V K Singh Remembers 'Sam Bahadur', India's First Field Marshal

Published: 03rd April 2014 07:33 PM  |   Last Updated: 04th April 2014 11:50 AM   |  A+A-

Sam Manekshaw_PTI

The article is taken from Former Army Chief General V K Singh's blog and published with his permission.

Field Marshal Sam Hormusji Framji Jamshedji Manekshaw is, without a doubt, the most popular and colourful military leader in India.  Having  led the nation to its first decisive victory in 1971, "Sam Bahadur", as he is popularly known, became a household word.  He was India's first Field Marshal, and remains, even today, the most admired and idolised of our Army Chiefs.  He has a charismatic personality, and it is impossible not to feel overawed  in his presence.  Vigour, dash and elan - he has them all, the typical signs of a great soldier.  However, if there is one attribute which can be called his hall mark, it is his ready wit, and sense of humour.  Anecdotes about Sam abound, and one always keeps hearing new ones, even now, more than thirty years after he has quit active service.  A Field Marshal never retires, and Sam epitomises the spirit, as no one else can.  His admirers are legion, and not a few of them are of the fairer sex.  Though now over ninety, he can still make girls in their teens swoon when he walks into a room.

Sam is a Parsi, and  was born on 3 April 1914 in Amritsar. The Parsis are a very small community, found mostly on the Western Coast of India,  especially Bombay and certain areas in Gujarat. Though small in numbers, the Parsis are a very progressive community, with hundred percent literacy. Though their main occupation is business, they have produced some of the most eminent politicians, lawyers, industrialists, artists, doctors, and engineers in the country. Sam's grandfather, Framroze, was a teacher, who lived in Valsad and had taught Morarji Desai, who later became Prime Minister of India. Sam's father, Hormusji, was born in Valsad and became a  doctor. He  was married to Hilla, a Parsi girl from Bombay whom he had met while studying medicine at the Grant Medical College. Hormusji began practising in Bombay but later moved to Amritsar, where there were fewer doctors and better prospects for setting up a medical practice. During World War I, he served in Mesopotamia and Egypt  and was given the rank of a Captain in the Medical Services.

Hormusji and Hilla  had six children, who were all born in Amritsar. The eldest, Fali, joined Stewarts and Lloyds in  Calcutta after getting his enginneering degree from England. Cilla, the second child, was a lovable girl with a jest for life and sense of humour, qualities that endeared her to everyone in the family, especially her nephews and nieces. Jan, the second son, followed his elder brother and studied engineering in England. He joined Calender Cables (later Indian Cables), from where he retired as Director. The next was Sehroo, who was considered the beauty of the family. She got married and settled in Bombay. Sam was the fifth child, followed by Jemi, the only one who followed his father and became a doctor. He joined the Air Force and was the first Indian to get his air surgeon's wings from Peniscola, USA.

Sam was initially given the name Cyrus, but one of his aunts changed it to Sam, because she had heard that a Parsi called Cyrus had been sent to jail, and she considered the name would prove unlucky for her nephew. Sam's eldest brother Fali did his schooling in Bombay, but the others boys - Jan, Sam and Jemi - were all  sent to Sherwood College, Nainital for their education. His two sisters went the Convent in Murree.

The family was together only for three months when the children came home during their holidays, from December to February. By all accounts, they had a lot of fun, with the three youngest siblings always upto some mischief. Hormusji was fond of music and gardening and all his children inherited these interests in some measure. Hilla was known for her cooking, and spent a lot of time in the kitchen especially when her ravenous brood was at home. She was an expert at Parsi dishes, and her speciality was chokha ni rotli (rice chappatti). Her son Jemi's wife Bhicoo Manekshaw recalls that a pile of a hundred rotli cooked by her mother-in-law would be no higher than two inches, and if a silver rupee coin was placed on top, it would sink to the bottom. She confesses that none of Silloo's daughters-in-law could match her culinary skills.

Sam passed his Senior Cambridge with distinction and returned to Amritsar. He reminded his father about his promise to send him to England to study medicine. Sam was then fifteen years old. Hormusji felt that he was too young to go abroad, and asked him to wait till he was eighteen. Sam was very angry and did not speak to his father for eighteen months. He joined the Hindu Sabha College, to study for his F.Sc., as the Intermediate (Science) was then known.

The Skeen Committee, set up in 1925, had recommended the  establishment of an Indian Sandhurst by 1933. To work out details of the proposed military training college, the Government had appointed the Indian Military College Committee, in early 1931. The Committee was chaired by Sir Philip Chetwode, and had a large number of service and civilian members. After detailed deliberation, the Committee submitted its report on 15 July 1931. It recommended establishment of a college to train Indians for commissions in the Indian Army, after an examination to be conducted by the Public Service Commission. The course was to be of three years duration, with the age of entry between 18 and 20 years. On graduation, officers would be granted Indian Commissions, which would be signed by the Viceroy. (The Commissions of officers graduating from Sandhurst were signed by the King). The total fee would be Rupees 4,600, which would cover tuition, board, lodging, uniforms, books and pocket money. Indian Army cadets would be exempted from the fees, and given a stipend of 60 rupees per month. After getting their commissions, the officers would be given the rank of Second Lieutenants, with a monthly salary of 300 rupees.

One of the important points which the Committee considered was the location of the proposed college.It had to be centrally located, easily accessible, with a temperate climate all the year round, and adequate accommodation as well as  space for future expansion. The presence of a military garrison in the vicinity was also desirable. After considering over a dozen locations, the Committee short listed three - Dehradun, Mhow and Satara. Finally Dehradun was selected, because of its central location, climate, proximity to the PWRIMC, and the fact that the Railway Staff College was closing down, and its accommodation was readily available.

Early in 1932, it was announced that an examination for entrance to the Indian Military Academy (IMA) would be conducted in June or July. Sam took some money from his mother, went to Delhi and  appeared in the entrance examination on 14 July 1932. There were a total of 40 vacancies - 15 selected through open competition, 15 from the Army and 10 from the Indian State Forces. Only 15 cadets were selected and Sam was sixth in order of merit. The first Commandant was Brigadier L.P. Collins, DSO, and the staff was carefully selected to ensure that the standards were kept at  par with those at Sandhurst. Training commenced on 1 October 1932, though the Academy was formally inaugurated on 10 December 1932 by the C-in-C, Field Marshal Sir Philip Chetwode, Bart, GCB, GCSI, KCMG, DSO. The first batch, called 'The Pioneers', had three future Chiefs - Manekshaw rose to head the Army in India, Smith Dun in Burma and Mohd Musa in Pakistan.    

Sam enjoyed his stay at the IMA, though he was often in trouble. Gentleman Cadets (GCs) were permitted to go on 'liberty', on weekends. The IMA records credit Sam with the distinction of being the first Gentleman Cadet to ask for weekend leave to go to Mussourie, which was just an hour's drive from the Academy. He also holds the record for being awarded the first extra drill at the IMA. He was destined to have many more firsts to his credit, such as the first of the Academy's alumni to join the Gurkhas, to become a General and later a Field Marshal.

During a weekend, Sam and two of his buddies, Maharaj Kumar Jit Singh of Kapurthala and Haji Iftikhar Ahmed went up to Mussourie. Since the hill road could take only one way traffic, there was a 'gate' system between Mussourie and Dehradun. On Sunday evening Sam and his cronies were watching the floor show in Hakman's Hotel  and lost track of the time. When they came out, they found that the last bus going down had already left and they had to go back to the hotel and spend the night there. When they arrived at the Academy on Monday morning, they were promptly 'put on charge'. All three were  'gated' (confined to lines) for 15 days. In addition,  Sam, who was a Corporal, lost his stripes, which were ceremoniously peeled off his sleeve by the Adjutant, Captain Mclaren of the Black Watch Regiment.               

One of Sam's attributes that came to the fore at the IMA itself was his sense of humour. Gentleman Cadet S Manekshaw wrote an article entitled  A LETTER FROM "MANEKSAM," which was published in the June 1933 of the IMA journal. It purports to advise a prospective Gentleman Cadet on various facets of life at the Academy and gives tips on the behaviour and conduct that would get him the best results.

My dear Rustom,

      I was delighted to see in the paper that you were successful at the recent examination for the IMA and I hasten to congratulate you.

      A few hints on your deportment on first arrival at the IMA may not come amiss, and in view of our old friendship, I send them to you.

      When you arrive at Dehra Dun Station you will be met by various representatives from the IMA, the Company Commander, Adjutant, Quartermaster etc. They are sent to carry your luggage for you, so give them yours at once. I was lucky enough to be met by the Adjutant, a big man who wears funny trousers and belongs to that barbarous English sect called the Scots - I believe they are regarded as 'untouchables' in England. I had thought of going up to Mussourie, but the Adjutant and I were having such an interesting conversation that I decided to defer the visit and drive to the Academy with him. As exploration is encouraged, I advise you on arrival to inform the Adjutant that you are going up to Mussourie and won't be back till the evening. Tell him to have your bath ready on your return.

      Now a few words about "The Life". You will be delighted to hear that you have both Drill and PT daily. We love all these things. Our enthusiasm is such that we all apply for "Extra Drills" and are given plenty of them. I advise you to do the same, the staff are very obliging in this respect.

      People like myself are termed Seniors - the best way for you to show your independence, a characteristic which is admired, is to ignore seniors, especially those with stripes on their sleeves. When the latter talk to you just put your hands in your pockets and turn your back on them; they will appreciate you all the more.

      You feed in a large room called the Mess. To show that you are a strong man, eat as much as you can at each meal. For breakfast, the average number of eggs you should consume is six, in addition to the other courses. You will make a friend of the Mess caterer, if you show that you appreciate his food, and he is worth cultivating.

