The Heroes Who Never Came Home…And We Never Heard Of!

25th April is celebrated as ANZAC Day. Some of you may wonder why is a blog about ANZAC Day & Indian soldiers coming up now. Well…all I can say is “Lest We Forget”.

Shirley Jacob and I connected virtually and we found a lot of things in common, including being “fauji kids”. I think that is what cemented our relationship. Shirley lives in Sydney, Australia, and in one of my conversations with her, I requested her to share her thoughts about ANZAC Day, the parades & celebrations, and how Indian Ex-Service Men participate in the same. She happily agreed and wrote a wonderful piece that I am sharing below. Thank you so much, Shirley!

ANZAC Day and the Indian connection

Whilst World War I led Europe’s youth to their early grave, dousing out the flame of a generation of talented artists, writers, sportsmen, and others whose talent bled into the trenches. It also involved soldiers from faraway lands that had little to do with Europe’s bitter traditional hatreds.

On 25th April 1915, the ANZAC legend was born. On the morning of this day, Australian GGfathertroops landed at Gallipoli to force Germany’s ally, Turkey, out of the war. Their plan to capture Constantinople quickly became a Herculean task, as they landed in the wrong position and faced baptism by fire. The order from the British general, Sir Ian Hamilton echoed across the battlefield and Australian shores, “There is nothing for it but to dig yourselves right in and stick it out”. The plan had failed, and months of further fighting resulted in no military victories and little reward. However, from this hardship, the ANZAC spirit was conceived. An ethos built on endurance, courage, mateship and one which irrevocably characterizes Australia’s nationhood today.

Over a hundred years later, the parades, services, and rituals of Anzac Day have survived and grown despite the vestige of survivors remaining. Many stories are also now emerging of the sacrifices Indians made during World War I and II.  At the time, India provided the largest volunteer army in history with approximately 1.2 million Indians volunteering to fight for British forces. Although over 70 000 Indian soldiers ultimately sacrificed their lives during the war, tales of their altruism, courage, and rigour have often been relegated to the footnotes in the Commonwealth’s commemorative diary. Many Australians are still unaware that 15 000 Indians fought alongside the ANZACs at Gallipoli and almost 1400 Indians died there. The Indian voice has remained quiet for years as many of these soldiers were semi or non-literate and did not bequeath the treasure trove of memorabilia such as poems and diary entries, which formed the cornerstone of European war memory.

Recently, the British Library released 1000 pages recounting the first-hand accounts of Indian veterans from the war, painting a picture of racial segregation, valour, and the awakening hunger for civil rights which fueled India’s impetus for independence from British rule. Despite this, the Indian war experience continues to remain a history of fragments as traces of evidence are truncated, censored, or scattered across the globe. There is no sole or panoptic Indian war experience – rather, it must be modulated to the idiosyncrasies of caste, region, theatre of battle, etc.

Being an Army brat, I understood how millions of families in India were irretrievably affected by the war and yearned closure for their loved ones. I sought to discover how I could help unify the missing fragments and illuminate the war experiences of Indian soldiers, even if it were for only one person. That is why, when a friend of mine who is a sixth-generation Armed forces personnel mentioned to me his desire of finding the grave of his Great Grandfather who had fought in WWl, I jumped at the task. After scouring through satellite images, old archives, and memoirs for 6 months, I eventually found the memorial site of his Grandfather and enabled my friend to remember and continue his forefather’s legacy.

Having been enjoined to remember this war, we sometimes struggle to know how to respond. This is because we cannot remember something we never personally experienced. If we visit Gallipoli, our eyes are often drawn to the immaculate cemeteries and war memories, not the battlefields. Perhaps, that is the reason why my heart swells with pride and vitality when I see the Indian ex-servicemen marching as part of the Sydney ANZAC day commemorative events. It is an enduring image of the ANZAC spirit, an acknowledgment of India’s comradeship, and unwavering assurance that India’s war efforts will not be forgotten.

Lest we forget.

THE ROAD LESS TRAVELLED…EMOTIONAL & MENTAL SUPPORT DURING COVID-19

“Everything can be taken from man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude under any given set of circumstances.” Viktor Frankl

I am reminded of this quote every time I hear a TV anchor announce one more person tested COVID 19 positive. There is an increasing feeling of dread and disaster when someone is infected. What I hear is anger about the person infected.

I would like to state upfront that I am not condoning the actions of people who have not followed precautions or directives by the government or healthcare professionals. They deserve to be treated accordingly. However, there are many who had no idea they were infected and discovered they were carrying the virus only when they tested. We have all read numerous accounts on social media about how people have contracted the virus. It was not a deliberate attempt for them. They were in the wrong place at the wrong time – just sheer bad luck.

Having said that, how do we treat people who have tested positive in our own family, friends circle or neighbourhood? Yes, physical isolation is a must, to keep everyone else safe. Is emotional isolation warranted? Do we have the right to treat affected person/family like pariahs at an emotional level?

No. We do not have the right. Remember, it could have happened to any of us.

A National Crisis

COVID 19 is a national crisis, a global crisis. It is a war that humanity is waging against a virus. I am not getting into where it came from, which country is responsible for spreading it, how & why. I am looking at our collective ability to help people deal with this trauma when they discover they are infected.

A crisis can occur on a physical or psychological level. The physical aspects of a crisis tend to be obvious, particularly if they involve human injury or death. The psychological aspects of a crisis tend to be significant and more widespread. However, the psychological aspects of a crisis are hard to identify and often overlooked.

