This book is a compilation of stories penned down by the author at intermittent intervals over forty turbulent years of his service in the Indian Army that began just prior to the Bangladesh War, 1971. The stories recount real-life events, though many times the narratives have either been spiced up or eased down in the interest of readability. The reader may note that it is just a soldier`s account; neither is it a philosopher`s thesis nor does it lays any claim to literary excellence. Indeed, it is just a witness`s narration of certain episodes that he found worth sharing. The book contains twenty one narratives in all, covering themes as diverse as mind boggling experiences, sad episodes, humour in field, adventure, satire and nostalgia. Photographs, where available, and sketches when necessary, are appended alongside some of the story-lines. As the reader may notice, these are products of a young amateur who attempted to compensate his limited skills with boundless enthusiasm.
The stories, `First Blood: East Pakistan` and `The Battle for Jaffna`, are recounts of battle experiences; the first comes from a twenty year old platoon commander`s eyes and the second when he grew up to a middle-age company commander. The pieces, `Olive Green in Dev Bhoomi` and `On the Trail of the Dead: A Journey Through Karakoram` narrate the travails of long range patrolling in the most difficult environments of the Indo-Tibet Border, while the story `War of the Junkyard` recounts the triggering of a sensitive situation in the North-East Frontier by an over-active young officer, to be laughed off later. There are two satires: `Tales and Travails of Study at the NDC` and `The Final Solution`; the first one laughs at the snobbish culture at the National Defence College, New Delhi, a prestigious destination for military and civil service officers, while the latter points to the incredulity of political stance towards Maoist rebellion. In July 2006, the nation stood transfixed as the child `Prince` was dug out from the bottom of a 60 feet deep bore-well. `A Prince in a Bore-well` tells that story. `Back to the Bygone` and `Marhaura` are reconnections with the past after four decades spent in faraway lands that motivate reconciliation with the ways of life.
Even if India history is replete with hoary military traditions, the independent nation`s elite seem to have lost their understanding of the military institution during their two centuries of servitude to foreign rule; thankfully, rural Bharat has maintained their tradition of celebrating its soldierly. The piece, `Understanding Civil-Military Relations` attempts to refresh the State in that understanding without which the nation would find itself in grief. Hopefully, the reading would give to the readers at least a fraction of the joy that it gave to the author while penning it.
Author: Lt Gen Gautam Banerjee