“World War II: Battle by Battle” by Nickolai Bogdanovic

What are the images that come readily to your mind when you think of World War II? Amongst others, the ones which flash in my mind are the Spitfires in the Battle of Britain; tired British soldiers waiting to be rescued from the beaches of Dunkirk; the U-Boat packs raiding Allied shipping in the Atlantic; the siege of Stalingrad and the bloody winter wars in Russia; D-Day and the landings on Normandy; the last days of the Third Reich in Berlin; the US Marines hoisting the Stars and Stripes at Iwo Jima; and the formal Japanese Surrender aboard the USS Missouri.

The Second World War which raged between 1939 and 1945 is said to have claimed more than 60 million lives, both military and civilian. However, there will perhaps never be an exact figure for this. This was truly a World War, far wider in scope than the First World War of 1914-1918 as the battles were fought not just in mainland Europe but also in South East Asia going as far as some remote islands of the Pacific Ocean.

A compact publication I enjoyed reading recently was  “World War II: Battle by Battle” by Nickolai Bogdanovic, published by Osprey Publishing.  

Volumes have been written about the War but in this book, thirty of the World War II Battles are described quite succinctly. This gives the reader a bird’s eye view of some of the most important battles that were fought in that time.  Many of them were responsible for turning the course of the War.

The writer has not restricted himself to the battles in Europe. He has covered some of the battles in South East Asia and in the Pacific which were equally important from that region’s perspective. The feats of military leaders on both the Allied and Nazi sides are explained in brief as befitting a book that seeks to cover a very wide spectrum.  In my view, a short preface giving a broad overview of the Second World War would have been useful, especially for the uninitiated.

Students of military history and young people at large who have heard of the War but may have a sketchy idea of the battles would be well advised to read this book. I am sure they will enjoy it.

 

 

Nehru, China and the Indian General Elections

The dates for the General Elections in India have recently been announced. We will know on May 23, 2019 as to who will form the new Government to rule the world’s largest democracy with a population of over 1.3 billion people, for the next five years. It is natural that there will be a huge spike in political activity. Opponents of the ruling BJP-led National Democratic Alliance will lose no opportunity to take pot shots at the ruling Government and its policies. However, judging from recent comments made by leading people in the Congress party, the quality of debate (if one can call it that) will be in the pits this time around.

Pawan Khera, the Congress Spokesperson said some disgraceful things about Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently in a debate that was televised nationally. He said M-O-D-I was for Masoor Azhar, Osama Bin Laden, Dawood Ibrahim, and the ISI!!!  The Congress which in the last General Elections was reduced to 44 seats in the Lok Sabha seems to have decided that this will be a no holds barred contest. The rank and file are probably taking a cue from Congress President Rahul Gandhi who has been very vocal in his criticism of the Prime Minister.

In the recent past, he accused the Government and the Prime Minister of lying about the Indian Air Force strike against Jaish E Mohammed terror camps deep in Pakistan. He asked for proof, ignoring the fact that details of top-secret strikes like these are never revealed by any country. His accusations left many shocked as the country has to come together to fight terror. They did not go down well with everybody including some in his own party. Binod Sharma, a Congress leader left the party after three decades saying Rahul Gandhi’s approach was all wrong.

Rahul Gandhi has been equally vocal about the Rafale deal, claiming that Prime Minister Modi had gifted Rs 30,000 crores to his crony, the industrialist, Anil Ambani. He has not been able to substantiate any of these charges of virtually calling the Prime Minister a ” chor” or thief.  The reputed columnist Tavleen Singh wrote that to get more credibility for his claims it is about time that Rahul Gandhi produced some evidence of his accusations.

What shocked me more was Rahul Gandhi accusing Narendra Modi of being scared of Xi, the Chinese President. “Weak Modi scared of Xi” he tweeted. Most observers would testify that Modi has shown more sagacity than his predecessors in dealing with different countries of the world including China. The fact that China, which backs Pakistan so strongly, did not object to the Indian strike against terror camps in Pakistan speaks for itself.

