Archive for May, 2018

Book Review – Love and Husband Sharing …

Posted on May 31, 2018. Filed under: Indian Thought, Movies |

https://thewire.in/books/purushottam-agrawal-padmavat-book-review

 

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Story of the Indra Gandhi Comeback …

Posted on May 29, 2018. Filed under: Personalities |

Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay in The Wire (Edited) –
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The slogan, ‘Ek Sherni, Sau Langur; Chikmagalur, Chikmagalur’, despite its below the belt connotation, remains an everlasting slogan for the political message inherent in it. The slogan was used by Indira Gandhi to run down the idea of a coalition.
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The juxtaposition of sau langurs or a hundred ‘monkeys’ in a multi-headed conflict-ridden political party with one ‘tigress’ from a centralised party eventually morphed into the winning slogan of Indira Gandhi in 1980: ‘Vote for a government that works’ or ‘chuniye unhe jo sarkar chala sakte hain’.
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Facing the reality that opposition parties, at least in some states, have realised the necessity to sink differences, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has unleashed a diatribe against unity efforts. His arguments are similar to Indira Gandhi’s and serve a reminder to the paradox that despite running down the Nehru-Gandhi parivar,
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Modi has often delved into the copybook of its iconic members, Jawaharlal Nehru and his daughter included. Modi’s argument is a reiteration of Indira Gandhi’s campaign against the Janata leaders: a single party with a strong leaders is any day a better bet for the country.
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 The story of Indira Gandhi’s comeback had in fact begun within months of her defeat in March 1977. In the never-before-heard-of village Belchi in the crime dominated area of Patna-Nalanda, 11 persons, including eight Dalits, had been ruthlessly murdered by a gang alleged to owe allegiance to a Kurmi-led gang.                                                                                                   .

Much before the arrival of television, Indira Gandhi created her own spectacle and arrived in the village atop an elephant.

The still pictures transfixed Indians for long and stories were carried by the oral tradition how people shouted slogans ‘Adhi roti khainge, Indira ko bulainge’ (we remain half hungry, but will still call Indira), or ‘Indira, tere abhao mein Harijan mare jate hain’ (Indira, in your absence, Harijans are being killed). .

The comeback queen had made it back into the heart of people who rejected her party barely six months ago. All that remained was to gain control of the political superstructure and her electoral hegemony.                                             .                                                                                                                                    . The first steps in this direction was taken on a balmy afternoon in January 1978 and the venue was the lawn outside the Mavlankar Hall, virtually a few hundred yards away from Parliament.

The party had been split and Indira Congress was born with just 54 of the Lok Sabha members joining her party. Almost a hundred others doubted her capacity and would live to regret their judgement.                                                 .                                                                                                                                         The rest of the year was spent in consolidating her party, giving it shape and character, including securing the lasting electoral symbol, the ‘Hand’.       .                                                                                                                                         The tenacity displayed by Indira Gandhi four decades ago in 1978 offers a lesson to every leader attempting a comeback, either for oneself or for the party.

Smartness, acumen and the capacity to enthuse the masses were the primary reason for Indira Gandhi to get back to power in less than three years of her staggering defeat.

Above all, it was also her infinite capacity to work till exhaustion overcame her.

 

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Real Politic – China, India, Russia …

Posted on May 29, 2018. Filed under: Chinese Wisdom, From Russia with Love, Pakistan |

The Statesman – Pk Vasudeva 

According to RAND Corporation, Beijing may not have even wanted India to join the SCO. Russia first proposed India as a member mainly to contain China’s growing influence in the organization. Russia is increasingly concerned that post-Soviet SCO members ~ Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan ~ are drifting towards China’s geostrategic orbit.

As China gains more clout in Central Asia, Moscow welcomed New Delhi by its side to occasionally strengthen Russia’s hand at slowing or opposing Chinese initiatives. Indeed, during a recent visit to Moscow, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “India and Russia have always been together on international issues.”

Going forward, this strategy is likely to pay rich dividends. New Delhi has a major hang-up related to the activities of its arch rival Pakistan ~ sponsored by Beijing at the 2015 SCO summit to balance Moscow’s support to India ~ and continues to be highly critical of China’s so-called “all-weather friendship” with Islamabad.

In May, New Delhi refused to send a delegation to Beijing’s widely publicised Belt and Road Initiative summit, which was aimed at increasing trade and infrastructure connectivity between China and Eurasian countries.

