Friday, June 27, 2008

R.I.P


The first time I met Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw was at a Cavalry function held on the Army parade grounds in late 2004, a function I reported for the Express. Bent and frail, but still supremely regal, Sam inspected a guard of honour and the formation. His famous humour was intact. When one television journalist asked Sam what he would have liked to be if not an Army officer, he looked her up and down rakishly and said, "Why, my dear, a gynecologist!" That was my first encounter with the Field Marshal.

In early May 2005, after Lt Gen Jagjit Singh Aurora passed away, I got my first one-on-one with the Field Marshal. My boss at the time insisted that I begin Aurora's obituary piece with a quote from Manekshaw. His daughter Maja was kind enough to allow me to meet them -- they were staying with a friend in the Cantonment area. Gracious and still a formidable presence despite how age had enfeebled him, Manekshaw spoke about Aurora and the war. He did not wait for my questions. He said, "Jaggi was a first class officer, a first class soldier and a first class gentleman. He won the war for India, and I sent him to accept the surrender. He did all the work, and they made me a field marshal instead." My one regret is that I took not photographs of and with the man during this privileged interaction.

Only a month later, I would speak to him again, this time over the phone. Gauhar Ayub Khan had spoken out about the "sold out war plans" by an MO directorate Brigadier. I was asked to scrutinise in great detail the 1965 war official history to see if any allusions had been made to possible treachery of any kind. A few days after Gauhar opened his mouth, journalistic and military circles had pretty much begun to assume that the man meant Sam Manekshaw, and meant more to defile him while he languished almost bed-ridden at Stavka, his house in Wellington.

"My dear boy, I do not even remember when I was part of the Military Operations directorate. You are asking too much, asking me to remember something that happened so long ago. And I do not know the person who is making these claims. I am hearing them from you for the first time. What else did he say?" There was an earnestness to Manekshaw that nobody could miss.

In late 2005, Manekshaw's health began to slip on regular intervals. By 2006, he was pretty much based out of the Military Hospital in Wellington. I was in touch with one doctor who was part of the team that treated him, and through him, kept a regular bulletin of sorts in the Express, reporting Manekshaw's health. In early 2006, I spoke to his daughter Maja again over the phone -- she was in Wellington, and Sam had been in the hospital for over three weeks, suffering an acute shortness of breath. This developed over the next many months into acute bronchiopneumonia that finally finished him off.

Colleagues who've covered Manekshaw's health with me said he was made of hardy stuff, and this would be just another false alarm. I guess this time, he really did need to go. R.I.P.

21 comments :

Anonymous said...

another great name passes into the history books. though sam bahadur made history right from the sixties. may his soul find peace after much battle and toil.

Anonymous said...

and i suppose now mr jfr jacob (he is too much of an oaf to call him by his rank) will open his mouth even more about how he was the 1971 ka hero. life could not be better for jacob now. indira gone, jaggi aurora gone, and now SHFJ gone. the coast is clear for that fat lard to heap even more glory upon himself. i hope the media will watch him closely and cut him down if he tries any stunts like he has in the past. filthy coward.

Anonymous said...

and one more thing i forgot. now that manekshaw is no more, karan thapar (coward, fraud, thief) can see about granting peace to his own useless father, P.N. Thapar, the only chief of the Indian Army to lose a war. If karan thapar is reading this, please know that everyone is onto your stunts. you were totally discredited with that interview which you so generously did with that bitch gouhar ayub khan. but hear this, mr thapar. no matter what you do, you will never be able to redeem your father's name. he is permanently in the country's history list of cowards, pliable fools who had their knees knocked by political bosses and made the country suffer its first and only war defeat since independence. live with that, let us see how you do. your prim, homosexual onscreen manner will only take you so far. people are stil baying for your filthy blood. watch how the nation mourns manekshaw, the man you tried to defile. indians dont even remember who PN Thapar was. and thank god for small mercies. they only remember him as a pipsqueak political stooge who the chinkis took pleasure in demasculating.

Anonymous said...

you are lucky you got to meet him shiv. many are not so lucky.

Vikram said...

