She’s a Jolly Good Fellow by Sajita Nair
A woman in men’s world and that too a domain like Indian Army where no woman had ever entered to command the men definitely makes an interesting subject. Considering that it comes from someone who was one of the first women to land in this predominantly male territory, the book She’s a Jolly Good Fellow is expectedly an entertaining book.
When women enter men’s space, they are mentally prepared to be here, they are trained to be like them. Sure, they do face situations that can not be anticipated. But largely they are prepared in their minds for the path they have chosen. But at the same time men have never been prepared to accept women around them, and suddenly when they land up, they do not know how to handle them. Should they handle them like they handle women in their family, or neighborhood or in college? Should they treat them equally or should they maintain a distance? The environment suddenly becomes restrictive; they have to be cautious of the language they use including body language.
She’s a Jolly Good Fellow is a story from a woman’s point of view. The way she tries to fit-in in Indian Army, all by herself. Sometimes by the rulebook, sometimes creating rules. The story looks more or less autobiographical, with some romantic fiction added to keep the story entertaining. It is the story of a young officer passing out and joining the unit along with another lady officer. One of them chooses an easy path of taking favors for being a female. And the other chooses the right but the tough path. Like Hindi films, they drift apart on the basis of their ideologies but come back together in the end.
Though it will definitely not fall in the literary work, but the story does try to explore various layers. Though the depth is missing in each of them. There is a larger story of being a first woman in man’s world. There is an emotional story of a tough and lonely life of young officers who have to live away from civilization and their families most of the times. Follow strict rules, live by the command of their seniors to the extent of getting exploited but not be able to question. There is an evolution of a young girl into a tough army officer who can command hundreds of men. There is a story of a woman having to work harder to be equal to male peers. It touches upon the career versus love or family dilemma that almost every career woman faces.
There is a story of friendships that are formed in short period of time and are lost when people get transferred. There is a depiction of Indian army life which I do not think has been often written about.
Author has mentioned but carefully avoided the controversial topics around Indian army. Like the absolute control of seniors over the junior’s lives, purchase of substandard material for the jawans in tough terrains, personal lives of officers mingling with the professional ones, treatment of ladies by the seniors. There is a good description of the locations mentioned in the story especially the camp in the desert. The authentic language of the forces ports you to their world literally. The author could have chosen to be a bit more humorous as there were ample funny situations in the story to show her wit. She began in a humorous way but lost it on the way. The storyline around romance could have been more romantic, it was very mechanical and there was a matter of fact statement feel to it.
Overall, a quick, easy and engaging read…