A crisis is defined by three factors: negative events, feelings of hopelessness, and events beyond normal control. Crises are perceived as being negative events that generate physical emotion and/or pain. People who experience a crisis, experience feelings of helplessness, powerlessness, and entrapment. Those who have lived through a crisis also feel as if they have lost control over their lives. Crisis events tend to occur suddenly and without warning. The lack of time to adjust or adapt to crisis generated problems is what makes the event so traumatic.

COVID 19 presented us with such a crisis. The containment process itself is stringent and a strict one with two important factors:

  • Social distancing
  • Lockdown

Human beings are not used to both factors. It has been tough to understand and accept for so many people. Especially in a society like ours, where we tend to feel, “This won’t happen to me.” It can, it may – happen to me, happen to you. If it does, I know what I want from people around me.

 Emotional Support

 The corona crisis has slowed us down enough to make us think about what we want Rythmfrom ourselves, how much are we willing to give and our own expectations.

There are provisions being made for physical & medical support for a COVID 19 patient. I can get admitted to a hospital and treated. However, the single most important expectation, besides good medical care, is emotional & mental care. I would want emotional support from my family and friends. I would want help to deal with the trauma of going through an illness like this. I would not want to be ostracized emotionally or mentally.

Sadly, in India, we do not have the framework or infrastructure to deliver that emotional support. From what I hear, the doctors and nurses are doing a fabulous job of counselling their patients. I know professional counsellors are willing to help. My counsellor friends have told me to refer anyone seeking help in these times and they will gladly handhold. The keyword, however, is to seek. Believe you me, these are times when we need that help. We need that ‘someone’ who will counsel and guide us to get out of trying situations. There is no shame or stigma attached to it.

A crisis like this affects us at different levels – medical, physical, economic & social. Underlying all these is the psychological impact. The impact can be felt in any of the following:

  • A positively diagnosed person.
  • A person undergoing financial problems due to the lockdown
  • People working from home (a lot of people have broken homes and may not know how to deal with the situation)
  • The so-called stigma of being a corona patient or a member of the patient’s family

These are but a few circumstances.

How Can We Help?

  • We can start by not being judgmental about people we know who are tested positive. I am sure they did not go around wanting to be infected.
  • Let us show them kindness & empathy, besides giving them the physical help of providing food, shopping for them or getting their medicines.
  • Please do not isolate them emotionally. A quick telephonic chat, a message or a video call will assure them that you are around.
  • Positive reinforcement goes a long way and helps people become optimistic.
  • Patients & their family members can be sensitive to and less capable of coping with the irrelevant humour floating around as forwards. We can be empathetic to that. Do not brush it off as ‘soft’ behaviour.
  • Those of you who can collaborate through your organisations to help small business owners generate revenue for themselves, please explore such opportunities.

In times such as these, vulnerability is not a weakness. When we encounter an unexpected challenge of threat, the only way to save ourselves is to hold on tight to people around us and not let go. Life does not make sense without interdependence. We need each other and the sooner we realise that the better for us all.

After all, Paul Romer said, “A crisis should not go waste.” Let us use this to become more compassionate, helpful & non-judgmental human beings.

“I didn’t want to take forever to retire”…goodbye to the world’s favourite “Gambler”

The trademark silver beard and husky, gravelly voice are gone forever. Kenneth Ray Rogers, known the world over as Kenny Rogers has left a void for all music lovers.

Like most in my generation, who grew on a staple music diet of pop, country, ballad, jazz & soft rock, Kenny Rogers was that cross over artist who did country, pop & ballad in Kenny-Rogerssuch an effortless manner. A Houston boy, Kenny was the fourth of eight children in the Rogers household and took an interest in singing while quite young and as a teenager joined a doo-wop recording group who called themselves “The Scholars”. At age 19, Kenny recorded “That Crazy Feeling” for a small Houston label, Carlton Records, and, he played bass with the jazz groups of Bobby Doyle and Kirby Stone.

His music career began to take shape. His early professional years were stylistically eclectic. After moving to Los Angeles in 1966, he joined the folk-pop unit the New Christy Minstrels and then splintered off with others in the group to form “The First Edition”. Their first big soft-rock hit, “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town” hit #6 on the US charts, (Mel Tillis’ downbeat song about the faithless wife of a handicapped Vietnam vet), while later successes included “Something’s Burning”, “Just Dropped In”, “Tell It All Brother” and “Reuben James”. The husky-framed singer’s ingratiating personality and sensual gravel tones soon took center stage and the group eventually renamed themselves “Kenny Rogers and the First Edition”.

The band’s fortunes began to wane in the early ’70s, and Rogers signed a solo deal with UA in 1976. He struck pay dirt immediately with “Lucille,” an absorbing vignette about a barroom encounter with a disillusioned woman and her estranged husband. The number became Rogers’ first No. 1 country hit and reached No. 5 on the national pop chart. It also scored Rogers his first Grammy, for best male country vocal performance. Incidentally, his mother’s name was Lucille, though the song was no reflection of her life.