According to the Indian government, the flagship project of the Belt and Road Initiative ~ the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor ~ was not “pursued in a manner that respects sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Indian opposition stems from the plan to build the corridor through the disputed Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) region and to link it to the strategically positioned Pakistani port of Gwadar, prompting Mr Modi to raise the issue again during his acceptance speech at the SCO summit last month.

New Delhi is likely to continue criticising the corridor in the context of the SCO because, as a full member, India has the right to protest against developments that do not serve the interests of SCO members.

However, Beijing can play a balancing act to impart a measure of sobriety between the two warring countries by supporting the genuine demands of India on terrorism and counseling India on J&K for peaceful negotiations.

India-Pakistan tensions also occasionally flare up, and Beijing may have to brace for either side to use the SCO as a platform to mediate for an amicable solution. In the absence of a major incident, Beijing has admirably handled the delicate nature of this situation.

When asked in early June whether SCO membership would positively impact India-Pakistan relations, China’s spokesperson Hua Chunying said: “I see the journalist from Pakistan sit[s] right here, while journalists from India sit over there. Maybe someday you can sit closer to each other.”

Additionally, the Chinese military’s unofficial mouthpiece, Global Times, published an article suggesting that SCO membership for India and Pakistan would lead to positive bilateral developments. Even if that were overly optimistic, it would send the right tone as the organisation forges ahead.

Beijing needs to look no farther than South Asia for a cautionary tale. In this region, both India and Pakistan are members of SAARC. New Delhi, along with Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Bhutan, boycotted last year’s summit in Islamabad because it believed Pakistan was behind a terrorist attack on an Indian army base in J&K.

Even with an official ban on discussing bilateral issues in its proceedings, SAARC has been perennially hobbled by the intrusion of India-Pakistan disputes. Beijing can probably keep its close friend Islamabad in line at the SCO.

However, New Delhi would also have to fall in line. Another major issue for the SCO to contend with is the security of Afghanistan. An integral component of the organisation is the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure, aimed at combating China’s “three evils” – terrorism, extremism, and separatism.

India, however, is likely to highlight the contradiction between China’s stated anti-terrorism goals and the reality of its policy. Most notably, Beijing has consistently looked the other way as Pakistani intelligence services continue to support terrorist groups in Afghanistan, including the Afghan Taliban and Haqqani network.

Moreover, India being particularly close to Afghanistan, could seek to sponsor Afghanistan to move from observer status towards full SCO membership. This would give India even greater strength in the group and could bolster Russia’s position as well.

Persistent border disputes and fierce geostrategic competition in South Asia between China and India are likely to temper any cooperation Beijing might hope to achieve with New Delhi in the SCO.

On the one hand, mutual suspicions in the maritime domain persist with the Indian government recently shoring up its position in the strategically important Andaman and Nicobar island chain to counter the perceived Chinese “string of pearls” strategy.

It is aimed at establishing access to naval ports throughout the Indian Ocean that could be militarily advantageous in a conflict. Such mutual suspicions are likely to impact SCO discussions on military matters.

China has naval bases in the making ~ Gwadar/Pakistan, Hambantota/Sri Lanka, Chittagong/Bangladesh, Kyauskpyu/ Myanmar, Gan/Maldives, plus three ports, Iskander, Klang and Meluka in Malaysia. There is also a railway connection from its Malacca Straits/West Coast to East Coast South China Sea.

Although India may be an unwelcome addition and irritant to Beijing at the SCO, China does not necessarily need the SCO to achieve its regional objectives.

For instance, even though India rejected Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative overture, China remains India’s top trading partner and a critical market for all Central and South Asian states, leaving them with few other appealing options.

Regardless of the bickering between countries that may break out, Beijing is expected to buttress the importance of SCO, with due pomp and show of circumstances, at the next summit in June 2018, which Mr Modi is also likely to attend.

China as the host can emerge as a peacemaker in the continent if it handles the summit carefully by accepting the members’ genuine viewpoint and accepting their justified demands.

This is a golden opportunity for China to display its statesmanship by creating a peaceful environment where all disputes among the member countries are discussed, especially between India and Pakistan in order to arrive at a reasonable solution or a stage is set for further negotiations.

 

The writer is former Professor of International Trade. He may be reached at vasu022@gmail.com

 

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Greater than – ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ – Gertrude Bell …

Posted on May 29, 2018. Filed under: Movies, The English, Uncategorized |

“The onset of the First World War hastened the demise of the The Ottoman Empire that had ruled the Middle East for five centuries. Now the colonial powers set their eyes on dividing the spoils”. 

