkar's courageous escape.


Four Miles To Freedom: Escape From A Pakistani POW Camp is set against the backdrop of the war between India and Pakistan, which took place in 1971. Or, what we call the war that led to the creation of Bangladesh. Coming from a family, parts of which hails from Bangladesh, though settled in Indian part of (then) Bengal, since before this war, I have heard tales only of the war and not about partition per se.  

Four Miles To Freedom: Escape From A Pakistani POW Camp is a tale of a few men from the Indian Army who had been captured as prisoners of war, by Pakistan. Author Faith Johnston has created this tale, after meeting speaking to soldiers from this war, some of whom had also fought in the 1965 Indo-Pak war. With a fresh focus on the Army life, highlighting the duties and the tasks army men perform, rather than on their lifestyles, the story is as realistic as it gets. The book talks about Dilip Parulkar and his mates from Indian Air Force, who are captured as POW, and their lives over the next few months. 

Very well-researched, and with a smooth narrative, it is a moving account of what POWs go through and the escape attempts they make. Parulkar was captured and made a POW in December 1971. On August 13, 1972 Parulkar, along with Malvinder Singh Grewal and Harish Sinhji escaped from the camp which was in Rawalpindi. While story talks about bravery, gallantry, not giving up on one hand, it also talks about forced intimacy, deprivation and dead uncertainty of life and freedom. 

Though written in the form of a fiction, this book is decidedly non-fiction. 

Rating: ****/5

[This review is for Random House India. The opinions are strictly my own and not been written under any obligation.]

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