If this is about paying tribute to a great officer and a greater gentleman, let us not spoil it by such vile comments. Let us vow to emulate him and keep his legacy alive. Sam Bahadur is dead - Long Live Sam Bahadur

Teews said...

Officer and a Gentleman, till the day he died. Don't remember him for the war and fights and being a soldier, remember him for the way he changed the destiny of our country, our Nation.

He will forever be remebered as SAM BAHADUR MANECKSHAW.

gagan said...

teews, you might start by spelling the field marshal's surname right for crying out loud. idiot.

Anonymous said...

gagan you moron, thats the correct spelling of his surname...infact all of you'll have been spelling it incorrectly.

Anonymous said...

And Shiv why are you spelling his daughter's name incorrectly....its Maya and not Maja, you fool

Anonymous said...

Shiv, I just love all the pictures on your blog....and especially Sam Bahadur...how and where from did you manage the marriage album? Gosh, Sam is so dashing !

Anonymous said...

anon@10:12PM you dipshit, manekshaw's daughter spells her name with a "j". but pronounced maya.

Anonymous said...

Shiv what is R.I.P ?

Jagan said...

Lovely write up shiv. You are lucky to have met the legend himself. What can one say about Sam, he had lived his life to the full. I am sure he has no regrets.

Anonymous said...

Why do I still serve you?

How you play with us, did you ever see?
At Seven, I had decided what I wanted to be;
I would serve you to the end,
All these boundaries I would defend.

Now you make me look like a fool,
When at Seventeen and just out of school;
Went to the place where they made "men out of boys"
Lived a tough life …sacrificed a few joys…

In those days, I would see my 'civilian' friends,
Living a life with the fashion trends;
Enjoying their so called "College Days"
While I sweated and bled in the sun and haze…
But I never thought twice about what where or why
All I knew was when the time came, I'd be ready to do or die.

At 21 and with my commission in hand,
Under the glory of the parade and the band,
I took the oath to protect you over land, air or sea,
And make the supreme sacrifice when the need came to be.

I stood there with a sense of recognition,
But on that day I never had the premonition,
that when the time came to give me my due,
You'd just say," What is so great that you do?"

Long back you promised a well to do life;
And when I'm away, take care of my wife.
You came and saw the hardships I live through,
And I saw you make a note or two,
And I hoped you would realise the worth of me;
but now I know you'll never be able to see,
Because you only see the glorified life of mine,
Did you see the place where death looms all the time?
Did you meet the man standing guard in the snow?
The name of his newborn he does not know...
Did you meet the man whose father breathed his last?
While the sailor patrolled our seas so vast?

You still know I'll not be the one to raise my voice
I will stand tall and protect you in Punjab Himachal and Thois.

But that's just me you have in the sun and rain,
For now at Twenty Four, you make me think again;
About the decision I made, Seven years back;
Should I have chosen another life, some other track?


Will I tell my son to follow my lead?
Will I tell my son, you'll get all that you need?
This is the country you will serve
This country will give you all that you deserve?

I heard you tell the world "India is shining"
I told my men, that's a reason for us to be smiling
This is the India you and I will defend!
But tell me how long will you be able to pretend?
You go on promise all that you may,
But it's the souls of your own men you betray.

Did you read how some of our eminent citizens
Write about me and ridicule my very existence?
I ask you to please come and see what I do,
Come and have a look at what I go through
Live my life just for a day
Maybe you'll have something else to say?

I will still risk my life without a sigh
To keep your flag flying high
but today I ask myself a question or two…
Oh India…. Why do I still serve you?

Anonymous said...

Shiv, your blog page has become a resource hog. I suspect that it could be your tracker which may be running spurious scripts in the background and hence you should change it but I am not completely sure.

Anonymous said...

what does the above anon mean ?? Kindly explain

Anonymous said...

No new posts...are you unwell Shiv?

Shiv Aroor said...

anon, thanks for asking, yes, down with a nasty viral of sorts. hope to be back soon!

Anonymous said...

Please Shiv get well soon...missing you

Anonymous said...

great piece on the field marshal. Wish they 'd make more soldierslike him.
SD

Vikas said...

One of The Greatest Leaders of all times.

May we have a few more like him.