Commodore Medioma Bhadha (Retd.) writes of a letter exchange between his brother Colonel Jehanbux Bhadha (Retd.) and himself, where Jehanbux speaks about his days as a Paratrooper in the Indian Army and stories of life then.
I had sent a copy of Marzban Giara’s book, Valiant Parsis to my brother, Col JS Bhadha, along with a bottle of Old Monk Rum, his favourite. He is settled in the US.
He was a Para Trooper and commanded the $ Para Batallion. He was the first to para-jump behind the enemy lines during the Bangladesh Operations.
Incidentally, there was a time when four Parsi officers commanded four different Para Batallions. He was one of them.
Where have all the Parsis gone????
Attached is his reply.
Do read it and if found interesting, feel free to post it on Z-Newz.
Col. Jehanbux Bhadha writes…
January 27, 2018.
Hi there Medio,
Thank you for the book and the bottle. Both equally important and enjoyable for me. It was fun reading and having a Old Monk in my hand raised to my dear Ruby and you. The book is interesting in itself and the things I remembered from the past, some unrelated to its contents, made the reading more interesting to me on a personal basis. (Note: The bottle was, sadly past tense, Old Monk and the book is Valiant Parsis.)
For instance I remembered my very first contact with Parsis in the Army before commissioning was two Instructors Captains Poonawala and Thacker. At that time we were four Parsi cadets at the IMA. Sam Doctor, Bawaadam, Sanjana and self. Then it was Lt Gen SHFJ Maneckshaw, GOC 26 Inf Div who later retired as our Field Marshal. After that he entered Yasmin’s and my lives on numerous occasions.
The first SHFJ contact was when as a Second Lieutenant with 22 Maratha L.I. in 1958 I was in the swimming pool of the 26 Inf Div Offr’s Club in Jammu with other officers and families of my Battalion. There I met Mrs Maneckshaw, Siloo and their daughter Sherry at the swimming pool. I was of course teased by the officers and families of my Battalion for being a privileged one to know Sherry and her Mom. I did not know them but it was Mrs. Maneckshaw who came over and met us all and then she and Sherry spent quite some time with me when they found out that I was a Bawa. This was followed a few days later by my chance encounter with Gen Maneckshaw at his HQ in 26 Div. I had gone to the HQ to see a Captain of the Ordnance Corps with whom I had done the Infantry Weapons Course in Mhow. While I was in this Ord Offr’s office, Gen Maneckshaw strolled in, literally made himself comfortable on the edge of this officer’s desk informally and asked me what I was doing there. When I mentioned that I was there to request for practice ammunition for our Battalion’s ARA team he turned around and told the Ord Offr to give me whatever I needed. Then he asked me what I had planned for the Navroze which was up next week. When I said I had no plans except to go along with routine in the Battalion he said I should come over and join him and the family for lunch on Navroze. Imagine my embarrassment when the next day I was marched up before my Commanding Officer who demanded an explanation as to how a pip squeak like me got an invite for a private lunch at the GOC’s residence. This was Navroze on March 21 1958.
Then again soon after, I surprised a huge collective of officers of the Div at what you also would know is called a TEWT, Tactical Exercise without Troops. This was somewhere on the main axis of the Pathankot-Srinagar route, a few miles away from Samba. During the discussion Sam, if I may take the privilege of mentioning him as that, was listening in to all that was being discussed. A simple question of crossing/guarding a huge culvert had us stymied for some time since there was a lot of flutter flying from Majors and above trying to impress the old man. I shot my hand up and in the unabashed ways of the young suggested that we mine the culvert and surround it with anti tank guns. There was what I call stunned silence. In his usual gruff voice Sam turned around and said “Well stated Jumbo. Let’s get along with it now chaps”. The silence continued since it seemed out of the ordinary that a General Officer Commanding would know a pip squeak, call him by a nick name and offer a pat on the back.
AS GOC 26 Inf Div, on his farewell visit to the Battalion Sam along with his wife Siloo and Sherry his daughter, visited us in Khunmuh which is a few miles out of Srinagar where we were incidentally located next to the Ordnance Ammunition Depot. There once again he singled me out and commented on my earlier performance. We were indulging in beer and gin n lime since the occasion was a farewell lunch for him. As the wine member of the Mess I was guiding a waiter carrying the jug of beer serving the guests. Sherry called out to me and asked me if I could gulp down the jug with one breath. Youth and an early taste of good liquor were on my side and I took on the challenge and downed the jug full. Until as recently as my last year of service with the Getty Museum in 2003 I was reminded about this feat, if you would call it that. General S. N. Sabharwal (Retd) of my Regiment visited the Getty Museum and we had a good laugh on recalling the incident.
After the ’71 ops in March ’72 Sam visited the Para Brigade to give us a pat on the back for the good work we had done during the ops and also to visit the 90,000 Pak POWs that the Brigade was holding for the Indian Army at Agra. A dinner/dance was held at the Brigade Officers’ Mess for him and his entourage which Yasmin also attended. She had already met Sam earlier on a couple of occasions. One of the occasions was when in 1968 then Captain Behram Panthaky, Sam’s ADC, took her and her sister Freny to Sam’s office in the Army HQ. During this evening dance post 71 ops, Yasmin walked up to Sam and asked for a dance. I nearly sank into the Mess lawn where we were dancing. But Yasmin got the old man talking and soon they were in earnest conversation when she stopped him mid-dance and asked to see his palm. It appears that she wanted to see the line on the palm which proclaimed him to be a potential King or Ruler. I continue to treasure a photograph of them both dancing that evening.
Our paths crossed a number of times until long after both of us had retired from the Army. The last time was when I was with The Oberoi in Bombay in 1987. I found Sam standing at the front porch of the Oberoi waiting for his car. To my surprise and great pleasure when I walked up to him he not only recognized me but also called me by name and asked after Yasmin.
Sam was indeed a great soul who did his duty by God and country. His love for the troops was phenomenal. His personality and sincerity gained him the respect and admiration of even the Pak rank and file evident from the reception he got from them when he visited the POW camp at Agra and addressed their officers. He had a great sense of humor but was also dogged by controversy due to those who did not understand his style of talk. His final days highlight his humble attitude and humor. He left this earth as a Field Marshal and per custom and Army tradition/regulations should have been granted a Field Marshal’s pay and honors unto death. Unfortunately the powers that were, disregarded his constant past flawless dedication and service. Not only was he denied his pay of rank until nearly at death’s door, but while the Nation mourned the passing away of a gem none in the Government including all Chiefs of Staff of the Army, Navy or Air Force cared to pay their last respects or attend any of Sam’s final ceremony’s. Shame on us.
Love to Ruby & you,
82-year-old Col. Jehanbux Siavaxa Bhadha (Retd.), currently residing in Los Angeles (USA), was the first and only Parsi to lead a Republic Day Parade Contingent (in 1961). He was also the first Indian soldier to be Para-dropped behind enemy lines during the 1971 War Operations, when he led the Para-drop in erstwhile East Pakistan, making him head and participate in pioneering the Para-deployment by Independent India.