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Whenever I start reading Himalayan Blunder, leafing through the pages of the book, I am filled with a sense of déjà vu.
And as I read on further, drawing parallels between what was written in the book and the intriguing happenings of recenti times, I wonder to myself:
“Are we heading for another Himalayan Blunder...?”
Is history going to repeat itself after 55 years...?
I have heard a saying:
THOSE WHO DO NOT LEARN FROM HISTORY ARE CONDEMNED TO REPEAT IT
That is why I feel that Himalayan Blunder is a must read for the “powers-that-be” – Political, Civil and Military.
I am sure most politicians, bureaucrats, military officers, students of military history and the intelligentsia have read Himalayan Blunder– but – if you have not read the book– or even of you have read it – it would be worthwhile to read the book carefully once again – to draw parallels between what happened in 1962 – and what is happening now – and learn lessons – so that similar mistakes are not repeated again – and we do not have another “Himalayan Blunder” in the making.
Himalayan Blunder is a fascinating war memoir of the 1962 Conflict between India and China – in which India suffered a humiliating defeat.
Brigadier Dalvi was the Commander of the Indian Army’s 7th Infantry Brigade – which was annihilated by the Chinese Army.
I feel that it always better to read history written by those who have actually lived it – rather than those who have recorded it – merely by academic research.
First person accounts have an air of authenticity about them – which lends them credibility.
I have read 6 first-hand accounts of the 1962 India China War:
1. The Untold Story By BM Kaul
2. Himalayan Blunder by JP Dalvi
3. The Unfought War of 1962 By JR Saigal
4. The Fall of Towang By Niranjan Prasad
5. War in the High Himalaya by DK Palit
6.Recollections of the Sela Bomdila Debacle 1962 by Jaidev Singh Datta
(Of course – I have also read many other books/articles on the 1962 India China War including India’s China War by Neville Maxwell and analyses/memoirs of battles in the USI Journal – but – like I said – First Hand Memoirs have a air of authenticity)
Out of all these autobiographical first-hand war memoirs – I found Dalvi’s Himalayan Blunder the most illuminating and enthralling.
The writing style is articulate, reasoned, lucid, as well as most soul-searching and analytic, and the book is extremely readable.
In my opinion, Himalayan Blunder is a military masterpiece, arguably the best book by an Indian military author.
Himalayan Blunder tells you of the debacle that happened when ill-equipped, unprepared, confused and demoralized soldiers were rushed into battle against a strong adversary in an ad hoc manner because military decisions were influenced more by political prophecy rather than military strategy.
Dalvi tells his story with remarkable wit and exceptional candour.
His candid storytelling style captivates you and once you start reading you get so engrossed that the book becomes unputdownable.
There is no military jargon or gobbledygook.
Dalvi writes straight from the heart and that is why this book will not only educate you but also will move you emotionally, strike a chord and get you thinking.
From his easy writing style, and the way he narrates the story, it is evident that besides being a soldier, the author was a thinker and a scholar, and like most officers of his generation, he was extremely well-read and well-informed, and possessed a witty, yet biting, sense of humour.
He has interspersed his book with anecdotes, quotes and similes.
Sample this – he writes that a Corps Commander was sacked because:
“He refused to be a dog in obedience and a lion in action...”
Why did India suffer the ignominy of such a crushing defeat in the 1962 war with China...?
It seems to be the same story we keep witnessing from time to time – the civil-military divide, the lack of appreciation of ground realities by the Delhi-Centric “powers-that-be” who call the shots, and the “trust deficit” between various stakeholders – like it is happening even till today.
Books like the Himalayan Blunder will make us aware of our mistakes of the past – so that we don’t repeat them.
That is why – we must read such books – and take cognizance of the message they try to convey.
In such matters – let history not repeat itself.
That is why we cannot to afford to ignore the lessons of history – if we do so – it will be to our own peril.
I am going to read HIMALAYAN BLUNDER once again – and – maybe – I will tell you more about this fascinating memoir.
Meanwhile – on the occasion of the 55rd anniversary of the debacle – it may be a good idea for you to read this classic book too.
[NB: The generic Hindustani word “Fauj” refers to all arms of the Military (Army, Navy, Air Force) – so – the term“Fauji”or “Soldier” refers to all Military Personnel in Uniform of the Army, Navy and Air Force (Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen) – and the term “Faujan” refers to all Military Wives)]
My Hilarious Encounters with “Fauji” Doctors
“SECOND OPINION” or “CUT PRACTICE”
A Fictional Spoof
THE “FAUJI” MEDICAL OFFICER
This happened more than 32 years ago – in the mid 1980’s – at IAT Girinagar Pune.
I had newly arrived in station.
Those days – IAT was an inter-service training establishment comprising Army, Navy and Air Force Personnel – but – it was run in typical “Army Style”.
During my evening walk – I saw a crowd of young student officers and families sitting on the lawns of the house of our Unit Medical Officer (MO).
Seeing the crowd – I thought that our Unit Medical Officer (Doctor) was having a party.
“So – Doc is having a party – is it...?” I shouted to them.
“No Sir. We have not come here for a party. We are waiting to see the doctor for medical treatment...” they said.
I was impressed.
I had thought that our Unit Medical Officer (Unit MO) was a typical “fauji” doctor.
Most Army Medical Officers followed strict timings and rules.
