A book launch in Delhi had all the frightening keywords — from defamation notice to machine guns to Hizbul Mujahideen. And it drew a room full of retired military officers too.
Held at the India International Centre, Life of an Industani, written by military historian Shiv Kunal Verma, captures the big moments of the Indian military, from Siachen, Operation Blue Star to Kargil in 584 pages.
“It’s a biography, a candid one at that. After people get around reading the book, the publisher and writer will get defamation notices,” said Bibek Debroy, chairman of the Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister. The statement evoked laughter across the hall.
“It’s a huge, thick book, not the kind you read on the flight. This book deserves to be read seriously,” he added.
Debroy came to the launch for 20 minutes and left soon after, with four people remaining on the stage: Shiv Kunal Verma along with Gen. V.K. Singh (retd), Lt Gen. Rakesh Kumar Loomba (retd), and Anirudhh Chopra who is associated with BlueOne Ink, the publisher of the book.
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Insight into Army life
The discussion meandered from fake news to the stories of Army officers to how communication was a problem during their time. The author Verma shared jaw-dropping stories of Kashmir: When he went to meet Hizbul Mujahideen and thrice his pistol fell on the ground; how he was introduced to a man as “Inse miliye, inhone 82 rape kiye hain (Meet this man who has committed 82 rapes).”
He then invited Anirudh Chopra, saying: “Come on the stage, there is no fire in the chat without you.”
Debroy called Life of an Industani a “disturbing” book, but Gen. V.K. Singh (retd) did not agree. “I won’t call it ‘disturbing’. I think very few people get disturbed by what has already happened. Only something new disturbs you,” said Singh, the minister of state for civil aviation, and road transport and highways.
At one point, Lt Gen. Loomba told the audience how difficult it was for him to talk to his family. He recalled an incident when his wife came to Kashmir and called from the Srinagar airport. “There were four connected phone call lines. I had to say ‘hello darlings’ four times. Those were the difficult times,” said Loomba, evoking laughter across the room on the reference to Netflix’s Darlings (2022).
He also called Life of an Industani “a great service to the nation” with its insights into defence and Army life.
“At one level, the book comes at you like machine-gun fire, the pace and scope of which is unrelenting,” Gen. Singh said.
(Edited by Humra Laeeq)