‘Queen of the Desert’ – the Motion Picture – moves to a small room in which British army officers gather around a table with a minister from the War office, the future British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill. The officers and Churchill  are looking at a map of the colonial “spoils”.  Churchill asks: “How do we delineate the borders?.  . . Who knows best about the tribes? . . .Who knows best about the Bedouin tribes?”

The officers reluctantly agree among themselves, “That woman”.

https://wallwritings.files.wordpress.com/2017/10/bell.jpeg?w=114&h=150“That woman” is Gertrude Bell, a British archaeologist, writer, traveler, and diplomat, who worked in a time of intense Western colonialism. 

This motion picture rescues Bell from oblivion.

The film ‘Queen of the Desert’, is based on the real-life story of Gertrude Bell  (1868-1926). Nicole Kidman acts the part of a, a humanitarian among those human colonialist scorpions who were roaming the deserts in search of prey and profit.

The difference between Bell and Lawrence? Bell was a woman and a natural diplomat, while Lawrence was an adventurer, romantic author -‘Seven Pillars of Wisdom’  and made famous by  David Lean’s film, ‘Lawrence of Arabia’.

Lean’s film made  Lawrence famous while ‘Queen of the Desert’ has been put on the backburner by the Film Industry. Diplomacy, Arab history and colonial exploitation of indigenous populations has little appeal. Gertrude Bell actually cared about the people of the Levant. Her books – and books about her – underscore this.

Gertrude Bell was there when the modern Middle East was formed. Because of her personal and caring knowledge of tribes and their leaders, she was used by the victorious nations after World War I to draw borders and choose leaders who became kings.

But the story of Gertrude Bell violated a narrative written and protected by Zionism as Levant history before 1947 was of little consequence and a period best lef out.

Queen of the Desert was initially screened in 2015 at the prestigious Berlin Film Festival. It was nominated for the festival’s highest award, the Golden Bear. Directed by noted German director Werner Herzog and beautifully photographed on locations in Jordan and Morocco, the film was a natural for American “art house” screenings.

With Nicole Kidman, as the film’s star and a script by Herzog, which examined the role Gertrude Bell played in modern history, yet the film was not distributed in the US. The Desert Queen covers history in the World War I era when Israel did not exist then.. Yet a Nicole Kidman film of that era was shelved for two years.                                                                                   ..

When Queen of the Desert had its limited run earlier this year when it finally surfaced. There was still money to be made so the film now has DVD exposure and is on Netflix and sites like Amazon, began renting or selling copies.

This sensitive film which examines the life of one of the most significant women of the 20th century, lies deep into the archives of film history, a journey noticed by only a few.

https://wallwritings.files.wordpress.com/2017/10/screen-shot-2017-04-14-at-12-54-07.png?w=640&h=356The picture above of Gertrude Bell between Winston Churchill (left) and T.E. Lawrence, was taken in Cairo, Egypt, in the early 1920s.

It is an unfortunate fact of history that this photograph is viewed as one of a future  British Prime Minister, the real “Lawrence of Arabia”, and “that woman”.

One Final Perilous Journey For Gertrude Bell

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Heroism, Elan …

Posted on May 27, 2018. Filed under: Regimental |

Maj Gen K.M. Bhimaya (Retd), Ph.D, writes ……

Some of us must have read an account of how a potential terrorist was disarmed in a Paris-bound train from Amsterdam by two Frenchmen, a Briton, and three Americans.

I recall a Senior Command discussion on this subject which was led by the Late Gen Vas, the then-Commandant, College of Combat. After detailed discussion, the consensus was that, while courageous leaders would still meet unforeseen dangers with vigor and élan, it would be difficult to train for such situations.

One explanatory factor, arguably, was the uniqueness of each situation, incapable of being replicated and incorporated in peacetime training, particularly in simulation. Another identified antidote to panic was contrived, or spontaneous humor.

Field Marshal Slim recapitulated a humbling incident he witnessed during the disorganized retreat from Burma in 1941-42 (Defeat into Victory). When he was rambling aimlessly, he came across his old JCO (then-Sub Maj) from one of the Gurkha (most probably the 7th) Battalions.

The portly Sub Maj paid the usual compliments and gleefully remarked “It is interesting to observe the commander who does not seem to know what is doing.” The Field Marshal admitted that it was a wake-up call for him to get a handle on what was going on. More important, he remarked that it was a humbling experience, too.

