Sam Bahadur’s Amritsar Connection: A Tale of Roots and Remembrance

by Dr. Jasneet Bedi

Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw, fondly remembered as Sam Bahadur, was a legendary figure in Indian military history. Revered for his strategic brilliance, unwavering courage, and unwavering integrity, he led India’s armed forces to victory in the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War. However, beyond his battlefield achievements, Sam Bahadur held a deep and personal connection to the city of Amritsar, a place that shaped his life and character in profound ways.

Born in Amritsar in 1914, Sam Bahadur spent his formative years in the vibrant city, immersed in its rich cultural tapestry and the warmth of its people. He was raised in a Parsi household, but the spirit of Amritsar, a melting pot of diverse communities, left an indelible mark on his persona. He developed a deep appreciation for the city’s Sikh heritage and learned to speak Punjabi fluently, a skill that would later prove invaluable in his military career.

Sam Bahadur’s connection to Amritsar extended beyond his childhood. Throughout his military service, he maintained a special bond with the city, often visiting its Golden Temple and paying respects at the Wagah Border ceremony. He also frequently interacted with Amritsar’s residents, fostering a sense of camaraderie and respect that transcended social and cultural boundaries.

In 1969, Sam Bahadur became the Chief of Army Staff, the pinnacle of his military career. During his tenure, he made a special visit to Amritsar, accompanied by his Military Assistant, Lt Gen Depinder Singh (retd). As they walked through the streets of Amritsar, Sam Bahadur reminisced about his childhood, pointing out the places that held significance in his life. He even showed Lt Gen Singh the tree he had planted as a child, now towering over them, a testament to the enduring bond he shared with the city.

Sam Bahadur’s Amritsar connection was not merely a matter of personal nostalgia; it also played a crucial role in shaping his leadership style. His understanding of the city’s diverse population and his ability to connect with people from all walks of life made him an effective and empathetic leader. He recognized the importance of unity and cohesion in a nation as diverse as India, and his Amritsar upbringing instilled in him a deep respect for the country’s cultural heritage.

Sam Bahadur’s legacy extends far beyond his military accomplishments. He was a man of the people, deeply rooted in the soil of India, and his Amritsar connection exemplified his commitment to understanding and embracing the nation’s diverse tapestry. His story serves as a reminder that true leadership lies in empathy, understanding, and the ability to connect with people from all backgrounds.

Dr. Jasneet Bedi

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