My Views – Operation Blue Star: The True Story by Lt.Gen K.S Brar

Despite being a Punjabi, over the years I have come to realize that all my time living in and around Gujarat has made me ignorant about the developments that have taken place in the state in the last few decades. I don’t know whether it was appropriate for me to start my readings about the major events that have taken place in the state of Punjab in the past through this book. I got increasingly curious about Operation Blue Star from the tales narrated by my mum about her own experiences of the whole situation back in the early 80s. Yes, the tensions were rising in the 70s which finally led to what many of us has come to agree upon as ‘the aggression of the Indian army’ upon one of the most sacred places of worship for the Sikh on Earth. Many of the Sikhs worldwide call the operation as a blot on the face of their history – the Golden Temple getting desecrated by none other than the protector of the people – the army resulting into countless lives being lost.

Now, this book has been written by a person who ‘led’ the campaign into the temple. Naturally, majority of the people especially the Sikhs declared it as a one sided piece of work. It narrated the events from the angle of the author, which is that of the army. Before talking in detail about the operation, the author gives a brief history of the events that took place before the first week of June 1984 which ultimately led to the execution of this military action to provide a better understanding of the whole scenario. He talks about how the government could have acted upon the criminal activities of Bhindranwaala and his associates (especially the cases where a high ranking Police official was gunned down outside the Golden Temple, the assassination of Lala Jagat Narain and many other killing that took place on his orders) earlier which would have ultimately avoided this operation from happening. What amazes me the most is, in the first place, why did the Golden Temple authorities allow the members of Team Bhindranwala to fortify the temple and store large number of weapons inside the temple premises? Why didn’t none of the pilgrims and the priests object to this militarization of the temple? Why were the people so quick to label the army as the aggressor and not those who first violated the sanctity of the temple by virtually turning it into a militant hideout complete with bunkers and constructed barriers (which even disfigured many parts of the temple structure) armed to the teeth, ready to enter into a war with anybody who objected to their actions? If we as the people of India can answer these questions satisfactorily only then can we label the Indian army as the aggressor. For if the development before the start of the operation leading unto it as described in the book and in many different sources be labelled as true, then I think I’m with the army in the flushing out of these people from the temple. It had to be done. It’s really disheartening to read on the internet how many have labelled the sacrifices of the army men involved in the operation as   and not that of laying down the lives for the protection of people against the real villain.

The procrastination on the part of the government did us all in. It could have been more pro-active by nipping the problem in the bud itself – by taking Bhindranwale into custody when all the clues related to the murders and atrocities being committed by him and his men were leading towards them. I don’t think people would have objected it as much then. Whatever the people might think about the incident, this book gives a first person view of the entire operation. Right from the planning and the implementation of the operation the entire events have been laid out before the readers in detail. A must read for anybody interested in the topic.


Book Review – ‘Out of My Comfort Zone’

The Australian cricketer Steve Waugh started his career as a bowler who could also bat at the lower middle order. Contrary to the ‘stone cold’ image in the public, he often struggled with his mind doubting his own capabilities in the game.  He battled through his negative thoughts in his career to emerge out as one of the greatest cricketers of all time and also one of the most successful Australian batsman and captain.

The first time I held this book in my hands it sent goosebumps down my body. I could feel this enormous (800 pages) strong volume breathing of life in my hands just like a horcrux would do. The book is so carefully crafted right from the outer cover to the magnificently easy to comprehend language and the pictures taken out of Steve’s personal tour albums throughout the world. It had a very distinct personal touch to it, the kind which establishes a direct contact between the reader and the legend himself. ‘Out of My Comfort Zone’ chronicles the life of Steve Waugh right from his childhood till the last test he played, ending with a chapter by his wife Lynette. The book starts off with an ‘explosive’ foreword written by batting maestro Rahul Dravid, followed by one written by Steve’s friend Tim May. It takes you through his childhood, the formative years of his cricketing career, the breakthrough, the two decades of Aussie cricket, his struggles with himself, his long struggles with the Australian cricketing body, his view about different countries, sledging, the different events in the cricketing world which took place during his career, his philosophies about life in general and most importantly you’ll get to witness first hand from Waugh himself – the transformation of the Australian cricket team which was in disarray in the middle of the 80s (before the world cup) under the leadership of Allan Border to becoming the best cricketing side in the early 2000s under his own leadership.. The entire book was peppered with happenings from his personal life (marriage, kids etc).

Many people in India have criticized this book for being too harsh in his comments about the living conditions and the poverty of the country. I believe he gave an honest picture of the country. Imagine a young guy who lived his entire life in a highly developed country like Australia coming out and playing in a developing country like India. He’ll definitely witness massive changes in his surroundings and this is what he has portrayed in the book. He doesn’t criticize the country, he just gives a first hand account of what the country looked like to him when he stayed there for the first few times. And I believe most of us Indians would agree with his views. It’s just that we’re either too embarrassed to accept it or we’re too ignorant about the realities of our country. On the brighter side, reading about his work for Udayan in Kolkata was very heart touching.

I really enjoyed reading this book. The detailed tour analysis and the tid-bits (the other side of the cricket away from the field) taken out of the countless tour diaries maintained by Steve Waugh throughout his career makes this book which dwarfs the Oxford dictionary in size an engaging read. It’ll give a cricket enthusiast a word by word ‘visual’ of almost 20 years of pure Australian cricket. A must read!

Book Review – The Motorcycle Diaries

One mention of Guevara’s name evokes images of “revolution”, “rebellion”, “guerilla warfare”, “youth”, and “communism”. But don’t expect your imagination of these images to be depicted in words in this book. I first came to know about ‘The Motorcycle Diaries’ when I watched Brazilian director Walter Salles’ dramatization of the book with the same name featuring acclaimed Mexican actor Gael Garcia Bernal and his Argentine co-actor Rodrigo De la Serna. I was driven to watch the movie when I first listened to its beautifully composed soundtrack ‘Apertura’ by Gustavo Santaolalla on one of my friend’s music system. Although he had been listening to this soundtrack since quite sometime, he had no idea about the movie!
As the title of the book suggests, the text is actually translated out of the tour diary of Ernesto Guevara’s journey through the Latin America of the early 50s with his friend Alberto. It narrates a youthful adventure of the young men. Ernesto was a medical student back then in Argentina & his friend was a bio-chemist. The trip was partly on a large run down bike and partly through hitch hiking across the vast and diverse South American continent.

Not delving further into the details of the book, I must say that it’s more of a travel diary. If you have even been ‘wee’ bit curious about South America- its culture, its people, the food, the drinks, the nature, the description of ancient ruins/temples, the hardships of travelling on a limited budget with limited planning, the “human” side of people and the youth and the learning phase of Che Guevara then grab a copy of this book and relish it with all you can. The language is pretty simple and you’ll glide through the pages once you form an image of the descriptions written by Guevara. The things he witnessed in this tour was what made Guevara what he is famous for as it helped him gain a greater understanding of the problems faced by the people on his continent. It brought him closer to the Latin people.

All in all I really enjoyed reading this book. The book is better than the movie as the narration is more detailed. There are some events that were glorified in the movie to make it an important part of the plot. However, watch the movie for its amazing visuals and some good acting!

The review on Goodreads: