Friday, 27 June 2008
This is the chilling message Pakistani soldiers heard on the radio during the 1971 war. It’s not everyday that this nation gives birth to a real hero. He was and is my hero for sure. Just imagine if this nation was run by a few good men like him. We might have had very few problems.
Here’s the brief profile I wrote of this great man for Mirror last year, when he slipped into a coma. My greatest regret: I badly wanted to go across and shake his hand in Coonoor, but sat on the idea for too long. Alas!
Field Marshal Sam Hormusji Manekshaw was born on April 3, 1914 in Amritsar, Punjab, to Parsi parents. After completing his schooling at the Sherwood College in Nainital, he joined the first batch of 40 cadets at the Indian Military Academy, Dehra Dun, in 1932. In 1937, at a social gathering in Lahore, he met his future wife, Silloo Bode. They fell in love and were married in 1939. Silloo was a graduate from Bombay’s Elphinstone College and had also studied at the JJ School of Arts.
Manekshaw became the Chief of Staff of the Indian Army in 1969, and under his command, the Indian forces achieved a resounding victory in the Indo-Pak war of 1971. He served in the army for four decades and saw five wars. The legendary soldier was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 1968, the Padma Vibhushan in 1972 and was conferred the rank of Field Marshal on 1 January, 1973.
Today, at 94, the man who altered the map of South Asia, lives a secluded life in Coonoor in Tamil Nadu. His bungalow, ‘Stavka’, is now a pilgrimage centre for army jawans.
At World War II
During World War II, Manekshaw saw action in the Burma campaign, and has the rare distinction of being honoured for his bravery on the battle front itself. He was leading a counter-offensive against the invading Japanese Army. During the course of the offensive, he was hit by a burst of machine gun bullets and was severely wounded in the stomach. Major General D.T. Cowan spotted Manekshaw holding on to life and was aware of his valour in face of stiff resistance from the Japanese. Fearing the worst, Cowan quickly pinned his own Military Cross ribbon on to Manekshaw saying, “A dead person cannot be awarded a Military Cross.”
The War of 1971
Manekshaw became the 8th Chief of Army Staff on June 7, 1969. His years of military experience were soon put to the test as thousands of refugees from the erstwhile East Pakistan started crossing over to India as a result of oppression from West Pakistan. The volatile situation erupted into a full-scale war in December 1971. During this Indo-Pakistani War, Manekshaw showed uncommon ability to motivate the forces, coupling it with a mature war strategy. The war ended with Pakistan’s unconditional surrender, and the formation of Bangladesh. More than 45,000 Pakistani soldiers and 45,000 civilian personnel were taken as POWs. Manekshaw masterminded the rout of the Pakistan Army in one of the quickest victories in recent military history, it took all of 14 days to teach our neighbour a lesson they’ll never forget. The victory led to the creation of the nation of Bangladesh as separate from Pakistan.
A MAN OF STEEL, AND GREAT WIT
• In 1961, he refused to toe the line of the then Defence Minister, V.K. Krishna Menon, and was sidelined. But after the Indian army suffered a humiliating defeat, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru rushed Manekshaw to command the retreating Indian forces. This had an electrifying effect on the demoralised officers. Manekshaw convinced the troops that the Chinese soldier was not “10 feet tall”. His first order of the day: “There will be no withdrawal without written orders and these orders shall never be issued.” The soldiers showed faith in their new commander and successfully checked further ingress by the Chinese.
• Once, he sent a packet to the leader of a battalion whose troops were reluctant to attack the enemy camp. A parcel containing bangles was delivered to the commanding officer with his compliments and a cryptic note: “If you are avoiding contact with the hostile, give these to your men to wear.” The next few weeks saw a flurry of activity by this battalion, resulting in another message: “Send the bangles back.”
• After the 1971 war, Manekshaw, while visiting military hospitals to see jawans and officers, was encountered with a soldier who had five bullet injuries. While patting the injured soldier to boost his morale, the Army Chief said “Look, you’ve got five bullets in your body, I had seven bullets at your age and today I am Chief”!
