Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Book Review : The Brave - Param Vir Chakra Stories




Param Vir Chakra (PVC) is the highest gallantry award for officers and other enlisted personnel of all military branches of India for the highest degree of valour in the presence of the enemy. Introduced on 26th January 1950, this award may be given posthumously. Literally, Param Vir Chakra means 'Wheel (or Cross) of the Ultimate Brave'. In Sanskrit, 'Param means Ultimate, 'Vir (Pronounced veer) means Brave and 'Chakra means Wheel.


The current book in question fills, in my humble opinion, a major gap in our literature : a mainstream book on the recipients of the Paramvir Chakra, their deeds, their bravery and their life story. This is a stunning but completely true fact - at least insofar-as my experience in concerned - that we do  not know much beyond the names of a few of these awesome brave men who did the impossible; or rather, who made the impossible possible. This book is about them, about their lives and their deeds. 

Who was Flying Officer Nirmaljit Singh Sekhon? What exactly did he do? Who was Captain Vikram Batra? Just what did he do that was so awesome? Who was Lieutenant Manoj Pandey? What were his precise actions, his exact deeds that led to his PVC? How did he do it? Who was Major Somnath Sharma? Lieutenant Colonel Tarapore? 2nd-Lieutenant Arun Khetrapal? Naik Jadunath Singh? Subedar Joginder Singh? Havaldar Abdul Hamid? Lance Naik Albert Ekka?

Read about how one man led  90 against a 900-strong enemy; and won. Read about how one man defeated 35 enemy soldiers. Read about how a brave soldier, stomach ripped open, kept fighting. Read about how a single unit, without artillery support, armed with Rifles, held off an enemy armed with Machine Guns, Artillery and Mortar. Read about how a young man refused to be evacuated from a burning tank, faced certain death, but did not flinch from his duty. 

Read all this and more, and realise that what these people - not just the PVC winners but also the entire Indian Armed Forces did, and have done in every war, every exchange of fire - was something special, something extraordinary, something superhuman; something that has no logical explanation. There can be no other explanation for some of the absolutely unbelievable stories that leap out of the book; it is simply beyond human comprehension... these weren't / aren't normal; they are special... Men India needed alive;; but Men who, by choice, laid their lives, for our India...

There is only one sad part about it : This compilation, this stupendous effort has come from the wife of a serving Army Officer; a person closely connected with Army Life, and thus naturally exposed to and emotionally connected with these people. This stunning book, which should rightly have been done by someone outside the Armed Forces, has been put together by the family of a Army Officer. Why did it not occur to anyone else to put together this work? Why did we have to wait so long for someone from the Armed Forces for this one-of-a-kind masterpiece? Permissions could have been obtained, approvals sought. Why, indeed? We do respect these soldiers - in fact, all soldiers. That is known. We do have an emotional connect with their sacrifices... and yet, no substantive effort to take their stories to the masses has happened. Why? 

Anyways, be that as it may, the book is a true masterpiece, as it is a stunning piece of research, and the effort shows. The task - that of putting together the stories of the sacrifices in graphic detail from 1948 onwards, deep form the mists of time - talking anyone and everyone who may have known about the true stories. The Author has used army reports, colleagues, Commanding Officers, Juniors - every possible source has been gone into, involving a considerable amount of effort. 

This is not a mere compilation of facts, and a retelling of official reports from the archives; each PVC recipient's story is a vivid recreation of that day, as well as the events leading upto the day of the deed. Each PVC recipient comes alive in front of your eyes, and becomes much more than just a name on a book page, a name from history. The explanation helps you to understand the context of the sacrifice, as well as what it helped achieve; and the background detailing of the hero brings that character reality, and creates a vivid impact. 


You are left with an unreal feeling, and in a state of utter disbelief as you read of the tremendous and superhuman deeds of not just the single Hero, but the entire unit in battle, and feel a deep pride, a deeper gratitude and the deepest possible respect for these men of flesh and blood who put their own lives on the line; men who did what seemed impossible, men who challenged, and overcame the impossible... for what they achieved was impossible! This is a book that every Indian must read, a book that should be required reading in schools...

I cannot express it any better than this in words; read the book to be stunned into speechlessness and total awe of these unbelievable Great Men... Respect, Sir... Respect from a stunned Indian...  

Note : I have sourced this book from Badshah Book Store, Zanjeerwaalaa Chowk, Indore; I did not spot it; it was suggested to me by the said book store owner. Thank you, sir!

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