122110-kenny-rogersBy the end of the ’70s, he notched five more No. 1 solo country singles. The two most famous ones were The Gambler & The Coward of The County. Each inspired a popular TV movie; Rogers would portray Brady Hawkes, the protagonist of “The Gambler,” in a series of telepics that ran through 1994. At the dawn of the ‘80s, as outlaws and urban cowboys staked their turf on either side of the country and pop fence, Kenny Rogers bridged the divide and focussed on romantic balladry. “Lady” and “Islands in the Stream” (the latter one of many duets with frequent singing partner Dolly Parton) consolidated his standing as country’s biggest crossover attraction. With Sheena Easton, he sang Bob Seger’s “We’ve Got Tonight” and it went on to become No. 6 on the pop chart & ruled the country charts. Kenny Rogers had 23 top 10 country hits during the decade, five of which crossed to the pop side.

AS the younger generation of country musicians flexing a less countrypolitan style supplanted him, Kenny made his last toplining appearance in a pair of telepics as reformed gambler Jack MacShayne in 1994. In 1999, he notched a final No. 1 country hit, “Buy Me a Rose,” with Billy Dean and Alison Krauss.

From the mid-’90s, he maintained an active touring schedule, till his health failed him in 2015. Kenny Rogers was a multi-faceted personality and increasingly turned his attention to various entrepreneurial enterprises, opening a chain of fast-food chicken outlets, Kenny Rogers Roasters, and a Sprint car manufacturing firm, Gamblers Chassis.

Here are some Kenny Rogers trivia that will interest his fans:

  • He was a well-respected photographer & was invited to the White House to create a portrait of First Lady Hillary Clinton for the 1993 CBS-TV special, A Day in the Life of Country Music (1993).
  • Named “Favorite Singer of All Time” in a 1986 “PM Magazine/USA Today” poll.
  • Voted “Favorite Male Vocalist” in 1989 by “People” magazine readers.
  • In March 1999 was awarded the Recording Industry Association of America’s prestigious Diamond Award, celebrating sales of more than 10 million albums for his “Greatest Hits” album.
  • His high school vocal group’s original song “That Crazy Feeling” landed them a spot on television’s American Bandstand (1952).
  • Co-host, with Lorianne Crook, of an infomercial for TimeLife’s “Superstars of Country” collection of country music [2005].
  • His duet “Islands in the Stream”, with fellow country singer Dolly Parton was ranked the #1 on CMT 100 greatest country duets of all time.
  • Sang “Lady” with Lionel Richie playing the piano.
  • He was awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Recording at 6666 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California.
  • On Oct. 27, 2013, he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Kenny Rogers always said, “Don’t be afraid to give up the good to go for the great”, which is exactly what he has done now. You will be missed by generations. Rest in peace my favourite Gambler.

A Friend For Life – Bonding With the Son In Law

Dear Akash & Vasu,

I wondered what to write as my first blog for 2020. Thank you both for being my inspiration!

In the stereotypical world that we live in, many articles & write-ups can be found about the mother in law/daughter-in-law relationship. The son in law somehow never gets written about.

You both became part of the family even before your respective weddings took place. I do not mean this superficially. Your attitude and the way you simply blended in with all of us endeared you right away. From attending golden jubilee anniversaries to birthdays to poojas at home, you both went with the flow. Not just that, you rolled up your sleeves and worked side by side with all of us. This is in stark contrast to how some other sons in law behave – remain aloof towards their in-laws’ side of the family.

As a spouse, your ability to accept our girls as they are and encourage them to pursue their dreams is phenomenal. I have observed intelligent conversations between you all and it gladdens my heart, not just as a mother, also as a woman. In observing you, I have found you to be of complete integrity, true character, loyal & honest. I have seen you rationalize situations even when your wives were being a little stubborn about the same. Today, I would like to salute that and praise you unabashedly.

All marriages have to be worked on. It is not easy. It is everyday work. A lot of times, women believe they are the only ones who invest in a relationship and work at it. I am proud to say that you both have done the same in so many different ways. I understand the pressures you may go through, the uncertainty & insecurities that crop up once in a while. You have handled a lot of that with aplomb and I feel happy that we have established a relationship where we can talk about it comfortably.

We have raised daughters who love you wholeheartedly and who understand marriage is total commitment and a covenant that goes beyond broken promises and hearts. It is not be taken lightly and I know, they will stand by you. Yet, some aberrations will happen, mistakes will be made, by both of you. You know the best part, I trust you all to deal with them and handle it to the best of your ability.

You may have understood by now that we women think a little differently. For a wife, if the husband makes an effort to build a relationship with her parents, then she feels cared for and secure. Our girls are no different and you have made them feel secure & cared for. Thank you for doing that.

There is a saying – a man who treats his woman like a princess is proof that he has been born and raised in arms of a queen. I have often told both your mothers, that we are blessed to have you both as sons in law and a part of our family. As a mother, I would like to thank Archana & Rama for the value system they have given you. And today I can happily say…

son-in-law-quotes

Thank you dear Akash & Vasu for being who you are and how you are. Stay happy & stay blessed!

Love & hugs

Uma

A Wedding Is An Event…A Marriage Is A Lifetime! #ShiSaidKash

A month ago, my older daughter Urvashi married Akash. He is not only the man of her dreams, he is also the son in law of my dreams!

fb_img_1557471757445

The friendship that started almost five years ago, went through romance/no romance, should we/should we not and finally they tied the proverbial knot last month. It was a dream come true for both of them and for both sets of parents, once we got to know each other.

Once the engagement was over and we decided on the wedding date, everyone started asking me, “what kind of a wedding will this be?” I smiled and told everyone who asked, “2 states wedding, giving everyone a chance to witness different events as part of the ceremonies itself.”

