We, born and living in the independent India, can only read about the sacrifices made by our ancestors during the British rule and their efforts and toil went in the mission of getting freedom from the shackles of slavery. We cannot feel and understand in exact terms as to what they underwent in that period. However since a section of the freedom-fighters was in favour of violent means to attain the coveted goal and called its members as revolutionaries, the description of their activities creates sensation in our bodies and reading their ventures is as good as reading the fictional suspense-thriller stuff. Though they must have suffered a lot, by reading about that period, we get a romantic feel about them and their adventures. Besides, despite all the corruption and decline of the people on the ethical front, at least prior to the liberalization phase, the Indian youths used to love patriotism and took interest in reading patriotic stuff. Hence thrillers with a patriotic flavour were written by the authors and liked by the readers.
Hindi novelist – Ved Prakash Sharma, in his heyday, picked the pulse of the readers from this viewpoint and wrote certain suspense-thrillers wrapped in patriotism or in other words, he served thrill soaked in the syrup of patriotism to his readers. One such novel penned by him in the late seventies was Watan Ki Kasam which was a huge commercial success in the world of pulp fiction in that period.Watan Ki Kasam (the oath of the motherland) is the story of Jhabra who is forced to become a bandit due to the trauma of himself and his sweetheart – Raadhika. Raadhika is forcefully married to Jhabra’s widower father when she is pregnant through Jhabra. Jhabra’s father turns out to be a devil in man’s body and he is hell-bent upon arranging her miscarriage when Jhabra runs away with Raadhika. They get separated in the forest with Jhabra being captured by his father and his men. His father uglifies him through inhuman torture which ultimately paves the way of his seeking revenge from his father and becoming a bandit. Raadhika escapes and after some time, gets the help of a businessman – Shankar Kapoor and a police officer – Shaktipaal Daange. Both of these benevolent gentlemen consider her as their sister and support her in restarting a normal life. Raadhika gives birth to a son which is taken away by Shaktipaal Daange to save his wife from the shock of a miscarriage. On the other hand, Shankar Kapoor’s wife dies after giving birth to two children which he willingly gives to Raadhika to foster them as their mother.
The real story of Watan Ki Kasam takes off when Jhabra is released from jail after completing his sentence of imprisonment. Now twenty years have passed since his separation from Raadhika. He comes across the chieftain of a Kraanti-Dal (group of revolutionaries) which is fighting for the freedom of India from the British rule. The chieftain (Sardaar) always remains behind a mask and when making him a member of the group, makes him take the oath of the motherland (Watan Ki Kasam) that he will never reveal his identity as a revolutionary to anyone and never give importance to personal relationships as well as personalized sentiments towards someone. Sardaar knows everything about Jhabra and Jhabra is never able to escape from his watch at any place and at any time. Jhabra loots the government treasury on Sardaar’s instruction with some of his revolutionary companions one of whom is Vibhore, his own son who has been brought up in the house of the cop – Shaktipaal Daange (who is completely loyal to the British government). He has a younger sister – Alka (the real daughter of Shaktipaal) who is also a revolutionary but marries a British detective – Knott Robert. Vibhore himself is in love with a Muslim girl – Salma whose father is a journalist. But when Salma’s parents are killed and she is raped by the British authorities and their Indian flunkeys, she also picks up arms to seek revenge from her transgressors. In Shaktipaal’s house, his aged father – Jwala Prasad is also loyal to the British rule alongwith him.
Jhabra keeps on working for the group and in-between happens to meet Raadhika again alongwith her children (who are actually the children of Shankar Kapoor) – Ravi and Suman. Sardaar dislikes his reunion with Raadhika and warns him not to go against the oath of the motherland taken by him (not to give importance to personal relations or affection of the beloveds). Ravi and Suman also turn out to be the members of the revolutionary group. After several twists in the tale, the revolutionary group gets destroyed in a huge attack by the British force and most of the principal Indian characters of this story lose their lives in the struggle with the British government. The novel ends with the death of Jhabra.
As I have already said, this is a dish of suspense and thrill served in the syrup of patriotism. It has several sentimental scenes and dialogues which are able to move the readers (especially when they are a little bit patriot). The narrative is very interesting and keeps the reader glued to the book until it is completely read by him. There are several over the top things as well as factual errors in the novel which are to be ignored to enjoy the story. The thing that appeared most irritating to me is the dialogues of the British characters which the modestly educated novelist (who was quite young and raw those days) has presented in a funny way. They have been shown as speaking in Hindi with an accent which is nothing but ridiculous.
However, the fact which is to be admitted is that this novel had gained immense popularity in the world of Hindi pulp-fiction in the days of its initial publication. And the author got so much carried away by the popularity of this novel that he wrote its sequel too (just like the English authors’ writing sequels of their popular novels). The sequel to this novel is quite lengthy and hence is in two volumes – 1. Khoon Do Aazaadi Lo (give blood, take freedom), 2. Bichchhoo (scorpion). Since I have read the sequel too, I know that the sequel is better than Watan Ki Kasam. However since Watan Ki Kasam is complete in its own right, its reader need not read the sequel.
The thing which I find as immensely likeable about the writing of Mr. Sharma is his elevating the character of the female characters. Unlike several Indian and foreign authors, he has not shown his female characters as sex objects but exasperated the exemplary aspects of their personalities, showing them in bright light. The female readers are sure to like it. And this is the reason, this author had become immensely popular among the Indian female readers who normally did not like reading detective fiction because of the indecent portrayal of the female characters.
If you are ready to ignore the childish presentation of the dialogues of the British characters as well as the over the top incidents shown in the novel plus the factual errors in the narrative and don’t mind an overdose of sentiments as well, then you are sure to like this patriotic suspense-thriller which is, unarguably, very very interesting.
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