The irony was that Rahul Gandhi chose China as the topic to criticize the Prime Minister. The track record of the Congress has been dismal when it comes to China over the decades since India became independent. Rahul’s great grand father Jawaharlal Nehru died in 1964 a broken man following the debacle against the Chinese in 1962. His policies of appeasement and grand standing on the international stage as a great statesman came crashing down when the Chinese humiliated the Indian Army in the 1962 war.  The people of Tibet even decades later feel totally let down by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister. Here’s one example of their feelings captured in this article in the website of the Tibetan Association of Southern California titled, ” Nehru and the China-Tibet Blunder.”

The battle has just begun. I am sure in the coming weeks we will see much mud being flung on both sides. The Indian voter has to judge for himself about the political party he would like to see in power. Would he like to give Prime Minister Modi a second term which will continue the stability of the Government or will he opt to give a combination of parties the opportunity to form a Government despite their differing ideologies?

 

“On A Knife’s Edge: The Ukraine, November 1942-March 1943” by Prit Buttar

In the annals of history, perhaps no war saw such savage fighting as there was in the Second World War which raged from 1939 to 1945. While there were many important battles during this long fought war which took an immense toll on both sides, one of the most savage has to be the fighting between the Russians and the Germans following Hitler’s invasion of Russia in 1941.

Both sides were guilty of what today would be politely called, “excesses.” The two powers had much at stake. The Russians were defending  their Motherland and trying to get back all that they had lost. For the first time, in November 1942, Stalin and the Russian top brass felt the tide was slowly but surely turning in their favour. The Germans on the other hand had too much at stake to retreat from Russia, even if doing so may have been strategically a better option. Their Sixth Army still lay trapped in Stalingrad and Hitler made it a matter of ego. There would be no withdrawals, he ordered, irrespective of the huge costs this would entail in human lives.

It is in this setting that Prit Buttar writes this in-depth coverage of the battles in the Ukraine in his book, “On A Knife’s Edge: The Ukraine, November 1942-March 1943“.

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“Humans Of New York” by Brandon Stanton

On a recent visit to the United States, my son recommended I read a book which he thought I would like knowing my interests in people and in photography. I was so happy to read, “ Humans of New York” by Brandon Stanton a book which is so much different from most others. It is a large collection of photographs with incisive comments and captions which make for very interesting reading. All the photographs have one thing in common, they feature people in the City of New York, The Big Apple,  so often called a melting pot of many cultures. Continue reading ““Humans Of New York” by Brandon Stanton”

“Thinking Aloud:Reflections on Emerging India” by Prasoon Joshi

I got the opportunity to read Prasoon Joshi’s latest book recently. It is called, “Thinking Aloud: Refections on Emerging India” and was published by Rupa in January 2019. In today’s India, Prasoon Joshi hardly needs any introduction. He has become an extremely well-known personality, not just because of his achievements in the field of advertising, of which there are so many, but also because of his association with the Hindi  film industry as a lyricist and screen play writer which have made him a famous figure in Bollywood. He also happens to be the current Chairman of the Central Board of Film Certification, known more commonly in India as the “Censor Board” !

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“Five Presidents: My Extraordinary Journey With Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and Ford” by Clint Hill & Lisa McCubbin

The pictures of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination that fateful November day in 1963 stayed imprinted in my mind ever since I first saw them as a boy of 12. I have read ever so many accounts of the assassination in the decades since then. In all of them I remembered the heroic figure of Secret Agent Clint Hill as he clambered upon the President’s Lincoln Continental in a vain bid to protect the President and Mrs Kennedy, the First Lady. All these memories rushed back to my head as I sat down to read, ” Five Presidents: My Extraordinary Journey with Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and Ford” by Clint Hill and his co-author Lisa McCubbin. Ms McCubbin has collaborated with Mr Hill in several of his books.