      There is a small man with three stripes on his sleeve, who is sure to have a good deal to say for himself. As soon as he starts on you, call him "Foo-Choo". After this friendly greeting on your part, all will be well between you and him and you will find he will take a fatherly interest in your future welfare.

      Then, as I said, there are some people called Company Commanders. Whenever one of these individuals dines in Mess always make a point of sitting next to him at dinner. He will appreciate your efforts to get to know him really well.

      You used to be keen on music so apply for the appointment of "Announcer" at our Wednesday Night Concerts, and offer to play a Solo on your mouth organ. There is a cadet here who will accompany you on his violin and he has an extensive repertoire. Be sure to bring your gramophone and the three records with it. You will have plenty of opportunity to play it after what is called 'Lights Out', and when you are dressing in the mornings. By bringing a gramophone you will be considered original and make many friends.

      Only one more piece of advice: let everyone know how good you are at everything. Propaganda of this sort will make you the favourite of your professors.

      Consider yourself very lucky to have passed into the IMA. We all look back to our first few weeks here with joy, and I envy you the glorious time before you on the Square (The Adjutant's El Dorado).

      Oh, I nearly forgot to tell you - Be well turned out on arrival at Dehra Dun, wear your cap and your Oxford tights.

                                              Yours ever,


Only 22 cadets from Sam's batch were able to complete the course, and passed out from the Indian Military Academy on 22 December 1934. However, they were commissioned on 1 February 1935, with the date of seniority fixed as 4 February 1934. This was done in order to make them junior to officers  commissioned from Sandhurst a year earlier, after giving them one years ante-dated seniority, to account for the difference in duration of training at the two institutions. A batch had passed out from Sandhurst on 1 February 1934, which was also the last which had Indians. A  unique feature which differentiated the newly commissioned ICOs from the KCIOs was that while the latter were employed as company officers, and had powers of command over British officers who were serving under them, the ICOs were to replace VCOs as platoon commanders. They had no powers of command over British officers, even if serving in the same unit.

The first Sword of Honour was awarded to Under Officer Smith Dun, and the first Gold Medal to Sergeant N.S. Bhagat. Smith was a Karen from the 2/20 Burma Rifles, then part of the Indian Army. He later became the C-in-C in Burma, after Independence. There is an interesting story about how he got his name. The Karens were mostly Christians and had adopted European names, but did not use surnames. When Smith arrived at Dehradun (sometimes also written as Dehra Dun), and was asked his name, he gave it as Smith. His company commander insisted that he must have a surname, so Smith decided to adopt one on the spot. The first name that came to his mind was Dehra Dun, where the Academy was located, so he chose Dun as his surname and became Smith Dun.    

After commissioning, ICOs selected for the Cavalry and Infantry were attached to a British unit in India, as in the case of KCIOs commissioned from Sandhurst.  Sam was attached to the Royal Scots at Lahore. The Scots found it difficult to pronounce his name and being more familiar with the prefix 'Mac', began to call him Makenshaw.  After a year with the Scots, in February 1936 he was posted to 4/12 Frontier Force Regiment (FFR), also known as the 54th Sikhs which became his parent unit. Unlike the KCIOs, personal numbers were allotted to ICOs on completion of their attachment, based on the seniority of the regiments which they eventually joined and not on merit, as at present. In the first batch, Bhagwati Singh, who was third in order of merit,  was given IC-1, while Sam was allotted IC-14. The battalion was then in Ferozepore, but soon moved to Fort Sallop, in the North West Frontier Province. Sam learned to speak Pushto fluently, and because of his complexion and his name, was often mistaken by the tribesmen for a Pathan.

On 22 April 1939, Sam was married to Silloo Bode in Bombay. The couple's first child, a girl whom they named Sherry, was born on 11 January 1940. The second child, also a girl, was born on 24 September 1945. She was named Maya, though she later changed it to Maja. According to her, "at thirteen, I thought it was hellishly impressive to spell my name as Maja but Sam insists on spelling it as Maya." Sherry Manekshaw later became Mrs.  Batliwala and her daughter was named Brandy. Maja Manekshaw became a stewardess with British Airways and married Dhun Daruwala, who was pilot. She later became a lawyer and joined the chambers of Salman Khurshid in  Delhi before setting up her own practice. She has two sons, named Raoul Sam and Jehan Sam after their illustrious grandfather.

In 1942, Sam's battalion was ordered to move to Burma. Soon after their arrival in Burma, the Japanese attacked. Sam was given command of a Sikh company. Having been born in Amritsar, he could speak Punjabi fluently, and got along famously with the Sikhs. This was the first time he had been in action, and he soon had a chance to prove his mettle. There was a large number of casualties among non commissioned officers, and a conference was held by the CO, to select suitable men for promotion as corporals and sergeants. There was a soldier called Surat Singh in Sam's company, who was considered a 'bad hat'. When his name came up, and Sam was asked for his recommendation, he said that it was no use promoting him, since he would lose his stripes within a few days as had happened many times in the past. Surat Singh was then passed over and some others, who were junior, were cleared.

When Sam returned to his company in the evening, he found an eerie silence, which was most unusual, since Sikhs are noisy and boisterous by nature. Soon, his senior JCO, Subedar Balwant Singh came to his tent and told him the reason. Surat Singh had come to know that he had been overlooked for promotion and had declared that he would kill his company commander, for not recommending him. He had been disarmed and bound, awaiting Sam's return. On hearing the story, Sam immediately ordered that the company should fall in and Surat Singh marched up to him. Within a few minutes, the company was formed up in a hollow square, facing a table and a chair. After Sam had taken his seat, the offender was  marched up before him. During war, mutiny and cowardice are punishable by death and the men knew this. After the charge had been read out, Sam took out a pistol and walked up to Surat Singh. Handing over the pistol to the burly Sikh, he told him to do what he had threatened to do. Surat Singh immediately broke down and started begging for mercy. Sam gave him a sound slap and told him that if he lacked the guts to kill, he should not make such statements in future. He dismissed the case and ordered that Surat Singh's weapon should be returned to him.

Sam thought that this was the end of the episode and retired to his tent. However, after some time Subedar Balwant Singh again came in and told Sam that he had committed a mistake in letting off Surat Singh, who would certainly kill him during the night, since his weapon had been returned to him. Sam sent for Surat Singh and in front of the JCO, told him that tonight, he would work as his orderly and should sleep outside his tent. He dismissed him, after ordering him to wake him up at 5.30 in the morning with a cup of tea and hot water for his shave. That night, Sam could not sleep a wink out of fear. But he knew that if the men came to know that he was afraid, he would never be able to command them. Next morning, at 5.30, Surat Singh entered his tent with a mug of tea and hot water for his shave. For the rest of the War, Surat Singh followed Sam like a puppy and became one of the most disciplined soldiers in his company.

Sam was a Captain, but was made acting Major since there was an acute shortage of officers during the War. Soon afterwards, his battalion took part in the battle of Sittang Bridge, during which he was severely wounded. He took nine bullets in the lung, liver and kidneys, and no one thought he would survive. It was here that he was awarded the Military Cross  for gallantry.  The medal was given to him on the spot by Major General Cowan, who was then the Deputy Commander of the British Forces. Cowan, who later commanded 17 Indian Division during the retreat through Burma, probably thought that Sam's chances of survival were slim, and since the MC cannot be given posthumously, decided to award it on the spot. Sam was evacuated from the front line in a serious condition.

Sam would have died had not his faithful Sikh orderly, Sepoy Sher Singh,  carried him in his arms and collaring a doctor, forced him to attend to his wounds. The Australian surgeon initially declined to operate on Sam, since he saw little chance of his surviving. However, Sher Singh would not take no for an answer. By now Sam had regained consciousness. When the surgeon asked what had happened to him, Sam replied : "A bloody mule kicked me." The surgeon laughed, and said: "By Jove, you have a sense of humour. I think you are worth saving." He removed much of Sam's intestines and sitched him up.  Later, his father wrote to him at the hospital: "Son, if you smoke or drink now, you are finished". According to Sam, he did just that and that is why he lived.  

In 1943 Sam went to Quetta to attend the Staff Course after which he was posted as Brigade Major of the Razmak Brigade. Soon afterwards, he was selected to go as an instructor at the Staff College, but before he could go, he was asked to join 9/12 FFR in Burma. He was given the task of supervising the disarming of about 60,000 captured Japanese soldiers and setting up of a prisoner of war camp. According to Sam, this was one of the easiest jobs he has ever done. All he had to do was to call the senior Japanese officer and tell him what he wanted done. The job would invariably be completed well before time. Cases of indiscipline were unheard of and the Japanese never tried to escape.

After his return to India, Sam was selected by Field Marshal Claude Auchinleck, the C-in-C, to go to Australia. His job was to educate Australians about India. The Auk felt that Australia, though a member of the Commonwealth, had little contact with India and most Australians were ignorant about the country and her armed forces. Sam spent three months in Australia, giving lectures and holding meetings. On his return, in the end of 1945, the Auk had another surprise for him. He was posted to the Military Operations Directorate as GSO 1. The MO was the holiest of holies and no Indian had ever set foot in its hallowed precincts. This was indeed a rare honour and Sam not only became the first Indian to join MO, but rose to head the organisation in the years to come.

In 1947, when India achieved Independence, Sam was a Lieut Colonel, posted as GSO 1 in MO-3, the section that dealt with future operations and planning. Yahya Khan, who later became President of Pakistan, and S.K. Sinha, who later became Vice Chief of Army Staff in India and is presently the Governor of Jammu and Kashmir, were also posted in MO as Majors. Major General W.D.A. Lentaigne was the Director of Military Operations (DMO). A few days before Partition, they were asked to divide the records, between Pakistan and India. This was accomplished by adopting a rough and ready method. Files which concerned geographical areas which were to go to Pakistan were earmarked for that country, and those that pertained to areas which would remain in India were to be left behind. Those that did not fall in any category were destroyed. Sam took the precaution of making copies of all documents that were going to Pakistan. Surprisingly, as both Sam and Sinha recall, there was no animosity or disagreement between the Muslim and Indian officers during this period.