For any mother, planning & implementing everything single handed can give her sleepless nights. Initially, I went through the same. The biggest question in my head was – Will I be able to manage? From funds to shopping, to catering to decor to managing the groom’s side of the family and our family too. I am not going to say friends and family here, for everyone who was part of the wedding was family for us. Thank God for two

IMG-20190422-WA0012.jpg

daughters who took to planning in a big way and making checklists, drawing up vendor names, talking to various people to get information, making trips to Chickpet, Commercial Street, Jayanagar (for the uninitiated, these are markets in Bangalore) to gather more information. There were times I felt I had two mothers and mothers in law simultaneously at home! On a serious note, without Urvashi’s organised thinking and Urmila’s practical approach to making things happen, I would not have been able to give Urvashi the wedding she wanted. I will take this opportunity to thank both my girls wholeheartedly.

IMG-20190506-WA0007.jpg

For all those planning weddings in their families, here is one input from me – allow the youngsters to be involved. They will come out with flying colours when they know someone trusts them with such a huge responsibility. Very often, the more experienced family members (I am not saying old) tend to get a little impatient with the younger lot and have a classic reaction, “You don’t know about these rituals, preparation etc…we grown ups will handle it.” My point is if the youngsters aren’t given the responsibility, how will they learn? Allow them to make a mistake or two…those can be corrected. After all, the experienced of the senior family members comes in handy…to forewarn the youngsters of the pitfalls.

Month of February started with the basics like – wedding planner or no, how do we co-ordinate with the numerous vendors, what kind of a venue, indoors/outdoors, and the works. The one thing that we decided was to have a wedding planner who will work with us to deliver everything on the two most important days. Urvashi & Urmila asked me to download an app called WedMeGood (www.wedmegood.com). This was Godsend as it helped me to understand what the girls and Akash were looking for during the wedding itself. Ideas were shared, lists drawn up and references sought on the app. And we shortlisted a few wedding planners, caterers and wrote down names of all possible wedding venues in Bangalore.

Venue Hunting

On a Sunday morning, we three musketeers set out to finalise the wedding venue. The girls had already done a recce and had a few names down in the diary. Every venue we visited, including the hotels fell short of what we had in mind about how the entire event will be conducted. And somehow, we were not ready to compromise…yet. At about 3.30 PM, after 7 hotels and a couple of resorts, I opened the WedMeGood app and went through the venue list. Both Urvashi & I hit upon Miraya Greens at the same time. I called a number given and spoke to a Mr Deepak Mishra, who invited me to the take a look at the place immediately. After fixing the time with him, we drove over.

Miraya Greens

All three of us fell in love with Miraya as soon we entered the gates. The greenery was beautiful, the driveway gave us a feel of how luxurious the property was. We met Mr Mishra, Lohith and Raj Kishore. All three of them were so hospitable and put us at ease straight away. Mr Mishra’s words were, “Uma ji, you have come to see Miraya. Take a look leisurely. Lohith will accompany you and show the whole place. We can then discuss everything based on your experience.”

Lohith conducted us around in the most detailed manner and I kept praying that my

IMG-20190508-WA0012.jpg

budget allowed me to host the wedding in this haven. The icing on the cake was when we saw the accommodation. Urvashi, Urmila & I just looked at each other with a silent agreement showing in our eyes. Subsequently, over a cup of tea with Mr Mishra, I discussed the modalities and he said to me something which I will not forget ever in my life, “Uma ji, you are conducting your first daughter’s wedding. If you decide on Miraya, it means that we are the ladakiwalas (from the bride’s side). We will ensure you get all the support from us and Urvashi will have the wedding of her dreams here.” Thank you Deepak ji. That put my mind at ease and we agreed to host the wedding in Miraya.

There are numerous aspects that make a venue hugely successful & popular. Miraya has all those aspects. Wonderful hospitality, beautifully maintained rooms, gardens & lawns, waterfall & swimming pool and the best of all in a city like Bangalore – ample parking space for 800 + vehicles! I would definitely rate them at the top in wedding venues of Bangalore.

Avenues Wedding Hospitality Services

For any event to be successful, you must have a team that will make it possible. Earlier generations had family members who could take time off and come to help and contribute towards wedding preparations. Today, we do not have that luxury. So, in steps

IMG_20190506_193311.jpg

the wedding planner, who becomes part of your family so much that you end up wondering how did I think of surviving without these guys? Nazia & Yassir of Avenues Hospitality Services became those family members for us who understood us from the word go.

How did we discover them? Again WedMeGood came to our rescue. We had met a few wedding planners before but just did not get the vibes with anyone. When we met Nazia & Yassir there was no looking back. Their understanding of what we wanted, their concern about our budget, suggestions and alternate ideas to fit in our budget and just unconditional & empathetic support whenever we raised a concern, all these endeared them to us. Their level of efficiency to handle changes, requests and last minute developments is tremendous & very very professional. Not once did I hear them crib or complain or stop smiling. I am sure they must have gone through enough heart burn in the back end. However, as true family members and thorough professionals, they ensured Urvashi & Akash had the wedding of their dreams! Thank you once again Nazia & Yassir and kudos to your team!

