Brilliant soldier, inspiring and caring leader, he symbolised everything good in the Indian Army
Born to Dare, a book by Chennai historian S. Muthiah about former soldier Inder Singh Gill who died a few years ago, is a must-read for all young army officers. For it recreates General Gill’s career, opens up a broad canvas with some evocative descriptions of the life of military officers and staff, and well and truly inspires. The book, as Kamini Madhavan, senior editor, Penguin Books (the publishers), mentioned at the launch, is in the best traditions of writing. And Muthiah needs to be commended for a fantastic effort in researching, gathering material and putting together a marvellous book for posterity.
The author was a friend of Gill, and later became his admirer as he discovered more about the military man from outside sources. The two met several times and in time their friendship grew over military stories. The times spent with Gill probably helped Muthiah to caricature the brave-hearted officer.
For Muthiah, Born to Dare was “the hardest book I ever wrote”. Gill had left hardly any material to research on – “he ensured there was lack of material”. Then there was the bureaucracy to contend with. But Muthiah never gave up, starting with the stock of letters Gill’s wife Mona provided. He also found several books in Gill’s library useful – Gill had scribbled comments in many of them, and one of the words he used most often was “bullshit”. Quite a few army officers gave freely of their recollections of the man, and interviewing them in Chennai was Ranjitha Ashok. All those memories made the book possible, without doubt an important contribution to India’s military legacy.
At the launch in Chennai, there were never-ending but fabulous recollections of General Gill – by Major General Kochekkan; Dr Gopalji Malviya, prof and head, Department of Strategic Studies, University of Madras; Dr M C Muralirangan, director, Gill Research Institute, Guru Nanak College, Chennai; and Prof T V Ramanna, former principal, Guru Nanak College, Chennai. They are too many to be mentioned here, but what was spoken about the man only added to his legend. Mona Gill was present too, and I’m sure her eyes must have been moist as she heard the legend of her husband being recreated.