Sunday, October 22, 2017

Himalayan Blunder – Book Review

More than 55 years ago – on 20 October 2015  began 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 that I wrote 5 years ago in Oct 2012. 

Meanwhile  I shall re-read the other books and literature I have on this subject and tell you about them here in my blog.

Book Review

(This is an abridged re-post of my Book Review written in Oct 2012)

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

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: 


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. 

Dear Reader: 

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.

Copyright © Vikram Karve 
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This Book Review was written by me Vikram Karve in October 2012 and First Posted Online by me in my blog at url: and revised/reposted an number of times at urls:  and etc

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