The date was 16 Dec 1971, a cold winter day in Delhi, when the news on the All India Radio flashed that Pakistan Army had surrendered to the Indian Army in Dhaka! A first in the recorded history of India when an instrument of surrender was signed by Pakistan when Lt Gen AAK Niaizi led army laid down arms before Lt Gen JS Aurora the joint commander of Bangladesh India Allied Forces. In a brilliant display of strategy and valor Gen Sam Manekshaw, the then Chief of the Indian Army had had carved out Bangladesh , what was erstwhile East Pakistan in just two weeks of battle! My head swelled with pride like that of any other Indian. My resolve to join the armed forces became even stronger!
General Manekshaw left an indelible impression on my young mind, for his courage, strength of character, leadership, honesty of purpose and his towering personality! He was one of the five children born in a Parsi family of a doctor who earned a living in Amritsar. He passed out with honors from Sherwood College , Nainital and once jokingly said that they had produced two distinguished alumnus one himself, and another Amitabh Bachhan, many years his junior! On completion of school he wanted to study medicine in England but since he was only 15 years old, his father asked him to study in India till he attained the age of 18! He was so upset that he did not speak to his father for next 18 months and with support of his mother wrote the entrance examination for Indian Military Academy, Dehradun. He enrolled for the First Course in Oct 1932. The rest was history, as he moved places and held key appointments in the Army during his long career.
As a Major, while fighting in Burma against the Japanese during the Second World War he was hit by Light Machine Gun fire in his belly damaging the kidneys and lungs! The doctor attending him asked what happened, and even in the hour of crisis he quipped, ‘I was kicked by a donkey’! Major General Cowan, who saw him, pinned his own Military Cross on his chest stating that a dead person cannot be awarded Military Cross! In subsequent years he continued as a trusted soldier to annex Kashmir and quell the riots in Kolkata at the call of the then Home Minister Sardar Patel! Before entrusting the Kolkata to Army , Patel asked Sam , how many casualties he expected , to which he replied, ‘around hundred’. Sardar Patel asked him to go ahead and to his surprise not even one life was lost while the army handled the situation and brought it under control!
The Gurkha battalion was led by the British Officers prior to the Independence and Sam Manekshaw was the first Indian commander post freedom. On his visit to the Gurkha battalion he asked one soldier, if he knew his name? The soldier replied, ‘Sam Bahadur’ and thus that became his identity for all time to come!
In Jan 1973 he was elevated to the rank of Field Marshal for the rest of his life for the invaluable contribution. He served on the Board of Directors of fourteen companies post retirement and was loved and respected for his knowledge, integrity and leadership qualities!
I am happy that I too, could contribute my bit by serving the Indian Navy for twenty years, in the traditions that were ingrained by the distinguished Field Marshal. He lived his life by the credo of Baron Chetwode which is engraved on the entrance in IMA, ‘the safety honor and welfare of your country comes first, always and every time. The honor, welfare and comfort of the men you command comes next. Your own ease , comfort and safety comes last , always and every time.’
PS: This is my entry for Tata Motors/Indiblogger sponsored #madeofgreat contest (http://madeofgreat.tatamotors.com/)