Archive for March, 2008

Vladimir Ilyich LENIN

Posted on March 31, 2008. Filed under: Personalities |

” I informed him that I  could not cooperate with a regime that prosecuted anarchists  ………………………………………. His reply was that my attitude was bourgeois sentimentality ……………………. Russia was igniting the World Revolution, ………… and here I was lamenting a little blood letting” – Emma Goldman

Vladimir Ilyich Lenin (1870 – 1924).  Russian revolutionary, communist politician and main leader of the October Revolution. He was first head of the Russian Soviet Socialist Republic and was from 1922, the first de facto leader of the Soviet Union. Lenin instructed the Cheka (secret police) to commence a “Red Terror’ and suspected enemies could expect brutal torture, flogging, maiming or execution. Historians estimate that between 1917 and 1922 over 280,000 people were killed; about half through summary executions and  half through suppression of rebellion. More people were killed by the Cheka than died in battle. Lenin had always been an advocate of “mass terror”  – against enemies of the revolution and his view was that the proletarian state was a system of organized violence against the capitalist establishment.

Emma Goldman (1869 -1940). Anarchist known for her political activism, writing, and speeches and derided as an advocate of politically motivated murder and violent revolution. Initially supportive of the Bolshevik revolution, Goldman quickly voiced her opposition to the use of violence and the repression of independent voices. She played a pivotal role in the development of anarchist political philosophy in the United States and Europe in the first half of the twentieth century.

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… and Joseph STALIN

Posted on March 31, 2008. Filed under: Personalities |

Joseph Stalin was born in 1878. He was General Secretary of the Party from 1922 until his death in 1953 and became the de facto  ruler of the Soviet Union after the death of Lenin.

His rival, Trotsky, was outmanouvred and after several failed attempts, was eventually assassinated in Mexico where he had sought asylum. The assassin was a polished, urbane, sophisticated, erudite  pro who became Trotsky’s confidante.He then hammered open , with a miniature ice axe, Trotsky’s  skull as he bent over his desk to show something to his assassin. The guy served a 20yr prison sentence before returning to the USSR in the early 60’s – it is not known whether for reward or retribution!

Stalin transformed an agrarisn economy into a major industrial powerhouse but at the cost of millions of lives. In the 30s, Stalin launched the Great Purges, against millions suspected of being personal or party threats. They were executions or exiles to the Gulag labor camps in remote Siberia. Recent researches suggest a likely total of around 20 million victims.

Stalin’s USSR then played a major role in the defeat of  Hitler’s Nazi Germany. He was eventually poisoned by his own secret police chief, Levrentia Beria, possibly at the behest of other politburo members who perceived that they were next on Stalins list of his victims.

Here are two quotes that show the thinking of the man.

“To choose one’s victim,

to prepare one’s plans minutely,

to stake an implacable vengeance,

and then to go to bed

there is nothing sweeter in the world”.

And —

“The first death is a tragedy, the millionth death is a statistic”.

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Sam Manekshaw – or just Sam Bahadur – ‘Will there ever be another?’ …

Posted on March 28, 2008. Filed under: From a Services Career, Personalities |

Sam Manekshaw will always be remembered as a dapper, debonair, dashing, nattily attired, non chalant figure with piercing,  laughter filled, fun loving, naughty eyes! And  with his trademark side cap set at a rakish angle and his  jaunty, springy, swashbuckling stride.

He is remembered so much for his wit and humor that we tend to forget his exceedingly large heart, which never ever held any tiny bit of rancor or malice – and that includes those who tried to do him maximum harm!

He never ever seemed to hold or even remember a grouse or a grudge . He was all his life so richly magnanimous. That indeed, seems to be his crowning glory!

And remember it was truly Sam – aided and abetted by the likes of Inder Gill (as his Operations guy); Jacob the COS at Eastern Command, the ever aggressive Sagat and his Corps, the likes of Hardev Kler the Signals officer who led his brigade into Dacca – and of course the rank and file of the Indian Army, who helped win India’s Greatest Victory ever!

