The book takes the reader on a remarkable journey from WW II through the conflicts of 1962, 1965 and 1971 to Operation Vijay (Kargil, 1999), that witnessed daring young officers leading from the front, and at great cost to life and limb vanquishing a well-entrenched enemy who had the tactical advantage of being well dug-in on steep-sloped heights occupied months before the Indian Army reacted
“Pataliputra rests each night in peaceful comfort, O King, secure in the belief that the distant borders of Magadha are inviolate and the interiors are safe and secure, thanks only to the Mauryan Army standing vigil with naked swords and eyes peeled for action, day and night, in weather fair and foul, all eight praharas, quite unmindful of personal discomfort and hardship, all through the year, year after year.” -Kautilya
Dedicating the book to officers and men of the Indian Army “who made the supreme sacrifice in the line of duty”, the author begins with this quote of Kautilya, also known as Chanakya.
Kautilya's statement should be borne in mind by all Indians, particularly those involved in the nation’s security, and more importantly, those in the decision-making process related to all the necessary aspects of keeping the armed forces well equipped for the external threats that India faces.
Vignettes of Valour is a selection of reports filed by the author over about two decades and based on interviews with armed forces veterans, their kin and martyrs’ relatives. The book endeavors to portray some known and not so known incidents and matters out of many hundreds of such instances which are part and parcel of India’s military history. These are indeed interwoven with the nation’s history, but ironically, are still not taught in schools.
Teaching history is important, as lessons can be derived from it for the future and it also helps in the development of national pride. Therefore, such books of true war stories are most welcome as they form the mosaic to compensate for the country’s untaught history.
The slim hardback published by Writers Workshop comes with a beautifully handbound handloom cotton cover designed by Talamiah Mohiuddin, with gold lettering calligraphed by P. Lal’s Shaeffer’s calligraphy pen.
The compendium of fascinating and inspiring stories is the result of the author's labor of love and regard for the armed forces in many battlefields since World War II (WW II, 1939-45).
The author, a media person, is described as one who has always been attracted to the coverage of extreme human experiences. His passion for the Army was kindled during his student days in Pune, where his school was situated within the expansive cantonment. Over the years, he found the honesty, simplicity, forthrightness, dedication to duty and sense of sacrifice of military officers most inspiring. In 1999, while he was a young journalist in New Delhi, the Kargil conflict left a lasting impression on the author's psyche.
The book takes the reader on a remarkable journey from WW II through the conflicts of 1962, 1965 and 1971 to Operation Vijay (Kargil, 1999), that witnessed daring young officers leading from the front, and at great cost to life and limb vanquishing a well-entrenched enemy who had the tactical advantage of being well dug-in on steep-sloped heights occupied months before the Indian Army reacted.
Also well brought out is the sentiment that there cannot be any sacrifice more profound and poignant than martyrdom and no sorrow more painful and persistent than losing a doting father, a caring brother, a sensitive husband, or a loving son to an enemy bullet.
The second chapter Indian Samurai related by Air Vice Marshal Surendra Nath Goel covers three incidents. The first is about Goel himself, who on his own initiative, with his personal camera captured scenes of Aksai Chin then recently encroached by the Chinese while flying over Tibet in a Dakota aircraft and thereby providing proof to the government.
The second relates to the 1965 Indo-Pak war in which the Pakistan Air Force dropped 84 bombs over the Jodhpur airbase, but not a single one damaged any aircraft or runaway. The third incident is about some Indian Air Force pilots, who, in 1965, after their aircraft got hit, managed to steer them into buildings in enemy territory.
The other chapters are A Captain Remembers, A Befitting Reply, Higher than Everest, Lionheart, Disquiet on the Western Front, AWarrior's Memoir, Assault on Hamewala, Sniper, The Snows of Siachen, An Extraordinary Battle, Urban Apocalypse, Son, Doctor, Officer, Martyr, AnotherLeonidas, From Point 4875 to Eternity, Letter from Kargil, Bajrang Post, The Guns of Khalubar, Officer and Gentleman, Point-blank, Spy Games, The Price of Liberty, Iron Fist in Velvet Glove and Service before Self.
While this book is of great interest to the forces, readers of all age groups can derive enjoyment from it.
(Vignettes of Valour; Author Abhijit C. Chandra; Publishers Writers Workshop; Pages 79; Price Rs 300)
(The reviewer is a former spokesperson of the Indian Army and Ministry of Defence. He can be contacted at email@example.com)