Courage And Conviction. A Book Review.

I have never reviewed a book in my blog but I suppose that there had to be a first at some point of time and what better book to review than this one.

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A friend who is a retired Indian Air Force officer had reviewed this book for his select group of friends in his mailing list and I quote from that review. “……..the enigmatic smile, the charismatic face of VK, got to me again. I threw down xxxxxx and picked up VK. For two days I did not go to work and read the book in two straight sittings, till past midnight. After reading even the Index, till the back cover, I just put the book down. ‘Courage & Conviction’, is echoing in my mind, resonating between my ears. It is an ‘un-put-down-able’ book.”

This friend is a phlegmatic no nonsense kind of a practical businessman who is incapable of hyperbole. Coming from him this was like what is said in Tamil, வசிஷ்டர் வாயாலே ப்ரும்மரிஷி Vashishtar vaayaley Brihmarishi. Transliterated this means that it is like Sage Vashishta calling someone Brihmarishi. The background to that is that it was extremely difficult to get Vashishta to accept someone as Brihmarishi. Many tried but few succeeded. That little diversion is for another blog post in detail!

I was quite impressed by the review and rang up my friend and asked him whether the book will be as appealing to me, a civilian and his unequivocal response was that it would indeed be and he further added that every Indian must read it to understand what goes on behind the scenes in the Indian army.

I promptly bought the book and exactly as with my friend, I could not put the book down till I finished it.

It is an amazing story of a soldier starting from his childhood to becoming the Chief of the Army Staff and the trials and tribulations that he goes through in the process. There is every bit of human emotions that all of us go through playing throughout and added to that the shenanigans of interpersonal problems, bureaucratic apathy and/or skullduggery, politics, corruption etc, makes for a remarkable read.

Since he is much younger than I am, every incident that he writes about happened during my time, every problem India faced was made known to all of us, and the Indian army’s joys and sorrows were shared by all of us.  There are people who feature in the book that I have met and known and some of the things that the General writes about comes as a surprise, albeit pleasant.  I have been to almost all the places that he writes about except the border areas and the front lines.  I have known other services officers who have had similar problems with their families and particularly family accommodation and children’s education.  It was as though the General was articulating what many of my friends could not.

General V K Singh now retired, fought another battle a few months ago and got elected to the Indian parliament. He is currently the Minister of State of External Affairs and Minister of state (independent charge) for the North East Region. When that assignment was announced, I was quite puzzled as were all my friends but after reading the book, everything falls into place and the logic of that combination is impeccable.

The least I can do for such a book is to recommend it as being very readable. Kunal Verma’s presence is very palpable and the General readily acknowledges this.  I hope that all my Indian readers and those non Indians interested in reading about a soldiers’ soldier will read this book. I have no hesitation giving it a [rating=6] rating.

Chak De India.

Chak_De!_India

When this block buster film was released in India I was not in a position to see it due to other pressing commitments. From all that I had heard about it and the impact it had on the Indian Hockey administration, I had always wanted to see it and was able to finally do so on DVD.

It is everything that it was cranked up to be.  It stirs up an Indian’s emotions like few things can.  It offers a grand mixture of bigotry, nationalism, jingoism, patriotism, petty mindedness, team politics, clash of egos, discipline and / or lack of it, suspense, pride and any other emotion you want to include this film will gladly accommodate it.

Despite being seasoned and hardened film watchers, and Manjiree having seen it before, both Ranjan and she were also reacting to each emotion like they were in a movie theater as I was too.  A heady mixture of entertainment and final relief!

Thankfully Shah Rukh Khan did not bore us with some song and dance routines and the romance angle was negligible and handled with aplomb where it did come in.

Time well spent on a nice and pleasant Sunday evening and since I am so pleased with myself I would rate it with a [rating=5] because of one short coming.  Some tighter editing could have cut short the length of the film without compromising the total effect.

Four Miles To Freedom.

4 miles

For the first time ever, I attended a book launch yesterday, because the hero of the book is Dilip Parulkar who is an acquaintance and  a close friend of a very dear friend.

That Dilip was and is a remarkable man was obvious from the number of ex armed forces officers assembled for the occasion and became more obvious when some of them shared some other information about him from their own recollections of the 1965 and 1971 wars.

My friend, a Retired Artillery Officer had come down from Delhi specially to attend the function and just could not stop talking about Dilip.   The two of them were school mates before they met again at the National Defense Academy and with such strong bonds formed during boyhood, there was quite a bit of hero worship.

I was among the very few civilians at the function but thoroughly enjoyed the atmosphere and camaraderie and to get back to driving in heavy traffic was a hard come down.

Here is an article from the author of the book Faith Johnston that will give you some idea about the book.  It was a pleasure to meet her too at the launch beside two other officers who had escaped from the Pakistani prison in 1972.  Incidentally, yesterday was the 42 anniversary of the day of escape.

Jai Hind.

Jai Hind is Indian for Long Live India.

I have been extremely cynical about my country’s political and bureaucratic leadership and have mixed feelings about its armed forces. Mixed in the last case because while by and large they are honourable, black sheep have been caught with their hands in the till too often for me to give them a completely clean chit.

In this scenario when a foreigner, that too a Lady Pastor talks well of India, it gives me goose bumps to realise that the Indian people are still capable of being decent and wonderful human beings, despite all the sufferings that they are forced to endure by the inept and corrupt leadership and administration.

I leave my readers with this article to share my pride with.

A Matter Of Perspective II

Time for another sequel.

I did not quite open a Pandora’s Box. At least not in the way I thought I would.

Two responses were humbling. I leave my readers to go to the comments and see the one that stands out for the pain that it conveys.

The other from a very dear friend, a man not usually driven to dramatics who mailed his response to me in a separate email. He said “That’s us – the big bad – some day we’ll be as moral and wonderful as everybody else.” and he enclosed this clip.

I can identify with both because I too am in pain with what is going on in my own country. A great country that can achieve much more than what it has but is managed by a bunch of corrupt clowns who are not allowed to do the least amount of governing by a short sighted and immature opposition. A country that offers much to be proud of but at the same time much to be ashamed of also.

I suppose that we are all the same every where. Good people with bad governments.