The Creative Kitchen

Oscar Wilde said, “After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relations.” This quote resonates in my head every time I think about Vishal Gupta, our caterer or “anna daata” as we say in India. At Miraya Greens we got the reference of The Creative Kitchen and we met Vishal. In our first meeting, when he understood the two state wedding concept, he made me smile with one statement, “Ma’am, don’t worry. I am a baniya also and we will have two ingredients to add to the food we serve. Tashan & Khaatirdari – style and hospitality”. I knew I could leave food & feeding to his capable hands. Vishal & Shweta, his lovely wife, who is the backbone of The Creative Kitchen, also turned out to be related to the Mittal family. That was the icing on the cake.

IMG_20190506_192326.jpg

Vishal’s efficiency & professionalism came to the fore on the day of the wedding. We had great weather during the day and exactly when Urvashi & Akash exchanged the Jaimala, the heavens opened up and it poured! Never had I experienced rains like that in Bangalore for a long time. We got busy getting things reorganised in the mandap and the staff at Miraya Greens brought out umbrellas to cater to all the guests who were there…that itself was a miracle! Miraya did wonders to get everyone under a roof. Vishal added to that miracle by shifting the entire catering indoors within 15 minutes and some 300 plus people were comfortably floating around continuing their snacks & dinner. Vishal & Shweta, you guys were brilliant in handling everything and not once did I worry about the how, what & when of the food being served. Thank you once again!

The Family

Ever since the wedding, numerous people have been calling and sharing with me how much they enjoyed attending the ceremonies. One common thread in all those conversations is this – “Uma, hats off to your family for taking care of all of us. The way everyone was involved in all the things, young & old looking after us, ever smiling and warm…loved every bit of it.”

For that wonderful family of mine – my parents, brother & sister in law, uncles & aunts, cousins & their spouses, nieces & nephews and the grandchildren too – I am forever grateful for all the support you have given. This big fat Indian wedding would not have been possible without all of you doing what you did – rolling up your sleeves and chipping in. Thank you!

I also want to share with my daughter, Urvashi & son in law, Akash (there is a nice ring to that) while the wedding is an important event, it is your marriage that is an entire lifetime. Everyone who was part of those three days have blessed you both not only on your wedding day; their blessings are for your marriage, which is like salsa dancing.

So, go on, build your rhythm and pace and find your footsteps…twirl away into a life filled with more sunshine, less rain, even lesser storms, flowers and blooms bringing you happiness all the way!

#ShiSaidKash

Manohar Parrikar – Till We Meet Again

I was curious and excited to attend the Make In India – Defence Manufacturing Conclave in Hyderabad in February 2015 for two reasons. One, because it was hosted by the think tank I am part of and two, I was going to get an opportunity to hear India’s Raksha Mantri, Manohar Parrikar.

The conclave proved to be a different one altogether. For the first time, I saw a Defence Minister sit among the audience, attentively listen to all the speakers, make notes and ask questions. I was introduced to him in my capacity as an office bearer of an Ex Service Men (ESM) organisation, Akhil Bharatiya Poorva Sainik Seva Parishad (ABPSSP) and also as an entrepreneur. We exchanged a few pleasantries and I told him that I would like to brief him about our activities for Veterans & their families, from time to time. He said he would be in touch and that was that.

I initially thought that he would restrict his meetings to the President & Secretary of ABPSSP to get regular briefings about ESM welfare and certain critical issues pertaining to OROP, which had become an agitation at Jantar Mantar at that time. Imagine my surprise, when one day I get a call from him, asking me when I would be in Delhi next and could I meet him! It was a jaw drop moment for me.

I made a trip to Delhi from Bangalore to meet him and shared an update about skill building for veterans and their families through ABPSSP. He asked incisive questions about how many actually benefit in terms of employment, self employment, what kind of opportunities are presented by the corporates. I answered his questions with data and he smiled & said, “I like the fact that you are stating numbers.” Thus, began our work towards the welfare of the ESM community. During the course of our association, he once remarked, “I appreciate your never say die spirit and I hope you continue to be Jhansi ki Rani, fighting for causes you believe in so strongly.”

From then on, our meetings became regular and he always had questions & suggestions. He asked me if I travelled to different states to meet the ESM & their families and I said, “Yes Sir, I do. We have adopted a few places, especially villages where our bravehearts come from and we are now focusing on developing them as Adarsh Graam under the Veer Sainik Graam Yojana project of ABPSSP.” He helped us a lot in approaching the local authorities & state governments in Jharkhand, Odisha & Chhattisgarh.

My trips to Delhi became more frequent as my daughter moved back to the capital from UK. I could now ask for frequent meetings which I did for purely selfish reasons – I got to learn so much from Manohar Parrikar. He became this mentor, elder bother and friend all rolled into one and the more I got to know him, the more fascinated I was by his memory, sharp grasp of complexities and result oriented approach that saw many a change in the Ministry of Defence. I discovered the humane side of Mr Parrikar. His quiet visits to families of martyred soldiers, action towards their problems that were stuck in the bureaucratic labyrinth of the Ministry, ensuring quick decisions were implemented & cross verification of the same, his simple approach when he interacted and easy manner of communication, are all traits that made him differently unique in the world of politics. When he decided to work with you, he did with complete trust. No halfway measures for him.

During one of our conversations, I requested him that he must come home during my stay in Delhi. He said,”Let’s talk when you land in Delhi.” He gave me a second jaw drop moment when one evening, he announced that he is coming over for some simple “ghar ka khana”, chilled beer & masala peanuts. It was an evening to remember with my parents, daughter and a couple of close friends with whom he was also familiar. My daughter told him, “Uncle, I thought as Defence Minister you will have guards surrounding you, black cat commandos will come home and do a thorough check of our place, something like a James Bond movie.” He laughed heartily and said, “I am not James Bond and I am coming to meet a friend and the family. Why would I need security to surround me?” That was Manohar Parrikar for you.

