Saturday, June 28, 2008

Winter of December 1971

I was in my teens in December 1971, when the India-Pakistan war began. Delhi in those days was the only city, if I am not mistaken, which had daily Doordarshan transmission for a limited number of hours. I remember the daily bulletins on Doordarshan about the progress of the war, delivered in Melville De Mello's sonorous cadences, facts mixed with, as we might guess with hindsight, a generous dose of fiction. In one of those programs, I recall today, General Manekshaw making a tour of the hospitals in which the injured were being tended, with the camera following him. I recall vividly, in one scene, 'Sam Bahadur' approaching the bed of a soldier and asking him in his gruff no-nonsense tone - कितने गोली लगे ? (how many bullets did you get?). the soldier replied -- दो (two). The General patted the soldier and said -- मुझे छे लगे -- General बन गया ! (I received 6 - and I became a General!). I never knew Field Marshal Manekshaw, except what little I saw of him in newspapers and TV though he remained a hero to many Indians for being the architect of the Indian victory in that war (he himself was of course very conscious of it). But the recent extensive coverage on his life in the newspapers (on his passing away on 27 June 2008) brought back memories of December 1971. Truly he must have been a soldier's general - one for whom a ordinary jawan would be willing to lay down his life. I don't know if any general in the Indian Army since then has commanded the same level of devotion and loyalty as an individual, rather than for his rank. R.I.P

10 comments:

Anant said...

I am sure that you would be very surprised that a paid-up member of the loony left such as myself would admire men such as Maneckshaw! Well, I do. In fact, it is kind of interesting we have had only two Field-Marshals, and one Marshal of the Air Force (why did it take the BJP to make Arjan Singh that?!) and no Admiral of the Fleet. I have a post myself on the great Captain Mulla who went down with the INS Khukri.

AMOK said...

Thanks Rahul, for remembering that Winter and the Field Marshal.

Rahul Basu said...

Odd statement there by Anant! I know the loony-left is loony but surely even they can admire people who are willing to face bullets for a cause or country? Much more difficult wouldn't you say, than pontificating in comfortable air conditioned offices and coffee rooms, secure that nothing that you value, including your life, in on the line?

Anant said...

Ah! I was sure you would latch on that. My colleagues in the l-l would say that one should never admire any reactionary, rightwing organization like the military. That is also hard to beat. But what the heck...in the case of Maneckshaw, one has to make an exception, eh what?

manasi said...

Anant,
By l-l, do you perchance mean the limousine liberal left?

My colleagues in the l-l would say that one should never admire any reactionary, rightwing organization like the military

What country are these colleagues of yours from? Belgium? This displays an apalling ignorance of the history of the leftist movement in this country. No doubt this is just another example of the sharp disconnect between blogosphere and English-language leftists and the hard-left. The left is the only political entity that traces its history to military antecedents. The Forward Bloc is proudly descended from the Indian National Army. Captain Lakshmi Sehgal, to the best of my knowledge the only candidate for the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces to actually have a military background, was nominated by the left front (her daughter has represented Kanpur in parliament). In my years in the CPI(M), I have heard nothing but the utmost respect for the men in uniform that fight every day to protect us from the reactionary and fundamentalist threats surrounding us. So I really dont know where you are coming from?

AMOK said...

Yes, Anant. This blogger too is apalled at the ignorance displayed. Valour is universally revered and celebrated. Why not by the LL, either the loon or the limo variety? Things are running Amok!! Maybe one of the other commentators can console the apalled group of commentators, to make up for the deficit. Raoul Said (sound it out) may be the best one to deliver an articulated response.

Anant said...

Manasi: funny you should start talking about the CPI(M). Does the CPI(M) have a monopoly of `left', or in your learned estimation on `loony'? Since I had left the definition unspecified, it could just mean that I am sole member of the l-l (which is kind of contradictory as I said that my opinions will be against that of my colleagues, which in this case would have been the empty set!). Since I was not talking about the CPI(M) I do not see why I should issue a qualification, or identify `where I come from' just to satisfy you?! But how come you speak about the Indian National Army which was a liberation army of the people of India during the colonial period, and the present day Indian Armed Forces which is a descendent of the colonial British Indian army? Muddying the waters, eh, so that you can make me look like a fool?! By the way, I like the expression `limousine liberaal left'. That would be lll?

To AMOK (i.e., he who is not Omar Karim), what I wrote was just for a laugh. Ole Raoul and I have a `in-joke' about the paid up members of the loony left, and he after reading some of my article on Lok Raj Sangathan about, e.g., Saddam Hussein, etc., where I use words like `imperialism' and `neo-colonialism' to label me a `paid up member of the ll'. Of course, he too like me never provided a definiton of the ll.

Enough said, I will not be writing any more about this.

manasi said...

@Anant: Sure, you will not be writing about this anymore. The lll is not known for its fondness of public discourse. I just think your kind of

My colleagues in the l-l would say that one should never admire any reactionary, rightwing organization like the military

leftism is essentially intellectually lazy. Picking up discarded shreds from the Western-European pantheon and substituting simplified Indian contexts. Take the white man and substitute the Brahmin, take the Republican Party and substitute the BJP, take the vast American military-industrial complex and substitute the riot-busting, mostly honest Indian army-then wantonly abuse them as rightwing and reactionary. The where do you come from was a rhetorical question. A better question would be how do they pile this stuff so high?

Rahul Basu said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rahul Basu said...

The purpose of this post was a small paen (if I can call it that) to Sam Maneskshaw.

Unfortunately, like so much of the blogosphere, the discussion has completely meandered off into irrelevant channels and unending arguments about ideological issues.

Therefore I am putting an end to all discussion here.