Chennai: The Indian Air Force (IAF) is one of largest and powerful air forces in the world. Like every armed organisation, the IAF has patriotic stories of thousands who were brave to lay down their lives for our land. K S Nair’s The Forgotten Few – The Indian Air Force’s Contribution in Second World War attempts to narrate unheard stories of IAF.
“There is something about being a child of military personnel which in many ways results in its own sub-culture,” says Nair while speaking to News Today, about growing up in a family of air force officers.
“It’s a visceral experience to grow near an airbase and regularly watch aircraft in operation,” he says.
Another strong factor that drove Nair’s passion to write a book was living abroad. “I saw in other countries’ museums and history books how they value and preserve their military stories. I wondered why so little had been done in India to disseminate our own stories,” he says.
Nair speaks about his boyhood. “I had a normal, happy childhood. I used to write even as a schoolboy, though I didn’t publish,” he says, on his initial spark for writing. “I had notebooks full of stories, many with an aviation, military or maritime background,” he adds.
Nair believes he was lucky to qualify for a good college which made him to embark on a corporate career. However, it was written in Nair’s fate that he will always be linked to the air forces, one way or the other, as he eventually married the daughter of another Air Force officer.
Nair narrates how he wrote The Forgotten Few. “I started with people who had served during World War 2. I was lucky to work with aviation writer PVS Jagan Mohan, who is one of the webmasters of Bharat-Rakshak website. He shared several original documents and written sources, some of which he had acquired from overseas,” Nair says and adds that he also experienced similar generosity from Squadron Leader Rana Chhina (Retd), who runs Centre for Armed Forces Historical Research.
Why does it matter to know about India’s armed force history? “This is a topic which in my view deserves a book to itself,” says Nair.
The writer says its essential that a country has a solid, well-informed understanding of where it comes from, the experiences that have defined and shaped it as a nation. “Military history is a large part of that understanding,” he informs.
Nair points out the errs of not knowing history. “If a country doesn’t have an understanding of its own history, including its defeats and lessons to be learned from them, then its people develop a distorted sense and are prone to manipulation,” he warns.
Despite being an expert, Nair is modest when asked how can one become a student of history. “I am going to duck this question,” he brushes off with a smile. “Because I myself, am not formally qualified as a historian.”
In an age of fake news, it becomes hard to distinguish fact from fiction. How can one be cautious while digging information? “That’s a very real challenge,” agrees Nair.
He offers tips saying, “Check the credibility of the source, their track record, whether the story has been independently verified by other sources and so on.”
Nair signs off with, “In my book, I have tried to include only stories that I have heard from two different reliable sources.”