And with the capture of over 90,000 PsOW (by the way that was the  No of Germans who surrendered after Stalingrad). And the severance of Pakistan’s Eastern half which became the new nation of Bangladesh.

Here follow a few chance episodes which are a privilege to record.

Just before the ’71 War, Sam as Chief visits the First Armored Division where we are squatting on the ground awaiting  the Great Man’s arrival. A chopper arrives and out bounces the Chief. Without wasting time, he strides forward wanting to begin his address. Just then the chopper takes off and covers him – and us – in dust. Sam turns his back to us, waiting for the dust to settle and then facing us,  quips endearingly, Whenever I plan anything, I can bank upon the air force and the armored corps to fuck it up!”


Way before he led the Indian Army in 1971 to its greatest victory, Sam Manekshaw was Commandant at the Staff College. It was here that one particular officer, Kim Yadav of the Grenadiers (who was one time aide de camp to Lord Luis Mountbatten), at the behest of Krishna Menon, the then Defense Minister, gave questionable evidence in a reprehensible attempt to snuff out Sam’s Army life.

Fortunately for the country, the Chinese came to Sam’s rescue when their mountain ‘blitzkrieg’ resulted in the resignation of the Minister! And promotion, long delayed,  of Sam as Corps Commander!

A wee later, Sam took over the Western Army and in his command was our unit in a brigade being commanded by the same professionally competent and capable Kim Yadav. When the officers learnt that the brigade was to be operationally tested in an exercise with troops, bets were on that this was Sam’s way of ‘sorting’ out the brigade commander.

In the exercise, watched by Sam, the brigade and its units performed rather well. We awaited, with baited breadth, Sam’s remarks at the ‘summing up’. Sam strode to the podium in his usual jaunty style, coolly looks us over and for once without his flashing smile, comments – “Gentlemen!  I have only one thing to say! And that is – that had I been your commander – I could not have made your brigade perform better!!!”.

Earlier when Sam had newly arrived at the Western Army HQs in Simla, one night he heard in the Mess some officers speaking nastily of Kim Yadav. Sam butts in with, “Gentlemen, Brig Yadav is a much better soldier than any of you. All he lacks is character!”

In a much much later TV interview, Sam recollected.

“At the end of a Rashtrapati Bhawan function, as Mrs Manekshaw and I are walking out, who do I see walking along side but Mr VK Krishna Menon. i and wished him, ‘Good Evening Sir!’ And turning to Mrs Manekshaw said, – Darling, I am sure you remember Mr Menon?  Back comes the cold, ‘No – I certainly do not!”.

And here is another;

A unit which has just detrained is in no state to receive dignatories but as always there never is any choice. The Eastern Army Commander, had been nominated Chief designate and while on his way to Delhi, decides to pop in.

The Commanding Officer and the Subedar Major are lined up smartly to receive the Chief Designate.  Sam Manekshaw, in one look, sizes up the situation. He turns to the Subedar Major and asks whether the unit has a piggery? “Yes Sir”, is the smart response. Turning to the CO, Sam quips, “OK – lets see the piggery! If the piggery is in good shape, I  think the unit is in good shape!”

No one is really sure where the pigs are but with that bit of ice breaking, Sam suggests a beer in the Mess. In the mess, he sees himself smiling back in the picture kept near the Visitors Book. Sam looks at himself and turning to the 2 i/c, asks, “Where has Kumaramangalam (the current Chief whose picture should rightly have been there) gone? To the bathroom???”

Sam’s Joie di vivre and Style were His Very Own Patent.

And his Big Heart:

In the Eastern Army HQs, there are numerous stories about Sam and his wonderful Saturday – ‘Race Day’ – routine. But of that some other time.  This post recalls two incidents depicting the colorful maestro at his ebullient best. The first is solidly true. The second is, perhaps, a bit of hearsay.

Here was this infantry commanding officer who had bungled up and was the target of the whole Eastern Command structure. Every thing he did appeared to be wrong and seemed to be a threat to the Army itself.  So every one was baying for his blood. The case was put up to Sam for sacking the guy. Sam for some unknown reason decides to go and have a look and see things for himself.

