Book Talk | 'Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw: The Man and His Times'

Brig. Behram M Panthaki |

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The Man: As a 2-star general Sam Manekshaw had a run-in with Defence Minister Krishna Menon when he refused to snitch on the Army Chief and told Menon to mend his ways. This almost brought his career to a grinding halt, but for Sam, upholding values trumped personal gain. As a 3-star general he stopped the young Indira Gandhi who had accompanied her father, Prime Minister Nehru, from entering the Ops Room of his Corps HQ in NEFA, as she lacked security clearance. As an Army Commander, he carried the latest music LPs, playboy magazines/calendars for his officers serving in high altitude areas; all of this was on his personal tab. In April 1971, as Chief of Army Staff, he stood up to Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and offered to put in his papers rather than compromise the safety and security of his menthrough an untimely, unplanned war. In December that year, under his command, within two weeks, the Indian army liberated East Pakistan and the creation of Bangladesh forever changed the map of the subcontinent and the geo-politics of the region. The government honoured him by promoting him to Field Marshal, a first for the Indian Army. At the height of the war, rumours ran amuck that he’d been spied at The Tabela, a popular discotheque in Delhi. True or false, we’ll never know, for that is the enigma that still surrounds Sam Manekshaw.

The Book: Many such anecdotes about Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw can be found in this book. Brigadier Panthaki served on his staff from 1965 to 1973 and was a witness to events that altered the landscape of the Indian sub-continent. He and his wife Zenobia, shared a closeness to Sam that gave them an insight into his ideals, his military acumen, his mannerisms and his sometimes wicked sense of humour. With 200 photographs, citations and letters from eminent personalities, the book has a lot to offer.
About Brigadier Behram M Panthaki (Retd): Brigadier Behram Panthaki (Retd) was commissioned into the 8th Gorkha Rifles in 1964. He held several key command and operational appointments; three in Jammu & Kashmir, one in Ladakh which is responsible for operations on the Siachen glacier, commanded a Brigade in Delhi which is responsible for security of the National Capital Region, served in the Military Training Directorate at Army Headquarters and held two instructional appointments at the War College, Mhow, and at the Defence Services Staff College in Wellington. As a young 2nd Lt with 17 months of service, Brig Panthaki was selected by then Lt Gen Manekshaw, Eastern Army Commander, to be his ADC (his Aide). He continued to work on his staff when the General became the Chief of Army Staff and later when he became a Field Marshal. He took early retirement in 1994 to join his wife in the US and till June this year, he was the Director of Human Resources at The Kingsbury Center in Washington D.C.

About Zenobia Panthaki: Zenobia Panthaki began her career with IBM after graduating from Miranda House, Delhi University. She became part of the military fraternity after marriage to Captain Behram Panthaki and was witness to many of the events described in the book. From 1981-83 she ran an Army School in Cooch Behar (N. Bengal) in a predominantly Naxalite area. The Naxals had burnt down all English medium schools and threatened her too, but she persisted. In 1984 she joined the World Bank office in Delhi and transferred to Washington in 1994. She retired after 28 years of service and now consults for the Bank.