Thursday, July 3, 2008

In Memoriam - Sam Manekshaw

Field Marshal Sam Hormusji Framji Jamshedji Manekshaw died in Wellington, India last Friday, aged 94. He was the best-known soldier in India, and pivotal in that country’s victory in the 1971 war with Pakistan, which liberated East Pakistan and gave birth to Bangladesh. 

In his later days his routine was to get up early, drink a shot of whiskey, listen to the news on the BBC, and then work in his garden… RIP, Sam Manekshaw.

Sam Manekshaw - Wikipedia
'Manekshaw pride of Bangladesh'
Sam H.F.J. Manekshaw Dies at 94
Sam Manekshaw Passes Away
Distinguished Indian army chief Sam Manekshaw dies
Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 – Wikipedia
Day by day news coverage of the 1971 India Pakistan War

Aahh, the good old “Beeb”, the main source of international news re what was happening around the world. Growing up in Bombay in the seventies and early eighties, this blogger’s family would tune in every day… the Bombay newspapers mostly having local/national stories, the local TV news full of exciting fare such as “… an additional 35 villages electrified”; “50 new wells dug…”; “… the production quotas of the 5-year plan being exceeded”; a bus plunging into a gorge killing 65 with the driver “absconding” (Ed. note: for fun go ahead and google “bus” ,“abscond” and “India” to get over 6,000 hits up to the present day!); etc. 

Real news came via the BBC, other incredibly valuable resources being (in descending order) the British Council Library, and the U.S. Information Agency library. The USIA was a GPO depository, so this blogger would read the minutes of (U.S.) Senate and House proceedings and be amazed and astounded by the openness of the discussions, even those related to the military and defense. This blogger became somewhat of an expert on U.S. defense hardware and missiles – “slickums”, “glickums”, etc. (Ed. note: SLCM – sea-launched cruise missiles; GLCM – ground-launched cruise missiles). 

In 1988 (?) this blogger attended a lecture by Richard Carlson (Director of the Voice of America, or VOA) and in the ensuing Q&A made the mistake of observing that while he grew up in Bombay most people would listen to the BBC rather than the VOA (since the former was considered impartial and the latter much more propagandistic), and then asking why that perception was so widespread. Carlson almost had an apoplectic fit and proceeded to browbeat this blogger re the ridiculousness of the view just expressed! Fortunately two other audience members (one who had grown up in Venezuela) came to the rescue by validating that the same impression existed in their countries too…

Ed. note:  The picture is of Pakistani tank tracks at Logewala, left after their desperate maneuveres to avoid destruction. At Longewala an Indian company of approximately 120 soldiers held off a Pakistani force of  2000-3000 backed by the 22nd Armoured Regiment for two days, until the IAF arrived to destroy the Pakistani assault.

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