The reference to humor brought back memories of an apocryphal anecdote that had gained currency in the corridors of South Block, immediately after our victory in the Indo-Paik conflict of 1971. The main actors were “Sam Bahadur”, the late Lt Gen I.S. Gill, the-then DMO, and the late Lt Gen Harprasad, the then-VCOAS.

Unbeknown to these main actors, was an ops room Captain, nervous but attentive, and within the hearing distance of these luminaries’ deliberations. What he heard may serve as an object lesson on how to scale down the panic level in a crisis situation.

The inimitable Sam Bahadur stormed into the ops room and started his customary harangue which soon turned into a tirade. Politically, the sailing wasn’t smooth for India in the security council. The setbacks in the Akhnur sector did not augur well for the intended, speedy and decisive conclusion of the conflict.

After berating the DMO, Sam Bahadur asked him pointedly, “What should we do now?” Pat came the calm response from the DMO: “Sam, I don’t know what you’re going to do, but I’m going to the loo.”

The deafening silence that followed was broken by Sam Bahadur who responded, “That’s a damn good idea. I’m following you to the loo.”

It is believed that, when the trio returned from the same place, they had regained their composure, and had a very good, productive discussion!

This anecdote, if true, underlines the importance of humor in alleviating stress in a crisis situation. The humor may not have won the war for us, but it definitely brought about a transformation of a stressful situation for the better.

Lindberg addresses a seldom- discussed facet of courage. To wit, how in a potentially violent situation, these passengers sprang to action intuitively, while others were too numb and terrified to react.

We, the Riflemen, have had similar encounters, vicarious, as well as primary, in our respective tours of duty. Of course, these might have differed from each other in contexts and levels of danger. I invite all to a discussion on a theme that cannot be wished away, and that will challenge all of us at the present time, and in the future.

I hope I have set the tone for a purposeful discussion that might throw up some novel and original ideas.

I have only one request. Please pitch your ideas politely. Please be gentle, even if you cannot be genteel.

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The Unseen ‘Olive Green’ in the Indian Flag …

Posted on May 26, 2018. Filed under: Regimental |

The fourth color in our flag is Olive Green. – Major Gaurav Arya (Veteran) – 17th Battalion, The Kumaon Regiment

It was the summer of 1994 and my Unit, 17 Kumaon was stationed in Suratgarh, Rajasthan. Just as summer was peaking, the local transformer went out one fine night, with a bang.

Fourteen days of hell followed, before they managed to restore the transformer. I remember that in those fourteen days, we would often go to the Officers Mess of 10 Sikh Light Infantry. They had a generator and were fantastic hosts. Other youngsters of my Unit were obsessed with football.

They would watch the game with the concentration of a sniper stalking his prey. I, on the other hand, had no interest in football. I still don’t. For me, a sport was all about riding horses and showjumping. When I was commissioned into the infantry, I understood that from now onwards, I was the horse.

Well, I digress.

On one such sojourn to the 10 Sikh Li mess, I ventured a little further and heard the children of an officer speaking in fluent Punjabi. In the army no one thinks twice about these things and they don’t matter. But outside, it can create a controversy. Well, the officer was a Malyalee. And his children were speaking Punjabi inside the unit Gurudwara. They had come for the langar, as all kids do. Spiritual enlightenment was still decades away, if at all.

We had adventures in the blazing deserts of Rajasthan. Mahajan Field Firing Range, a few hours from Bikaner, was our happy hunting grounds. Field exercises were no fun but when the sun went down, the desert would come alive. Snakes and scorpions found their way into our boots. Yes, we had adventures. Staring at Fort Abbas in Pakistan was how evenings were spent. There were no TV sets there.

Shortly, the Unit moved to Gurdaspur. Punjab, glorious Punjab, with its green fields and hospitality was a stark contrast to the large nothingness of Mahajan. Soon, we settled down.

New to the station, 17 Kumaon was itching to celebrate but the one major Kumaoni festival, Dussehra, was still months away. My Paltan is a pure Kumaoni battalion with 100% Hindu troops from the Kumaon region. Officers, as is true for the entire army, are from all over India. Had it been Dussehra, 17 Kumaon would have been decked up like a bride. There would have been “kaal ratri” on the eve of the big day, a “Mandir Parade” on the following morning, followed by the ritual sacrifice, and then the “shastra pooja”.

