As a young major in 1947, Eustace D’Souza first read about Major Sam Manekshaw when reading about the
Till yesterday Sam Manekshaw was the oldest living field marshal in the world.
I first met Sam Manekshaw when I was facing the Chinese in Nathu La, commanding a brigade. It was in 1964-1965. The Chinese were across a little strip and my brigade held them when they first moved up with 2,000 troops, we held fast, we didn’t panic like in ‘62.
Sam came to visit us as he was very pleased, and then he came again to request me to stay on as brigade commander. I told him, ‘Sir I have a family too, I have been away from my family for four years — three in high altitude.’ He recommended me to the
He was very perceptive. When he came to visit me at Nathu La at 13,600 ft, I was a brigadier then with 5,000 troops under me. He said, ‘Souzie — he used to call me that –what do you do for your young officers, they must be absolutely cheesed off here.’
He went back to
He was fearless. When he was a major with the Sikh company in
He didn’t approve of one name because he said he was a rascal. That man sent word to Sam saying, ‘I would kill you.’ So Sam Manekshaw told his senior subedar — ‘Unko march karna hai’.
He was marched before Sam and he asked him — ‘You are going to kill me? Here’s my pistol, now come on shoot me.’ That man was so taken aback that he marched out meekly. Sam appointed him as batman. That was the sort of man he was.
Once in a riot he walked through the crowd with just his cane.
Once he visited our 4th battalion in the ‘65 war in the Barmer sector. There was a mike etc for him and he said, ‘Take this bloody thing off, I want to speak to my boys.’ He knew how to win people. In Nathu La, we got tea for him on a silver tray and he said, ‘I want it in a mug.’
Professionally he was good, there is no doubt about it. He was the first Indian to be appointed by the British after World War II to the military operations directorate.
Just before the war ended, he was sent on a three month deputation to
When he became chief it was a toss up between him and (Lieutenant) General Harbaksh Singh. His becoming chief was touch and go between him and General Harbaksh. Tactically and strategically, he was a very good soldier. He knew how to get around men. He commanded the Western and Eastern Commands — both hot seat commands.
He will always be remembered as the creator of
If there was no
He had a presence, was impeccable in dress and appearance. His shoes were polished, he had a good knowledge of the English language, sense of humour and was a good orator.
When (then prime minister) Mrs (Indira) Gandhi asked him if he was going to take over the country, he told her are you asking for my resignation on grounds of mental instability? Here’s my resignation.
His only fault if you can call it that is having an inner circle of friends but who doesn’t. All of them flourished. Once I was told that Sam Manekshaw doesn’t like anyone taller than him.
In the ‘71 war, I was commanding the division in Baramulah — responsible for 200 kms of the border between
That was carried to Sam; after that he was after my blood (the field marshal was from the Gorkha regiment] Sam. During the war, my division captured 73 square kilometres of
I retired in 1978 and came to
I asked for an appointment, at that time he used to live at the Oberoi (hotel, now the Hilton in Mumbai). He was very surprised because he thought I hated his guts but there is no doubt that he had leadership qualities.
I asked him to come and speak on leadership for an hour. He said, ‘You really want me — and I said — yes sir, that’s why I’ve come here.’ He spoke brilliantly without notes, answered all the questions, held the audience in a packed hall. I had it recorded and have shown it all around the country.
He was called to speak on leadership many times in
He was always prepared well in advance if he was making a talk, he never used notes and his turnout was impeccable. Even if he was to give a talk in the evening, he would shave again so that there was no shadow on his face.
He had a sense of humour, sometimes it backfired. Once a remark in
When the Parsis had a felicitation for him at the Tata Theatre (in Mumbai), I was asked to rally all the ex-service officers. I told them to come wearing their medals and when he saw all of us, he was really touched.
I called on him in Connoor when his wife was living, she was a very nice warm hearted person.
He was a great believer of Satya Sai Baba.
He liked good looking girls and was colour conscious. When he went as commadant of the
Sam wanted to be a doctor. He wanted to go to
He read an ad in the paper asking for young Indian gentlemen to apply for the first course of the
He belonged to the 4/12 Frontier Force Regiment which went to
The Sam Bahadur myth is all because of his association with the Gorkhas. He was allotted to the Gorkhas after
When he was sick, it was the saddest thing for me to see him being led up the stairs at the Tata Theatre by his daughter some 8, 9 years ago. It was unthinkable because he was always so dashing.
In the last few years he was mainly in hospital in
I think the top leaders of the Indian Army are Field Marshal K M Cariappa, General K S Thimayya and Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw. I rate General Thimayya number one.
Major General Eustace D’Souza, PVSM, retired from the India Army in 1978. He served two years in