Sam came – Sam saw -And Sam  pinned a Gallantry Medal on the guy’s chest! Years later                                   the guy retires as a Lt General with a chest full of gallantry awards.

The other story, alas not verifiable and hopefully not true but which reflects the man.

Here is this officer who requests an interview with Sam. He complains to Sam that his orderly is sleeping with his  wife! Sam digs into his desk and brings out a hand gun, which he offers the officer, saying – “Maybe you don’t have a hand gun. Well, you can borrow mine!”


Field Marshal Sam Hormusji Framji Jamshedji Manekshaw, MC, (“Sam Bahadur”) born April 3, 1914).

Indian Army legend who rose to be Chief of the Indian Army in 1969. A dashing, debonair, cheery figure,who trained, organized and led the Indian forces to victory in the Indo-Pak War of 1971 and made possible the birth of Bangladesh.

Famed for his razor sharp and lively wit, his ebullience, aplomb, genuine decency, generosity and kindness. A soldiers soldier, loved and revered by the rank and file. 

Whence comes such another?

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Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington

Posted on March 26, 2008. Filed under: Movies, Personalities |

“I loved and respected Louis Armstrong.  ………..  He was born poor, died rich, ………  and never hurt anyone on the way” – Duke Ellington  

Louis Armstrong (1900 – 1971). Nicknamed Satchmo and Pops, was an American jazz trumpeter and singer. He was charismatic, innovative and who improvised soloing. One of the most famous jazz musicians of the 20th century.

Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington (1899 – 1974). Composer, pianist, and bandleader. Widely recognized during his life as one of the most influential figures in jazz, if not in all American music, Ellington’s reputation has increased since his death.

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Ulysses !!! … Rivals the Bard’s Best …

Posted on March 15, 2008. Filed under: Great Writing, The English |

“It little profits that an idle King by this still hearth, among these barren crags, matched with an aged wife, I mete and dole unequal laws unto a savage race that hoard, and sleep and feed and know not me.

I cannot rest from travel.  I will drink life to the lees. All times I have enjoyed greatly, have suffered greatly; both with those that loved me, and alone, on shore and thru scrudding drifts the rainy Hyades vext the dim sea.

I am become a name for always roaming with a hungry heart. Much have I seen and known. Cities of men and manners, climates, counsels, governments. Myself not least but honored of them all. And drunk delight of battle with my peers, far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.

I am a part of all that I have met. Yet all experience is an Arch through which gleams that untravelled world, whose margin fades for ever and ever when I move.

How dull it is to pause, to make an end, to rest unburnished, not to shine in use. As though to breathe were life. Life piled on life were too little and of one to me.

Little remains but every hour is saved from that eternal silence. Something more, a bringer of new things and vile were it for me for some three suns to store and hoard myself. And this grey spirit yearning in desire to follow knowledge like a sinking star, beyond the utmost bond of human thought.

This is my son, mine own Telemachus, to whom I leave the sceptre and the Isle. Well loved of me, discerning to fulfil this labour by slow prudence. To make mild a rugged people and thru soft degrees subdue them to the useful and the good. Most blameless is he, centred in the spheres of common duties. Decent not to fail in offices of tenderness and pay meet adoration to my household Gods. When I am gone, he works his work – I mine.

There lies the port, the vessel puffs her sail. There groan the dark broad seas. My mariners, souls that have toiled, and wrought and thought with me – that ever with a frolic welcome look used the thunder and sunshine and opposed free hearts, free foreheads. You and I are old. Old age hath yet its honor and its toil. Death closes all. Yet something ere the end. Some work of noble note may yet be done, not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.

The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks. The long day wanes. The slow moon climbs. The deep moans with many voices. Come My Friends! Its not to late to seek a newer world. Push off and sitting well in order smite the sounding furrows – for my purpose holds to sail beyond the sunset and the baths of all Western Stars until I die.