The famous Kumaoni “choliya dance” would have followed. Finally before we all went home, we would have the feast…the massive “bara khana” with the mustard-spiked Kumaoni “raita” as the centerpiece. One spoon of that raita would have your scalp tingling like you had a thousand ants crawling on your skull.

But as I said, Dussehra was still months away.

So, Colonel Lincoln Lewis Andrews, YSM (Yudh Sewa Medal), Commanding Officer of 17 Kumaon decreed that we would celebrate Janmashtami with equal fervor. We would show the Brigade HQs what 17 Kumaon was…our spirit, our traditions and our hospitality.

Officers were invited from the Brigade. The Brigade Commander was tied up elsewhere and sent his regrets, but never mind…everyone present would know that the “bhullas” were second to none. “Bhulla” means younger brother in Kumaoni and that is how troops are addressed in my Unit.

The Unit Mandir was spruced up and on the big day, we assembled at 2330 hrs (11:30 pm) at the Mandir. Col Andrews led the Mandir parade, and with the “arti thali” being passed around, the Mandir was soon reverberating with bhajans.

Col Andrews was a boxer, and he sang like one. I was sitting right behind him and had to bear the brunt of his musical talent. But he was the CO and I was then a young Lieutenant. I kept my peace. Another reason I kept my peace was that Capt. RK Anuj, Adjutant of 17 Kumaon, was sitting next to me. He was also my senior subaltern. I had very valid reasons not to air my precious opinion.

17 Kumaon was caught up in the fervor of Janmashtami, and was led from the front by its CO. Whenever the bhajan reached a crescendo, Col Andrews would repeat the lines “Brij mein aayo mere Nand Lala” along with everyone. Suddenly, at 2359 hrs, one minute to midnight, everyone stopped singing.

The Unit Panditji gave a sharp command, “Mandir Parade saavdhan baith”. 17 Kumaon turned into a thousand statues.

Turning to the CO, he saluted and said, “Ram Ram Sahab. Sri Krishna ke janam ki anumati chahta hoon, Shrimaan”. Pandit Ji was asking permission from the CO to allow the birth of Lord Krishna. No one batted an eyelid. This was the Indian Army, after all. Traditions were everything. Izzat. Wafadari. Dastoor.

“Ram Ram, Pandit Ji. Anumati hai”, said the good Colonel, beaming.

A silent signal was given. Far away, half a kilo of plastic explosive went off. The cradle of Lord Krishna was slowly lowered from the ceiling. The hall exploded with bhajans.

It was at 0003 hrs, three minutes past midnight that the Mandir phone rang loudly. The CO was asked to come on the phone. Well, the Brigade Commander basically said that he was back. He had heard so much about the Kumaoni Janmashtami. Would it be possible for him to attend the celebrations?

Col Andrews was a war hero, with a Yudh Sewa Medal in Operation Pawan, Sri Lanka. The LTTE had feared him. But the Brigade Commander’s visit was a bit too much. But what could he do? Lord Krishna had “already been born”.

“You are welcome, Sir”, said Col LL Andrews, his throat obviously dry. There was nothing else to say.

A few minutes later, the Unit Panditji again said, “Mandir parade saavdhan baith”. Marching up to the Brigade Commander, he saluted and smartly said again, “Ram, Ram Sahab. Sri Krishna ke janam ki anumati chahta hoon, Shrimaan”.

This time it was the Brigade Commander who gave permission for the birth of Lord Krishna. The same distant explosion. The same cradle lowered gently.

There was much bonhomie and the “suji ka halwa” prasad was consumed in vast quantities. 17 Kumaon sang bhajans to its heart’s content. Subedar Gopal Singh Soin, the soul of our Mandir functions, raised his right fist and shouted “Kalika Mata ki Jai”. A thousand throats roared the Kumaoni battle cry.

Col. Andrews folded his hands, closed his eyes and whispered “Jai Ram Sarv Shaktiman”. The Mandir Parade was over.

As we stepped outside the Mandir and wore our shoes, I could see Col Andrews chatting with the Brigade Commander. He was beaming with pride.

It was on that day that I learned a valuable lesson. If you are an officer in the Indian Army, the religion you were born into is secondary. The religion of the troops you command is your religion. You live and pray with your men. And when the time comes, you die with them.

When a Hindu officer of the Grenadiers Regiment refuses a cold glass of lemonade on a hot day, because he is fasting for Ramzan, you know you are in the Indian Army. And when all the other officers from different regiments keep down their lemonade glasses in a show of solidarity, it sets you thinking. Who are these men? What are they made of?

