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ISSN: 0974-892X


January, 2019



Dr. Sapna Dogra

Love Under The Blue Sky

Rajalakshmi Prithviraj, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, Price: Rs. 299 Rupees, Pages: 208


Love Under the Blue Sky is the second in the series of nine books that the author attempts to write on the nine rasas. Her first book was titled Silence under the Blue Sky and the title is echoed once again in the title of the present book. Rajlaksmi weaves a fascinating story around her own experiences in the Indian Air Force. The author says “. . .for us, the men and women in blue (the color of the uniform we don), this organization is like the Blue Sky under whom we belong together as a part of a big family”. In the Disclaimer the writer accepts that “This is a work of fictional reproduction of events, locales and conversations from my memories of them. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of my imagination or used in a fictional manner.” The line dividing the reality from fiction is definitely merged or lost in this work. Whereas she called her first book Contemporary Reality Fiction because it was based on a true story which had been fictionalized.(1) She calls her second novel, a “reality fiction romance”.

Brought up in Odisha into a Tamil Brahmin family she is working as an Educationist with the Indian Air Force. Besides being an Air Warrior, Educationist and Psychologist in her professional life, she is also passionate about writing.  The book is dedicated to her husband. “In memoriam / My Husband / Late Squadron Leader V Manoj / Also known as / ‘Mallu’”. In the Writer’s Note she writes that “I am but one of the innumerable women in blue whose lives have changed because of this organization. Yes, I am proud to be an Indian Air Force Officer. After all, my life has changed all because of this organization. This story, therefore, is a toast to the spirit of all the men and women in blue and a humble endeavour to make people see us as people with emotions too. The story is a dedication to the love of my life, my husband, Late Squadron Leader V Manoj,. . . Finally, this is for all the people on Civvies Street. Please understand that our lives are also filled with emotions of love, joy, wonder, courage, peace, sadness, anger, fear and disgust. In spite of whatever our state of heart and mind may be, as true blue officers of the Indian Air Force, we definitely ensure that our missions are attained with excellence through the highest degree of integrity. After all, for us, the Service is always above self and you are our topmost priority.”

In an interview (2) she says about her books, “The story is 95% reality and 5% fiction. In fact, the story is about what I underwent. Every incident, every conversation is verbatim and stated exactly as they happened. However, the attributes of the narrator and few characters are fictional along with all the names so as to protect the real identity of serving personnel.” At no point while reading the book did I forget that I am reading a fictional account. This is the charm of reading a memoir.

Spread over 39 chapters what makes this an interesting read is the fact that it’s also about a journey of a girl who had to fight her parents and society to join the Air Force Academy. All in all, it’s a love story set against the Indian air force.  From the moment she steps into the platform of Guwahati Railway Station to her love with Manoj taking fledgling steps in the less known city of Guwahati as a newly commissioned Education Officer in the Ground Duties Branch of the Indian Air Force, this is a story that will interest the readers for sure.  

The first chapter “First Step to destiny” opens with a dual purpose, Vaidehi is on her way to professional as a well as personal destiny.  The memoir opens on a note of promise. It is the year 2005 and a young Flight Cadet Flying Officer Vaidehi Subramanium Parthasarathy, finds herself busy when the entire Air Force Academy at Dundigal, Hyderabad, was abuzz with activities. “It was time for yet another Passing out Parade: Yet another course filled with young and energetic cadets was on the verge of completing its training at the prestigious training establishment of the Indian Air Force.” It was time for the ‘the Spring Termers’ to step out into the world with a brand-new identity of newly commissioned officers of the Indian Air Force.

Vaidehi receives a posting order for the “forsaken place called Air Force Station Borjhar”, just forty-five kilometres away from Guwahati. Full of – anti national elements keep a watch of the movements of all personnel posted there,” she is informed.

