Okay, I’ve been down and out lately…the men of inaction leaving me completely demoralized, quenching my inner fire, dousing the rage with the ice water of pseudo intellectual talk. I write with a pen weighing me down and I realize that I will not let my flame flicker and die out…I will talk of Sam Manekshaw…he who makes me smile as I write about him. We need heroes to inspire and lend us clarity of mind and heart. Why I write about him….
After 2300 years of unremitting defeats of Indian armies against every invading army, Sam Manekshaw made the country experience the glow of a stunning victory against the Pakistan army in what is now Bangladesh . That will remain Field Marshal Manekshaw's unique position in Indian military history.
Field Marshal Sam Hormusji Framji Jamshedji Manekshaw, known as Sam “Bahadur”, or Sam the Brave, an honorific given him by the Indian Army’s Gurkhas, the mustachioed, twinkle eyed dapper, gentleman with the admirable sense of humour and courage of steel….that outspoken master of detail, has the rare distinction of being honoured for his bravery on the battle front itself. During World War II, he was leading a counter-offensive against the invading Japanese Army in Burma. As he charged forward with his men, a Japanese soldier suddenly emerged from the bushes and fired at him, wounding him seriously in the stomach. He caught nine bullets! 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. He quickly pinned his own Military Cross ribbon on to Manekshaw saying, "A dead person cannot be awarded a Military Cross.”
On another occasion, a General accused of misusing funds was marched up to him. "Sir, do you know what you are saying?" asked the General. "You are accusing a General of being dishonest." Replied Manekshaw: "Your Chief is not only accusing you of being dishonest but also calling you a thief. If I were you I would go home and either shoot myself or resign. I am waiting to see what you will do." The General submitted his resignation that evening.
On one occasion, he found that the Defence Secretary had penned his own observations on a note he had written to the Prime Minister and Defence Minister. Infuriated, Manekshaw took the file and walked straight into Mrs Gandhi's office. He told her that if she found the Defence Secretary more competent than him to advise her on military matters she did not have a need for him. The Defence Secretary was found a new job.
How we paid our last respects to this stalwart who died in 2008 aged 90? A man who walked his talk and did his job with great dignity, honour, raw courage? Guess! The Prime Minister, along with the Army, Navy, and Air-Force Chief's, all missed his funeral—which was a modest one held in Tamil Nadu in the south, not a grand one in the capital.
If we had one Sam Bahadur in politics, we had nothing to fear! If we had a thousand Sam Bahadurs, India would be safe and well ahead of the rest.
What gives me hope is that Indians have shared their land with some mighty, mighty men….that there is a hidden message for all those who question being born in India. Do you think it is chance that made us Indians, a random occurence? Or do you see the potential? Why have we been born Indians is a question we have to answer ourselves….if you live the American dream, go ahead. If you despise your motherland, escape her! There is no right or wrong here. A man who is ashamed of his country is ashamed of himself...that is a cross he has to bear.
Famous quotations of Sam, the soldier
"Gentlemen, I have arrived and there will be no withdrawal without written orders and these orders shall never be issued" -During 1962 War, when he was sent to North East Frontier Agency (NEFA) to command retreating Indian forces against the Chinese force.
"I wonder whether those of our political masters who have been put in charge of the defence of the country can distinguish a mortar from a motor; a gun from a howitzer; a guerrilla from a gorilla.
"You received three at this age; when I was of your age, I received nine bullets and look- today, I am the Commander in Chief of the Indian Army."- During the 1971 Indo-Pakistan War when he met an injured soldier in Army Hospital with three bullet wounds.
"If anyone tells you he is never afraid, he is a liar or he is a Gurkha."- On the Gurkha Battalion of the Indian Army.
"I'm always ready, sweetie,"- 1971 war, on being asked by Indira Gandhi about the Indian Army's readiness.
"Don't you think I would be a worthy replacement for you, Madam Prime Minister? You have a long nose. So have I. But I don't poke my nose into other people's affairs."- To Indira Gandhi, on rumours of him planning a coup to replace her.
Fare thee well, old soldier! Your epitaph should read " Here lies A Man Of Action! Sleep well after a duty well done and God bless.