Hitler had famously said that ‘war is to man, what maternity is to woman.’ But General George S. Patton of World War II, a straight shooter, said that ‘the object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other dumb bastards die for his…’ He was a brilliant General, known for his strict discipline, toughness, self-sacrifice and for eliciting exceptional pride, within his ranks. It was not surprising therefore he was colourfully described as “Old Blood and Guts.”
These two army soldiers came to my mind as I tiptoed from one small gallery to another looking at photos, artefacts and the texts at the General Thimayya Museum on Madikeri-Mysuru Road in Madikeri, Kodagu, on 3rd of this month. Of course, every General is absolutely different from the other, no doubt. All the same I find an intrinsic value in their personality like in gold.
General K.S. Thimayya was known among his British and Indian friends as “Timmy” just as Field Marshal K.M. Cariappa was nicknamed “Kipper.”
The Museum is housed in his own house “Sunny Side” and I had visited that house on some errand when I was a student in Madikeri and twice thereafter while the Museum work was going on. This time I was there to see the Museum which was completed in all respects.
Gen. K.S. Thimayya was the Chief of Indian Army from 1957 to 1961. I had alluded to him in my Abracadabra column of Star of Mysore special issue dated 16th February 2023 recalling his military role in J&K during those difficult days of 1947-1948.
He foresaw, the danger to India’s future defence if five important Mountain Passes were not captured by India during that war and went about doing it in lightning speed successfully despite Nehru! It is said Gen. Thimayya’s accomplishment of an important military mission in J&K had helped India during the 1999 Kargil War. This was his military genius. There was one most difficult Pass to capture — Zoji La Pass during the Kashmir war. That was when Kashmir was nearly lost.
The war was on, he surveyed the war zone, decided to fight the enemy from a vantage point of a hill with military tanks. But how to get these gargantuan tanks up the hill. ‘Strip them, load them in jeeps and drive up. And reassemble them.’ A nocturnal exercise executed with military precision, or say Thimayya precision. Mission accomplished. As the firing from the Tanks boomed, Pakistani soldiers and so- called tribals ran like rats and disappeared. That was Gen. Thimayya. Seemed, as with Napoleon, with Thimayya too, the word ‘impossible’ exists only in a fool’s dictionary, at least when they led. That was the kind of military man Gen. K.S. Thimayya was. And every Indian should feel proud of this General. A posthumous Military Rank of Field Marshal to him by a grateful nation would be in order, if it is possible in the Army, as it is allowed in our national civilian honour ‘Bharat Ratna.’
Consider the overwhelming confidence of the General who had mastered the art and craft of military strategy and also understood the causes and consequence of the war he was fighting in Kashmir.
Like a humble servile supplicant under Nehru and Louis Mountbatten, India went to UN and got into an abysmal nether world of meetings, dialogues and conferences. One such conference was held in Geneva. Pakistan arrived with its huge contingent of military experts and high-ranking officials. They sat confident of carrying the day behind heaps of official files.
And India? India was represented by the Defence Minister scholarly Gopalaswami Ayyangar and General Thimayya. “Thimayya carried with him only his tin of cigarettes. As he sat down he smiled at the opposite side and put the tin of cigarettes in front of him.”
The General knew that India’s real defence position was not at the conference table. It was in the Mountain Passes that were the passages to Kashmir Valley. And, surely he had already captured and sealed those Passes before the ceasefire was declared; could be, immediately after! That was Gen. Thimayya for India.
I had seen Gen. Thimayya’s statue in a War Museum in Singapore along with other officers in a conference. I think he was a Brigadier then. I have read that he was the only Indian officer to command an infantry brigade during World War II.
Like any Museum of a great-famous persons here too the Museum describes the General’s life from birth to death. He was among the most distinguished soldiers of our country.
The museum was inaugurated in 2021 by the then President of India Shri Ram Nath Kovind. It was undertaken by the Department of Kannada and Culture, Government of Karnataka, under the guidance of Field Marshal Cariappa-General Thimayya Forum.
As one enters the premises and walks towards the Museum, what comes into view is a larger-than-life size boot of a soldier, an essential part of his uniform. There is a metal plaque that eloquently explains the significance of the sole of that boot and the soul of the wearer of that boot! Let me reproduce:
An ode to the soldiers
Crack of dawn till the crack of dawn.
Running the rat race, the moment we are born.
This noble soul seldom blinks,
For sleep or a few leisurely winks.
In the biting cold or the sweltering heat,
To the cadence of the marching feet.
A bullet or shrapnel, he will gladly greet,
For his countryman that he will seldom meet.
On the sole of this boot rests…
a selfless brave soul
In keeping with the army discipline here too everything seemed in order. Neat. Clean.Ship-shape. That itself is a tribute and great honour to a great soldier of India and a son of Kodagu. As I tiptoed through different rooms and sections inside the Museum, speaking in whisper to my companion, it was an enthralling experience.
[To be continued]
e-mail: [email protected]