About the book:
Why do they call you Baaz? It means falcon, he replies solemnly. Or bird of prey. Because I swoop down on the enemy planes just like a Baaz would. Then he grins. The grey eyes sparkle. It s also short for bastard. 1971. The USSR-backed India-Mukti Bahini alliance is on the brink of war against the America-aided Pakistani forces. As the Cold War threatens to turn red hot, handsome, laughing Ishaan Faujdaar, a farm boy from Chakkahera, Haryana, is elated to be in the IAF, flying the Gnat, a tiny fighter plane nicknamed Sabre Slayer for the devastation it has wrecked in the ranks of Pakistan s F-86 Sabre Squadrons. Flanked by his buddies Raks, a MiG-21 Fighter, Maddy, a transport pilot who flies a Caribou, and fellow Gnatties Jana, Gana and Mana, Shaanu has nothing on his mind but glory and adventure until he encounters Tehmina Dadyseth, famed bathing beauty and sister of a dead fauji, who makes him question the very concept of nationalism and whose eyes fill with disillusioned scorn whenever people wax eloquent about patriotism and war... Pulsating with love, laughter and courage, Baaz is Anuja Chauhan's tribute to our men in uniform.
With Baaz, Anuja Chauhan has moved to newer territories. In her previous books, she has won hearts with her relatable stories and simple, flowing language which most Indian readers identify with.
One thing I have always loved about Chauhan's stories is how she brings people from very different backgrounds in each story. Here in Baaz, we have Ishan Faujdar and Tehmina Dadyseth, both from worlds completely different, but whose paths cross because of one common string - the Indian Defence Service. While Ishaan, who has grown up knowing that he was a bastard, yet in the middle of a loving family, joined the Indian Air Force because of his love of the uncertainty and playing daredevil, Tehmina, on the other hand came from an Army family and had lost family member to war. He hated the neighbouring country we are never at peace with, while she hated war because it killed people. I must add that this angle and the way Anusha has treated it, is very well done keeping in mind the current situation in India.
As a story, Baaz is a great attempt. Baaz here comes from more than one thing; not just the bird. The war scenes are decently executed and I must say that Chauhan has braved and written a story surrounding quite a volatile plot.
What didn't work for me was that I felt Chauhan was trying too hard. This is a personal opinion, but when I am reading in English, I am reading in English. Yes, the characters and the story are India, but the medium of writing is English. Though it is largely accepted these days, Hindi words peppered in places specially where expletives need to be used spoil the experience for me. I'd feel the same if English was used in any story written in one of a regional languages. When a character is abusing in raw Hindi, and then the rest of the sentence is completed in perfect English, its unsettling and very forced.
While I keep suggesting and gifting Chauhan's books all this time, this one didn't make the mark for me. The plot takes quite a while to pick up and the romance is pretty bland. Also, I am still not sure if the story wanted to say that humanity is above all or if, for the nation, every other moral can be compromised. Lastly, the ending disappointed me, to be honest.