The Army Man Who Loved His Uniform

Aakriti Periwal and Rachna Bisht Rawat

Aakriti Periwal and Rachna Bisht Rawat

Rachna Bisht Rawat reminisces about her father, General Bipin Rawat, at The Write Circle event in Ahmedabad

A four-star general of the Indian Army, General Bipin Rawat served as the first Chief of Defence Staff of the Indian Armed Forces from January 2020 until his untimely death in December 2021. The late general’s commitment to his uniform is what drew his daughter, Rachna Bisht Rawat, to dedicate her latest book, Bipin: The Man Behind the Uniform, to him as a tribute. 

Prabha Khaitan Foundation invited journalist and writer Rawat to a session of The Write Circle. Held at The House of MG in Ahmedabad, the session commenced after a welcome speech by Shaneel Parekh, Ehsaas Woman of Ahmedabad. Speaking with Aakriti Periwal, the Foundation’s Honorary Convener of Overseas Affairs, Rawat said of her father, “He was a sentimental man, but his commitment to the olive green always came before anything else, including his family.” 

Rawat juggles multiple roles as a journalist, author, mother and the wife of an army officer. Her writing sheds light on both well-known and little-known stories of real-life heroes and their unparalleled bravery. Among her notable works are accounts of the Kargil War and the 1965 conflict, as well as untold narratives in Kuch Ansuni

“General Bipin Rawat was a sentimental man, but his commitment to the olive green always came before anything else, including his family.”

The conversation began with Rawat reflecting on her journey to understand the man behind the uniform by delving into his relationships and contemplating the reasons behind his unconventional choices in the military. Rawat also shared her personal experience of being in the cantonment during the Kargil War in 1999 while her brother, Sameer Bisht, served in the war. She recalled her mother’s words even in the absence of news about him: “Humare parivar mein sabhi wapis aaye hai, woh bhi zinda”. While her brother got home safe, Rawat acknowledged the tragic reality of many others who lost their lives at a young age. Inspired by their bravery, she interviewed the fathers of soldiers such as Vijayant Thapar, Saurabh Kalia, Vikram Batra and others, which led to her book Kargil.

When asked about General Rawat’s chopper crash in Dimapur in 2015, which he survived, the author said, “The helicopter was lifted into the air and it crashed. No one was hurt except my father. His clothes were torn and he was bruised because the helicopter crashed on the side where he was seated. My father assured the pilot that it wasn’t his fault, and in two hours’ time was on another helicopter to attend a meeting in Itanagar.”

In the course of the session, Periwal requested the author to speak about General Rawat’s relegation while in the National Defence Academy. Rawat explained that during his early days as an NDA cadet, her father struggled with nerves and could not complete the mandatory 10-foot jump into the pool. Eventually, however, he surpassed his peers and became a general, which was a testament to his resilience. Yet, despite being loved by many, General Rawat faced some controversies during his leadership, particularly for his statement on the conflict in Kashmir. 

Rawat shared that interviewing the families of 21 Param Vir Chakra recipients was a profound learning experience for her. She emphasised the emotional connection in her interviews, which also applied to her interactions with General Rawat’s acquaintances. The enthralling session finally wrapped up with a Q&A round, followed by a vote of thanks by Priyanshi Patel, Ehsaas Woman of Ahmedabad, and with former Wing Commander Shri Arun Kaul felicitating the author.

The Write Circle Ahmedabad was presented by Shree Cement Ltd, in association with The House of MG and Karma Foundation and with the support of Ehsaas Women of Ahmedabad