Shortly afterwards, Sam received orders posting him as CO 3/5 Gorkha Rifles. Before he could move, fighting broke out in Kashmir and his posting orders were cancelled. On 22 October 1947, Pakistani raiders entered the Kashmir valley. On 23 October, they captured Domel and Muzaffarabad and reached Uri. On 24 October, Maharaja Hari Singh made an urgent appeal to the Government of India for troops. On Mountbatten's advice, the Indian Government agreed to send troops only if the Maharaja was willing to accede to India. On 25 October, V.P. Menon was sent to Srinagar, with the Instrument of Accession. Sam was also sent along, to assess the situation and carry out an aerial survey of the road Srinagar - Baramulla - Uri. They flew back the same night, reaching Delhi at 4 a.m., after having obtained the signatures of Maharaja Hari Singh on the document. A cabinet meeting was held, which was attended by Mountbatten, Nehru, Patel, Baldev Singh, and several others. After V.P.Menon had handed over the Instrument of Accession, Mountbatten asked Sam to explain the military situation. Sam gave the Cabinet a run-down on the latest developments, pointing out that the Pakistani tribesmen were just 9 Km. from Srinagar. If the airfield was taken, Kashmir would be lost, since it would not be possible to fly in troops.

Sardar Patel was in favour of sending troops to Kashmir immediately, but Nehru had his reservations. He gave a long exposition about the history of the state, the circumstances of its accession and the role of the United Nations. The last thing he wanted was for India to be accused of taking the state by force of arms. Finally, the Sardar lost his patience and asked: "Jawahar, do you want to save  Kashmir or not?" "Of course I do", thundered Nehru. Patel turned to Sam and the other military officers present and said, "You have your orders. Now go and carry them out." The very next day, on 27 October 1947, Indian troops were flown into Kashmir. By this time, the raiders were closing in on Srinagar. Kashmir, whose fate had  hung by a slender thread, was saved.

After Sam's posting as CO 3/5 Gorkha Rifles was cancelled, he could not get out of MO, thanks to the crisis in Kashmir followed by the one in Hyderabad. In fact, he never commanded a battalion and was promoted to the rank of Colonel and then Brigadier in the same office. In September 1948, when the Hyderabad operations took place, he was the DMO. Sardar Patel, the Home Minister, often called Sam to find out the latest situation and also sent him to Kashmir on several occasions. During those turbulent dyas, Sam met Sardar Patel almost daily and he has many reminiscences about the 'iron man'.

One day, Sam was called by the C-in-C and told to fly down to Calcutta, where fierce riots had caused thousands of deaths. Sam flew to Calcutta in a special aircraft and went to the Chief Minister's office. Sardar Patel was already there, discussing the situation with BC Roy, the Chief Minister of Bengal. Patel asked Sam: "If the situation is handed over to the Army, how many people will be killed, and how long will it take to control the situation." Sam was a newly promoted Brigadier and took a few seconds to answer. "About a hundred men will be killed and it will take about a month", he said.

 Patel told BC Roy:  "thousands are being killed now. A hundred is nothing". He turned to Sam and said: "Let the Army take over." Troops were immediately deployed and the situation was soon under control. Not a single person was killed. When things had returned to normal,  Patel called Sam and speaking in Gujarati,  asked him; "why didn't you tell me the truth?" Sam was non plussed, till Patel smiled and said: "you said you would kill one hundred Bengalees, but you did not kill even one." He patted Sam on the back and congratulated the Army for doing a good job.

There is an interesting anecdote regarding Sam, which was related by Colonel Teja Singh Aulakh, who had joined MO as a Captain in May 1947. Teja's village, Narowal, went to Pakistan after Partition and he had therefore opted for the Pakistani Army. Sam had also been asked for his choice, and though Jinnah had asked him to opt for Pakistan, he had opted for India. He had been born and brought up in Punjab, but his wife and the rest of the family were in Bombay. Acceding to Jinnah's request may have resulted in faster promotions, but he preferred to remain in India. When the records were being divided,  Sam had asked Teja to collect all the files he wanted to take with him to Pakistan. However, just before he moved, Teja came to know that his family had crossed over at Dera Baba Nanak and come to India. He promptly changed his choice, and opted to remain in India. His family later joined him in Delhi and they were living in Chatarpur, a village near the Qutb Minar, about 10 Km from his office in South Block. Teja used a bicycle to commute between his home and office and was often late. Teja was subsequently promoted Major and Sam had become a Brigadier. One day, there was a lot of work and they broke off at about 8 p.m. Silloo brought around the car to pick up Sam. When she saw Teja getting on his bicycle, which had no lights, she said "why don't you use the Brigadier's motorcycle that is rotting in our verandah?"

Next day, Teja took one of his colleagues, Jimmy Dorabjee, to fetch the motorcycle and also teach him how to ride it. He  began using it regularly to commute to his office. After a few months, Teja was nominated to attend the staff course at Wellington and he decided to buy the motorcycle. He had found out that Sam had purchased it from a British officer for four hundred rupees. He went up to Sam and offered to buy it. "Why do you want to buy it," asked Sam. "If you don't need it, throw it into a khud (ditch)."  When Teja insisted that he would like to pay for it,  Sam agreed to accept three hundred rupees. But Teja wanted to pay four hundred, so Sam asked him to toss a coin to decide the issue. Teja lost, and Sam walked away, saying, "OK. You bloody well pay four hundred as you wanted."

At Teja's farewell party, Silloo was sitting next to Teja's wife and learnt that they had a buffalo, which gave five seers (a seer is about two pounds, in weight) of milk each day. On the way home, she told Sam about it and expressed a desire to buy a buffalo so that they could save on the expenses on milk. Sam was very fond of his garden and knew what a buffalo would do to it. Next morning, he came to the office in a foul mood. He walked straight to Teja's room, hopped on to his table, and looking him straight in the eye, said," Teja, if you don't want to pay for the motorcycle, don't pay. But don't put that buffalo of yours on my head".

In April 1952, Sam was given command of 167 Infantry  Brigade at Ferozepur and got some respite after his hectic schedule at Delhi, where Partition, integration of the Indian States and  the operations in Jammu and Kashmir had kept him fully occupied. He could now devote some time to his family and indulge in his hobby of gardening. He grew vegetables, flowers, even cotton. They had a huge house with a large garden and Sam kept himself busy outside, while Silloo looked after the inside. Their children remember them as a dandy couple, with a hectic social life, full of parties and  visits to the club. They were also a sporting family and played badminton, tennis and table tennis. Sam was an indulgent father and doted on his two daughters who remember, wistfully, the games and stories of which Sam seemed to have an inexhaustible repertoire.

After finishing his tenure as a brigade commander, Sam was posted as the Director of Military Training at Army HQ in April 1954. After a short tenure at Delhi, he was transferred to Mhow as Commandant, Infantry School, in January 1955. At that time, the training manuals were little more than reproductions of British manuals. Sam believed in realistic and practical training and began having free-for-all discussions, where tactical concepts laid down in training manuals were questioned. Based on these discussions, he had his staff revise the training pamphlets on various operations of war. This was a significant contribution to the indigenisation of tactical concepts in the Indian Army.

In 1957 he was sent to London to attend the Imperial Defence College course. He spent about a year in England with his wife and two daughters. The family enjoyed their sojourn and went for picnics on  weekends, where Sam did the cooking. Though not an expert, Sam had picked up the rudiments of the art from his mother and practised them whenever he got a chance. He is especially proud of his koru na murumba (white pumpkin preserve) and  eeda pakh (a sweet made with eggs, cream etc.).

On his return from UK in December 1957, Sam was promoted Major General and posted as GOC 26 Infantry Division. At that time Thimayya was the Chief of Army Staff and  Krishna Menon the Defence Minister. During a visit to his division, Menon asked Sam what he thought of Thimayya. Sam said that he was not permitted to 'think' about his Chief. Menon was annoyed, and said, " Stop your British way of thinking. I can get rid of Thimayya, if I want." Sam replied,"You can get rid of him. But then I will get another Sam was posted as the Director of Military Training at Army HQ in April 1954. After a short tenure at Delhi, he was transferred to Mhow as Commandant, Infantry School, in January 1955. At that time, the training manuals were little more than reproductions of British manuals. Sam believed in realistic and practical training and began having free-for-all discussions, where tactical concepts laid down in training manuals were questioned. Based on these discussions, he had his staff revise the training pamphlets on various operations of war. This was a significant contribution to the indigenisation of tactical concepts in the Indian Army.

 In 1957 he was sent to London to attend the Imperial Defence College course. He spent about a year in England with his wife and two daughters. The family enjoyed their sojourn and went for picnics on  weekends, where Sam did the cooking. Though not an expert, Sam had picked up the rudiments of the art from his mother and practised them whenever he got a chance. He is especially proud of his koru na murumba (white pumpkin preserve) and  eeda pakh (a sweet made with eggs, cream etc.).

On his return from UK in December 1957, Sam was promoted Major General and posted as GOC 26 Infantry Division. At that time Thimayya was the Chief of Army Staff and  Krishna Menon the Defence Minister. During a visit to his division, Menon asked Sam what he thought of Thimayya. Sam said that he was not permitted to 'think' about his Chief. Menon was annoyed, and said, " Stop your British way of thinking. I can get rid of Thimayya, if I want." Sam replied,"You can get rid of him. But then I will get another Chief, and I won't be allowed to think about him too. You know, it is very wrong to ask a Major General what he thinks of the Chief. Tomorrow, you will be asking a Brigadier what he thinks of me. This is not done, in the Army." This put Menon in his place, and he fell silent.  

