Thursday, October 18, 2012


On 20 October 2012, it will be exactly 50 years since the Sino Indian War - India's 1962 conflict with China. Of all the books, references and literature on the 1962 India China War, I find the memoir of Brigadier JP Dalvi - HIMALAYAN BLUNDER - most engrossing. Here is a brief review of the book. Meanwhile, I shall re-read the other books and literature I have on this subject and tell you about it here in my blog.
Till then, do read the piece below: 


A months ago, while browsing through my bookcase I chanced upon one of my favourite military autobiographies – HIMALAYAN BLUNDER by Brig JP Dalvi. 

The television was on, the news channels were blaring away with news and debates on the latest scams and ego clash driven disputes.

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 months, I wondered to myself: “Are we heading for another Himalayan Blunder?” 

Is history going to repeat itself after 50 years?


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.

First person accounts have an air of authenticity about them which lends them credibility. 

I have read five 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

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 readble.

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.

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 50th  anniversary of the debacle, it may be a good idea for you to read this classic book 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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About Vikram Karve

A creative person with a zest for life, Vikram Karve is a retired Naval Officer turned full time writer and blogger. Educated at IIT Delhi, IIT (BHU) 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 and magazines for many years, before the advent of blogging. Vikram has taught at a University as a Professor for 15 years and now teaches as a visiting faculty and devotes most of his time to creative writing and blogging. Vikram Karve 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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