Author: Mohit Badoni
Publisher: Maple Press
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Major Rajesh Singh is a decorated soldier with two gallantry awards to his name, Shaurya Chakra and Sena Medal. During his college days he discovers friendship and is smitten by love only to lose both at the crossroads of his life. Defeated and dejected he leaves home to begin a new life in Rajpur, a small village nestled in the foothills of Mussoorie. There he forges new friendship, bonds amongst the local people he encounters and most importantly meets Diya, who instils a new hope and revives the languishing flames of love...but rarely do two eyes dream about the same thing. Fate beckons him to loftier goals and he is commissioned in the Indian army where he battles against anti-national elements and exhibits prodigious courage and fortitude. After receiving his second gallantry award, he however decides to quit the Army and move back to Mussoorie where he has lived his best and worst days. He quits not because he is a misfit in the Army, but because he wants to embark on a spiritual journey towards redemption and fulfillment.
The above blurb pretty much encapsulates the book and this will make you wonder in the first place, why you have to actually read the book when every twist and turn has been panned out so clearly? In the first 100 odd pages, we are exposed to the college and love life of the main protagonist, which goes on and on without making any real progress. There are new characters thrown in the screenplay at every 5-10 pages, but most of them are introduced at a superficial level and you can hardly relate to them. There is one particular good scene between Rajesh and group of his friends on campus where they discuss about compulsory voting and retirement age of the politicians. It highlights the mindset of the Indian youth and the frustrations associated with their life. It also brings around the irony of a generation who is too busy with themselves to bring around a change, but easily blames the country for not providing anything.
The twist at the "crossroad" of Rajesh's life is filmy and defies any practical logic. It is never fully comprehended why he avoids meeting his mother all this while or hardly bothers about his abusive and wife-beating father.To be honest, his character turns out to be selfish and escapist rather than inspiring at this juncture in the narrative. Even Rajesh's romance with Cloudie and Diya is never fully explored and just touched upon at surface level, never allowing you to sympathize with him completely. The final 50 odd pages where Rajesh joins the army are still engaging, but eventually marred with a ridiculous plot point of finding a terrorist through Orkut. Coming from the author who is still serving in the Indian army, this was a complete shocker to say the least. This is nothing but careless writing and editing where no common sense has prevailed to avoid such logical loopholes. The final part where Rajesh decides to leave the army and join back his village has noble intentions but lack credibility because it is never explored what exactly he wants to do in this new "spiritual" quest.
I am going with 2/5 for Mohit Badoni's debut novel, Crossroads. It starts off with some promise in the prologue, but gradually goes down the hill like any run-of-the-mill young Indian fiction novel. It tries to recover at the point when the lead protagonist joins the army but is again let down by the ridiculous climax involving a terrorist attack. The soul in this book is missing, read it if you must.