Saturday, October 18, 2008
My Dear Tom Uncle
Being an army spouse gave me an opportunity to interact with various legends of Bhartiya Sena. One of them is Tom Uncle (as he has strictly told me to call him). My first meeting with the legendary, Brigadier Kailash Prasad Pande, popularly known as ‘Tom Pande’ was nothing short of a humbling experience. The moment we met I felt incredibly protective towards them, something unusual, something you feel only for your parents. Born on 4th July 1925 Tom hails from a reputed Army family of Madhya Pradesh. Now, it is their fourth generation in the services.
During our conversation Tom revealed that he has fought as many as 18 battles since World War II, losing none. Tom’s most commendable performance was during the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971 where he commanded a brigade with distinction which later came to be known internationally as the Phantom Force of Indian Army. For his gallant and skillful command of his force with complete disregard for his personal safety and even minimum comforts resulting in heavy attrition on the enemy, Tom was awarded the coveted Maha Vir Chakra by the President of India. I could notice the moist eyes of the most courageous, determined and inspiring leader of his times as he told me the heartrending tales of the 1971 Indo-Pak War. He lost most of his men at Dhalai where one of the toughest battles of 1971 Indo-Pak was fought. Oh! I just love these faujis.
A nostalgic Tom told about his life and times as an army officer. When I asked him how he judges the present Indian Army, the defensive soldier replied, “I’m very proud of it. Indian Army is one of the best in the world and I admire the professionalism that is seen amongst our troops today.”Following the gas tragedy in Bhopal in 1984 he was invited by the state Governor to be the chairman of the state Red Cross in which capacity he was able to bring solace to thousands of sick and the needy and created clinics and medical facilities to treat over one third of the severally affected population of Bhopal.
So what’s next? I ask. Very shyly, I am told there is a movie being made on him by director Siddarth Kothari and a book being written on the MVCs of the Indian Army by Maj Gen Ian Cardozo, VSM, SM. Long Live the Legend! And I am lucky to have met one.