I was extremely hassled when he had to go back to Goa as Chief Minister and felt (countless others also would have felt the same) that we were losing a Defence Minister to gain a Chief Minister. He very patiently explained why it was necessary for him to go back to Goa. The last meal we had together at his Delhi residence where he asked me if I had read Robert Greene and I said, “I have read one book of his – The 48 Laws of Power.” He gave me a copy of 33 Strategies of War and said, “Read this. You will understand much more about power & politics.”

He was very happy when I wrote to him about getting my book of poems published in August 2017 and called to tell me that he wanted an autographed copy. I told him only if he gives me sometime when I came to Goa. So, when I did make that visit to Goa, he did spend an hour, despite an unimaginably busy schedule. His personal secretary, Upendra Joshi, remarked that “It is amazing how Sir makes time for everything.” That was how Manohar Parrikar built relationships – he gave people time & listened to them. Subsequently, when he read the book, he called again to congratulate me on the poems I had written about soldiers.

Very recently I messaged him about my daughter getting engaged and invited him for the engagement. He declined stating health does not permit him to travel, but, if he got better, he would try to make it for the wedding.

Now, that is not going to happen. The void you have left, Manohar Dada cannot be filled. A deep felt gratitude to the Almighty for having given me the opportunity to get to know you and work with you for a while.

God speed and rest in peace. Till we meet again.


Cancer took my inspiration, guide & friend away, don’t you see?
Time was a ticking bomb thrust decisively.
If cancer had any idea what beauty lay within your soul,
I can promise it would have seen the glow.

Silence began moments ago,
When a voice said its time to let go.

Even though you are gone now,
Your memory will always remain in our hearts.
Your smile and face will never fade.
We will think of you as we go on each day.

The good times we remember
And the days spent together, will be in our memories forever.

When I sat down to watch the TV tonight,
And I started to cry…
I thought of your strength & then your pain
And asked Lord Almighty why?

I’ll just leave it at that and know you’re in a better place.
Your heart is right with God.

So, Manohar Dada we love you & we will miss you so much.
I also know you are at peace today.
So watch over us and make sure we’re okay.
And I will see you again someday.

The Serpent Is Under The Carpet – Lt Gen PG Kamath

*THE DEEP STATE IN THE MOD IS AGAINST MODI* This writing has been on the wall since 16th May 2014. Lt Gen Kamath writes in no uncertain terms about what bureaucracy had reduced the Armed Forces to, it’s implications of the political leaders do not learn how to tackle this.
_*THE SERPENT IS UNDER THE CARPET*_

By

Lt Gen PG Kamath

Since the time the NDA took over in mid-2014, I was wondering as to why the rightist government is framing policies against its own armed forces? The volleys against the armed forces have been unabated. There have been three RMs in four tenures and all of them were being played around by the bureaucrats in the MOD like the play dough in the hands of a pre-school child.

It started with the delay in granting OROP and after it was granted its entire character had changed when the details emerged in the government order. The original OROP was badgered and mutilated. The bureaucracy had played its tricks. Then came the 7th Pay Commission as the services got the rawest deal; the officers’ rations were cut in peace times and were given a pittance of financial compensation lesser than what is paid to the convicts in jail in Delhi and other metropolitan cities. Justice Mathur has mentioned in the pay commission report that he was against the NFU however, as it was already in vogue for the past ten years, he let it continue. However, without batting an eyelid he willingly stopped the rations of the officers that were in vogue for over three decades. To quote from what I had read earlier “Justice Retired Mathur Retired Justice” to the armed forces in his recommendations. The government instead of taking him to tasks readily agreed to cut the services to size. The 7th Commission report was accepted without even resolving the Anomalies of the 5th and 6th Pay Commission.

In each quarter the MOD is bringing out one new issue; one after another; seniority issue with the armed forces cadre, not considering the JCOs as gazetted officers in giving them the ID cards of lower class, opening the Cantonments to public by misguiding the RM that the Vice Presidents were responsible for the cantonments, trying to usurp the post of General Manager of CSD from the services, trying to play around with the well laid out procedure and trying to insert an Addl Secretary for selection of Defence Attaches, undermining Gen Shekatkar report by reducing the armed forces personnel without reducing the civilian cadre in Armed forces who are more than 40 percent of the uniformed personnel, reducing the CSD allocations of the forces and taking over Advance Base Workshops so that they have one more cash cow to milk from. Granting NFU for all the central government servants including the PMF but fighting tooth and nail in the court for not granting the same to the Armed Forces, as if they are from a hostile country. They have also made the AFT ineffective, which is functioning with less than forty percent of its authorised benches. The list is endless. Now you may ask why well-settled issues are being raked and new issues are being raised by the MOD to undermine services and lower their morale? The reason should bewilder the PM and RM as well.

