Serving as the commanding officer of a combat engineering unit during the short 1962 Sino-Indian War, Lieutenant Colonel K.N. Bakshi recalls his experiences as a prisoner of war and as a serving officer after his repatriation to India. His account begins with the poorly planned and executed retreat from prepared defensive positions that led to his wounding and capture, continues with his detainment by Chinese soldiers, and finally his humiliation at his treatment by the Indian military once he was repatriated.
Like other POW narratives, Bakshi portrays his sense of isolation, the harsh conditions, the privation of various camps, and conflicts with other soldiers. His case is particularly telling due to the serious injuries to his hip, both hands, and his wrist, which prevented him from caring for himself. The pain of enduring a finger amputation without anesthesia led to an outburst that alienated him from the soldiers who had to feed him. The resulting separation increased when Chinese soldiers carried him on a little to new quarters while the others walked up hill unassisted in a torrential downpour.
The final portion of Bakshi’s tale somewhat echoes Ha Jin’s depiction of Chinese treatment of prisoners returning after detention in Korea – defeated troops that failed in their duty are an embarrassment to the state when they initially return.Later returnees receive better treatment than those repatriated early in the process. Bakshi’s anger at his treatment is evident in his reaction to the events as they unfold, but also in his strong response to American coverage of hostages returning to the United States from Iran in 1981. His account argues for a commonality of prisoner experiences across cultures that deserves additional investigation.