Field Marshall Archibald Wavell(1883-1950)
Viceroy of India
Once he was the guest of Lady Cunrad who asked him, ’What do you think about love, Field Marshall?’
Knowing how tongue tied he could be in company the question especially about love made many who assembled there to perk up their ears. Wavell replied, ’It is like a cigar. If it goes out you can light it again, but it never tastes quite the same.’
Field Marshall Sam Manekshaw(1914-2008)
As a brigade commander, he was once crossing the Sutlej River, which was in spate.
To make things worse the launch developed engine trouble and was moving out of control headlong to a fall. Meanwhile the other officers swam ready to safety. But Manekshaw sat there nonchalantly twirling his moustache, as though he intended to brave it out. Luckily for him help came in time. Leading ashore the staff captain complimented him for his cool. ‘You didn’t even remove your boots!’ he exclaimed.
‘What the hell for?’ replied Manekshaw,’I don’t know how to swim.’
5th Prime Minister
The former Prime Minister of India after his graduation in 1917 applied to join the provincial Civil Service. During the interview he faced three Government secretaries, all Englishmen. Towards the end he was asked how he would feel if he didn’t get the job. ‘Who knows I may get something better,’ Desai told them in his characteristic manner. The post indeed went to someone else but the Board impressed with the candidate created an additional post to accommodate him.
Morarji Desai, the former PM of India for his many faults was a man of very strong principles. His obsession with rectitude was his undoing in the summer of 1969 when Mrs. Indira Gandhi fielded her candidate VV Giri against the official Congress candidate Mr. N. Sanjiv Reddy for the Presidential post. It was open war against the Syndicate: Kamaraj and others wanted to take action against her but Morarji stayed their hand until after the election.
‘You cannot condemn a person until the charge against him or her is proved beyond a shadow of doubt.’
The events showed later that initiative for such niceties of law was taken out of their hands.
Time determines how right is the law as in the case of treason: when the knife of an assassin, say that of Brutus struck at Caesar, law was neutral. Had Brutus subsequently won power there would have been no case against him for treason.
While filming Indira Gandhi film maker M.S Sathyu spotted a framed picture of her illustrious grandfather in one corner of her study. In what he thought was an inspired shot the director asked, ‘Madam, will you dust that photograph?’ The Prime Minister obligingly sent for a duster.’ No Madam, your sari end… if you would wipe with it that will show your attachment.’
Mrs. Gandhi cut him short saying, ’don’t be silly! I don’t have attachment with dust.’
In 1971 elections, Congress Party rallied around Indira Gandhi whose slogan’ Garibi Hatao!'(Remove Poverty!). When Indira Gandhi arrived at Arrah, a small Bihar town she was already two hours late. By the time she climbed over to the platform she could sense the restive crowd and she took a sip of water and began her speech. One in the crowd heckled:’Indira Hatao!’
She stopped her speech to say, ‘It is now up to you. Indira hatao or Garibi Hatao.’
With that she walked of the dais leaving the crowd speechless.
Dilip Kumar (1922-)
In one of the Air India flights from Geneva to Mumbai Dilip Kumar was the only passenger besides an elderly gentleman in the first class cabin. Dilip Kumar an household name and one of the reigning film stars was intrigued by his companion who was totally absorbed in his work. It was G.D Birla, the great industrialist who had only seen two films in his life and neither of which featured the matinee idol. It was a sobering thought for him he was more or less a face in the crowd outside the reel life.
Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru(1875-1949)
Once Sapru was arguing a case in the Allahabad High Court before a non-ICS judge with considerable judicial experience. Sapru went on explaining the basis of civil law at length at which the Judge was a bit peeved to observe: Sir Tej, please remember, I am not an ICS judge.’
Pat came the reply,’ I know my Lord. It is a very difficult examination to pass.’
Mohammed Ali Jinnah and he were once appearing in a Hyderabad court in a case, which Koran was quoted. The court asked Jinnah to translation which he could not. Sir Tej offered to translate the quotation for the court. Next day the local newspaper carried the headline,’ Maulana Tej Bahadur translates Koran for Pandit Mohammed Ali Jinnah.’ (Ack.JN Sahni-Illustrated weekly of India, Dec 26,1976)