Thursday, March 29, 2012



This morning while browsing through my bookcase I chanced upon one of my favourite military autobiographies – HIMALAYAN BLUNDER by Brig JP Dalvi. The television was on, my favourite news channel was blaring away, and as I started reading Himalayan Blunder, leafing through the pages of the book, I was filled with a sense of déjà vu. The events unfolding before my eyes, on TV News Channels, and the events chronicled in the book – the coincidence was startling. And as I read on further, drawing parallels between what was written in the book and the intriguing happenings hogging the headlines in newspapers and dominating the TV news-channels 24/7 for the last few days, I wondered to myself: “Are we heading for another Himalayan Blunder?” Is history going to repeat itself after 50 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 of them must have read Himalayan Blunder, but even then, 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 actually lived it rather than those who recorded it merely by academic research since first person accounts have an air of authenticity about them which lends them credibility. I have read four first-hand accounts of the 1962 War [ The Untold Story By BM Kaul, Himalayan Blunder by JP Dalvi, The Unfought War of 1962 By JR Saigal and The Fall of Towang By Niranjan Prasad] and, out of all these, I found Dalvi’s Himalayan Blunder the most illuminating and enthralling, as well as most soul-searching and analytic. 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 the way he writes it is evident that besides being a soldier, the author was a thinker and a scholar, extremely well-read and well-informed, and possessed a witty sense of humour, and 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 such a crushing defeat in the 1962 war with China? It seems to be the same story we are witnessing now – the civil-military divide, the lack of appreciation of ground realities by the Delhi-Centric powers that be and the trust deficit between various stakeholders.

Books like the Himalayan Blunder will make us aware of our mistakes of the past so that we don’t repeat them. 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. Why don’t you too? 

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2012
Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

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A creative person with a zest for life, Vikram Karve is a retired Naval Officer turned full time writer. Educated at IIT Delhi, ITBHU Varanasi, The Lawrence School Lovedale and Bishops School Pune, Vikram has published two books: COCKTAIL a collection of fiction short stories about relationships (2011) and APPETITE FOR A STROLL a book of Foodie Adventures (2008) and is currently working on his novel and a book of vignettes and short fiction. An avid blogger, he has written a number of fiction short stories, creative non-fiction articles on a variety of topics including food, travel, philosophy, academics, technology, management, health, pet parenting, teaching stories and self help in magazines and published a large number of professional research papers in journals and edited in-house journals for many years, before the advent of blogging. Vikram has taught at a University as a Professor for almost 15 years and now teaches as a visiting faculty and devotes most of his time to creative writing. Vikram lives in Pune India with his family and muse - his pet dog Sherry with whom he takes long walks thinking creative thoughts.

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Deepak S Avasare said...

Dear Vikram,

It would have been better to note down few main points of the "HImalayan Blunder". Not everybody would be in a position to get and read the original book.

Vikram Waman Karve said...

Dear Deepak,
I agree with your comment.
I am going to post a detailed review the book HIMALAYAN BLUNDER in my blog soon.