Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw: The Man and His Times

We are happy to present a full write-up from the authors of this amazing book on India’s Greatest Soldier and a proud Parsi Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw.

 

Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw: The Man and His Times

Author: Brig Behram M Panthaki (Retd) and Zenobia Panthaki

As a 2-star general he had a run-in with Defence Minister Krishna Menon when he refused to snitch on the Army Chief and told Menon to mend his ways. This almost brought his career to a grinding halt, but for Sam, upholding values trumped personal gain.  As a 3-star general he stopped the young Indira Gandhi who had accompanied her father, Prime Minister Nehru, from entering the Ops Room of his Corps HQ in NEFA, as she lacked security clearance.

 

Manekshaw Cover

As an Army Commander, he carried the latest music LPs, playboy magazines and playboy calendars for his officers serving in high altitude areas; all of this was on his personal tab. In April 1971, as Chief of Army Staff, he stood up to Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and offered to put in his papers rather than compromise the safety and security of his men through the misadventure of an untimely, unplanned war. In December that year, under his command, within two weeks, the Indian army liberated East Pakistan. The creation of Bangladesh forever changed the map of the subcontinent and the geo-politics of the region. The government honoured him by promoting him to Field Marshal, a first for the Indian Army. At the height of the war, rumours ran amuck that he’d been spied at The Tabela, a popular discotheque in Delhi. True or false, you’ll never know, for that is the enigma that still surrounds Sam Manekshaw.

On an Armoured Personnel Carrier As much as men in uniform loved Sam, the bureaucrats dreaded him. When the Ministry of Defence proposed discontinuation of free rum issue to troops in high altitude areas, he returned the file with a terse comment, “Over my dead body.”  Chapter closed. The welfare of his troops, his officers and their families came first, always and every time. Intolerant of sycophancy and indiscipline, Sam ruled with an iron rod but tempered his decisions with a large dose of compassion and humour. On a visit to a formation, explaining the absence of his wife Silloo, he said she never traveled on Saturdays as she considered them inauspicious days, “you see, that was the day on which she married me!” Dressing down a young officer whose dalliance with a tribal girl had resulted in a military stand-off, Sam admonished, “Boy, you had the entire Eastern Army at ‘stand-to’. I hope she was worth it!”

Many such anecdotes about the life of Sam Manekshaw can be found in a coffee table book that Zenobia and I have written on the Field Marshal. I served on the General’s staff from 1965-73 and was a witness to many of the events and decisions that impacted the geo-politics of the Indian sub-continent. We shared closeness to Sam that gave us a unique insight into his ideals, his military acumen, his mannerisms and his unique sense of humour. With 200 photographs, citations, letters from eminent personalities and Heads of State, the book has a lot to offer. It transports one to a time of gracious living and high thinking.

Gentleman Cadet Sam Manekshaw 1932

The book was launched on April 3, 2014, Sam’s 100th birthday, by General Bikram Singh, Chief of the Army Staff, at the iconic Manekshaw Center in Delhi Cantonment. A second release to celebrate Sam’s centenary was held on April 5, at the Delhi Parsi Anjuman, and a third release took place at the Trident Hotel, Mumbai, on April 14, 2014, where the former Chief Justice of India, the Honorable Sam Bharucha, while launching the book, said it was a ‘must read’ not only for the older generation but more so for the youth, for Manekshaw’s life symbolises the highest principals of public life and the spirit of nationalism.

The book has received excellent reviews. Three excerpts follow:

Fali Nariman, President Bar Association of India and Former Additional Solicitor Gen of India and Member of the Rajya Sabha: “From beginning to end this delightful narrative simply races along, providing an intimate, witty and scintillating story of a superhero….Sam’s humanism, his notations on official files, his colourful language and his doodles, which occasionally set off tidal waves of mirth through Army Headquarters, make this book simply ‘un-put-down-able’!

Lt Gen Vijay Oberoi, Former Vice Chief of Army Staff: “An excellent book that is a labour of love and a tribute to the great Sam Bahadur… A delightful tale woven with great dexterity and garnished with a profusion of photographs that brings out the well-rounded personality of a proud soldier, a military leader par excellence and a great human being. This gem of a book is a must for your coffee table.”

Lalit Mansingh, Former Foreign Secretary and Ambassador to the United States: “While chronicling his career, (the authors) present him … as a family man, a comrade-in-arms, a strategist and a charismatic leader of the troops. It is a story narrated with affection and admiration but never with hyperbole. A(n) …eminently readable narrative…on a remarkable military leader who changed the course of India’s history.”

We have dedicated this book ‘to men in uniform who laid down their lives defending our country and to their widows whose sacrifice is in equal measure’ and we plan to donate a portion of the royalty to the War Wounded Foundation and the War Widows Welfare Fund. The book will be available in October but can be pre-ordered on Amazon.com at a discounted price of US$33.33 (full price is US$45.) You can search the book by entering either the full name or the ISBN No. without dashes. For additional information you could contact the authors at behrampanthaki@hotmail.com or zmasters1@gmail.com (Zenobia).

ISBN #: 978-93-83098-30-9 – Publication of 2014

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