In September 1959, Sam was posted as the Commandant of the Defence Services Staff College, at Wellington. Very soon, he was involved in an unsavoury incident, which almost ended his career. In May 1961, Thimayya retired and was succeeded by General P.N. Thapar as Chief of Army Staff. A year earlier, B.M. Kaul had been promoted Lieut General and appointed Quarter Master General  against the recommendations of Thimayya, who had been over ruled by Krishna Menon, leading to Thimayya's resignation. As soon as Thimayya retired, Kaul was appointed Chief of General Staff (CGS) to replace 'Bogey' Sen, who went to Eastern Command as GOC-in-C. The CGS was then the most important appointment in Army HQ next to the COAS, and Kaul, because of his proximity to Nehru and Menon, in fact became more powerful than the Chief himself. 

Sam often made disparaging remarks about Indian politicians, which led some people to brand him as anti national. Based on information gained by informers who were sent by Kaul for this purpose, Army HQ ordered a Court of Inquiry to investigate. Normally, the Adjutant General's Branch handles  such cases but in this case, it was the General Staff Branch under Kaul, which dealt with the inquiry. The members of the Inquiry were Lieut General Daulet Singh, GOC-in-C Western Command, and Lieut General Bikram Singh, GOC 15 Corps.

There were three charges against Sam. The first charge was that he was disloyal to the country.  This was based on the fact that in his office, he had hung pictures of British Viceroys, Governors General and Commanders-in-Chief, instead of Indian leaders. Actually, Sam had found these old pictures of Clive, Hastings, Kitchener and Birdwood dumped in a store, and had decided to put them up in a suitable place in his office. The second charge concerned Sam's failure to take  action against an instructor, who had during a lecture, remarked that Indians lacked a sense of perspective and tended to build up personalities out of proportion. The instructor, who was a Naval officer, mentioned that Shivaji's statue in Bombay showed him riding an Australian waler when in actual fact, the terrain in the Western Ghats was suitable only for ponies. Sam had later told the instructor to be more tactful, but it was felt that he should have taken more drastic action.            

The third charge was even more interesting. An officer on his staff deposed that the Commandant had said that he did not want any instructor at the College whose wife looked like an 'ayah'(maid servant). When questioned by the Court of Inquiry, this officer agreed that he had not heard Sam say these words and neither could he remember who had told him. Kaul had also managed to get a report from the Intelligence Bureau about Sam's anti Indian views but when called to give evidence, its Director, B.N. Mullick, refused to  appear.

It appears strange that a Court of Inquiry was ordered by Army HQ on such insubstantial grounds, and that too against a senior officer. Apart from the charges being flimsy and downright ludicrous, the fact that Kaul was able to rope in two lieutenant generals, including an Army Commander, to conduct the proceedings are a measure of the authority and power that he wielded at that time. In contrast, the Inquiry to investigate the reasons for the debacle during the Sino Indian War of 1962 was headed by Major General Henderson-Brooks, with  Brigadier P.S. Bhagat as a member. Fortunately for Sam, Lieut General Daulet Singh, who headed the Court of Inquiry, was known for his integrity. Sam was exonerated of all charges and the Court also recommended disciplinary action against officers who had made the false allegations. When the Inquiry had been ordered, Sam's career appeared certain to be ruined and there was a strong likelihood of his being dismissed, or even worse. He escaped by the skin of his teeth, but the incident left a taint on his career.  Harbaksh Singh and Moti Sagar, both his juniors, were made Corps Commanders before him.                                           

 According to Sam, it was the Chinese who came to his rescue. The Sino-Indian conflict in 1962 ended in a debacle for the Indian Army. The two men who had tried to ruin Sam's career were also largely responsible for the ignominy suffered by the Indian Army at the hands of the Chinese. Much against his wishes, Nehru had to sack Krishna Menon as Defence Minister.  Kaul was removed from command of 4 Corps and later resigned. In November 1962 Nehru summoned Sam to Delhi and asked him to assume command of 4 Corps. When Sam told the Prime Minister that he had been waiting for almost eighteen months for his promotion, Nehru told him that  what had happened was a mistake.   

 When Sam assumed command, he found that he had a first class team of officers on his staff and the reason for the poor performance of the Corps was only bad leadership. In fact, after assuming command, he asked Lieut General 'Bogey' Sen,  the Army Commander, as to why he did not sack Kaul and take over himself. Sen replied," It is all very well for you to say this, Sam; but do you know what his stature was then? He never talked to me; he would just pick up the phone and talk to the Prime Minister. He never even consulted the COAS. I would have got no support from anyone. Krishna Menon and Bijjy Kaul were running the Armed Forces of the country." Sam did not agree, and told Sen that had he been in office, he  would have said,"Sorry, out you go. I am taking over." He felt that even if the Government had sacked him, at least the country would not have been disgraced.

Sam's first task was to restore morale that had sunk to the boots, as soldiers often say. On the day he took over, after he had been briefed about the general situation, he called his Chief of Staff and told him that he wanted to issue orders. Sam recalls that the Chief of Staff took out his cap, threw it on the ground and jumped on it, saying "Thank God there is somebody giving orders. We have never had any orders till now". After his staff had assemebled, Sam issued his famous order; "Gentlemen, there shall be no more withdrawals". He knew that nothing else could restore confidence as quickly as advancing to the positions they had been lost.

Sam had been in command for just five days when the Prime Minister visited his headquarters in Tezpur, accompanied by his daughter, Indira Gandhi and the Chief of Army Staff, General JN Chaudhuri. When Sam informed them that his troops were advancing Nehru reacted strongly, saying that he did not want any more people killed.  The Army Chief tried to pacify the Prime Minister, telling him that he would  talk to the Corps Commander and get the orders reversed. Sam was incensed and asked the Chief to either let him command his Corps the way he liked or send him back to Staff College.

Indira Gandhi had no official position in the Government but wielded enormous influence. She remonstrated that it was shameful that they had a commander who wanted to fight but was not being allowed to do so. The country and the Army had already earned a bad name and she felt that it was time someone did something about it. Nehru tried to interrupt her but she would have none of it. Turning to Sam, she told him to go ahead and do what he liked. Sam could do little more than thank her.

Sam's next task was to reorganise the defences of the North East Frontier Agency (NEFA). He went round the area, visiting the units, and talking to the commanders and troops. Morale was low and the men had many complaints. Sam tried to do his best to improve things and took corrective action to overcome the shortages of clothing, equipment and accommodation. He felt that NEFA could have been defended and often gave the example of the North West Frontier, where a handful of tribesmen on hill tops could hold up entire brigades comprising trained British and Indian troops, supported with artillery and air. In his view, the only reason for the failure was low morale and lack of higher direction - from Delhi as well as from Army and Corps Commanders.

In December 1963, Sam was appointed GOC-in-C Western Command. He remained there for only a year, before moving to Eastern Command as Army Commander in November 1964.  During one of his visits to Mizo hills, he found that the communications were very bad. When he asked the reason, he was told that the Post and Telegraph Department had been asked to provide the telephone line, but it was likely to take at least 4-5 years since the distance was over 200 Kms.  " That is too much, " said Sam.  " Can't we do it ourselves ?"  He was told that according to the Telegraph Act, only the Post and Telegraph Department could own telephone and telegraph lines and the Army had to hire it from them.  This conversation was taking place over a glass of beer in the brigade officers mess.  Brigadier R.Z. Kabraji was the brigade commander.  He called his Signals officer and Sam asked him how long it would take to lay the line.

"Two months," replied the officer, "provided I have the stores."

" Where can we get the stores ? " asked Sam.

" The P&T has a big dump at Silchar," replied the officer.    

" Then go and get it, " said Sam. " But don't get caught."

Sam had said this as a joke, but the Signals officer, who was young, immature and impetuous, took it seriously.  He took a fleet of  lorries to Silchar and went straight to the P&T Department stores.  When the official in charge protested, he brought him along with the stores and released him only after a week.  The P&T Department raised a hue and cry and reported the `theft' and kidnapping of their officer to the Ministry.  Soon the matter reached  Army HQ.  The COAS ordered disciplinary action to be taken against the officer, as well as the brigade commander.  By now the line was almost complete and the Army Commander was informed of the case.  Though Sam had forgotten about the incident, he immediately wrote to the Chief assuming full responsibility for the officer's actions, saying that he had acted on his specific orders.

While in Eastern Command, Sam went to Jorhat.  During his  visit to the hospital he found a soldier who had sustained a bullet injury in the stomach.  He was moaning with pain.  When Sam asked him how many bullets he had got, the soldier replied " One".  Sam pulled out his shirt and showing the scar running all the way down his abdomen, asked," how many do you think I got ?"  The soldier grinned sheepishly and stopped moaning, as Sam tucked in his shirt and moved on.

On another occasion, he went to Sikkim to visit a battalion of 8th Gorkha Rifles.  The battalion was in high altitude, holding picquets on the border with China.  The CO, in a bid to please the Army Commander, had laid on a lavish reception and sofa sets, carpets and a lot of silver had been brought up from the base.  When Sam saw all this, he was very angry, knowing the ordeal the men must have undergone carrying all this on their backs.  The battalion had finished their tenure and were due to go to a peace station.  "I had thought you chaps are having a hard time and deserve a good peace station," said Sam.  " But seeing how comfortable you are, I think another year will not do you any harm." When the CO protested, Sam gave him a tongue lashing that he never forgot. 

The Chief of Army Staff,  General P.P. Kumaramangalam, was due to retire in June 1969. Sam and Harbaksh Singh were the two contenders. Sam was senior, but Sardar Swaran Singh, the Defence Minister, favoured Harbaksh, who had commanded the Western Army during the 1965 Indo Pak War. However, Prime Minister Indira  Gandhi gave a decision in favour of Sam and he became the Chief on 8 June 69. He had reached the pinnacle of his career, which had almost been cut short  a few years earlier when he was at Wellington. He was destined to write his name into history books, as India's first Field Marshal and the victor of the 1971 War.