I recently tweeted pictures of an Iftar function organized by the army in Kashmir. Trolls reacted the way they mostly do. The Indian Army was accused of minority appeasement, pandering to Muslims, feeding traitors and becoming “sickular”. I was almost made to feel as if the Indian Army was standing for local elections and Muslim votes were critical for electoral victory.

I mostly don’t react to trolls when they fire at me. But this was different. If you don’t speak about the Indian Army with the utmost respect, expect a response from me. No attack will go unanswered.

Much as many people may hate it, the truth is that the Indian Army is both secular and liberal. Yes, the same army that has killed thousands of terrorists, defeated and dismembered Pakistan, stared down China and continues to sacrifice lives everyday in the line of duty. Fret as you may, this is carved in stone and defended by 1.2 million men and women with automatic weapons.

It is not going to change.

Now, about the Iftar in Kashmir. Every Kashmiri Muslim is not a terrorist or a stone pelter. I go to Kashmir frequently. I do claim to have a little sense of what is going on there. There are many who oppose us. There are many who stand with us. And those who stand with us put their lives in peril to do so. They must be defended, whatever the cost. More importantly, they must be respected.

I am all for throwing stone pelters in jail. I am against ceasefire. I would love to see the Hurriyat leadership in prison till the day the sun rises from the North. I celebrate the killing of every terrorist. I am the strongest possible votary for vertical escalation on the Line of Control.

But the fact remains that Kashmir is a war on terror, not a war on the people. Our morality often exacts a price. So be it. We don’t worship Lord Rama because he was a powerful king. He is God because he is “Maryada Purushottam”. He is the most ideal of men. On the first page of the 2018 Indian Army coffee table book, there is full-page painting of Lord Rama. His morality is our compass. This is “dharma”. This is duty.

The Indian Army is not just a powerful army. It is also a moral army.

Politicians and the media have mangled secularism and liberalism beyond belief. Many Indians believe these ideologies to be architects of India’s impending doom. Nothing is further from the truth. Secularism is simply the separation of religion and the state. Liberalism is simply the ability to accept opinions and behavior different from ours. That’s all. In my book, there is no other definition. Our books, should we choose to look carefully, are exactly the same.

The Indian Army is all about what we value most in our life – honour, brotherhood, integrity, loyalty, faith, courage and morality. It is the defender of all that is right. The truth cannot always be defended with a pen, a banner and a candlelight march. Sometimes, it needs a soldier with a gun.

Ask anyone and they will tell you that our national flag has three colors. But it actually has a fourth color, invisible to the eye…look from the deepest recesses of our collective morality and there it is.

 

 

 

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For the Soldier …

Posted on May 26, 2018. Filed under: Regimental, Uncategorized |

Unless You are a Soldier …… by Clive Sanders

Unless you have been a Soldier

You just never will understand

stuff Soldiers have seen and done

In the Service of their beloved Land.

They trained to fight in fearful combat

And cope with awful sounds n sights

that should not be seen by anyone

because they keep you awake nights.

Soldiers never discuss the wounds

On their bodies or in their minds

They just put all their pain behind

And make their memories blind.

Proudly they served their Country

And remember the comrades lost.

For the Freedom you enjoy today,

The lost paid the awesome cost.

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Trump, Xi, N Korea …

Posted on May 23, 2018. Filed under: Uncategorized |

President Donald Trump called his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping a master ‘poker player’, indicating that Beijing may have influenced the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s attitude in talks with the United States of America, reported Newsweek. 

Trump, while speaking to media persons in a joint press conference in the Oval Office with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, stated that Kim Jong-un had become inflexible to negotiate with US after he visited China earlier in May this year.

During the press briefing, Trump was quoted as saying,

“I think there was a change in attitude from Kim Jong Un after his meeting with Xi. There was a difference after Kim Jong Un left China the second time. President Xi is a world class poker player. Maybe nothing happened, I’m not blaming anybody. But there was a different attitude from the North Korean folks after that second meeting.”

In the meantime, US continues to prepare for the summit between Trump and Kim Jong-un, the White House has said, amidst uncertainty swirling around the meeting. North Korea, however, has threatened to cancel the meeting over a joint US-South Korea military exercise. The US has said it was going ahead with the preparation.

