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Home > News > Specials

The Rediff Special/Josy Joseph in New Delhi

April 04, 2003

In the company of generals, children, politicians,journalistsandillustrious members of the global Parsicommunity and with traditional Zoroastrian rituals, Field Marshal Sam Hormusji Framji Jamshedji Manekshaw, India's first and only living field marshal, celebrated his 90th birthday in New Delhi on Thursday.

Manekshaw, his legendary wit and charm intact, cut his birthday cake with a silver khukri, thefavourite dagger of the legendary Gurkha soldiers, as the large gathering sang Happy Birthday to You.

The hero of the 1971 war with Pakistan, which resulted in the birth of Bangladesh, made no speech at the evening function organised by the Parzor Foundation, a UNESCO-supported initiative for the preservation and promotion of Parsi Zoroastrian culture and heritage. But he was visibly overwhelmed by the gathering and its affection.

Defence Minister George Fernandes, Tourism Minister Jagmohan, the three service chiefs, numerous retired war heroes and several former service chiefs were present at thefunction.

Fernandes pointed out that Manekshaw"not only created history, but also created a nation."

Everyone whoknew Manekshawhad a tale or two to recollect, as the crowd gathered to share some delightful Parsi snacks.

Manekshaw,who almost lost his life during World War II in Burma and won a Military Cross forbravery,was the first Indian officer to command the Gurkhas after Independence.

A documentary-- In War and Peace: The Life of Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw MC-- wasscreened as the Parzor Foundation celebrated his life as a mark of the contribution of the Parsi communityto India anda celebration of India's multi-culturalism. The documentary,which has India's favourite soldiernarrating his life to his grandson Jehan, details hislegendary career.

Delhi's military circles has beenabuzz for the last weekwith anecdotes of the exploits of Sam Bahadur, as Manekshaw was known to his troops.

In 1962, in the midst of the humiliating defeat against China, Manekshawtook over the Tezpur-based 4 Corps and famously told his troops, 'Gentlemen, there will be no more withdrawals.'

In 1971, he prevailed upon Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to give him six months to wait out the monsoon and preparefor the invasion of East Pakistan, bulldozed the finance ministry to give the military extra funds, and skipped major cities to take Dacca and create Bangladesh.

Despite his age,Manekshawdid not disappoint Delhi on this visit. On Wednesday, at the Battle Honours Mess, he wasat his witty best as he quipped, "Officers, you have kept up the great tradition of the India Army...[pause]of having beautiful wives."

When the wife of a former army chief asked Manekshawhow he managed to remember the first names of mostarmy wives, the field marshal remarkedthere are two thingsno honourable man should forget: His wife's birthday and the first name of the women around.

The field marshal now lives in the Nilgiri Hills in south India,looked afterby a loyal Gurkha family.


The Rediff Specials


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Number of User Comments: 33




Sub: Greetings to the Chief

Sir: I have left the Indian Army in 1973 after East Pakistan has become Bengladesh under your command. I was a Major in the regiment ...


Posted by Jacob Philipose





Sub: FM Sam maneckshaw

did we give him the Bharat ratna, Indira got it after the 71 war. If not give it to him now and duly honour the ...


Posted by anwar siddiq





Sub: best wishes and earnest gratitude.

Respected Sir, I wish you many more years ahead to inspire the youth as you have always done!!. People like you make me proud to ...


Posted by Pavan Reddy





Sub: Cheers!!!!

That was a great piece!!!Cheers to you and to Sam sahib----He is a great ideal for Indians.


Posted by Arundhati





Sub: Celebrating India's heroes

Its an honour to read about the celebration of one of the best soldiers India has!! Why dont we have more articles on fucntions like ...


Posted by JD




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