As  Chief, Sam cut a dashing figure, with his side cap and pleated shirts. He was full of beans and his enthusiasm and energy were contagious. This, coupled with his ready wit and sense of humour, made him a popular figure and his visits to formations and units were looked forward to. After each visit, there were always a few stories, which became the favourite topic of conversation in messes and drawing rooms. On one such visit to Mhow, he was asked to inaugurate a new wing of the Club of Central India, which has now become the Defence Services Officers Institute. Sam noticed that the new wing had still not been properly furnished, and when he remarked so, he was promptly asked for some funds. He agreed to a generous grant from the Chief's Welfare Fund, and then said, "I just don't know how to say no. Sometimes, I thank God for making me a man, and not a woman. Can you imagine my condition if it had been otherwise - I would have been always pregnant."

Once, he was invited to Bombay to inaugurate the HQ of the newly formed Western Naval Command. When he landed at Santa Cruz airport he was received by the Area Commander and several other senior officers of the Army and the Navy. A Mercedes Benz car had been hired for the Chief and he was escorted to it.  The trouble began when it was found that the Chief's flag could not be put on the car, as the flag post was not of the correct size. While the staff officer was struggling with it, Sam noticed his suitcase being put in another car. Since he intended to go straight to the Western Naval Command, he asked that his suitcase be put in the Benz. It was then discovered that the boot of the car could not be opened, with the keys that were available. To top it all, the car came to a spluttering halt just outside the airport. With such an inauspicious beginning, everyone was on tenterhooks but Sam was unperturbed. He transferred to another car and the cavalcade resumed its journey. When driving along the Marine Drive, Sam was impressed by the upkeep of the buildings, some of which were very old. These stately mansions looked as if they had been built only recently. When he reached Colaba and saw the newly constructed MES buildings, he remarked that they looked much older than the ones on Marine Drive.  

The same evening, there was a party in the officers mess. Knowing the Chief's preference, the Area Commander had told his ADC to keep an adequate supply of Dimple scotch whisky. The ADC, a young Captain from 18 Cavalry, had given the barman a sealed bottle along with one that was more than half full with instructions that the sealed bottle was to be opened only with his permission. Due to a mix up, the open bottle was used to serve the first drink not only to Sam but to several others. When the barman reported that only two pegs were left in the bottle, the ADC was aghast. The GOC's wife had told him to make sure that Dimple was served only to the Chief, and if he opened the new bottle so early in the evening, he was sure to be taken to task. So he asked the barman to get some Indian whisky and poured two pegs into the bottle of Dimple. Sam was not a heavy drinker and the four pegs should suffice for the evening, he reasoned.

When the next drink was served, Sam took one sip and grimaced. "This is not Dimple", he said. The bottle was promptly brought for his inspection and he sniffed it. He had another sip, then shook his head. When he asked where it had come from, he was told that it was from the canteen. "Don't tell me the canteen is giving you spurious scotch. You must report the matter," he said. The new bottle was then brought and opened. When Sam sipped his new drink, he proclaimed that this was indeed Dimple. After this, the party got underway and ended without further mishap.   

After the party, the GOC and his wife grilled the ADC and the mess staff. The ADC confessed his crime and was lambasted. He was asked to go the Chief next morning and make a clean breast of the whole affair. The next day, a very sheepish Captain went to the Chief of Army Staff and said that he wanted to say something. When he was given the necessary permission, he blurted out the whole episode. Sam had a hearty laugh and said, "You have been naughty, young man."

During this period,  India was going through a difficult time  and the problems facing her seemed insurmountable. In neighbouring Pakistan, the Army had seized power  and there was speculation that India may go the same way. Once, a visiting American diplomat asked Sam when he was going to take over. Sam retorted, "As soon as General Westmoreland takes over in your country." The American Ambassador, Kenneth Keating, was present  and he had a good laugh.

One day, Sam was summoned by the Prime Minister to her office in Parliament House. When he entered, he found Indira Gandhi in very low spirits. She was sitting at her table, with her head in her hands. On being asked what was troubling her, she replied that she had problems.  Sam asked her what the problem was  and was surprised when she told him that he was the problem. When Sam asked her to elaborate, the Prime Minister said that she had heard that he was going to take over. Sam was shocked. He assured her that he did not harbour any political ambitions. He knew that military coups had not succeeded in any country in the World. India was a democratic country and would always remain so. He was quite happy commanding the Indian Army, and as long as he was allowed to do that, she could run the country the way she wanted. Indira Gandhi seemed to be relieved and thanked Sam profusely.

The most  well known  anecdote about Sam is the one he often relates himself.  In 1971, when refugees from East Pakistan began to cross over into India, Sam was the Army Chief, Indira Gandhi  the Prime Minister and Babu Jagjiwan Ram the Minister for Defence or Raksha Mantri. There was a meeting of the Cabinet on 27 April 1971, to which Sam was invited as the Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee. The Prime Minister appeared to be distraught and angry. Refugees from East Pakistan were pouring into West Bengal, Assam and other parts of Eastern India. Waving a telegram from the Chief Minister of one of the Eastern States, she asked Sam, "Can't you do something?"

"What do you want me to do?" asked Sam.

 "Go into East Pakistan."

"This would mean war," said Sam.

"I know", said Indira Gandhi. "We don't mind a war."

"Have you read the Bible" asked Sam.

 "What has the Bible to do with this?" asked Swaran Singh, the Minister for External Affairs.

"In the Bible, it is written that God said let there be light, and there was light. You think that by saying let there be war, there can be a war? Are you ready for a war? I am not."

The Prime Minister did not seem to be very pleased and there was a scowl on her face. Sam went on to explain the reasons for his reluctance to go to war with Pakistan immediately. In a few weeks, the monsoon would set in, making the ground unsuitable for operations as East Pakistan had a number of rivers, which were prone to flooding. All movement would have to be on roads, which could be blocked. The Air Force would not be able to support the ground troops due to bad weather. The armoured division was in Jhansi and one of the infantry divisions in Secunderabad. Moving them to the East would require time as well as all available road and rail space. The wheat crop was being harvested and movement of foodgrains would be adversely affected. Turning towards the Agriculture Minister, Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, Sam said, "If there is a famine, people will blame you, not me."

The Agriculture Minister squirmed in his seat. Sam then turned to the Finance Minister, Y.B. Chavan, and said, " My armoured division has only twelve tanks which are operational. You know why? Because whenever we asked you for funds, you said you had no money."

Sam advised postponement of the operations till the winter months. This would give him enough time to build up the infrastructure required for large scale operations in the East. The Government would also get enough time to garner international support through diplomatic channels, so that other countries did not interfere or extend military assistance to Pakistan. During winter the Northern passes would be blocked with snow, eliminating the threat of intervention by the Chinese. Most members of the Cabinet seemed to see the logic of his arguments and nodded their heads, though Indira Gandhi seemed to be somewhat unhappy.

Finally, Sam addressed the Prime Minister herself. "As your Army Chief, it is my duty to put the facts before you. If your father had me as the Army Chief in 1962 instead of General Thapar, and he had told me to throw the Chinese out, I would have said the same thing and he would not have been shamed the way he was. If you still want me to go ahead, I will. But I guarantee you a one hundred percent defeat. Now tell me what you want me to do."

There was a stunned silence. Then the Defence Minister, Babu Jagjiwan Ram, said,"Shyam, - he always pronounced Sam as Shyam, a popular Indian name - maan jao na" (please agree).

Sam said, "I have given my professional assessment. It is now for the Government to take a decision."

The Prime Minister did not say anything. She appeared to be visibly angry. She closed the meeting, asking everyone to come back at four o'clock. As everybody rose and started leaving, the Prime Minister asked Sam to stay back. When they were alone, he offered to resign, either on physical or mental grounds.

  "Sit down, Sam," she said. "I don't want your resignation. Just tell me, is every thing you said earlier true?"

 "Yes, it is. Look, it is my job to fight, and fight to win. Today, if you go to war, you will lose. Give me another six months and I guarantee you a hundred percent success. But I want to make one thing quite clear. There must be one commander. I don't mind working under the BSF, the CRPF, or anybody you like. But I will not have a soviet telling me what to do. I must have one political master giving me directions. I don't want the refugee ministry, home ministry, defence ministry, all telling me what to do. Now, you make up your mind."

"All right, Sam, nobody will interfere," said the Prime Minister."You will be in command."

"Thank you," said Sam. "I guarantee you a victory." And so it was. Later, Sam was to recall that there is a very thin line between becoming a Field Marshal and being dismissed.

Once the decision to undertake operations was taken by the Government, and Sam was given the go ahead, he set about it in earnest. The Government also decided to extend support to the freedom movement in East Pakistan, led by Sheikh Mujibur Rehman. The task of training and equipping the Mukti Bahini, as the freedom fighters were known, was entrusted to the Indian Army. Sam decided to train and equip three brigade groups of regular Bangla Desh troops. They would be based mainly on the personnel of the East Bengal Regiment, the shortfall being made up from the East Pakistan Rifles. In addition, about 75,000 guerrillas were to be trained and equipped with weapons and ammunition. From the middle of 1971 till the end of the war, they operated in small bands, harassing the regular troops of the Pakistan Army. The Government of Bangla Desh, as the new nation was intended to be named once it became independent, had started functioning in Calcutta and Colonel M.A.G. Osmani was appointed the Military Advisor and C-in-C of its Army. As the atrocities committed by Tikka Khan's troops in East Pakistan grew in intensity, so did the flood of refugees streaming towards India. The international media, which initially  viewed India's action in providing help to the Mukti Bahini as interference in the internal affairs of a neighbouring country, slowly began to veer round and articles documenting the horrible atrocities committed by Pakistani troops began to appear in the press.

