Aiyaary.

Among the very few regrets that I have is one that I could not get into any of the Indian Armed Forces due to my myopia. I have compensated for it by developing and maintaining very good friendships with some members of our Armed Forces, all of who know my affection and respect for them and what they do for the nation.

Naturally, I love to see movies involving our armed forces and Aiyyary is the latest that I saw yesterday. I had been waiting for its release since January as it got stuck in our Censor Board for some strange reason but, it seems to have been finally cleared and it was released in our theatres last week.

160 minutes of running time passed in a jiffy. One of the most tightly edited movies that I have seen with hardly a scene that was superfluous. Amazing direction and acting backed with some very appropriate music kept viewers glued to their seats and from the reaction of the audience on the way out, it was obvious that without exception, everyone enjoyed the experience.

Like many new Indian films, this too uses actors rather than stars and that single factor combined with excellent direction and dialogue delivery, makes this, for all practical purposes a spy story, a remarkable movie to watch. I am glad that I did not go by some of the reviews that I had read in our press but decided to go by my love for our Armed Forces.

If you get a chance to see it, please do not miss it.

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.

Courage_and_Conviction.jpeg

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.

Character In The Indian Armed Forces.

Here is a story that has been authenticated from impeccable sources. I thank my friend Anil for sending me this very inspiring piece of our history.

After getting freedom, a meeting was organized to select the first General of the Indian Army. Jawahar Lal Nehru was heading that meeting. Leaders and Army officers were discussing to whom this responsibility should be given.

 In between the discussion Nehru said, “I think we should appoint a British officer as a General of Indian Army as we don’t have enough experience to lead the same.”

 Everybody supported Nehru because if the PM was suggesting something, how could they not agree?

But one of the army officers abruptly said, “I have a point, sir.”

 Nehru said, “Yes, gentleman. You are free to speak.”

 He said ,”You see, sir, we don’t have enough experience to lead a nation too, so shouldn’t we appoint a British person as first PM of India?”

The meeting hall  suddenly  went  quiet.

Then, Nehru said, “Are you ready to be the first General of the Indian Army ?” 

 He got a golden chance to accept  the  offer  but he refused  the same  and said, “Sir, we have a very talented army officer, my senior, Lt. Gen. Cariappa, who is the most deserving among us.”

The army officer who raised his voice against the PM was Lt. General Nathu Singh Rathore, the 1st  Lt. General of the Indian Army.

Since the ibid mail was circulated, numerous veterans have pointed out to me that it was NOT Gen Nathu BUT Gen Rajendra Sinhji, who turned down the offer to be the first chief, ahead of Gen Cariappa. Well, it now turns out that it was BOTH.

What a tradition that the Indian armed forces can be genuinely proud of!

The saga of Indian armed forces.

As my readers already know, I am a great admirer of our armed forces. I have a lot of friends, currently serving as well as retired. I have also lost two very dear friends in action. I ache for them when our system gives them the short end of the stick and have tried to use this blog to convey some of their angst.

India unfortunately, is surrounded on three sides by hostile elements. It is not my intention to go into the merits of who is responsible for the situation, but the fact of the matter is that this is ‘ground-realities’ as they exist today.

In two cases, the next few years may well see failed states being run by either the Taliban or some equivalents. If that were to happen, and I hope that it does not, India will be subject to many problems about which also, I should not be troubling you with. The point however is that our armed forces need to be in good spirit, up to strength to meet whatever comes our way and protect our country from the kind of problems that say Afghanistan, currently faces. This anxiety is what drives me to use my blog to advocate proper treatment of, and respect for of our armed forces. Our politician/bureaucracy machinery suffers from blinkered vision and the only way their eyes can be opened is by many people using their power of expression and whatever media possible, to convey this anxiety that many of us feel.

I bring two very interesting articles to the notice of all those who read this blog.

One is by a 19 year old young lady who is the daughter of a Colonel (Retd) of the Indian Army. Her name is Vaishnavi Prasad and her blog is a very interesting one. I simpy wish that I could write as well as this young lady has written.

The other is an article that was published this morning in a national newspaper. It is by General (Retd) V P Malik who retired as Chief of the Indian Army Staff.

I rest my case.