You had to visit the Medical Inspection Room (MI Room)/Clinic/Sickbay when you were sick (even if you were seriously ill)
This was because“fauji” doctors did not make house calls – nor did they entertain patients at their home.
That is why I was impressed to see so many patients at the “Fauji” Doctor’s home.
It was evident that he was such a good doctor – that patients were going to his house in the evening for consultation and treatment.
And – our Unit Medical Officer (Unit MO) – he seemed so compassionate, sincere and devoted to medicine – that he had started an “Evening OPD” at home for their convenience.
Thoroughly impressed by the dedication of the “Unit MO”– I said to the officers:
“That’s great. I did not know that our “Unit MO” sees patients at home...”
A student officer said to me:
“Sir – we have not come to see the “Unit MO”.
He is a “Quack” – a useless “good-for-nothing doctor”.
We have come to see his wife.
She is an excellent doctor who works in “XXX Hospital”– the best hospital in Pune.
In the evening – she does her “private practice” here at her home – and everyone comes to consult her.
Of course – she charges quite a lot of money as “consultation fee”– but then – she is a really good doctor...”
I was stunned to hear this.
But – after a few days – I realised that the student officer was right.
A young Naval Officer told me a story a few days later which proved that the “fauji” doctor’s wife was a good doctor – yes – she was a really good doctor.
Let me tell you the story.
MEDICAL CATEGORY SCARE
Once – the young Naval Officer got a strange cough.
During his morning run – in the expansive picturesque campus – he would suddenly get a spasm of cough – so severe – that it was almost like a convulsion.
He would sit down – terminate his run – walk home – and drink water – and take rest.
For the rest of the day – he would be okay.
These fits of cough happened only in the mornings during his runs – and – while jogging in the open.
The Naval Officer reported to the Unit Medical Officer (MO) [“fauji” doctor] in the MI Room.
On hearing the symptoms – without even physically examining the officer – the Army Unit MO immediately concluded that it was “Asthma”.
And –the Unit MO referred the Officer to the “Specialist” at the Military Command Hospital (CH) Pune.
The Naval Officer was due for his “sea time” – immediately after the course.
His fellow Naval Officers scared the shit out of the officer – by putting all sorts of fears in his mind.
They told him that – if he went to the Specialist for Asthma – he would be subjected to all sorts of tests and examinations – and – the Specialists at Military Hospital would surely downgrade his “Medical Category”.
Now – if his Medical Category was downgraded – that would be the end of his “sea time”– and – as a consequence – his Navy Career would be badly affected.
All Fellow Officers and their Wives wife advised the “Asthma Afflicted Officer” to see the “fauji” doctor’s wife (the civilian lady doctor who practiced at home).
They all told the “Asthma Afflicted Officer”– that – before he “surrendered” himself to the “Fauji” Specialist Doctors at the Military Hospital – it would be better if he took a “second opinion” from the civilian doctor wife our unit “fauji” doctor – since she was a good doctor.
Of course – though she charged a hefty “consultation fee”– it would be worth it in the long run – rather than let the Military “Specialist” Doctors ruin his career by “awarding” him a “Medical Category”.
(In the Military – some Doctors are more adept at “awarding”Medical Categories than treating “fauji” patients...)
THE “FAUJI” DOCTOR’S WIFE
In the evening – the worried “Asthma Afflicted Officer” went to see the “fauji” doctor’s wife.
The doctor’s wife – the civilian lady doctor – she heard him out – she examined him thoroughly – and – she said to the officer:
“Don’t worry – it is not asthma – it is just a seasonal allergy due to pollen from the “congress grass” which is abundant on the campus. This allergy happens to some people in spring. Just stop your morning runs for a month or two. Don’t go out in the open in the mornings. You will be okay. Once it is summer – you can start your morning outdoor exercise and running again.”
“Any medicines – any treatment...?” the officer asked.
“Nothing. There is no need for any medicines...” said the “fauji” doctor’s wife (the civilian lady doctor) – and then – she advised the officer, “if you want – you can just add some gavati chaha गवती चाहा (lemon grass) to boiling water when you make tea in the morning – it will act as a placebo – there are plenty of gavati chaha bushes growing wild in the campus.”
Within a few days – the officer’s cough disappeared.
And soon – the moment the season changed to summer – the officer was absolutely fit and fine – and – he started his morning runs again.
Of course – the Naval Officer scrupulously avoided going to the unit MO in the MI Room – during the remaining part of his course.
And – at the end of the course – fit and fine – he went for his “sea time”.
In the civilian world – I have heard stories of doctors referring their patients to fellow doctors – for a “cut” or “commission” (known as “cut practice”...)
So – in hindsight –I wonder:
Was the “fauji” doctor much smarter than we thought...?
Was he “faking it”...?
By giving a “medical category scare” to all his “fauji” patients – was it the “ulterior motive” of the“fauji” doctorto boost the private practice of his civilian doctor wife...?
Was the Unit MO “fauji” doctor indulging in “cut practice”...?
1. This story is a fictional spoof, satire, pure fiction, just for fun and humor, no offence is meant to anyone, so take it with a pinch of salt and have a laugh.
2. All stories in this blog are a work of fiction. Events, Places, Settings and Incidents narrated in the stories are a figment of my imagination. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
No part of this Blog may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical including photocopying or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the Blog Author Vikram Karve who holds the copyright.