The truth is MOD officials are very circumspect and worried of the inquiries into the previous arms deals such as Westland Helicopters. They are also constrained under the NDA that their erstwhile turf is getting reduced and the size of their illegal pie is getting smaller. How marvellous it was under the UPA when there were scams galore; who really had time to talk of scams in defence purchases? Their leverage and their range of operations to milk from cash cows of DRDO and defence deals are getting more and more dangerous as no minister is really partaking and claiming his share of the spoil. To do it alone is dangerous; is it not? The extradition of Christian Michel and Rajiv Saxena has also opened new threats and the best way to guard against the threats is by making Modi very unpopular with the services. The latter to their dismay has also become an approver. The total strength of the Indian Armed Forces is 1.4 million and 2.1 million reservists. In addition, there are well over 5 million veterans. The total adds up to 8.5 million. Multiply this figure by at least 10, the close family circles and extended family circle influenced by the servicemen and veteran and the figure comes to a whopping 85 million voters. The aim of the MOD is to make this 85 million disgruntled with the Modi regime. If even fifty percent of the voters vote against Modi or give the option of ‘NOTA’, it will make a substantial dent into the number of seats for the NDA. We all know how the ‘NOTA’ has made a difference in the number of seats in the recent state elections. As also, the margin of difference has been in some cases a single figure. Once the UPA comes to power they are all smug doing what they want without any threats. The deep state in the MOD can revert back to its antics.

The RM is busy as a spokesperson of the party than as a defence minister. She really does not realise that the ice below her feet is melting slowly. She has fallen prey to the MOD by opening up the Cantonments to civilian traffic, where she had vested interests and that has cost her the moral clout to give firm directions to the bureaucrats in the MOD. Now that they have ensnared her, they are at liberty to badger the services with hitherto non-existing issues. As on today, there is no General Manager for the CSD. The MOD wants a bureaucrat there as they eye it as a lucrative post to make money. A number of DAs posts are lying vacant as MOD is not approving them as they want to insert one of their Babus in the selection committee for the Military Attaches. There is a well laid out system under the Vice Chief of services operative for the past several decades and the MOD wants to tamper with the system. Even the High Commission of India in the Maldives; the country that is geo-strategically so essential for us to sustain our clout in the Indian Ocean has not been posted with a Naval Attaché (NA). The island nation, which has fallen into our fold, due to divine intervention is without an NA; there we are sending a message of indifference towards the nation. The timing is so essential as their new PM has just visited our country and we are in the process of ousting China from the island archipelago. However, the national interest may go to dogs as far as the ego of MOD Babus prevails; they have won their battle. The delay in approving the DA is an anti-national act: RM has to open her eyes and understand how her act of omission is doing a disservice to the nation. She, unwittingly abetting anti-national elements in the MOD. Please do not be surprised if the Embassy of China posts their NA and fills the gap in the absence of Indian NA. All the energy lifelines to China pass between Maldives and India and the geo-strategic ace in our hands would get compromised overnight; the moment the Maldives prefers China to India.

Dear Prime Minister; please tell your RM to do her job and the spokesman for the party can be someone else. The opposition is flogging a dead horse called ‘Rafael’ and they would continue doing so as they really cannot imagine or understand how a defence deal can be done without middlemen and bribes. You should not really blame them as they have done it from the very first deal of independent India in 1948 when they bought jeeps from Britain. Just tell me; how such a party can conceive a defence deal without allurement? It is beyond their thinking prowess. Do not try to defend the deal any more as the public has seen through it; more they talk of the deal the more alienated they would be from the general public. They are digging a pit called Rafael in which they will collectively fall.

All I can say to you, to open your eyes and win back the servicemen and veteran constituency that has been loyal to you and let them not wander away from you, due to clever mechanisation of the MOD. The serpent is under the carpet; you do not have to look for it elsewhere

A Promise To Stand By…

I ended my 2018 by watching Nathicharami on 31st December. It was one of the best things I did on new year’s eve. 

I must admit, the desire to see the movie was because I heard the music before and Nathicharamiloved  every bit of it. Then I saw the official trailer and my curiosity was piqued. I do not know of other Kannada directors having explored the subject of what two young Indian women go through in a particular phase in their lives. I saw the movie & spoke to some friends who had seen it. Most of them emphasised on the theme as “awakened sexuality of the young widow”. I beg to differ here. 

To me, the entire experience was going through Gowri’s journey after she becomes a widow. It is about how she battles loneliness, sleepless nights, parents who pressurise her to get married again (perhaps for the wrong reasons), a predatory boss and her own desires that make her feel guilty. Salvation comes in the form of two office colleagues & friends who help her with a dating app and connect her to Dr Carvalho, the psychiatrist. He helps her peel the layers of her emotions, and, deal with the mental conflicts. Loved his metaphors and one liners!

A parallel story unfolds with Suma, an educated woman from a village, yearning for her husband, Suresh’s love & affection. I appreciated the unfurling of this marital relationship, where Suresh is always condescending in his behaviour towards Suma and criticises her supposed “village mentality”.  The director, beautifully leads you to question Suresh’s frustration at one level & audacity at another level, because he also displays “village mentality” in the movie.

Yes, sexual desires or sexuality has been used as a subject to bring out deeper issues like guilt, societal reaction & gender sensitivity. Nathicharami is metaphorical, refreshing & relevant. Metaphorical, because it shows Gowri anchored to a time & relationship in the past. Refreshing, because it talks about consent for sex in a marital relationship & sensitively explores predefined notions of morality & desires. Relevant, simply because it opens up a sea of questions that ordinary women today face in the many facets of relationships. 