Separate Pay Commission for the Armed Forces

The rumblings started with the release of the fifth pay commission recommendations. The armed forces felt betrayed. The solution is still to be announced. Our Neta Log are too busy doing other “more important things” than to address this very important issue.
The way Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw was sent off again brought out the anguish in the armed forces to the forefront.
Our civilian population does not seem to be bothered about looking after and honouring our armed forces.
By chance, I came across this email sent to our Minister for Defense, and with his permission, I am reproducing below the mail sent by Brig. P T Gangadharan.
By posting this on my blog, I am extending my support to the appointment of a separate pay commission for the Armed Forces of India.
From: brigadier ptgangadharan [email protected]
Subject: DISPARITY & DESPAIR: KABUL BLAST
To: ‘Shri.AK Antony,RM’ [email protected]
Date: Friday, July 18, 2008, 11:44 PM
My Dear Sir,
*1.It was indeed a noble gesture by the PM. As per newspaper reports, the PM was so impressed by the devotion to duty of late Mr Rao, the IFS officer who died in the Kabul bomb blast, that he announced several benefits for his next of kin. These include, full salary and government accommodation till the officer would have retired in 2023. It is undisputable that every possible succour must be provided to the bereaved family under such circumstances. Yet, without prejudice to this thought or to the sacred memory of the deceased, certain olitically incorrect questions arise?
*2.What separates the case of Mr Rao from that of Brig RD Mehta, or for that matter Col V Vasanth and scores of other army personnel who lay down their lives in the line of duty, actively combating terrorism almost every day? Why has no one ever thought of such benefits for their families? Is there any doubt about their devotion to duty? Are their lives any less precious to their families, or to the nation? Or is it ‘no big deal’ because it is part of the professional hazards for services personnel, to lay down their lives? The violent death of a diplomat or bureaucrat, on the other hand , is a rare occurrence thus evoking greater sympathy?
*3.All along, we are being told that that the armed forces are supposed to be at par with other services when it comes to fixing pay and allowances. This is the standard argument forwarded ,for denying a separate pay commission for the Armed Forces. By the same logic, the death benefits for other services should be the same as those applicable to the armed forces. The reason for these double standards is therefore hard to fathom. Irrespective of the reasons or sentiments behind such random acts of kindness, it must be understood that it undermines the supreme sacrifice made by others, and is liable to affect the morale of their comrades.
*4.It is time that the government decided once and for all whether the armed forces are at par with other central services or not, and act responsibly rather than arbitrarily.
Brigadier PT Gangadharan(Guards)
Kozhikode(Calicut)-673016
Tel-0495 2356863/9447766863

Brigadier(Retd) PT Gangadharan(Guards)
Kozhikode(Calicut)-673016
Tel-0495 2356863/9447766863

NEVER LOOK DOWN ON ANY ONE:UNLESS YOU ARE REACHING OUT TO HELP.

Salute to the men in uniform.

The recent few days have been full of messages about the shabby send off to one of India’s genuine heroes, Field Marshall Sam Maneckshaw. There has also been considerable noise that has been raised consequent to the announcement of the fifth pay commission recommendations. In this scenario, some of my friends from the armed forces, retired now from active service, have been feeding me with a lot of inspiring information.

One such is from a friend who is a retired Officer of the Indian Army, which is reproduced below.

“THE FINAL INSPECTION

The Soldier stood and faced his God,
Which must always come to pass.
He hoped his shoes were shining,
Just as brightly as his brass.

‘Step forward now, you Soldier,
How shall I deal with you?
Have you always turned the other cheek?
To My Church have you been true?’

The Soldier squared his shoulders and said,
‘No, my Lord, I ain’t.
Because those of us who carry guns,
Can’t always be a saint.

I’ve had to work most Sundays,
And at times my talk was tough.
And sometimes I’ve been violent,
Because the world is awfully rough.

But, I never took a dollar,
That wasn’t mine to keep…
Though I worked a lot of overtime,
When the bills got just too steep.

And I never passed a cry for help,
Though at times I shook with fear.
And sometimes, God, forgive me,
I’ve wept unmanly tears.

I know I don’t deserve a place,
Among the people here.
They never wanted me around,
Except to calm their fears.

If you’ve a place for me here, Lord,
It needn’t be so grand.
I never expected or had too much,
But if you don’t, I’ll understand.

There was a silence all around the throne,
Where the saints had often trod.
As the Soldier waited quietly,
For the judgment of his God.

‘Step forward now, you Soldier,
You’ve borne your burdens well.
Walk peacefully on Heaven’s streets,
You’ve done your time in Hell.’
– Author Unknown~

It’s the Soldier, not the reporter, who has given us the freedom of the press.
It’s the Soldier, not the poet, who has given us the freedom of speech.
It’s the Soldier, not the politician, that ensures our right to Life, Freedom and the Pursuit of Happiness.
It’s the Soldier who salutes the flag, who serves beneath the flag, and whose coffin is draped by the flag.

If you care to offer the smallest token of recognition and appreciation for our Armed Services Men & Women, please pass this on and pray for our men and women who have served and are currently serving our country and pray for those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.”

I shared this message with a number of my friends and relatives, and one of the latter, a cousin, retired Officer of the Indian Air force sent me this message.

Can I add an anecdote from my brief stint in uniform ?
During the 1965 war with Pakistan, my squadron used to fly early morning bombing raids on enemy targets.When I say early morning, the aircraft will be over the enemy territory ‘at first light’ as the jargon goes.

Each sortie will be in a box of four. In one such sortie my Commanding Officer was the leader. The bombing and strafing raid was accomplished against stiff enemy fire and our aircraft were hit. They were limping back to Ambala Air Base with my C.O.’s aircraft given priority landing since his tail section was on fire.

When he was on approach, his wingman called out ‘ hydraulic failure’. He managed to lower the under carriage by manual action ( there was such a provision) but hardly had any oil pressure for braking.

My C.O. took off allowing his wingman priority to land. That aircraft landed with very little braking, but the aircraft was saved by the arresting net at the end of the runway. The ATC called out to my C.O. that his tail section fire was increasing and he should climb and eject. My C.O. refused to heed that well meant advice and instead came back on a wide circuit to land with the tail section blazing just to be able to save the aircraft and he did that.

And can you believe it? The whole tail section was cannibalized from another damaged aircraft and replaced within a few hours and who flew the next sortie ? It was the same brave pilot.

I was privileged to serve under him for more than two and a half years of my stay in Ambala.

Bravo our men in uniform.