Sajita Nair - a former Captain in Indian Army, was one of the pioneer women officers. She is a full time writer now. Her short stories, articles and travelogues have graced some very reputed print and online publications. She also won writings contests conducted by the Kala Ghoda literary festival and Sulekha.com. Her debut novel titled ‘She’s a Jolly Good Fellow’ (reviewed here) is released, in which she has shared some of her experiences while in service with the readers.
It was a pleasure to conduct an e-interview with Sajita Nair and here sharing the same with all the readers.
1. How much is this book a mirror of your own experiences?
The book is partly autobiographical. I have drawn from many of my own experiences, but there are also those that are purely imagined and some that I have borrowed from my fathers’ life in the Air Force, my husband’s in the navy and from my friends who served in the army. The storyline is fictional, but I have used many real life experiences in the army to give it an authentic feel.
2. How would you rate your experience in the Indian Army on a 10 point scale and what are the things/events that made it to this rating?
I think I’ll rate it 10! I enjoyed my tenure thoroughly and it was overall an enriching experience. It satiated my spirit of adventure,taking up new challenges and travelling extensively. There was also a sense of pride in wearing the Olive Green uniform, which I think is unsurpassed.
3. What were your feelings when you finished your term in the Army, were you waiting for it to end at that time or did you want to have alonger period of service?
I wished to serve longer, but since I was married to a naval officer,I had to make the difficult choice and quit. If I hadn’t, being indifferent services, we would almost never be transferred together.When I hung up my uniform, I felt emotionally low. I went into a depressing phase and took time to overcome it.
4. A hypothetical question - would you encourage your own daughter to join Indian Army or would you dissuade her if she shows the inclination towards it?
I would certainly encourage her since I know that she would then become a smart and confident individual. She would also learn much more than friends her age and experience so much more.
5. Why did you think of writing a book on this subject and do you think you are satisfied by how the book finally turned out to be or do you feel you could have added a few more things to it?
This book was something I always wanted to write. But before I began work on it, I wrote enough short stories, articles and travelogues to get confident with my writing style. I am very satisfied with the way it has turned out. Readers tell me that it touches an emotional chord and I feel happy for a job well done. No, I don’t feel the need to change or add anything, since this book had occupied my mind space for the last couple of years. Much thinking has gone into every little detail.
6. Which role you find yourself most comfortable in - being an Army officer, a writer, a full time mother/ homemaker or anything else?
At each phase in life, I feel comfortable playing a different role.When I was younger, I enjoyed the thrills of being an army officer.Presently though, I’m comfortable in the role of a full time writer and mother. This way, I think I get to enjoy a great work-lifebalance.
7. From your experience how hard was it to explore a totally new territory and excel in it? I am sure the experience must have given you ample confidence and self belief, I would like you to elaborate upon how you feel about your stay in the service.
My training at the Officers Training Academy, taught me a lot about camaraderie , working as a team and getting along with individuals of different temperaments. It also increased my confidence in myself since I learnt that I could succeed at tasks I thought impossible. All I needed was to set my mind to achieve it. This was especially true when my fatigued body almost gave way during tough physical training sessions and long distance route marches.
When I joined my first unit, I found that challenges were plenty.People assumed that I was not good enough to be in the army, being awoman. It was very important to prove them wrong, which is why I undertook difficult tasks and honed my leadership skills, in a bid to earn acceptance and respect.
I also have memorable experiences of staying in field conditions,which although difficult, was an adventure in itself. By facing new and challenging situations at my workplace, I learnt to overcome odds and emerge stronger.
8. Any more books you would like to write after this one? Do you have any plot in mind for something new?
Yes, certainly. This book is only the beginning! I’ve started work on a sequel to this book. I also have another entirely new story idea,which I would start working on soon.
9. Any suggestions that you would like to give to the girls applying for short-service commission and to the women in general?
I think women must realize that they are not the so called ‘weaker sex’. They have great reserves of strength, which they must use to succeed in anything they undertake. Women applying for Short ServiceCommission in the army must be dynamic and confident individuals who don’t cringe at moving out of comfort zones. They also need to remember that once they wear the uniform, the ‘officer’ takes precedence over the ‘lady’ bit.
10. If you are given three wishes by God, what would you ask for, in the order of preference.
First, I would ask for the good health and peace of all my loved ones. Second, I would ask for courage for those who adorn the uniform, so that they are able to face the perils that each day brings. And thirdly, I would ask for a copious flow of creative ideas and words so that I can write whatever I feel strongly about.
11. Do you think you have already enjoyed your share of excitement in life and now want to lead a relaxed life reflecting and reliving the past memories from time to time, or would you like to have this kind or even more excitement filled life throughout?
I believe in ‘living’ life and not merely drifting along. I dare to dream and then of course, work towards it. An excitement filled life is what I prefer to a reflecting one, since I like to be on the go!