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Bookstrapping: India’s Most Fearless - true stories of extraordinary courage

'India’s most fearless’ - now a trilogy of books honouring our men in uniform. The third book features ten true stories, providing glimpses of the incredible heroism of Indian soldiers. Bookstrapping Rating: 3.5 stars.

By  Reeta Ramamurthy GuptaAug 20, 2022 1:53 PM
Bookstrapping: India’s Most Fearless - true stories of extraordinary courage
These ‘as-yet-untold stories’ are edge of the seat phenomenon. (Representational image: Mitul Gajera via Unsplash)

Where the mind is without fear…

Where in India is Galwan located? And where is filmmaker SS Rajamouli when you need him?

This is perhaps the best way for me to introduce you to ‘India’s most fearless’ - now a trilogy of books honouring our men in uniform. The third book was released this independence day and features ten true stories of extraordinary courage and fearlessness, providing glimpses of the incredible heroism of Indian soldiers. The first and second book in the series had 14 stories each.

These ‘as-yet-untold stories’ are edge of the seat phenomenon. Non-fiction writing of this kind is an extremely nuanced skill. Other than the customary fact checks, is the need to keep up the pace, while not dropping the gravitas by a single notch.

Here are five reasons to pick up this book.

1. You can never be prepared to face what comes next. With our marginal knowledge of the Sino-Indian crises, we learn here that decades-old protocol stipulated that both sides be unarmed. Suddenly, Havildar Dharamvir discovered that over a thousand Chinese Army soldiers were sprinting towards his unit. Now, they had been fighting smaller numbers of Chinese for two hours before that. But this was their main force, an all-out assault that the Chinese side was launching! The authors talk about 'a curious mix of determination and fearlessness, tinged with an edge of foreboding that was visible in the soldiers eyes'. As the soldiers steeled themselves, rallied by their commanding officer and a group of younger officers- they were in mood to step back! And yes, since you’ve already googled it, the Galwan River flows from the disputed Aksai Chin area administered by China to the Ladakh Union Territory of India.

2. Put yourself in the shoes of Rekha Singh, a middle school mathematics teacher in Rewa, Madhya Pradesh, who was taking a scheduled class. Her phone had been set to stay silent in class, except for calls from one person.She was speaking to a man she had married less than six months earlier. '"I won't have a phone signal for a few days,' army medic Naik Deepak Singh said. 'Aage jaana hai (We have to proceed to the forward area.) Rekha tried to read her husband's expression through the glitchy, blocky video, but could only barely make out that bemused half-smile she had come to know well. She also knew not to prolong conversations, given how delicate the signal always was when he made a video call. She quickly muttered the usual hurried plea to take care, stay warm and to call her as soon as he could next. Nothing much she could do. Would you call this helplessness or bravery of another kind?

3. There is a first-hand account of Operation Randori Behak, a fearsome Special Forces encounter in the mountains of Kashmir’s Keran sector. I’m not giving you more on this!

4. Army stories are never short on inspiration - meet Nitika, the wife of young Major Vibhuti Shankar Dhoundiyal, who was killed in action fighting terrorists in the aftermath of the February 2019 Pulwama terror attack. The tragedy persuaded Nitika to drop her corporate job and join the Indian Army. In her account is embodied the voice and grit of the many proud, grieving military families who fade completely out of view each year in the wake of gallantry awards and official recognition.

5. There is also the story of Cyclone Tauktae in the Arabian Sea, in which more than 16,500 houses were damaged and 40,000 trees were uprooted. Navy ships rescued more than 600 people (and continued to look for more) after waves up to eight metres (26 feet) high hammered offshore oil installations, even as engineers were working to restore power to hundreds of thousands of people.

The reader’s heart will go out to Group Captain Varun Singh, who was the sole survivor of a horrific helicopter accident in which Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Bipin Rawat and 12 others were killed. He was a decorated young fighter pilot,and his story captivated the nation as he fought to stay alive for a week. Tragically, he didn't make it. I cannot get over the story of treacherous, irrational bloodletting by China and that of an Indian Air Force pilot who ejected from his doomed fighter less than two seconds before it hit the ground, only to find that he was...Read the book to find out more.

Reeta Ramamurthy Gupta is a columnist, bestselling biographer and bibliophile. She is credited with the internationally acclaimed Red Dot Experiment, a decadal six-nation study on how ‘culture impacts communication.’ On Twitter @OfficialReetaRG

First Published on Aug 20, 2022 12:03 PM