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Book Review: My Comeback Trail by Sqn Ldr Manish Kumar

My Comeback Trail by Manish Kumar is a superbly written memoir about his life as a soldier in the Indian Air Force. However, the narrative follows an order, as the autography is being told. The chapters are short and readable; the story sways from one phase to another effortlessly.

Manish hailed from a well-to-do family, his father had huge influence on him. He was a retired judge and served the Indian army during the Indo-Pak war in 1965. From the family point of view, all was good. After Sainik School education, he joined the NDA, and became a pilot in the Indian Air Force. He loved flying. However, life wasn’t a cakewalk for him at his base.

If you read the book carefully, besides the life-changing events, you will find that the author was a victim of internal prejudice and envy. He was doing well at his level. But some of his seniors didn’t like him. Thus, from time and again, he was harassed and comments were made at him, stirring a bout of self-doubt. For instance, once a senior officer commented that he had only two medals in ten years of service, while a junior is having ten in two years.

As an officer Manish Kumar was proactive and carried his duty with good will. He wasn’t any sort of sycophant. He didn’t want to be in good books of others by pleasing them. And this didn’t go well with many. The book carefully points out many such events, encounters, and circumstances that were internally staging hostile uncertainties against him.

The early years of 21st century brought troubles for him. His house was set on fire. He wanted to be with his ageing parents but he was denied leave. And when granted, his senior officer called him back with no extension. He was sent for Missile Training Course, which is a low point for any pilot’s career. The author cleared staff college entrance exam for promotion to higher ranks, saved lives of many people while as chopper pilot, acted sensibly during Operation Parakram2001–2002 India–Pakistan standoff. But all in vain! Why? The answers are beyond the basic vista of human mind. It’s sad to feel that at large his life remained a troubled one.

For millions of youths in India, air force pilot is a dream-like career but would you believe that an elite officer was beaten, sedated, and kept arrested for no obvious reasons. No matter who you are and where you work, life tests you with pain, misery, and conspiracies. His story is fortitude of his mettle, he was declared invalid kept in psychiatric ward for months away from his family, especially his son. He endured all without caring for the external responses. Manish had the option of becoming a ground duty officer, but he didn’t choose that. Flying was his pride and he stuck to it.

The narrative is compact, tight and strictly follows events one after another. However, the biggest win and comeback for the author is that he didn’t give up. On one side he narrated the agonies of his personal life in the Indian Air Force; on the other hand, he spun tales of valour, love, hope, inspiration from his early days of life that was a good time. Despite all the trials and tribulations, the book eventually turns hopeful and triumphant.

Buy the book from Amazon/Kindle.


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