Jan 13, 2015
Cariappa came and we proceeded in the car to his house. He muttered that he had given a monosyllabic reply, ‘Yes Sir’. A couple of days later I saw in the newspapers that the Indian Army had marched into Hyderabad.
When I was in my teens at school, I reve-red the Mahatma, idolised Jawaharlal Nehru and admired Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. I met the Mahatma once for a few minutes and I interacted with Nehru in his office twice. I hardly ever met Patel.
In September 1946, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel became the Home Member of the Viceroy’s executive council in the interim government. Nehru was vice-president. They functioned as de-facto Prime Minister and home minister respectively. In August 1947, Nehru became the Prime Minister and Patel the home minister as also deputy Prime Minister. The Sardar was living in 1, Prithviraj Road, opposite Claridges Hotel. I was a captain serving in Military Operations Directorate at Army Headquarters. As a bachelor living in Officers Mess on Zakir Hussain Road, I used to go out jogging in Lodhi Gardens every morning. The Sardar used to come to the gardens for his morning walks. He would be accompanied by about half a dozen people. While jogging, when I saw him coming from the opposite direction, I would stop and respectfully do my “Pranam”. He responded by nodding his head, giving me a slight smile. In September 1948, I saw him from close quarters. Lt. Gen. K.M. Cariappa, the then Western Army Commander, was in Kashmir at Uri.
Being his General Staff Operations Officer, I used to frequently accompany him on his tour of battle areas in Kashmir. One afternoon we received an emergency message from Delhi wanting Cariappa to meet the Sardar immediately. We rushed to Srinagar airport and caught a special plane for Delhi. Perhaps Cariappa knew what this call was about. On arrival at Palam airport, we drove to the residence of the Sardar.
There were no air-conditioners in those days. The Sardar was in his drawing room and one could see him from the adjacent verandah. The ceiling fan was running, the front door was open and the curtain was swinging. Cariappa sat next to the Sardar and discussed some matter. I could not hear what they were saying from the verandah where I was sitting with an officer of the Sardar’s staff. The meeting lasted about 15 minutes. Cariappa came and we proceeded in the car to his house. He muttered that he had given a monosyllabic reply, “Yes Sir”, and he then said “Thank You”. I was curious to know what it was all about. A couple of days later I saw in the newspapers that the Indian Army had marched into Hyderabad.