Rajlakshmi breathes life into every character that Vaidehi meets, be it Adjutant, Wing Commander Aditya Rath, Junior Warrant Officer Yadav or Master Warrant Officer Sharma, Sergent Biplav Ojha, etc. This is work of a lady who has served the Indian air force so no wonder the work is full of terminology unique to them and that gives a lot of lay readers a peek into the world of men and women in blue. Everybody has a nick name and an official name, Mandy alias Flight Cadet Mandeep, Flying Officer Nisha Srivastav alias Singer, etc. This ritual of naming is surely interesting for the readers.

The chapter “The ‘Mission’ Plan” is humorous take on the word “mission”. It’s no air force mission and the “targets” that are fixed are not even distantly related to artillery. “The mission was about to begin and while all this was happening, the target was oblivious of the events that were about to unfold.” The mission is “ragging” and the targets are the “newly commissioned officers”. In the eleventh chapter “Strategy Plan” Mallu “called up his mission commander to apprise him about what was happening on ground zero. . . put up this matter to the appropriate higher authority.” This is a fine quality of the work that it humanises events, character and air force personnel from detached sombre professionals to humans with their vices and follies.

The hostility of the environment is what attracts the attention of the readers in the first few chapters. “The journey, foul language usage and an unfriendly environ had disturbed me so much that I kept getting nightmares throughout the night.” The DREADFUL ROOM NO. 20 where “missions” are “accomplished”, “target” are “fallen” and the “shots” are “taken” engages the reader’s attention.

Soon Vaidhi realizes that her initiation was over. The others introduced themselves one after the other. Sappy sir was Squadron Leader Saptam Singh, Sanchi ma’am was Flying Officer Sanchita Shekhawat, Squadron Leader Chauhan was Chow sir, Flight Lieutenant Vishak was the Athlete, popularly known as Vish, and finally, Flying Officer Manoj Nair, Mallu in short.” She realises that “initiation was a process to judge the mental and physical tolerance level of a newly commissioned officer in his or her first place of posting: A tradition which, according to him, forged he initial bonds of friendship and camaraderie and created a sense of belongingness to the organization.”

She is prejudiced against Manoj who is depicted by others as “a problematic character and a very dangerous person”, who “has missed his promotions because of his nature” and who has “no respect for the female gender”, with a “very nasty tongue and very bad Temper.”  Being the the most senior officer in bachelors’ block Manoj Nair occupies a position where he can unleash control over the new recruits. “Flying Officer Manoj Nair was excitedly pacing the length and breadth of his room. He was medium heighted yet he perfectly fitted the ‘dark and handsome’ tag. Quiet and soft spoken, he had the talent to convert the most confident individual into a nervous wreck.” It doesn’t take Manoj long enough to be attracted to the bibliophile with sharp brains, oratory and a flair for writing.

The place is daunting, the seniors are cold, but she maintains her poise. She notices that, “On one side, Mallu sir was doing everything possible to try and avoid interactions with me probably because he thought I was a dumb snob. Yet, on the other hand, he was trying to help out to ensure I was at ease. For a few seconds, I was truly stumped at the duality of his persona.”

In the beginning, as colleagues, Vaidehi and Manoj share nothing more than casual sarcastic conversations. But Manoj is drawn to her world of books, coffee, saris and her long hair. Vaidehi has all that is required in a heroine from classical standards. Something flows between them and eventually love flourishes in full bloom.

At the outset it’s not a love story crafted with heavy literary jargon, embellished dialogues and deep symbolism. Romantic dialogues that are common to the genre are eschewed for the simplicity of human emotions. Manoj Nair doesn’t speak volumes, he’s blunt and straightforward. But he expresses himself with innocence which makes him the most lovable character in the book.

The story unfolds at a leisurely pace, but never lacks energy and gusto. She gives you a glimpse into the lives of air force personals. We become spectators to the lives of real people.

But not for a single minute I forgot that I’m reading Rajlakshmi’s story.  Rajlakshi occupies my mind. For readers who prefer pace in the plot the laidback pace might be a deterrent but the writer wanted this story about love to unravel at its own pace and bloom at its own leisure. Love Under the Blue Sky is not bound by Indian air force sensibility alone. It’s a humane story that will possibly enjoy wider readership.




  2. ibid