On the diplomatic front, the Government went all out to convince the World of the righteousness of India's stand. Indira Gandhi visited several foreign countries and personally briefed the heads of government. Except the Soviet Union, none of the major powers supported India's stand. In fact, some were critical of her actions and the USA as well as China came out openly in support of Pakistan. Indira Gandhi, realising the threat of intervention by China as well as Pakistan, sent D.P. Dhar to Moscow with feelers regarding obtaining support from the Soviet Union. The Russians responded favourably and the Indo-Soviet Treaty  of Peace, Friendship and Co-operation was signed on 9 August 1971. This was a major achievement and effectively neutralised the threat from USA and Pakistan, giving India considerable freedom in deciding her course of action.

The strategy for the operations in East Pakistan as decided by Sam was to mount a multi pronged attack, bypassing strongly held areas, with the aim of capturing maximum territory in the shortest possible time. This was essential because of the possibility of a UN sponsored  cease fire after a few weeks. It was intended to liberate a large enough area to facilitate the establishment of a Bangla Desh government. The capture of Dacca or the fall of the whole of East Pakistan was neither planned nor visualised at this stage. The task of executing the strategy formulated by Army HQ was given to Eastern Command, then headed by Lieut General Jagjit Singh Aurora, who had Lieut General J.F.R. Jacob as his Chief of Staff. Three Army corps were to be used for the operation. 2 Corps, under Lieut General T.N. 'Tappy' Raina, (later General, and Army Chief) was to advance from the West; 4 Corps, under Lieut General Sagat Singh, was to enter from the East; 33 Corps, under Lieut General M.L. Thapan, was to come down from the North; and 101 Communication Zone Area, under Major General Gurbax Singh Gill, was to mount a subsidiary thrust from the North East.

The Indo Pak War of 1971 started on 3 December 1971, after Pakistani aircraft bombed Indian airfields in the Western sector. Indira Gandhi was then in Calcutta. Sam Manekshaw telephoned Jacob at 6 p.m. and asked him to inform the Prime Minister that the war had begun and he was issuing orders to Eastern Command to go ahead immediately. Characteristically, Sam 'informed' the Prime Minister rather than seeking permission. Jacob informed the Army Commander, who left at once to brief the Prime Minister, who was staying with the Governor at Raj Bhawan (Government House). The Navy and Air Force were also informed and full scale operations commenced the next day.

As the operations progressed, Pakistani resistance broke down. The Indians bypassed all strongly held positions and the isolated Pakistani troops, taken by surprise, began to withdraw or surrender. American proposals to get the United Nations to effect a cease fire were frustrated by the Soviets, who vetoed the resolutions. An interesting feature of the war was the three broadcasts made by Sam, calling on Pakistani troops to surrender and assuring them of honourable treatment. The first message was broadcast on the radio and dropped in the form of leaflets  after the fall of Jessore on 9 December. Addressed to the 'officers and jawans of the Pakistan Army', it exhorted them to lay down their arms, before it was too late. It went on to say: "Indian forces have surrounded you. Your Air Force is destroyed. You have no hope of any help from them. Chittagong, Chalna and Mangla ports are blocked. Nobody can reach you from the sea. Your fate is sealed. The Mukti Bahini and the people are all prepared to take revenge for the atrocities and cruelties you have committed....... Why waste lives? Don't you want to go home and be with your children? Do not lose time; there is no disgrace in laying down your arms to a soldier. We will give you the treatment befitting a soldier."

Two other messages, on the same lines, were broadcast on December 11 and 15, in reply to messages from Major General Rao Farman Ali and Lieut General A.K. Niazi. These messages were a severe blow to the morale of the Pakistani troops and convinced them of the futility of further resistance. Accounts of Pakistani officers and men captured subsequently revealed that these messages had played a significant part in degrading Pakistani resolve to fight and it is estimated that they had shortened the war by at least two weeks. 

In the early hours of  11 December, Lieut Iftikhar of the Pakistan Army came up on the wireless set indicating his willingness to surrender. He came out with a white flag near the Mirpur bridge and surrendered to Indian troops. The same day, Major General Rao Farman Ali, the Military Adviser to the Governor of East Pakistan, sent a message to the United Nations asking for a cease fire. The Security Council was about to begin discussing the message when another message  was received from President Yayha Khan countermanding Farman Ali's message, which it described as 'unauthorised'.  

As early as 9 December, the Governor of East Pakistan, Dr A.M. Malik, had sent a message to Yahya Khan advocating a cease fire. Yahya Khan had replied that he was leaving the  decision to Malik and had instructed General Niazi, the Army Commander accordingly. Malik could not make up his mind and continued to wait for instructions from Rawalpindi. On 13 December, Niazi spoke to the Army Chief, General Hamid, requesting him to arrange a cease fire. On 14 December Yahya Khan sent instructions to Niazi to take action as he deemed fit to stop the fighting and preserve the lives of his men. Before this message reached Niazi, another development had taken place. Malik  convened a meeting at mid day, on 14 December at Government House in Dacca, to discuss the issue. The wireless message giving the time and venue of the meeting was intercepted by an Indian Signals interception unit. The Indian Air Force bombed the Government House, causing a lot of damage. Malik was badly shaken and his concern for the safety of his Austrian wife and daughter, who were with him, finally pushed him towards a decision. He immediately wrote out his resignation and accompanied by his cabinet and other civil servants, moved to the Hotel Intercontinental, which had been occupied by the International Red Cross and was treated as a neutral zone.

The decision to surrender was actually  taken by Niazi, who addressed a message to Sam Manekshaw on 15 December and requested the United States Consul General in Dacca, Herbert Spivack, to convey it to him. Instead of sending the message to India, Spivack had it sent to Washington, from where it was relayed to India. Sam had already made two broadcasts asking the Pakistani forces in East Pakistan to surrender. Leaflets containing his call to surrender had been translated into Urdu, Pushtu and Bengali and dropped over the area held by Pakistani troops. When he received Niazi's message, Sam broadcast a reply, indicating that a cease fire would be acceptable only if the Pakistani troops surrendered to the Indian Army by 9 a.m. on 16 December 1971. He gave the radio frequencies on which Niazi could contact Aurora's headquarters. As a token of good faith, Sam also informed Niazi that he was ordering cessation of air action over Dacca. Niazi later requested an extension of the deadline for surrender, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., which Sam accepted. Around midnight, on December 15, Niazi sent a message to all his formation commanders to contact their Indian counter parts and negotiate a cease fire. The war was over.

The formal surrender ceremony took place at Dacca on 16 December. In front of a large crowd, General Niazi handed over his pistol to Lieut General Aurora, the Army Commander, and signed the Instrument of Surrender at 1655 Hours. Along with Niazi, about 93,000 Pakistani soldiers became prisoners of war. On 10 January 1972, Sheikh Mujib returned to Dacca in triumph and took over the reins of the Government of Bangla Desh. In March 1972, Indian troops began to withdraw along with civil servants who handed over charge to the their counter parts in Bangla Desh.

Before the Indian troops went into East Pakistan, Sam wanted to make sure that they do not resort to the traditional occupations of a victorious Army - loot and rape.  He gave strict orders that anyone found looting was to be court martialled.  As regards the second problem, he thought he should talk to men directly.  Wherever he went, he stressed on the need for Indian troops to be on their best behaviour and stay away from women.  Finally, he broadcast a message to the troops just before they went into action.  " When you see a Begum, keep your hands in your pockets, and think of Sam,"  he said.  As a result, cases of loot and rape were negligible and the Indian Army came out with flying colours, not only for its feat of arms but the behaviour of its soldiers.

As the war progressed, battle casualties began trickling in. Sam's wife, Silloo, made it a point to receive all casualties personally and went to the Military Hospital everyday to visit them.  During one of her visits, she was told that a  wounded Pakistani officer had also arrived.  He had been kept under guard in a separate room.  Mrs. Manekshaw went to visit him.  The officer did not reply when she asked him how he was feeling.  This was repeated on the next two days.  After she left, on the third day, the Pakistani officer asked one of the nurses about the lady in slacks who came to visit him daily. When he was told that she was the Chief's wife, he was aghast.  The next day, when Mrs Manekshaw went to visit him, the officer apologised profusely for his rude behaviour.  He could not stop his tears, saying  that he had not been able to recognise her  as this sort of thing did not happen in his own country.

During the 1971 war a very large number of prisoners were taken.  They were lodged in several camps all over the country.  When the first train carrying the prisoners reached Delhi en route to one of these camps,  Sam went straight to the railway station to meet them,  without informing anyone in Army HQ.  The POW had just arrived and were waiting on platforms when Sam reached the station, the first Indian officer to meet them.  The POW and their escort were surprised to see the Chief walking around, with just his ADC for company.  After chatting with them for some time and sharing a cup of tea, he left, as several other senior officers began to arrive.  The POW were seen shaking their heads, saying that they wished they had generals like this in Pakistan.

Sam insisted that the POW were well looked after. At several places, Indian troops were asked to vacate their barracks and live in tents so that the POW could be properly accommodated. They were allowed to celebrate their festivals and given copies of the Koran. The Red Cross and other international agencies were given free access to the POW camps, and they were permitted to receive letters and gift parcels.

During the 1971 war, India  won a decisive victory over Pakistan. A new nation had come into being and Sam, as the prime architect of the victory, became a hero. Apart from capturing almost a hundred thousand prisoners the Indian Army had occupied several hundred square kilometres of Pakistani soil in Ladakh. After a year, when talks were held in Simla between the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan, it was expected that India would be able to wrest some major concessions from Pakistan and negotiate a permanent solution to the Kashmir problem. Unfortunately, Sam was kept out of the summit and had no part to play in the negotiations. Though Bhutto and Indira Gandhi had informally agreed to accept the cease fire line in Kashmir as the international border, this was not reduced to writing. As a result, the military gains, achieved at great cost in human lives, were frittered away by politicians and bureaucrats. When Indira returned form Simla, she told Sam about the meeting. Bhutto had told her that he had recently taken over and was not in a position to take major decisions. He needed more time and  promised that in six months everything would be done as she desired. Sam reportedly told the Prime Minister: "Bhutto has made a monkey out of you."

