Book Review: Farthest Field by Raghu Karnad

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Books are special for they often shed light on history forgetten, facts diluted and memories locked away.

Raghu Karnad’s  “Farthest Field”  is a delightful account of a Parsee family and how the war we never fought ravaged their life.

While Europe and East Asia feature prominently in the history of the second world war, we have grossly overlooked a battle closer come; that of the largest voluntary army in the World War II, the Indian Army. The tribulations of this Army in lands far from home are brought to life through the experiences of 3 young men who chose to fought a war on the wrong side.

Reading  this book I was pleasantly surprised how little we know of the Indian army and the role it played in a war for the British Empire.These men were neither celebrated nor despised, only forgotten.

“People have two deaths: the first at the end of their lives, when they go away, and the second at the end of memory of their lives, when all who remember them are gone.Then a person quits the world completely.”

The book is extremely well researched and the author has taken very few liberties as and when required. Particulary engrossing is the account of the battles fought in India’s North-East against the Japanese.How the men fought for a cause they were not sure of and how in death, little separated them from  the enemy is brought to life by beautiful prose.

“Bobby saw between the Indians and the Japs was what grew on them: fungus on the winners, maggots on the losers.”

The men were forgotten as was the history. They never really chose the wrong side.But for independent India they were on the other side. This attempt by the author to evoke those memories of these long lost men, who gave up their lives in farthest fields has resulted in an important book for all of us. Not to judge them, just to remember them.