Seldom do we realize that the air we breathe freely comes at the cost of the soldiers that stay vigil at nights and at mountainous terrains where breathing freely itself is a privilege. For most of us living in the cities, who are used to complain for anything and everything, it is not surprising to be completely unaware of the struggles that the soldiers & officers face on the borders away from their families. For those of us specially, Bhaavna Arora delivers all these and more, coalesced with special dose of romance through 'Mistress of Honour'. Whether it is the love between Potnis and Pansy, or between Advik and Rihanna, the author takes us through the phases that every adolescent mind will go through when it sees a person that his or her heart will want.
The bravery of the soldier Potnis during the 1984 riots and how the same terrific operation seeded a sapling of love through Pansy, and the romance that happened later, solemnizing into a marriage - all this is beautifully narrated by the author. Shamsher is the best part of this novel - the wit that he expresses during his stay and the help he does to Potnis talks a lot about the epitome of friendship. Advik's and Kabir's relation adds to the friendship tales. The hardship of a women (mother, beloved, wife or daughter) associated with a soldier or a military officer is well explained through various subtle scenarios.
The chapters that deal with NDA will surely inspire many people who want to pursue a career in the Indian Defence Forces. Not only, it delves deep into how the NDA prepares the students to treat country first, but it also teaches a very important lesson - if you want to enjoy the roses in the garden, you have to be prepared to meet with thorns - the same thing that Swami Vivekananda said - Purity, Patience & Perseverance brings you honours! "Yes, Sir!" - those powerful two words mean a lot for these cadets!
For those who are in their 20s or early 30s, there is no way we would know the reality behind the 1984 riots, the LTTE operations that India supported during late 80s. Even the Kargil war that happened in 1999 would have made into our knowledge (to me at least) only as a significant news but not as what it happened in reality. The amount of research that Bhaavna has done to give us all these details, blend it with stories of Potnis, Pansy, Shamsher, Advik, Kabir and Rihanna is quintessential. The author has even embedded NSCN in her book, and the readers will be able to appreciate the insurgency that India & Indian Army face from NSCN and ULFA every day, thanks to the recent attacks on Indian Army by NSCN and the revenge attacks by Indian Army by entering the territory inside Myanmar. 'Right or Wrong is based on which side you are in' - What better line could explain the terrorists and the army that are fighting each other for their own cause.
Rahim's chapter slows your reading pace a bit (and could have been avoided as it side tracks IMHO), but Advik's training at NDA & Rihanna make sure you will continue through the book to enjoy it fully! And, how would the parents allow Advik and Rihanna to go out just immediately after their engagement, and the way passions flow instantly to consummate their relationship even before the wedding is a bit difficult to accept. The ending (which I am not going to divulge) is what some or many of us would have expected differently, but I feel it is BOLD & BEAUTIFUL!
I wouldn't say "If you are a patriot, read this book!". Instead, I would like to say, "If you want to understand how tough it is, not only for the soldiers, but for their wives and beloveds - the sacrifices the latter make, and humbly accepts the fact that they cannot be the first love at any point of time to these soldiers and officers, but they can only remain Mistresses, but of course with lot of honour, you must read this piece by Bhaavna Arora which is beautifully woven with romance, drama and perfection!"