It maybe that the gulfs will wreck us down. It maybe we shall touch the Happy Isles and see the great Achilles whom we knew. Though much is taken, much abides. And though we are not now that strength which in old days moved earth and heaven – that which we are, we are.

One equal temper of heroic hearts made weak by time and fate but strong in Will – To Strive, To Seek, To Find and Not to Yeild”.

Ulysses – poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809–1892), The adventures of Odysseus were first recorded in Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. Critics feel that Tennyson’s Ulysses recalls the character Ulisse in Dante’s Inferno.

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Lucretius …

Posted on March 15, 2008. Filed under: Roman Thought |

Lucretius was poet and philosopher. Author of the epic philosophical poem on Epicureanism

Pleasant it is to behold feats of war over the plains with no part of you in peril.

The fall of dropping water wears away the Stone. The sum of all sums is eternity —- Life is one long struggle in the dark.

The greatest wealth is to live content with little, for there is never want where the mind is satisfied.


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Juvenal …

Posted on March 15, 2008. Filed under: Roman Thought |

Juvenal was a poet  and author of the Satires. which inspired many authors, including Samuel Johnson

And life is given to none freehold, but it is leasehold for all.  Never does nature say one thing and wisdom another.

One globe seemed all too small for the youthful Alexander.

Censure acquits the raven, but pursues the dove. I wish it, I command it. Let my will take the place of a reason.

There is hardly a case in which the dispute was not caused by a woman.


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Debate …

Posted on March 12, 2008. Filed under: Eloquence |

Charles Darwin provided scientific evidence that all species of life have evolved over time from one or a few common ancestors through the process of natural selection. Thomas Henry Huxley was a biologist, known as “Darwin’s Bulldog” who had little schooling and taught himself almost everything he knew. Here is an extract from a famous debate which gave Huxley instant stardom. 

The charming, eloquent, overconfident Bishop of Oxford, Samuel Wilberforce, set out to ‘smash Darwin’. In the course of his hour long discourse, he casually remarked –

“I would like to ask Professor Huxley, who is sitting by my side, ready to tear me to pieces when I sit down, as to his belief in being descended from an ape. Is it on his Grand Fathers or his Grand Mothers side that the ape ancestry comes in?”.

The Bishop sat down to a storm of applause and there was little enthusiasm when Huxley proceeded with his severely scientific discussion of Darwin’s Theory. He concluded with this response to the Bishop’s and gained instant Stardom!

“I assert that a man has no reason to be ashamed of having an ape for his grandfather.

‘If there were an ancestor whom I should feel shame in recalling, it would rather be a man – a man of restless and versatile intellect – who not content with an equivocal success in his chosen sphere of activity, plunges into scientific questions with which he has no acquaintance, only to obscure them with aimless rhetoric – and distract the attention of his hearers from the point at issue by eloquent digressions and skilled appeals to religious prejudice”.

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Mar 15 – ‘The Ides of March’ …

Posted on March 10, 2008. Filed under: Great Writing, Quotes |

Who is it that calls on me? I hear a tongue, shriller than all the music, cry, ‘Caesar!’ ….. Speak; Caesar is turn’d to hear.
Beware the ides of March.


And on the ides of March —

The ides of March are come.
But not gone O’ Caesar!


And CAESAR on the man who plotted his murder …

Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look.
He thinks too much. … He reads much … and is a great observer and looks quite through the deeds of men.
He loves no plays, he hears no music; seldom he smiles, and smiles in such a sort, as if he mock’d himself and scorn’d his spirit that could be moved to smile at any thing.
Such men as he be never at heart’s ease whilst they behold a greater than themselves, and therefore are they very dangerous.

William Shakespeare (1564 – 1616). The Bard is widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world’s pre-eminent dramatist. His plays have been translated into every major living language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright. He was a respected poet and playwright in his own day but his reputation did not rise to its present heights until the nineteenth century. His plays remain highly popular and are consistently performed and reinterpreted in diverse cultural and political contexts throughout the world.

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