The movie by award winning director, Mansore, has good cinematography and amazing music by Bindhu Malini. Her unique voice is what you hear in the songs and her ease of combining various musical instruments to create hauntingly beautiful music is testimony to her musical expertise. The use of the trombone, drums & guitar is melodious and it is the kind of music I would love to play while I sit in my balcony or on my terrace, sipping a glass of wine and watch the sun go down & the moon come up with the stars shining. 

I wish more and more directors, producers and actors give us such wonderfully crafted & engaging movies like Nathicharami. We will promise to stand by them. 

 

Gift Yourself a New Year…

Once in a while it hits people that they really don’t have to see the world in the way they have been told to. dawn-3846778_1920That is the beauty of exploring, learning, understanding & accepting newness in life. That is serendipity (in a way) and letting go of what we are conditioned to or cling on to. All of us like to feel we are in control of our lives, plan every step and steer the course of all happenings exactly at the time we want it to happen. We all want to know what’s going to happen before it does, like to play scenarios out in our heads, use favourite words to make sense of this world as much as we can. Even though we know, in the back of our minds, that it may never fully happen.

Somewhere, between being a daughter, a wife, a mother, a friend, an entrepreneur, I realised that no matter what pre planning I do, there will always be moments in life that will be unexpected, out of the blue and hit you like a ton of bricks. And then, you are in a free fall. 

Now, the beauty of free fall is that, it is the right moment to find your wings. Wings help you fly. 

There is flip side to free fall, too. When you fall, if you do not allow your wings to come out, spread and flap them, you are likely to hit the ground with a big thud. The most important thing then is to trust your instinct, let go and allow your wings to emerge.

You will never know you can fly if you do not unfurl your wings, flap them and push yourself to soar. You’ll never know the strength in your muscles if you don’t flex them. You’ll never know who you can become, if you don’t take the first step.

Two and half decades ago, I was jolted from that familiar, comfortable bubble I had built in my life. And I went into a fall. I also discovered I could fly. That changed everything.

There will always be winds of change, forcing us to come down at times, falter in some cases, change direction completely and soar. Allow for those serendipitous periods in life, which will give you the freedom to discover a new you.

May that be your gift to yourself this year! May 2019 bring out the serendipiter & the discoverer in you! Happy 2019!!!  

 

The Price of Freedom & Of Promises Not Kept

Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, sacrifice leaves a memory no one can steal.

Before we treat 15th Aug 2018 as another holiday (mid week, albeit), let us stop for a moment to pay homage to thousands of soldiers who have paid the ultimate price of giving & maintaining for us that holiday. Going back 72 years, we hoisted the Tricolour in Delhi and declared our “tryst with destiny.”

Seven decades has seen India through tremendous changes in some parts of the growth landscape and stagnation in some other parts. Deterioration in a few. The Armed Forces of India has gone through its fair share of ups and downs. We have developed as a force to reckon with with the tag of being one of the most professional armies in the world. Our track record as Peacekeepers in the UN Peacekeeping missions across the world is phenomenal and our soldiers have done us proud. Historically, Indian soldiers fought under the British rule in both the World Wars before 1947 to keep Britain safe. Post independence, we fought Pakistan and China to protect our sovereignty and safeguard our national interests. In the last 70 years plus, Indian Army has also battled insurgents across the country to keep citizens safe. They continue doing so in different parts of the country.

The price of freedom is eternal vigilance and that vigil is maintained by our Armed Forces. They sacrifice in more ways than one. Not staying with their families, not watching their children grow, not being around for milestone days, and, finally, the ultimate sacrifice of signing off their life to protect us.

Are we worthy of that sacrifice?

Indian Army has answered this country’s call several times and will continue to do so. It is engaged in both military and civil operations whenever & wherever necessary. It is time to honour that commitment & dedication. Every soldier who serves unflinchingly & every soldier who pays the ultimate price expect only one thing – respect & honour for the work done by the Armed Forces. The Services must know we are a grateful nation & are thankful to them.

We, in India, do not have a National Military Memorial where one can go and pay tribute to the brave hearts. There are a lot of people who ask the question – why do we need one?

War memorials are erected world over as a mark of respect & remembrance for all those who died in the service of the nation. Each memorial is unique and acts as a historic touchstone. They link the past to the present and remind every generation to remember & respect the sacrifice of those who died, fought, participated and affected by the conflicts.

Eight years ago, the Government of Karnataka, made a commitment to build a National Military Memorial. This was not at the behest of the Indian Armed Forces or the Ministry of Defence. It was an initiative taken by the state government. Personally, I was very happy that there was one state government  willing to take the first step to honour our soldiers. While the Memorial Park has come up beautifully with lush green landscaping, a central exhibition hall with models of warfare technology, a 210 foot flagpole with a 78×48 feet flag next to the names of 22,600 martyrs, the Veeragallu (literally meaning the Heroes’ Stone)  is still incomplete and yet to be installed.

The soldier never asked for it. The citizens did not even know about it. Yet, a promise was made. We urge the Government of Karnataka to honour that promise and complete the project with a committed deadline. We owe a debt to all the fallen soldiers that we can never fully repay, but, we can honour them & their sacrifices.

Come, join us this 72nd Independence Day, as we celebrate the freedom we have, because of the heroic sacrifices of our brave hearts. Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We don’t pass it on to our children in the bloodstream Every generation must fight for it, protect it and hand it to the next one, for them to do the same.

Happy Independence Day to all! Jai Hind!

39109214_10156301831863673_8301842406421037056_n