“We continue to prepare for the summit, and if they want to meet, we will certainly be ready,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters at her daily news conference yesterday. “President Trump rightly stated that if North Korea agrees to denuclearise, that it can be a bright future for them. But we remain clear-eyed in these negotiations, but we continue to prepare, and we’ll see what happens,” she said.

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Love Story – Viet Nam War …

Posted on May 22, 2018. Filed under: Mars & Venus, Searching for Success |

“A Family Reunion,” by Repps Hudson –  a freelance writer and adjunct instructor of journalism and international affairs who lives in University City, Mo.
 

One day in March 1975, I was covering a story in the Kansas City Power and Light building for The Kansas City Star. But my mind was far away, in South Vietnam, which I knew from constant news reports was under siege as the North Vietnam Army launched its final assault to topple the South Vietnamese regime.

 

Maps on the evening news showed the northern provinces of South Vietnam turning red as Hanoi’s hardcore troops moved south, rolling through the country that more than 58,000 Americans had died to defend.

 

I had become so depressed from that drumbeat of news that I walked out onto the fire escape 20-some stories above the Kansas City streets and took a long look over the rail before backing away and deciding to seek psychiatric help.

 

My worries were personal: My 25-year-old wife, Le thi Nhung, six months pregnant with our first (and only) child, had left Kansas City in October 1974 to return to her family in Vietnam, north of Saigon in Binh Duong Province.

 

Our marriage was in so much trouble we could not seem to resolve it. The cultural misunderstandings between us were enormous. In great sadness, she had boarded a plane for the West Coast, then on to Saigon, vowing never to return.

 

We hadn’t agreed to divorce, just to live half a world apart. We hadn’t decided what would happen when it was time for her to give birth in June.

 

We had met when I was a 21-year-old second lieutenant with the First Infantry Division at our base camp at Lai Khe, on Highway 13, which ran from Saigon north to the Cambodian border. The climate around Lai Khe was unusually cool, and it was one of the best bases in South Vietnam. It was in an old French rubber plantation and had a Vietnamese village inside the perimeter wire.

 

Nhung was from that village. Her father, a supporter of the South Vietnamese government, had been kidnapped and murdered in the early 1960s by the Vietcong, she believed. She was clearly on the side of the Americans. She  worked in the officers and noncommissioned officers club in our company area. She could speak English and was stunning in her form-fitting ao dai.

 

Far from my home in a farming community near Kansas City, I was taken by her almost instantly. We talked often, whenever my rifle company was back from operations up and down Highway 13, known to us G.I.s as Thunder Road.

 

In September 1968, I rotated back to the States and left Nhung behind. I was assigned to the Sixth Army Reserve Headquarters in Seattle. From there, I wrote her constantly, but she did not reply. She told me later she was afraid of being  hurt. But I was determined. When my two-year active-duty commitment was over, I flew to Saigon so we could marry.

 

While we waited on her passport and visa, I landed a job as an office boy at The Associated Press in downtown Saigon and worked alongside such stars of the bureau as Peter Arnett, Horst Faas, Nick Ut, Dick Pyle, George McArthur and George Esper. This was how I happened to be working for The Star when South Vietnam was about to fall in spring 1975.

 

By the time Nhung was with her family and I out of touch with her (phone calls were impossible, and there was no internet), I was a city desk reporter.

 

I could not keep my mind on my work, since my wife was in a war zone, pregnant with our child. My parents, who lived on our family farm near Norborne, Mo., 75 miles northeast of Kansas City, were likewise frantically worried about Nhung; the future of their unborn grandchild was at risk. What if the Communists took over, sealed the borders and punished anyone, like Nhung, who was sympathetic to the Saigon government?

 

We tried everything to reach her. My mother, eyes constantly on TV reports, would see a young woman from behind and believe that was her daughter-in-law. She cried and prayed so much through late March and early April.

 

Finally, my mother wrote to George Esper, a good-hearted man who helped to send many Vietnamese abroad in the final days because they had worked for Americans and, he believed, were vulnerable.

 

Being farmers, my parents had little money. As a junior reporter, I too had little. Still, somehow my parents managed to send several thousand dollars to Nhung so she could pay the necessary bribes and buy a one-way ticket to the States.

 

I was at the farm Friday evening, April 11 – just 19 days before Saigon fell –  upstairs in my bedroom when the phone rang downstairs. My mother answered it and began crying. I could hear her shouting at me. She was so happy. She yelled upstairs: “She’s back in the United States. She’s coming home.”

