I got this very indignant email from a friend.
SORRY SAM, WE INDIANS NEED TO HANG OUR HEADS IN SHAME
It has also been remarkable for the complete lack of grace and gratitude, civility and courtesy, decency and decorum on the part of the bold-faced names rapaciously grazing the lawns of power in Delhi and elsewhere, for the brain behind India’s only decisive military victory.
* Pratibha Patil , the commander-in-chief of the armed forces with all the time in the world: Absent (in fact she was visiting her flat in Mumbai)
* Hamid Ansari : Vice-president releasing books and writing reviews of books by fellow-travellers: Absent
* Manmohan Singh , the prime minister who could do with a bit of the field marshal’s charisma and heroism: Absent
* Sonia Gandhi : daughter-in-law of the woman the field marshal called ‘sweetie’: Absent
* L K Advani : prime minister in waiting of the party which would like to do to Pakistan what Manekshaw did: Absent
* M Karunanidhi and Surjit Singh Barnala : chief minister and governor of the state which Manekshaw had made his home for 35 years: Absent
Politicians may have their reasons. They always do. Maybe, there are issues like protocol. Maybe, this is one way in which ‘civil India’ shows the armed forces its place. Maybe, this is why we are not as militaristic as Pakistan. Maybe, the knees are just too old to climb the hills.
But what about the armed forces itself?
* A K Antony: the defence minister ‘now behaving like the chairman of the confederation of the armed forces’ trade unions: absent ‘due to prior political engagements’.
* The chief of army staff: absent (away in Russia)
* The chief of navy staff: absent
* The chief of air staff (incidentally, a Parsi): absent
The contrast couldn’t be starker:
* When Amitabh Bachchan was ill after being socked in the stomach during the shooting of Coolie , Indira Gandhi flew down to Bombay to show her concern.
* When Dhirubhai Ambani died, L K Advani cut short his Gujarat tour to pay his respects to an ’embodiment of initiative, enterprise and determination’.
* When Pramod Mahajan was shot dead by his brother, Vice President Bhairon Singh Shekawat had the time to attend the funeral.
Our VIPs and VVIPs have time for dead and dying celebrities, charlatans, fixers. Not for a field marshal?
Somebody should have told the geniuses in Delhi that Sam, the Bahadur, passed away in Wellington, Ooty, not Wellington, New Zealand. The nearest civil airport is Coimbatore, just 80 km away.
If this is how we say goodbye to Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw, any wonder why Rang de Basanti could successfully tap into the anger of an entire generation?
The only saving grace were the Gurkhas, who served as the pall bearers and draped the Indian flag on him.