Missing Sam

Field Marshal Manekshaw was loving, gracious, playful and charismatic

Written by Brandy Batliwala | Updated: June 27, 2018 4:48:20 am
Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw (Express photo by Ravi Batra)

Many of us have a day that no matter how hard we try, it leaves us sad and feeling blue. For me it’s June 27. It’s the day that a piece of my heart broke and now 10 years later, I have only just begun to accept that it is
permanent.

The phone rang. It was my usually stoic mother telling me that the time was near, my adoring, larger-than-life grandfather was fading. I could not make it back for the funeral although in hindsight I wish I had, at the very least to support my mother who was probably hurting far more than I was. It is, however, a blessing that I was not there. For me, he is still around: Maybe he is traveling or perhaps too busy to chat right now, but Sam is very much alive! More so, when I am at his home in Coonoor. There isn’t a time that I don’t feel that he is going to walk in and say in that oh so familiar voice, “Brandy baby” and hold my hand tight in his. But alas.

Recently I met a young major in Wellington. We got chatting and he informed me that as a part of his military examination he had chosen to do a thesis on Sam. I was pleasantly surprised at the stories he narrated. Ten years after his passing, there is so much I still don’t know about my beloved grandfather. The major told his stories with such enthusiasm and pride, almost as if the two of them had known each other.

In the Nilgiris, every one is particularly proud of their gardens. My grand parents were no different. Once they were having lunch at a dear friend’s home. My grandmother, Silloo, caught sight of a rose. She was so impressed she called Sam over. When he approached her, Silloo said: “Sam, look at this beautiful rose” to which he apparently replied, “I don’t need to, I have you”. Although we hardly heard him pay her such compliments, this is exactly how I remember him — most loving, gracious, playful and charismatic to one and all.

In the narrow lanes of Amritsar is a chemist shop where Sam’s father once practised as a doctor. On his passing, he left the clinic to his friend and colleague, Devraj Marwaha. Hungry to know my heritage, I stopped by the clinic (which is now also a chemist shop) while I was in Amritsar to visit the magnificent Golden Temple. Once again, I was overwhelmed by the love and regard shown to my maternal family. In the shop is a portrait of Dr and Mrs Manekshaw (my great grandparents) and a collage of Sam from his visits to Amritsar and his interaction with the Marwahas. It was truly gratifying that years later we the grandchildren got to meet in person. Naveen Marwaha and I were equally elated.

It is at fleeting moments like these and in glimpses of him in his daughters and my cousins that I have found comfort these past 10 years. Knowing that there are so many people scattered around the country, and indeed the globe, who have a story to tell or a memory to share will ease the pain of having lost a remarkable grandfather. I miss you Sam!

The writer is Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw’s granddaughter

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