 

After Nhung arrived at the farm, The Star sent a reporter and a photographer to write a story about one of the early refugees from the last days of that long war. I remember what Nhung said: “Human life in Vietnam is not worth more than an ant.”

 

Our daughter was born in early June. It was a normal delivery.

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Tribute to a Mother …

Posted on May 21, 2018. Filed under: Great Writing, Personalities |

That ‘Maverick’ Shashi Tharoor – on his Mother –

My mother just bought a new car. It is a gleaming red Nissan Micra, and she proudly drove it to the temple to get it blessed before journeying to the market and bank. Nothing exceptional about any of this—except that she is 82.

I have been pleading with her for years to get a full-time driver, but to no avail. She relishes her independence. A couple of years ago, she finally agreed to hire a driver for her frequent four-hour drives from Kochi to her tharavadu veedu (ancestral home) in Palakkad district.

But for shorter trips, she prefers to be behind the wheel, not in the back seat.

She also stubbornly refuses to hire full-time domestic help. She cooks, cleans and entertains guests. Yes, a maid comes in for an hour a day to scour the dishes and mop the floors, but that’s it. Self-reliance is my mother’s mantra. She doesn’t like depending on others’ help.

My sisters live abroad. My mother lives alone. In recent years, I have begged and pleaded with her to move in with me, but she declines. She comes for a few weeks at a time and gets restless. She likes being in control, enjoys her routine and her neighbours. She regularly phones a wide circle of friends and relatives.

She reads incessantly and borrows books from a circulating book club. She admits she feels lonely, but that has been the case since my father, a larger-than-life dynamo, passed away a quarter of a century ago at 63.

Her antidote to boredom is the internet. She is a tireless emailer and browser of articles, which she forwards widely. Recently, she has discovered WhatsApp and is unremitting when it comes to passing on morning greetings, trending videos, and, occasionally, ‘fake news’.

In her time anything that appeared in print was reliable, and she extends the same credulity to what she reads on the internet. But offline, her scepticism is her shield.

My mother and I have not always had the easiest of relationships. What mother and son do? I know my personal and professional journeys have challenged her. And, as I know too well, she is a direct, no-nonsense woman.

She can be charming if she wants, but generally does not waste time on pleasantries. When others feel the whiplash of her tongue, I shrug apologetically: “Welcome to the club.”

Growing up, I often felt that nothing I did was good enough for my mother. She had the highest expectations of me, which meant she never allowed me the luxury of self-satisfaction. She never congratulated me on my prizes or distinctions; they were expected, nothing more.

The result was that she drove me to excellence. She drove me, too, to debate and quiz competitions, to All India Radio to participate in children’s programmes, and to act in school plays. As the mother of two beautiful daughters, she pressed them to enter the Miss Calcutta contest in 1979. One sister won, the other was first runner-up. My mother expected nothing less.

My mother is multi-talented, but does not stay focused for long. She sings beautifully, but is untrained. A music director who heard her at a party once called her for an audition, but she chose an unwisely high-pitched song and, unused to the studio’s sound system, screeched herself out of a playback career.

She has tried pottery and ceramics. Every visitor to my home is awestruck by a Ganesh she painted on glass in the Thanjavur style, and yet she has given up painting. I dedicated my 2001 novel, Riot, to her: “tireless seeker who taught me to value her divine discontent”.

Still, she can be determined when she has something to prove. After my father passed away, she single-handedly built a house in the Coimbatore suburbs, overcoming innumerable obstacles, and named it for her childhood home. Her point made—that she could do it—she sold it thereafter.

She disapproved of my entering politics, and prays regularly that I quit and return to what she sees as respectability. But, she has queued up to vote for me each time, and when I faced a particularly tough race in 2014, gamely climbed onto my campaign wagon to show her solidarity and support.

She goes on vacations with her septuagenarian friends, pays tribute annually to Sai Baba’s samadhi at Puttaparthi and travels widely solo. She embodies the principle that you are only as old as you allow yourself to feel.

As she confidently soldiers on in her 80s, with two titanium knees, both eyes surgically freed of cataracts, but refusing to surrender to age, I feel an admiration welling up for her that I have rarely been able to express before. I grew up thinking of my mother as critical and temperamental.

But, I failed to see the steel beneath signs of her insecurity, brought on by the ill-health of an improvident husband.. Her strength in coping with such an early bereavement, independence of mind and body, faith in herself and determination to face life on her own are an extraordinary lesson.

I am lucky to have a mother who sets such an amazing example. Happy Mother’s Day, Mummy.

 

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