The author has succeeded in painting his childhood with a brush of childlike innocence which every reader can easily connect with. I developed an instant connection with the author as I too grew up at home with my three brothers with I too being the third and our pranks were as good.
The anecdotes of children’s innocence of marriage at the beginning of the holidays, tickling and kissing followed by baby crawling from beneath the bed, divorce at the end of the holidays with the baby disappearing beneath the bed; Franco-English battle; chocolate deprivation; census enumerator risking his life; holy-dip in the pond; the (un)parliamentary debate – all stand testimony to the author’s ability to recall the incidents in his growing up years with such finesse and humour. I felt it was as realistic as it could be.
Incidents of a soldier’s diplomacy at its best is displayed with a peg of Sacramental Wine that made two warring sides – the Catholics and the Protestants – come to truce – especially if they are Mallus , that too preaching amongst Nagas. Postponing the cow slaughter in Sri Lankan Army camp to respect the sentiments of his soldiers establishes it further. Ensuring that the French Brigadier’s wife netted a good bargain with the Delhi jeweller is another.
The author has displayed his humaneness and love for fellow human beings through his description of the mental state of people of a conflict ridden zone, first Rakhi, dealing with the rudeness of the American Army officer; the parting advise by his helper at the Indian Military Academy to be like Netaji, empathy towards the Pakistani Prisoners of War; ensuring that the girls did not get hurt during a hockey match.
The most important lesson for a child (and also for an adult) what the book brings out are:
- ‘When you grow up, I don’t care if you don’t earn a lot of money, but you must be scrupulously honest.”
- “The most important quality a boy must possess is character.”