RUN-INS WITH INDIRA
Manekshaw shared a love-hate relationship with Indira, and he used to often negate her suggestions. Once, following the 1971 war against Pakistan, Indira confronted him about rumours that he was planning a coup against her. “Don’t you think I would not be a worthy replacement for you, Madam? You have a long nose, so have I. But I don’t poke my nose in other people’s affairs,” he joked. Needless to say, the no-nonsense Ms Gandhi walked away in a huff.
Saturday, 21 June 2008
I have been following the sad death of airhostess Sucheta Anand, and the aftermath, quite closely. Because I find the story quite perplexing. And frightening.
Assume for a second that a very hurt and depressed Anand killed herself mainly because her casanova boyfriend wasn’t committing to her, and was playing the field. Now, is that reason enough to charge the fellow with abetment? Is being a cad a criminal offence? Is cheating on a girlfriend a crime? And if an already disillusioned lady does something destructive because of that, should the man be held responsible?
There’s no easy answer but cold logic tells me definitely not. Every time a woman dates a man, she carries an inherent risk in the process. The guy may turn out to be super partner, or may turn out to be a traitor, a creep. And when the latter happens, she needs to accept it as bad luck and move on. And if she doesn’t, and does something silly, how can we treat the man as a criminal abettor? And if Arjun Menon, her lover, deliberately drove her into killing herself, he becomes guilty. But conversations that happen inside the confines of four walls, leave no trail of evidence. And in this case, there isn’t even a suicide note. So there’s no law in this nation that can be used against him. Menon will walk a free man, sooner than later.
Bottomline: All ladies must accept that relationships come with a risk tag. And they need to be ready for all outcomes. And no man can be held responsible if a jilted lover can’t handle this risk. In this context, it’s incorrect that Menon is being given such a hard time, it’s against the spirit of natural justice. All I can tell ladies reading this piece is something I wrote years ago when model Nafisa Joseph killed herself in similar circumstances: We men just aren’t worth dying for.
Friday, 6 June 2008
Looks like Sonia’s good luck is fast running out, and the BJP’s is shining again. And it’s not just happening in Karnataka.
I am sticking my neck out and predicting that the Congress will get beaten black and blue in the coming general elections, no matter what sops and promises it chucks at the junta. By heavily increasing the price of gas and fuel, the government has dug its grave nicely.
I know, there was no choice, I know the oil majors were going broke, I know price of crude oil is mounting, I know the BJP would have done ditto in similar circumstances, I know all that. But elections are not won in India because of what you and I think, the upper and upper middle class is irrelevant in the Indian democracy. The people who join long lines to cast their votes are the poor and the lower middle class folks, and they either don’t understand or don’t want to understand gassy terms like Global Oil Crisis and Fiscal Deficit. All they know is ‘Congress ne hamaari vat lagaa di’, and they will do what they can to take revenge and throw the UPA out.
So, by Jhulelal, get ready for the nation’s first Sindhi PM. And am I rejoicing at the thought? Well, yes. Cos the price of gas deffy won’t come down, but that of sai bhaji and pakwan dal might. Jokes apart, nothing will change, of course. The life of the aam aadmi will roll on as usual. But it’s Advani’s turn now to have some fun on the spinning wheel. Cheers to the world’s greatest democracy!
Monday, 2 June 2008
To me, the defining image of the new India emerged last night at the IPL’s grand finale in Mumbai.
As Shane Warne, surrounded by his boys, gleefully accepted the trophy, firecrackers went off right behind them. And Warne’s knees began to tremble, he almost had a heart attack during what was his career’s most memorable moment. Clearly, the lurking fear of bomb blasts came to the fore, the Oz hasn’t gotten over the Jaipur blasts, and must have nervously read about the bomb that was diffused only hours back in a New Bombay theater.
And this is the accurate picture of the nation for me: a global outlook, a booming economy, financial muscle power, hard materialism, and yet, complete apathy to the real issues that plague us. That, in our desperation to make money and entertain, we have given a shit for our own dirty backyard.
And the image of the agri mantri, Shri Sharad Pawar, beating his chest on the IPL’s global success, even as yet another farmer killed himself somewhere in a remote village, came a close second to Warne’s in painting a vivid pic of the new India.