The prisoners taken by India and Pakistan were exchanged on 1 December 1972. Withdrawal of troops of both sides had still not taken place due to disagreement on the alignment of the Line of Control. Talks had been going on between both countries for over  four months, to delineate the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir. There was a  deadlock due to conflicting claims of both sides over certain key areas, including the village of Thako Chak near Jammu and certain features in Kaiyan, across the Tutmari Gali in Kashmir. The enclave of Thako Chak in the Chicken's Neck  had been occupied by Pakistan during the war. In the Kaiyan Bowl, a large  area had been captured by an over enthusiastic company of 9 Sikh, which was part of 19 Infantry Division. However, a small hillock that  had been reported as captured was discovered to be still held by the enemy when cease fire was declared. The anomaly was discovered several months later, during the delineation talks being held at Wagah. To retrieve the situation, the divisional commander decided to capture the feature. The strength on the feature was not correctly assessed, and the attack launched in May 1972 failed, with heavy casulaties.

To resolve the issue, Sam flew down to Lahore, and had two meetings with his counter part General Tikka Khan, on 28 November and 7 December. Though Indira Gandhi had authorised him to give up Thako Chak to break the deadlock, Sam was not one to give up so easily. Finally, he managed to get back Thako Chak, in return for some territory in Kaiyan that was not as valuable. The withdrawal of troops commenced soon afterwards, and was completed by 20 December 1972.

Like Thimayya, Sam was very popular with the troops, who literally adored him.  When visiting the messes of JCOs and OR, he always drank rum instead of whisky or beer, which are normally served in officers messes. His behaviour and conduct with his orderlies and domestic staff was particularly informal. One day, just as he was about to leave Army House for his office, he was told that an old woman wanted to meet him.  Coming out, he found it was the widow of Sher Singh, his old Sikh orderly from 4/12 FFR who had saved his life.  Sam made her sit in his car and took her along to South Block.  Taking her to his office, he made her sit down, and asked for some tea.  He chatted with her for an hour, keeping several senior officers waiting outside.  Finally, he asked his ADC to take her in his car and drop her at the railway station where she had to catch a train.  As the old lady left, she said, " Main dua karti thi ki Rab tujhe Jangi Laat bana de.  Ab main chain se marungi "  (I used to pray to God to make you the Commander-in-Chief.  Now I can die in peace).

Sam is known for his quick wit, and the ability to say the right thing at the right time. When President De Gaulle died, Mrs. Indira Gandhi went to attend his funeral.  On her return, the three service Chiefs had gone to the airport to receive her as was customary, along with other dignitaries.  When Indira Gandhi came to Sam, he complimented her on her hairdo.  She smiled, and said "You are the only one who has noticed it."

Another of Sam's endearing qualities is his sense of humour. In September 1970, Sam and Silloo went to the USSR. After being received with due ceremony by several Soviet Marshals, they were taken to their hotel suite. Silloo asked one of the Marshals "Where is my room?" The Russians were non plussed, till Sam explained that he and his wife slept in separate bedrooms, because he snored. Then taking the Marshal aside, he whispered, "You know, she is the only woman who has ever complained." The Russian laughed, and slapped Sam on the back.

During his visit to Lahore, for the delineation talks after the war, he was invited to an officers mess where he recognised a silver trophy, which looked like one from his old regiment.  On enquiry, it was found that the trophy had indeed once belonged to 4/12 FFR.  Sam had recognised it after more than 30 years.  During the same visit, Sam asked General Tikka Khan why he always wore dark glasses. "You don't smoke, you don't drink, and neither do you like pretty faces.  I do all these things, and still I don't hide my face".

There is an intriguing  parable about Sam's distaste for dark glasses.  He had bought an expensive pair of sun glasses when he was a young officer. Sam did not know that his Commanding Officer had an aversion for glasses. One day he saw Sam wearing them and in a fit of rage, literally ground them into pieces. Sam was flabbergasted and stood glued to the ground as the Old Man rode away. He never wore sun glasses again.

Though Sam had an excellent rapport with Indira Gandhi, his relations with Jagjiwan Ram were somewhat strained. When Jagjiwan Ram tried to raise the issue of reservations for scheduled castes and tribes in the Army, Sam put his foot down. A note was sent from the Defence Ministry to Army HQ wanting to know why action should not be taken against those responsible for failing to implement the Government policy on recruitment, formulated at the time of Independence. Sam sent a reply, saying that action should first be taken against him as the Chief since he had not only failed to implement the policy, but was in full agreement with the actions of his predecessors. No more was heard from the Ministry on the subject.   When Lieut General N.C. Rawlley's name was proposed to take over as GOC-in-C Eastern Command, the file came back from the Ministry, asking Army HQ to propose another name.  Sam sent the file back, with the remarks that there was no officer more suitable for the appointment.  Ultimately he had his way, and Navin Rawlley became an Army Commander.

Another of Sam's habits that others considered odd was his practice of addressing Indira Gandhi as "Prime Minister" instead of "Madam". Some bureaucrats were shocked and complained to the Cabinet Secretary about the disrespect being shown to the Prime Minister. When the Cabinet Secretary mentioned this in Sam's presence at a meeting of the Committee of Secretaries, he got a reply that made him specchless. "I hope you know that the term is  reserved for certain ladies who are in charge of houses of ill fame."

Soon after the end of the War, Indira Gandhi decided to promote him as Field Marshal and also appoint him the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS). However, the bureaucracy was not in favour of this. The CDS would become part of the Ministry of Defence and perform most of the tasks presently being done by bureaucrats from the Indian Administrative Service (IAS). However, since the decision was personally taken by the Prime Minister, no one opposed it openly. His promotion had to be cleared by the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet, but once it was known what Indira Gandhi wanted this was a formality. There was a hitch when Y.B. Chavan, the Defence Minister, recorded his opinion that he felt that the effect of Sam's promotion on the other two Services should also be considered. This delayed his promotion but could not stop it since Indira Gandhi had already made up her mind.

Though his promotion to the rank of Field Marshal was cleared, the proposal to appoint Sam the Chief of Defence Staff was torpedoed, by the time honoured strategy of 'divide and rule.' Since the CDS was to exercise control over the Army, Navy and the Air Force, the views of all the three were solicited. As expected, the Air Force strongly objected. Air Chief Marshal P.C. Lal, who was the Chief of Air Staff, had been unhappy with the manner in which Sam had functioned during the War. In his book, 'My Years With The IAF', he writes: "From the way Manekshaw carried on in 1971 and in the publicity that was showered on him both during the war and after, the impression was created that he was, in fact, operating as a de facto Chief of Defence Staff even though he was at the time Chairman of the COSC (Chiefs of Staff Committee) in which capacity he was one of three equal partners."

Pratap Lal was at Chabua, near Dibrugarh, on 24 March 1972, when he received a telephone call from P.N. Haksar, the Principal Private Secretary to the Prime Minister. Haksar told him that the Government was considering the creation of the post of CDS and appointing Sam Manekshaw to it in recognition of the manner in which he had directed the Bangla Desh War. Lal was asked for his views before a final decision was taken. The Air Chief sent his comments to Haksar the same evening, in which he raised serious objections to the proposal. In fact he asserted: "I saw in the proposed arrangement a positive danger to frank and free discussions particularly if the CDS happened to be excessively assertive and intolerant of the ideas of others."

In view of the strong opposition from the Air Force, or rather, the Air Chief - he could not possibly have consulted others in the few hours before he sent his reply - the proposal to create the post of CDS was dropped. In subsequent years, the Services came to realise the need for the appointment and  clamoured for its creation.  There was some talk of creating the appointment in 1987, when Rajiv Gandhi was the Prime Minister and Arun Singh the Defence Minister, but Exercise 'Brass Tacks' and the Bofors affair put paid to the proposal.  The opportunity was allowed to pass, and may not come again.

Sam was due to retire in June 1972, but was given an extension of six months. He was not keen to continue and had made known his desire to the Prime Minister. However, she wanted him to stay on and told Sam that he would not be allowed to proceed on retirement. When Sam told her that he had no intention of staying on and there was no law under which he could be forced to do so, there was some consternation. Finally someone found a way out. It was reasoned that if Sam received a direct order from the President who was also the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, he would have to obey. The President's consent was obtained and his directions published in the Gazette of India, indicating that Sam would continue to hold the office of Chief of Army Staff till the President was pleased to dispense with his services.

The rank of Field Marshal was formally conferred on Sam at a special investiture ceremony held at Rashtrapati Bhawan on 3 January 1973. Since no Indian had held the rank earlier, neither the insignia nor the baton were available. The Encyclopedia Britannica was consulted and the insignia fabricated overnight in the Army workshop in Delhi. For the baton, a stick orderly's cane was used after suitable modification. An interesting sidelight of the investiture concerns the baton, which is traditionally used by a Field Marshal for paying or accepting compliments. After the ceremony, some politicians were heard remarking that Sam had become swollen headed and did not salute the President properly, as Army officers normally do. There was much amusement, among the Service officers present, who had to explain that a Field Marshal traditionally uses his baton to salute, instead of his hand.   

After the 1971 war, Sam commanded immense prestige not only in India but also abroad. He was literally mobbed wherever he went, and everyone wanted to shake his hand or touch his feet. Soon after the war, he was invited to Bombay as the Chief Guest at the Filmfare awards function. As usual, there was a huge crowd of onlookers at the entrance. But this time, the throng wanted to see Sam and not the film stars. When Sam arrived, they surrounded his car and cheered lustily. In stark contrast, the film stars were virtually ignored, which was a novel experience for most of them. Everyone wanted to shake hands with the Chief and take his autograph, including several well known  celebrities.

