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Beyond Fear by Ian Cardozo: Exemplary bravado in line of fire

Beyond Fear by Ian Cardozo: Exemplary bravado in line of fire

Beyond Fear: True Stories on Life in the Indian Armed Forces by Ian Cardozo. Penguin Random House. Pages 288. Rs 299

Book Title: Beyond Fear: True Stories on Life in the Indian Armed Forces

Author: Ian Cardozo

Brig Sandeep Thapar (retd)

‘BEYOND FEAR’ is a scintillating and engrossing collection of true stories about the armed forces’ personnel and their tryst with courage and bravado in operations. Written by a host of authors and compiled by Maj Gen Ian Cardozo, a distinguished veteran who is himself a legend in the Indian armed forces as an epitome of bravery and fortitude, the book is a fantastic read.

Maj Gen Cardozo has had the distinction of participating in all three major wars the nation has fought: 1962, 1965 and 1971. He was injured in the ’71 operations and despite losing a limb, rose to the rank of a General. There could thus be no better person to collate a book of this kind. In fact, this is a sequel to his earlier effort titled ‘1971: Stories of Grit and Glory from Indo-Pak War’.

The 13 stories cover tales of military courage, honour, camaraderie, faith and loyalty, and have been expressed in a lucid and simple manner, without any complicated military terminology. These will appeal to even those readers who are not well-versed with military jargon. The accounts span operations ranging from both the World Wars to Operation Pawan, the Indian Army’s foray into Sri Lanka, the 1965 war and counter-insurgency operations. The stories primarily cover individual feats of bravery and courage in battle, bringing out not only the Army ethos of comradeship, duty, resilience and unit bonding, but also human emotions like love, friendship, hope and faith, thus taking them much beyond the context of war and sacrifice.

The wide array ranges from the endeavours of a lady doctor, Capt Leena, to continue in operations despite danger and orders to the contrary, to ‘Jai Jai Singh’, a recount of age-old honour and keeping word given by an ancestor, to my personal favourite where Sepoy Sucha Singh impales and kills a tiger with his bayonet, thus earning his unit the title of ‘Tiger battalion’.

The saga of the late Sqn Ldr AB (Tubby) Devayya, whose raw courage in the air raid on Sargodha airfield in 1965 was discovered and recognised 23 years later based on a narrative of a Pakistani pilot, is indeed very touching.

‘The Empty Chair’ portrays a fascinating tale of a military ghost keeping troops on their toes, intertwined with love between the officer narrating and his future wife. ‘Matter of Honour’ is a short story symbolic of the value troops place in ‘namak aur nishan’ of the regiment; ‘Regimental Bonds’ is a moving account of a relationship of a soldier’s family with his regiment — over three generations. ‘Destiny’ is a World War-II saga of relationships, providence and kismet! The other stories, like ‘Answers to a Prayer’, ‘Future Tense’, ‘The Memento’ and ‘Ward No 21’, move into a different genre, covering individual tales and personal incidents in the military environment.

The book covers accounts of people from all corners of India, be it Simranjeet or Devayya, Surinder, Kanian or Narbahadur, thus giving it a pan-India, all-regiment outlook. The General thus avoids the most common flaw in such writings of covering chronicles from one’s own regiment. The narration is kept at a slow pace, interspersed with a variety of human emotions.

I finished the book in one reading. What is my only point of dissonance? There should have been many more stories.