Making of my novel “Spy from Unaula” – Forgotten soldier ‘Bhagwati’

It was in late seventies when our village house was undergoing small renovation work. I was very young and do not remember much of it, but my aunty who was illiterate village lady had to tell a lot about something I still recall. It was the discovery of my uncle’s old army trunk that was left unnoticed in one of the rooms for almost twenty-five years.

Those days, most of the villages did not have electricity and most of the rooms in the houses did not have windows. Therefore in most of the rooms the light would only come through the doors in daytime. On top of it, most of the rooms used to have large earthen containers to hold grain and rice that was produced from the farms. Behind one such big grain pot in a dark room, my aunt discovered the box and brought it out for inspection.

The trunk was black in color and had ‘Lance Naik – Bhagwati Prasad , 18 Gurkha Regiment’ written on it. When the trunk was opened, my aunt found neatly folded pair of uniform, a pair of shoes, a water bottle and at the bottom of the trunk, a file. My aunt being absolutely illiterate had little understanding what was in the file opened it up and found a postcard sized photo hidden in between several papers. She put the papers back along with everything back in the trunk and took the photo with her. The photo was a group snap of several soldiers with my uncle in it.


Bhagwati in centre with other soldiers in KL – 1945 after the WW2 was over.

It was this photo that I laid my hands on several years later when I found it in her village home, carelessly put in one corner. It was for the first time that I had an opportunity to see my uncle. I had only heard about him so many times but never could think of a face. Behind this photo the address of the studio where the snap was taken was stamped. ‘Bright Studios, Batu Road, Kuala lumpur, Malaya.’ It was that day that my aunt described to me some war stories her brother told the village on his return from the war. The stories were sketchy and she could only tell me a few things like fighting on some place called ‘Red Hill’ and my uncle acting like a dead man to avoid enemy detection while crossing the enemy lines.

Armed with only these few inputs, his rank, battalion, my aunt’s story and the place the photo was taken, I researched for more than a year to dig out the complete story. The red hill description matched with the war against Japanese in Imphal that took place at a place known as red hills. I even travelled to Batu Road that is today known as Jalan TAR in KL in search of this studio, but the place with its name has changed completely. It is that story that probably no one else knows, have been written in the second chapter of  my novel ‘Spy From Unaula’.

My uncle was one of the millions of young village boys who had so much life and must have wished to live a good long life. He died young at an early age of twenty seven. He was amongst thousands who have been completely forgotten after sixty five years of his death. He did not even live long to enjoy the fruits of the benefit the government gave to the ex-soldiers like him. The illiterate village folks did not understand anything about the file that was in the box and remained there for another twenty years before my father accidently discovered it. It was the papers of ten acres of land in Nanital (a hill station in north India) that was allocated to him as compensation by the government.

I was amazed at the fact that when my father was dying, one of the people he remembered was his elder brother. He must have been someone great to be remembered even after more than fifty years after his death. I wish I could have seen him and experienced why he was so much loved by my father.

Alok Kumar

Alok Kumar is Managing Partner of SRKay Consulting group, a private equity company, nurturing innovative ventures. Alok also serves on the board of ICCL (Indian Clearing Corporation Limited - A subsidiary of BSE- Bombay Stock Exchange) as an external advisor for technology and information security. Prior to this, Alok had been Managing Director of Sears IT & Management Services India Private Limited (SHI) since its inception in December 2009 and served in the same position till very recently. Having been in senior IT management positions in Fortune 500 companies, Alok has won several national and international awards. Alok is instrumental in planning and setting up SHI and thereafter growing it to a multi-locational thousand-plus people organization. Over the last five years, with his strategic vision, Alok helped SHI grow roots in India, develop and support technology applications and infrastructure across core mainframe, cutting edge e-Commerce and big data technologies. With his unique people-oriented transformational leadership style, Alok turned SHI into one of the most valued investments of Sears, garnering great ROIs, and creating value much beyond cost arbitrage. Under his tutelage, SHI has filed two patents and is recognized widely for its best practices in various areas, the latter, currently featured in Indian Institute of Management (IIM) case studies. SHI also became a CMMI Level 3, PCMM Level 3, and ISO 20000 certified organization. Alok is a widely acclaimed corporate leader in India today. He regularly participates and leads various forums as a keynote speaker and is an author of several books in different genres. Alok has several awards to his credit. He is particularly known in the industry for his people management skills and innovative ideas in improving the productivity of employees through unique people practices. He has been credited with the following industry awards: ¬ Emerging Leader of the Year award 2013 by ¬ Game Changer CEO of the Year 2013 (SHRM) ¬ CIO 100 - The Bold CIOs - 2008 (Reliance Infosolutions) ¬ CIO - Ones to Watch Award 2008 (Reliance Industries) ¬ Extended Manager Award - CIOL 2004 (Tata Teleservices) As an able leader of SHI, Alok got SHI recognized widely in the industry with the following several awards: ¬ CII Award for HR Best Practices in 2014 ¬ Global Excellence in Outsourcing Award - AIOP (Phoenix 2013) ¬ IT Innovation Award (Design & Engineering) - Computer Society of India 2012 ¬ Golden Company of the Year - Economic Times 2011-12 ¬ 7th Employer Branding Awards - World HRD Congress (Mumbai, India) 2013: • ‘Asia’s Best Employer’ Award • ‘Best HR Strategy’ in line with business • HR Leadership Award • Talent Management Award by Bloomberg TV India ¬ Employer Branding Awards - World HRD Congress (Singapore, Asia) 2013: • 7th rank in ‘Asia’s Best Employer’ award • Award for ‘Best HR Strategy’ in line with the business • HR Leadership Award Other recognitions: Alok had served on the distinguished panel of NASSCOM's GIC (Global In-house Centers) National Council members. The council members play a key role in major initiatives of the industry and include the torch bearers of IT industry as panel members. Books and Papers: Alok is an established author, with three books to his credit. Alok’s third and latest book, a novel, “The Spy from Unaula” is a 2015 publication. A handwriting analysis enthusiast, Alok collaborated with his wife Nandani on the book, “Handwriting Speaks” in 2006. “Value Sourcing – Future of IT Outsourcing” was co-authored with Keith Sherwell (currently CIO, Altice USA) and was released in 2013. Alok also researched and published two whitepapers: a. “Creating next generation captives” talks about the best practices that are helping generate higher value from the IT company captives.

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