IT’S DIFFICULT, EVEN AT THE BEST OF TIMES, to come to grips with the loss of a sibling.
And so, today on the 9th of July, what would have been my elder brother’s 88th birthday,
I repeat below part of a blog I wrote in May 2016 on his passing away:
He was a couple of months shy of his 86th birthday, “when he faded away peacefully after taking his early morning bath, and within 25 minutes of downing a hearty breakfast on Monday, May the 16th.”
Misbah, was – to put it mildly – a soldier through and through. He was broad-shouldered, had a military bearing and loved sports – particularly boxing. From an early age, he was a natural marksman and thought that although I was three years younger there was no reason why I couldn’t pull a trigger with deadly result as well as he did. Of course, he took after our father, who was a well-known shikari. So every year during the hunting season both double-barreled guns and rifles – all beautifully well-oiled and meticulously maintained – would be lined up on our back verandah in Delhi for inspection before being placed safely in our serviceable Ford V8 along with all the necessary ammo we would need for the day’s outing into the wilds.
Then after fond goodbyes to my mother and twin sister, we would take off for Sonepat and Rohtak, both of which were then mere villages in the early 1940’s and lay about 20 and 40 miles respectively away from the capital. There was plenty of small game and deer in the extensive fields surrounding those rural areas. However, I never had much of a penchant for killing any living thing – flying or on the ground – but I did learn how to shoot straight and how to help pick up the fallen prey shot by the others without getting in the way.
Fast forward to the early 1950’s: After graduating from St. Stephen’s College, Delhi, in 1949, Misbah went on to graduate from the National Defence College and was commissioned into the Central India Horse in December, 1950. He rapidly rose to become a captain in the Indian Armored Corps. It was in that capacity that he was sent to Harar, Ethiopia to help train the local army at the behest of the late Emperor Haile Selassie. Indeed, Misbah commanded “The Passing Out Parade” of the very first batch of Ethiopian cadets trained by Indian officers. Notable was the fact that Misbah gave all the commands at the ceremony in the Ethiopian language, Amharic. The Emperor personally presented him with the Star of Honor in the presence of General Thimmaya, Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army, who was the Chief Guest.
In summary, during his military career he commanded an armoured regiment (of which he was the boxing champ), a mechanized infantry brigade, a mountain division, an ad hoc corps in the desert, and a corps in Jammu & Kashmir and Punjab. He was also Commandant of the Armoured Corps Centre and School. For the counter-insurgency operations conducted by his division he was awarded the Param Vishisht Seva Medal (PVSM) for distinguished service by the Government of India.
During his long and distinguished career, he helped raise the 64th Cavalry under Trevor Perry and later commanded that regiment. In addition, he raised the 5th Armored Division. Later, he was sent to the United Kingdom as the Military Adviser to the Indian High Commissioner in London. And he retired as the Director General of the National Cadet Corps. Thereafter, he turned to farming in McCluskieganj – once a Utopian dream for Anglo-Indian families, and now home to a sprinkling of retirees who revel in the wildlife of the surrounding tribal belt, which is just 40 miles away from the capital, Ranchi, of Jharkhand in the state of Bihar.
For the record, Misbah retired as Colonel of three notable Indian regiments: the 64th Cavalry, Central India Horse (CIH) and the 5th Armored Division.
My brother won 12 medals during India’s three major wars with neighboring belligerents – China (1962), Pakistan (1965) and East Pakistan (1971).
– The Indo-Pak War, 1965, lasted approximately 18 days and was a savage, high intensity conflict fought in the month of September. The bone of contention was Jammu and Kashmir. At that time, Misbah was the Brigade Major of the 38th Infantry Brigade, a newly raised brigade. On September the 5th, 1965 Misbah reports:
“By now all the families knew that this time it was the real thing – a full-fledged war with Pakistan. En route to Amritsar, our jumping off point, we passed through many villages on the main road, and enthusiastic crowds of villagers…urged me to stop the convoy so that they could look after the troops…I didn’t stop, but slowed my jeep to a crawl, and all along chappatties, paranthas, gur and lassi and milk were being given, sometimes thrown into our vehicles for the men. This spontaneity reflected the spirit of the people.”
– Indo-Pak War 1971: When Pakistan began its genocide against its Eastern Wing, millions of East Pakistani refugees began pouring into (the bordering states of ) Assam and West Bengal. The inevitable happened, and both countries went to war on December the 3rd, 1971. Soon East Pakistan ceased to exist, and Bangladesh came into being. Misbah was the General Staff Officer Grade 1 under the command of Lt. Gen. N. C. Rawlley, who had been Misbah’s commandant in Ethiopia. Misbah remained the GSO1 until the ceasefire on December the 17th, 1971.
During his time at his McCluskieganj ranch in Ranchi, Misbah took to writing and among his memoirs was an extensive series of chapters relating to 15 tumultuous years of Indian history, with particular reference to the selection of the Swedish Bofors gun by the Indian military and how its purchase led to the downfall of India’s political stability in that decade. The book that resulted was How the Bofors Affair Transformed India – 1989-1999.
After he passed away, I used Misbah’s handwritten notes bequeathed to me for the purpose of bringing out a booklet on our late father’s distinguished public life and career entitled Edgar Samuel Lewis – A Biography that was published on January 30, 2018 – Daddy’s 130th birth anniversary.
It was subtitled:
AN INTIMATE PORTRAIT OF THE LIFE OF A GRAND OLD MAN
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