October 4, 2022

Book Review: 26/11 Bravehearts

If you want to read specifically about 26/11, then this book is not good recommendation for you but if you want to read an inspirational story of an Indian Soldier, then this is best recommendation for you.

The visuals on the scene were horrific, to say the least. The big hand of ‘Breaking News’ was displayed on the screen with the dramatic lines:

Mumbai under Attack

Terror Strikes Mumbai

Mumbai on Fire”

Some days ago on 26 Nov, India remembered the 26/11 incident on its anniversary. Social media flooded with the messages and there was one line which was on everyone’s post- “Never forget”. But, what people did not want to forget? The Taj attack, the attackers, the country from where those attackers came, the dead people or the Indian soldiers who fought against the attackers?

I think, bad memories should be forgotten but the one thing which People should never forget is the bravery of our heroes who fought against the blood spillers. And one of the heroes who fought against the attackers till his last effort, was ‘Praveen Kumar Teotia”.

Praveen Kumar Teotia was a MARCOS and the part of that unit which was sent to Taj Hotel before NSG (National Security Guards) arrived there. This 26/11 incident was the turning point in the life of Praveen kumar teotia, which, according to him, changed his life entirely. In Taj attack, when he was there in a room of Taj, he was attacked by a terrorist, due to this attack, his life as MARCOS commando had ended. But despite all weakness and health problems, he ran in the toughest marathons and also became the differently abled IRONMAN of India.

His life story is certainly an inspiration, he submitted the story of his life to Rupa publication and Rupa publication released a book ‘26/11 Braveheart’ in 2020 on the life story of Praveen Kumar Teotia.

Before talking about the book further, I must say that the title and the description of the book is deceptive. 26/11 was the turning point of the Praveen’s life, So, at one instance, title can be accepted but the description which only talks about that ‘this is the first hand account of a soldier which he encountered in Taj hotel’, lead the readers under the impression that this book is about the Taj attack and one of the soldier who was there, is telling the situation of that time.

‘Minutes by Minutes detail of how the operation by Marcos team was conducted on 26/11’ description only justifies with early chapters; later book just tells the story of Teotia’s survival.

Apart from this, that minute by minute detail also doesn’t give us much information about the operation. There were many other police, commandos but we don’t get the information about this. However, author tried to explain the things connected with the 26/11 incident. Author criticized the role of media in 26/11 attack (well-known criticism about this incident), and tried to give justification of this criticism with the help of judicial pronouncement.

To cover a good amount of book around the 26/11 attack, author wrote details about attackers, their trainings, arrival at Mumbai and about their lives but this cannot be first-hand account because it is impossible for the author to know about these things at personal level. Further, there is no reference of the information about terrorists in the book and this details also barriers the flow of the story of operation’s story. When you are reading minute to minute details about the operation and then author start to talk about the past of these terrorist, it just stops the flow.

However, there are crucial things which derive out from this ‘minute to minute details’, author highlight and criticize the insufficient ammunition and devices which they needed in their operation. When they got message that they were going to Taj Palace hotel, they went to get ammunition, they needed MP5 but they got AK47, according to author, AK 47 are heavier gun than MP5. Also they did not get helmets, they got those helmets which could not be recommended for Marcos. This was not the end, they also did not get good grenade, author remembers that when he threw that grenade it did not explode and it was a big embarrassment as a soldier.

At that time in the room, fighting the evil perpetrators who were out there to destroy and kill everything Indian, I felt Betrayed as an Indian Soldier.”

Also, they faced trouble while they were sailing by a boat, when they reached at the shore, they did not have communication sets and when they tried to get, they only got one set for two commandos and this inability of communication gave trouble to the commandos at the time of operation.  

Author recalls that people criticized the decision of the government to send MARCOS at the Taj because MARCOS are navy commandos. The National Security Guard (NSG) team, an elite force trained specifically to tackle counter-insurgency operations in urban setup was still in Delhi and waiting for the inviting request from Maharashtra Government. Author wrote that,

IT was the MARCOS now that was leading the Operations and we were also chattering a path full of uncertainty and death lingering at every corner.

Unsympathetic Observers sitting on the fringes and disenchanted insiders in the services could call us the wrong dogs for the fight, but only the night would reveal how these dogs saved the day for so many of them sitting outside.”

There are many details in the book which give a sensation in our spine when we read about the conditions of dead people in the Taj, and more importantly the conditions of author while he was confronting with dreaded terrorists, his conditions inside the room when he was attacked and counting his last breaths and thought that his ending time had come, but army threw a tear gas bomb in the room for the terrorists while considering him dead and the time when he was brought to the hospital and doctor operated him.

In the last chapter, Author recalls the time when he was in the in the navy base and was called crippled. He recounts those incidents when he was humiliated by the seniors and his companions due to his condition. There are many points, when we feel for the Author. However, at the end when author wins the toughest marathon, his life becomes inspiration and a path to be followed.

Throughout his story, author also tries to say that if a soldier sacrifices his life for the nation, then this is the duty of the people to respect that. and I think, this is the least we can do, if we can’t give someone his life and good days back, at least we can respect him/her for his/her service for the nation.

At the end, if you want to read specifically about 26/11, then this book is not good recommendation for you but if you want to read an inspirational story of an Indian Soldier, then this is best recommendation for you.

This article is written by Arshi hayat Gnagohi. She is a lawyer, blogger at ababeelfolks and writes on laws, culture, books, cinema, food and literature.