“Little Man From The East: Marching Through Tumultuous Decades” is , in my view, a “must read” for anyone interested in 20 th century Indian history. It also happens to be the story of a soldier engineer commissioned into one of the oldest Regiments in the Indian Army, the famous Madras Engineer Group. This outfit, more commonly called The Madras Sappers, and more fondly as ‘The Thambis’ was raised in 1780. Major General M K Paul (retd), the author, served with distinction in the Indian Army for nearly 37 years before retiring in 1991.
This 400 page hardbound book with an attractive and eye-catching cover design was first published in 2009 by Harman Publishing House, New Delhi ( ISBN-978-81-907449-3-5) and has been printed again in 2010. I liked the description of the book as captured in the name itself.
“Marching through tumultuous decades” best describes what the book and indeed General Paul’s life was all about. He captures it so eloquently in the Preface that I must quote him here,” I have been privileged to witness first hand many of the events that shaped modern India. By virtue of the time and place of my birth and as well as the choice of my profession as a soldier engineer, I have myself lived and worked through remarkable times indeed. Mine was the time of war and peace, of pain and anguish, of hope and glory, of servitude and freedom, of statesmen who strode the center stage and great men who lived and died as heroes. In my own way, I have played my part faithfully in the great drama of modern India, just as many other countless citizens over generations. In some ways, therefore, my story is also the story of our country’s progress in the century that has just passed and beyond.”
The first 185 pages of the book which make up Part 1 cover General Paul’s Army career and I will leave the details for you to read and enjoy for yourself. Part 2 titled ” History Revisited” thrilled me to the core. I might go so far as to say that Part 2 could well have been a very interesting and captivating book by itself.
The author covers his impressions of momentous events through essays such as: The Great Sepoy Mutiny of 1857, The Struggle For Freedom, Helplessly Sliding Towards Partition, and my particular favorite, Where Did Subhas Chandra Bose Disappear?
For a former Army man, General Paul is very forthright and speaks with laudable honesty on his impressions and reflections of these times which shaped modern India. It is not for me to describe his views as you would enjoy reading them for yourself far more.
General Paul so aptly quotes an old Chinese proverb, ” To know the road ahead, ask those who came back.” Very telling and significant words, particularly in the Indian context where I have often felt we as a nation never learn from our mistakes in the past, and even if we do, do so at great cost.
I would strongly recommend this book not only to Defence Service personnel and those connected with India’s other security forces but indeed to every patriotic India. I hope the publishers will make available a less expensive paperback version which will be more affordable to be read by the youth of India for the future of our great nation lies in their hands.