Saga of Valour: Shaurya Gathaye (Hindi)

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Book Review by Air Marshal (Retd) Teshter J Master

Shaurya Gathaye (Hindi)
ISBN: 978-93-5186-881-1

Author: Shashi Padha
Publisher: Prabhat Prakashan, New Delhi
Pages 151, hardcover
Printed Price: ₹250 INR ($12.00)
Year: 2016

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In February 1964, as a newly minted Flying Officer in the IAF, I was travelling by an Army bus from Udhampur to Srinagar in J&K to attend the Jungle and Snow Survival Course. Amongst my fellow passengers was a Wing Commander with his family. He had been recalled from leave because their home in the heart of Srinagar had been set on fire and destroyed by terrorists. From that first exposure, I have been witness to many such atrocities in J&K, during the next four decades of my Air Force career. This state has continued unabated till today and throughout this period members of the defence services have played their part in maintaining the integrity of the nation.
Shashi Padha (Shaurya Gathayen)


The toughest job in this situation is that of our Army personnel who are vigilant night and day, eyeball to eyeball with the enemy.  Their job is to ensure the sanctity of the front line and prevent infiltration by terrorists abetted by the regular troops of Pakistan manning the front line. In doing their job our brave hearts sacrifice their youth and their lives in service to the nation. Our citizens hear of it almost daily in a few lines in the newspapers or a passing reference on a TV news channel. After that these brave men are forgotten and become part of statistical data while their families are forced to get on without their loved one.

Air Marshal (Retd) Teshter J Master
Our martyrs need to be remembered and Shaurya Gathaye written in Hindi by Smt Shashi Padha is a timely contribution to this end. Being the wife of an eminent soldier the author writes with intimate knowledge of what happens in the military and on the battlefront. Her book brings to life the operations which our brave soldiers have undertaken while making the supreme sacrifice. 

Describing her relationship with one of the young martyred officer, who played cricket with her children at her home, brings out the poignancy of military life. The loss of a soldier from the paltan is like losing a member of one's family.

The story of Naik Jaspal Singh brings out that bravery is not related to rank. This young soldier was badly wounded in combat and the author brings out the care with which the unit looked after it’s wounded. Naik Jaspal Singh earned the Kirti Chakra and on release from service he and his newly-wed wife opened a shop in his village. His career was cut short at a very young age and he will probably spend the rest of his life eking out a living in the village. His bravery would be forgotten if it was not recorded in perpetuity by Smt Padha. So it is with all the young warriors whose deeds have been immortalized in Shaurya Gathaye.

The author is justifiably proud of her husband's paltan of the Special Forces. Her description of the paltan's role and the courage needed to execute it, make for heady reading. The important role played by the families of the soldiers has been amply covered.

The most poignant chapter 'One River, One Bridge', has been saved for the last. This chapter relates the crucial battle of Chhamb and the importance of the river Munawar Tawi.  For me, it brought back memories of providing air support to our beleaguered troops during the Dec 1971 Indo-Pak war. It was a horrific ground operation and the winter sky was shrouded with smoke because of the amount of firepower used by both sides. We aviators had great respect for the soldiers on the ground in all the blood and gore. In this episode, the author describes a meeting where she accompanied by others, meets the erstwhile adversaries in friendlier times at the very site where a bloody battle had taken place in Dec 1971. The exchange of love and courtesies in this instance is in sharp contrast to the hatred and deadly exchanges in the past. Which begs the question; then why war?

As the senior lady of the paltan, the author takes on the responsibilities of a mother to all the young warriors. Her agony at losing them in battle and then consoling and caring for their families is palpable in her writing.  Officers and jawans they are all her children and she recounts their bravery and heroism very sensitively and emotionally.  The episodes bring out the impact of these tragedies on their families, ie, wives, children, parents and siblings.  We also read of emotional scenes of what happened in a unit when it bids farewell to its martyrs.

In describing the action of Maj Sudhir Walia the author details the action of his unit 1 Para, Special Forces which earned it the title of “Bravest of the Brave”. The heritage of martyrs such as Maj Ajay Jasrotyia, Sena Medal emerges from the fact that his father and grandfather both served in the armed forces. 

An interesting and heart rending episode is that of Moti the paltan mascot. Moti would sniff out mines and was also so adept on patrols that he was named “Commando Moti”. Moti was martyred when he was shot while trying to warn the unit of intruders by barking at them.  The paltan created a memorial in his honor.

At a time when joining the defence services is way down the wish list of our youth and their parents, it is heartening to note that there are places such as Jammu amongst others, where families consider it a privilege to serve the country.  It is important that such pride spreads throughout the country.

With her personal knowledge of the subject and close relationship with the protagonists as well as their paltan, the author has written an eminently readable book. Written in Hindi makes it available to a much larger readership than if it was written in English. The book is written in a down to earth and lucid style which makes it easy to read for those not too fluent in Hindi. I would recommend the book as required reading at school and college levels so that the present and future generations of our country know the sacrifices being made by our soldiers every day to ensure the security of our nation.  Many thanks to the author for her effort in filling a long felt need.

- Teshter J Master
Air Marshal (Retd), IAF

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