Sam's popularity was not confined to India. During one of his visits to Lahore after the war, the Governor of Punjab invited him for lunch. When the lunch was over, the Governor told him that some members of his staff wanted to shake hands with the Indian Chief. When Sam went outside, he found the entire staff lined up. as he went down the line shaking their hands, one of them took out his pagree (turban) and kept it at his feet. When Sam asked him why he was doing this he replied: "Sir, it is because of you that we were saved. I have five sons who are your prisoners. They write letters to me. You have given them the Koran. They are living in barracks while your men are in tents. They sleep on cots while your men sleep on the ground. Now I will never believe anyone who tells me that Hindus are bad."

Sam's popularity came at a price. Many people, especially in politics and the bureaucracy,  began to perceive him as a threat. Indira Gandhi also found it difficult to allay her fears on this score, and soon found a chance to cut him to size. A young lady reporter asked him for an interview and he agreed. She came to his house and during their conversation, Sam mentioned that during Partition he had been asked to opt for Pakistan, but he had chosen to remain in India. When the reporter asked Sam what would have happened if he had opted for Pakistan, and been  commanding the Pakistani Army, instead of the Indian, he replied, "they would have won".  Sam undoubtedly made the witty remark without considering the consequences, which were immense. Soon afterwards, he had to go to UK and while he was there, there was a question in Parliament based on the story which the reporter had written giving prominence to his remark. The Prime Minister was in the House but chose to remain silent. Sam was branded an egotist, and soon became `persona - non - grata'.  Though the Government could not take away his rank, it  did take away every thing else and treated him shabbily.  He was given a salary which was much lower than what he was entitled to, after handing over as Army Chief. None of the other facilities that a Field Marshal gets such as secretarial staff, a house or a car were given to him. 

A few years later, the author had a chance to see the tremendous popularity which  Sam still enjoyed.  It was in 1975, and he had come to Indore, where the citizens  had organised a civic reception in a large auditorium.  When Sam arrived he was almost mobbed and reached the stage with great difficulty.  The crowds kept on shouting " Manekshaw Ki Jai ", till they were hoarse and no amount of entreaties by the organisers could silence them. After sometime, when they were quiet, someone started his welcome speech in Hindi.  What he said went something like this: "We have in our midst today, a soldier whose very name is synonymous with valour.  He makes us remember Rana Pratap, Jhansi ki Rani and the gallant Shivaji, whose deeds form our national heritage.  When we hear him talk, the blood courses through our veins with greater speed". 

And so it went on for a good half hour.  After this Sam was asked to speak.  He too spoke in Hindi. "I only want to make one request.  Can I have an English translation of the speech I just heard ?  I want to give it to my wife.  Whenever I tell her that I am a great man, she doesn't even listen.  Now she will believe me."  Needless to say, the house came down and the ovation went on and on.

Sam's ability to communicate with people of any age group, especially the younger generation, is one of the reasons for his immense popularity. The author was doing the staff course at Wellington in 1977 alongwith Behram Panthaki, who had been Sam's ADC when he was COAS. It was a Saturday and there was a party at Behram's house at the 'Rosery' in Upper Coonoor, very close to 'Stavka', where Sam lives. Hearing the loud music, Sam came over and asked Behram, "You chaps are  having a party, and did not invite me?" When he came to know that it was a pound party, where everyone brings his own food and drinks, he promptly sent his Gorkha orderly home to fetch a bottle of Scotch. He stayed there till midnight, surrounded by a bevy of starry eyed women, who would rather listen to his stories than dance with their husbands, much to the chagrin of the latter.    

In 1989, Sam went to visit the Military Hospital, in Secunderabad.  Along with the medical officers, the nurses were also lined up to meet him.  He stopped near the youngest one and asked her why she was improperly dressed.  The poor girl blushed a deep scarlet, and began to stammer. The matron, who was an old battle axe, came to her rescue, and asked Sam what he meant. 

"Matron, as far as I remember, skirts are to end three inches above the knee.  Your girls have skirts going right down to the knee".  And holding  the hapless girl's skirts with both hands, he  lifted it until it came to the correct height.

There were giggles galore, but the matron was not to be silenced. "Sir, I have asked the girls to wear longer skirts, because the men stare at them in the wards",  she said.

"Matron, have you ever asked the girls whether they mind the men staring at them ?" asked Sam, moving on.  This silenced the matron, while the girls grinned from ear to ear.

Sam's sense of humour is unmatched and cannot be curbed, even at the most serious occasion. In 1995, while delivering a lecture on leadership in New Delhi, he began to reflect on how times had changed. Even the English Language had changed, he lamented, and went on to cite  several examples. In his younger days he said, the word 'gay' was used to describe someone full of the joys of spring; a 'queer' was a chap who'd rather spend his evenings in his room reading  Milton than playing games; and only generals had 'aides'.

Sam's views on leadership, and  the so called good things of life, are interesting. In April 1993, he was invited to deliver the inaugural address of the Holiday Programme for Youth by the Bombay Parsi Punchayet. Talking about leadership, he said, "By and large, men and women like their leaders to have all the manly qualities. The man who says he doesn't smoke, he doesn't drink, he doesn't ... that man doesn't make a good leader. He may make a mahatma, he may make a saint, and he may make a priest, but he doesn't really make a leader."  He went to add, "Julius Caesar was a great leader. He had his Calpurnia, and he had his Cleopatra. And when he came to Rome and walked down the streets, senators used to lock up their wives. Take Napoleon Bonaparte. He had his Josephine, he had his Marie Valesca, Georgette, Ninette and every other vette. And you will agree that he was a great leader. Take the Duke of Wellington. Do you know, before the Battle of Waterloo, there were more countesses and marquesses with luscious proportions in his ante chamber than staff officers and commanders."

Sam had a very prominent nose, and he often draws attention to it, in his own inimitable way. After talking about Caesar, Napoleon, and the Duke of Wellington, he would close with the remarks " All these great leaders had one special characteristic in common; they all had long noses." He would then turn side ways, presenting the famous Manekshaw profile in a theatrical pose. This would invariably bring down the house.   

Sam's aversion for the new breed of Indian's politicians is well known and was largely responsible for landing him in trouble when he was the Commandant of the Staff College. However, this has done little to change his attitude and he continues to hold the tribe in contempt. During the same talk, he said, "I wonder whether those of our political masters who have been put in charge of defence of the country can distinguish a mortar from a motor; a gun from a howitzer; a guerrilla from a gorilla - although a great many in the past have resembled the latter." Not surprisingly, there was little love lost between Sam and the political bosses, who ultimately had their revenge.  

After his retirement from active service, Sam  settled down in Coonoor in the Nilgiris, very close to Wellington. In 1962, when he had been sent to NEFA as Corps Commander, he had left his family at Wellington. Silloo bought half an acre of land for 18,500 rupees, and designed 'Stavka', the house in which he now lives. The name of the house was suggested by Sherry, who had recently read Tolstoy's famous novel,  'War and Peace'. In the book, 'Stavka'  was the  headquarters of the highest military commander in the land.

Until about fifteen years ago, when he gave up driving, student officers in Wellington often ran into him, filling his car at the college pump and he would linger on to chat with them.  He still  has several Gorkhas working for him and when the wife of one of them was admitted in the military hospital, Sam made it a point to drive the `kancha' to the hospital daily, so that he could look her up.  No wonder the Gorkhas worship him.  It is such qualities that made Sam a legend, and one of the most popular military leaders of the Indian Army.  He is still active, both physically and mentally, and takes an avid interest in every thing, however mundane. It is a pity that the political leadership chose to side line him, and thus deprived the Nation, and the Armed Forces, of the benefit of his rich experience and undoubted talents.  Any other person, so treated, would have sunk into oblivion, but not Sam.  Quite sensibly, he shunned politics, and  refused gubernatorial and ambassadorial assignments.  But he keeps himself busy with other pursuits.  He is on the board of several large companies, and takes an active interest in their affairs.                                   

Sam is a born leader, and practises the same techniques he did on the battle field now in the boardroom.  During the 1971 war, a decision had to be taken to launch a pre emptive air strike against the Pakistani defences in Karachi. The Air Chief agreed to do it, but suggested that they get it cleared by the Defence Minister. "Why should we," asked Sam. "Once the political decision to wage war has been taken by the Government, we must take responsibility for all military decisions ourselves." It was this type of leadership and the excellent cooperation between the three services, which won the war. A similar style of leadership, if displayed in 1962, might have produced different results and saved the Nation from the ignominy it suffered.

Silloo, Sam's companion for over sixty years, passed away recently. Her departure left a void in his life, and though he does not show it, Sam has lost some of the spring in his step.   Sherry and Maja visit Stavka whenever they can, and so do Sam's grand children. Everyone, including his grand children, calls him Sam. Like he used to do with his daughters, Sam tells droll stories and jokes to his grandchildren too, including some risque ones in Gujarati.  Sam had never regretted not having a son, till very recently. "I have so many rifles, pistols, fishing tackle and clothes - he could have them all", he says

In the twilight of his years, Sam Manekshaw remains a much loved and respected figure. A  Field Marshal never retires and Sam is a living example. Though he has quit active service, he continues to take an active interest in the Army. His lectures on 'Leadership', at military as well as civilian institutions are very popular and draw large audiences. He remains a colourful personality, full of fun and good cheer, and it  difficult to believe that he is about to reach the biblical age of four score and ten. His name is a household word in India, where he will always be remembered as an outstanding military leader, who gave us our first decisive victory against a foreign power in 1971. A living legend, his place is assured in the hall of fame of the Indian Army.


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