Saturday, April 6, 2013

Doctor Remembers Sam Bahadur on his 99th Birth Anniversary

By Jayanta Gupta,
Sam Manekshaw sincerely loved his troops
 KOLKATA: "On June 22, 2008, barely five days before his death, I received information that Sam Bahadur has been admitted to the military hospital in Wellington and has asked for me. I flew to Chennai from Delhi and then travelled by road to Wellington. It was quite late and I went directly to him. He opened his eyes and asked: "Col Prasad, how are you? Have you had a drink yet?" I replied: "We will have a drink together after you get better."

After his death, I returned to Delhi with an extremely heavy heart. Five days later, his son-in-law paid me a visit and handed over a gift that the Field Marshal had left for me. I opened the package after reaching home. It was a bottle of one of the finest scotches in the world with a message - "Sorry, Doc! I couldn't have this with you."
Wednesday will be the 99th birth anniversary of the late Field Marshal SHFJ Maneckshaw and there is at least one man in Kolkata who will be missing him. Maj Gen BNBM Prasad, commandant of the Command Hospital, Eastern Command, is a noted pulmonologist and spent nearly five years with the Field Marshal before his death. He talked about his experiences. "I don't know how I got to get so close to him. Probably, if you like a person with your heart, you get an opportunity to know him better. It was in 2003 when he first met me at the military's Research and Referral Hospital in New Delhi. For some reason, he got fond of me. He was a very active and inquisitive person. He had a bad pneumonia in Mumbai and had flown to New Delhi for treatment. He refused to sit on a wheelchair and was interested in speaking to the soldiers around him. He was fluent in Punjabi, Hindi and Pushtu and could interact with them freely," Prasad recalled.

"I was lucky to have got so close to such a person. He was different from other VIPs and would always say: "Luck plays a great role in our lives." It seems that his father wanted him to become a doctor. His father had promised to send him to England after his Senior Cambridge examination (in which he topped in the entire Punjab Province) but decided against it as Sam was too young. This is when he fled from home and went to Dehradun and got a 'King's Commission'. He served with Field Marshal Ayub Khan of Pakistan in World War II. During Partition, Khan took away a bike owned by Sam Bahadur with the promise to pay Rs 1,000 for it. The money was never paid and after the 1971 War, Sam Bahadur told Khan that he has taken his due with interest. This was the wit of the great man," the doctor said.

Prasad had once asked Maneckshaw what his favourite subjects were. The field marshal said they were English and Mathematics. "His wit was phenomenal. Prime minister Manmohan Singh was very fond of him. Sam Bahadur had two daughters and the PM has three. On coming to know of this, Sam Bahadur told the PM: "You are lucky to have daughters. Had you had a son, you would never have become Prime Minister." He was extremely fond of his wife Silloo. Moments before his death, his two daughters stood on either side of his bed, holding his hands and speaking about their childhood. I was watching the monitors and his Oxygen level and heart rate was constantly dipping. Suddenly, the daughters mentioned Silloo and for a moment, I saw the heart rate and Oxygen level rise for a few seconds. He died a few minutes later," the general recalled.

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