This book, which is so appropriately titled, is indeed about an extraordinary journey. A journey that took Hill as a young, Secret Service Agent appointed to the prestigious White House detail when Eisenhower was the President to nearly two decades later when Gerald Ford became the fifth President he served.  Continue reading ““Five Presidents: My Extraordinary Journey With Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and Ford” by Clint Hill & Lisa McCubbin”

“Bifocals And A Walking Stick” by M Gopalkrishna Bhat

The book being reviewed today is titled, “Bifocals And A Walking Stick”.  Perhaps because I know the author of the book, Mr M Gopalkrishna Bhat, is an elderly gentleman, I thought the title was most appropriate. It radiates a mental image of the essential props for the elderly!

This book is a collection of delightful essays which make for an entertaining read. However, you need to appreciate the context in which they were written. If you are familiar with the old Bombay ( now of course called “Mumbai”) and the coastal parts of Karnataka in and around Mangalore (now called “Mangaluru”) you will enjoy the book all the more, because that is where Mr Bhat has lived for most of his life. Of course, the book also has a few essays on life in Singapore, but these naturally come much after the earlier essays in terms of time.  Continue reading ““Bifocals And A Walking Stick” by M Gopalkrishna Bhat”

“One Indian Girl ” by Chetan Bhagat

Let me start by saying that I like Chetan’s writing. There are some in the writing fraternity who do not appreciate his style but the fact remains that he is one of the most successful authors that India has ever seen. All his books have been best sellers. Recently, I read his 2016 novel, ” One Indian Girl” published by Rupa and enjoyed it. I have a partiality for books written in the first person, (I can’t say why)  and this one was one such. It is the story of Radhika Mehta, the younger daughter in a typical Punjabi family from Delhi. Her mother’s biggest desire in life is to see her married off. Her father is dreamy and too mild to protest against anything his vociferous wife says. Her elder sister is happily married and represents for her parents what every Indian middle class girl should do!  Continue reading ““One Indian Girl ” by Chetan Bhagat”

“To The Last Bullet” by Vinita Kamte

It must be extremely difficult to write about the death of a loved one. And, how can one remain objective while writing about someone you have loved and admired? Yet, Mrs Vinita Kamte has managed to do just that in her book, ” To The Last Bullet” , published by Ameya Prakashan in 2009 and co- written with a senior journalist Vinita Deshmukh. It is possible that the author’s name doesn’t ring a bell because time flies and it is now 10 years since the awful terror strike on November 26, 2008 at Mumbai. I must admit that till 26/11, I had not heard of Mr Ashok Kamte IPS and it is only after reading this book that I realise what an admirable police officer he was.

This book is written by Mrs Vinita Kamte in remembrance of her husband, the late Mr Ashok Kamte, IPS, then Addl. Commissioner East Region, Mumbai who lost his life fighting the terrorists on that fateful day. Mr Kamte was honoured with the posthumous Ashoka Chakra for his bravery in fighting back and injuring the lone terrorist to be captured alive, Ajmal Kasab.

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“The Diary On The Fifth Floor” by Raisha Lalwani

For a debut novel, I must say that “The Diary On The Fifth Floor” has been well written by Raisha Lalwani. The plot is rather unusual in that it dwells on the goings on inside the mind of a young lady wrestling with ghosts from her past and childhood. The book has endorsements from Bollywood stars like Sonam Kapoor Ahuja and Soha Ali Khan, which gives the book and the author a huge boost.

Ms Lalwani has chosen a difficult subject to write about as depression and mental health are amongst the most misunderstood in our country. A visit to a psychiatrist, more often than not, has to be done in secret. The hapless patient hopes no one has seen him/her come out of the doctor’s clinic. To that extent, this book, written in simple language without the medical mumbo-jumbo lays bare some of the problems faced by persons, especially younger ladies, who suffer from high degrees of mental anxiety and depression.

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