Tuesday 25 January 2022, 09:35 PM
The untold story of Commodore Jack Shea
By IANS | Bharat Defence Kavach | Publish Date: 11/8/2021 11:16:31 AM
The untold story of Commodore Jack Shea

New Delhi: The untold story of Commodore Jack Shea, is narrated by his daughter, author Debora Ann Shea, giving a first hand insight into the precarious times post partition. 'Escape from Pakistan' intends to transport readers to 1965 and aims to acknowledge the effort of each officer, known and unknown, who has given their lives for the nation.

The book lifts the lid on a story never before made public-the daring escape of a diplomat and his family from Karachi in 1965. But make no mistake: this is more than a pulse pounding thriller. At the heart of the narrative is the tender and inspiring story of a Captain, who masterminded the escape, with brutal consequences to himself.

Penned with utmost tenderness by Captain Shea's daughter Debora, this long-overdue tribute to her father who epitomised courage, loyalty and survival against overwhelming odds.

At 17, Jack Shea leaves his grandparents' house and joins the Royal Indian Navy. He loses his heart to a pretty young teacher, Dorothy Hope. They marry and raise a wonderful family. His career blossoms. A few months before the Indo-Pak war of 1965, Jack is posted to Karachi, Pakistan as Naval Attache in the Indian High Commission and here is where his story takes a dramatic turn. First Secretary at the High Commission, is actually from the IPS. His role in sourcing vital military information during the 1965 Indo-Pak war brings him dangerously close to being booked for espionage. The Indian authorities know they must move quickly to get him and his family safely back to New Delhi.

The man assigned to head the mission: Jack Shea. IANSlife caught up with Shea at the launch to discover more:

The Partition is one of the darkest moments in Indian history, 'Escape from Pakistan' traces the untold story of your father Commodore Jack Shea, how difficult was it to put down in words the anguish, anxiety, terror, and fear of the times?

Shea: Everybody is aware of the huge and exacting price the Partition of India had on the people of India. Millions of lives were lost, properties were damaged, burnt and looted, women and children were violated, and emotional scars were left for a lifetime of suffering and trauma.

Writing 'Escape from Pakistan' was a catharsis for me. It was healing a wound that lived within me for my entire life. It was only after I penned down the story of my father, that the burden lifted off my psyche. I feel liberated now like I have been set free from bondage.

A grave injustice was done to my father, and I was seeking validation from the people of India. On reading 'Escape from Pakistan', what would be their reaction? Would they recognise the bravery, courage, and sacrifice of an Indian jawan who put his life on the line for the liberty and security of his people?

Writing from an insiders point of view it's difficult to be objective about the incidents that took place?

Shea: Writing from an insider's point of view, it is deeply personal because I had a ringside view of the events that unfolded. Even though I was a child and helpless, I was still aware that my father had been attacked, that he lay in hospital clutching on to life by a slender straw for months. It may be accurate to say my retelling is not objective. The incidents are a personal memory, and the book is an exploration of them.

The arduous task of officers and their role at the time is often forgotten and goes undocumented.... do you feel this will shed some light?

Shea: The arduous task of officers and their role at the time "is not often, but always forgotten". The public is not aware of their sustained efforts; the planning and discipline that is required to orchestrate a Defence Force strong enough to defend a nation such as ours. The skill, strategy and human spirit that runs the defence force is mostly behind the scenes.

Stories like 'Escape from Pakistan' illustrate the supreme sacrifice the men in uniform make for their country. It explores bravery and principle like nothing else. In the final analysis, all their efforts are not for any monetary gain, fame or prosperity.

Share some of your memories of the time.

Shea: My father was always a very handsome man. Even at 80 years old, he could give a young man of 35 a run for his money. So, the memory that crippled me for my entire adult life, was the vision of seeing my father sitting in a wheelchair, slumped to one side unable to hold himself up. His eyes and mouth were lacerated and sutured. He was bruised, pale, and gaunt; hollow, haunting eyes!He was wheeled into the hospital waiting room to meet my brother and I, two months after the attack on him.

Another memory of mine was of my brother who was a baby. Only a few weeks old, being handed over through the locked gates to a doctor on the other side. My mother is helpless on this side of the gate. My brother had broken his arm during birth and the arm had been put into a cast. After a few weeks, the cast grew tight around his arm and began to turn blue. Due to the pain, the baby had been screaming nonstop. Even after repeatedly requesting the officer in charge to allow my mother to take the baby to the hospital, he denied her permission. After 24 hours when the baby's condition became critical, my mother approached the officer again. He turned her down again but allowed her to make a telephone call to my father. My father had been detained in the Indian High Commission at the time. He made a phone call to the Seventh Day Adventist hospital, spoke to the gynaecologist who had delivered the baby and managed to convince her to visit Hindustan Court where we were living, and see if she could help my baby brother.

These memories are the most disturbing. To see my mother weep helplessly. To see my father battered brutally.

Wounds never heal... the scar runs deep in those who have lived it and those who inherited its drama, do you agree?

Shea: Wounds never heal especially those of a child; helpless, terrified and anxious. However, the devout and spiritual path both my parent's tread, the values and objectives they taught- led our family out of those bitter times onto glorious future chapters in our individual lives.

Tags:

Commodore,Jack Shea,Debora,hand,precarious,partition,

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