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Speakbindas interviews Captain Narendra


Captain-Narendra (DY COMDT PORTRAIT)

Shri Narendra Fanase is a 72 year old, gentleman – son of a Marathi family, settled since generations in Gujarat. He has spent his prime time in Indian army and border security force. He was for some time in UK and now settled in California, USA.

He is an excellent Gujarati writer. He used to write for a column ‘ Gypsy ni Ankhe’ and has also translated his mother’s autobiography in Gujarati – ‘BAAI’ – a highly inspiring true story of a woman who got crushed under social/ family pressures, and yet made her way through a depressing and frustrating maze. He has written his memoirs of India -Pakistan wars/ conflicts at his blog



What in your opinion is the ideal solution to normalize relations between India and Pakistan – taking inspiration from the way, France and Germany have done?


Analogy with France and Germany, to my mind, is out of place. Those are highly developed, modern democracies. They far advanced in their political, social, economic and humanitarian thinking. The results are before our eyes: East and West Germany united decades ago; Whole of Europe is united as one community with common currency; free movement of citizens of EC, etc. As against that, Pakistan is a theocracy and still has a medieval feudal society. (Please see the column “The Price of Moral Cowardice” by Ardeshir Cowasjee in the Dawn, Karachi dated 19 April 2009. One can find it on the Net). Pakistan’s weak civilian government is subordinate to the Army. The mullahs control people, their education system and even their minds.

Common people’s psyche is doctored during the last two generations to hate India through the medium of misinformation. For instance, curriculum of Social Studies for high schools in Pakistan harps on statements such as how secular, kind and humane Mogul emperors like Babur, Shah Jehan and Aurangzeb were and how ‘ungrateful’ Hindus returned their benevolence by killing thousands of Muslims and destroying their mosques. History of post-Indus Civilization till the arrival of Islam in the Punjab/Sindh/NWFP is almost non-existent in their textbooks. According to their history books, History of Pakistan begins with the invasion of Sind by Mohmmed bin Qasim in 712 A.D. For a nation brought up through generations with this kind of education to hate India, treat all Indians as their enemies and restore the ‘golden’ Islamic rule in India on the lines of Aurangzeb’s rule, there is no hope for a peaceful settlement.

The mindset of the whole nation is against any kind of meaningful agreement with India. Besides, the Pakistani rulers have NEVER been honest with India. They have never lived up to their promises in the matter of terrorism; instead they have protected them. In spite of the pressure from the US Government, they have still not carried out death sentence on the killer of WSJ reporter Daniel Pearl. Does India have any hope?

The following steps, impossible as they seem to be from Pakistani point of view, could make some progress in normalizing relations with India.

a.       Subordinate their armed forces and indeed the ISI to democratically elected civilian authority;

b.       Resolve the Kashmir issue by making the Line of Control international border with India. India will be the losers, as they will have to relinquish their claim on Pakistani Occupied Kashmir, Skardu, Gilgit, Hunza, etc., which were part of the Kingdom of Jammu & Kashmir, which acceded to India. Pakistan will lose nothing – except their false pride and need to write off losses suffered in previous misadventures in Kashmir and elsewhere.

If you read the electronic editions of Pakistani daily The Dawn, there is a liberal, educated class of people and academics, who want peace, progress and normal relations with India. They may be skeptical about the ‘treatment’ of minorities in India, largely because of the exaggerated news fed to them. Educated people of Pakistan are tired of the military and mullah rule. Their stranglehold on Pakistani masses is stifling these intellectuals. However, they are powerless before the might of the feudal landlords, mullahs and military.




What is your honest opinion about morale of Indian soldier, as on today?


Notwithstanding news about several cases of suicide among soldiers, the morale of jawans is still very high. It needs to be sustained by the civilian authority and the people of India. A soldier guarding the border has the similar domestic problems as every one else. Sometimes, there are issues involving civilian authority. In my time, there were occasions when some people in the hometowns of my jawan harassed his family for a dispute concerning his land.  As an officer commanding, I wrote to the Collector requesting him for help. Immediate action was taken through civic administration and police and I was informed of the action taken. This, I understand, is not happening now. The local civic administration must, through legislation, take prompt measures to resolve the issues so that the soldiers guarding the borders are confident that the nation they serve looks after their families. The other issue is relating to their salary, which should have parity – or even extra pay as compared to their civilian counterparts. Jawans do acknowledge what their country does for them. They show their gratitude on battlefronts like Kargil, Siachin, etc.


Do you think that wars solve problems OR they are inevitable?


Wars NEVER solve problems. They become inevitable when a rogue state intimidates its neighbors through terrorism, intimidation, invasion and proxy wars. We have seen that in WW II with the rise of Nazis. Pakistan invaded India in 1948 and 1965. That is why nations need strong armed forces as deterrent, not for destruction.


Do you think that ‘BAAI’ should be a role model for Indian women? What is your opinion about modern Indian woman a) educated, b) Uneducated?


Every mother is divinity personified. There is a saying in Sanskrit that an offspring may turn out to be a rogue, but mother will never be a bad mother (KUPOOTRO JAAYATE MAATAA, MAATAA KOO-MAATAA NA BHAVATI). Education or lack of it does not matter to a mother. They all are role models in kindness and love. Authors such as Maxim Gorky, Kishansinh Chavda , Saney-Guruji have written about the sacrifices made for them and their siblings by their mothers. Motherhood transcends nationalities. Some mothers are lucky to have good education.  Some, like Baai, though educated up to primary school level, enlightened themselves by reading classic Gujarati literature and translations of Sharad Babu, Rabindranath Tagore, etc. She had broadened her horizon so much that she could express her thoughts in as simple a way as she had learned to cope with life. Her autobiography is transparent and devoid of bitterness, which shows how enlightened she was.

As for my opinion of modern Indian women, education has played an important role in their lives. They have developed a vision through their own education and liberal outlook to inspire especially their daughters to pursue education and assert themselves.


Being a Marathi Gujarati, how do you feel about education of Gujarati language in Gujarat as on today?


According to my family tree, my ancestors came to Gujarat in 1796 CE. With that history, I am more of a Gujarati than the most! I have never lived in Maharashtra- except for military training in Pune.

As for the education in Gujarati language today, I believe that it is the responsibility of parents to inculcate in our children pride in our mother tongue. Education in Gujarati starts in our homes. It pained me when some of my fellow students in the school failed our annual exams in Gujarati. They did not have books or magazines in Gujarati in their homes for them to read. Nor were they encouraged to go to the library. I was lucky. I distinctly remember that the first books my older sister helped me to read were ‘Sadgooni Baalako’ (Sastu Sahitya) and Soneri Pankhi when I was six years old. She was a primary school teacher in Ahmedabad, and had bought these books for me.

In the US and UK, local Gujarati organizations should take up classes in teaching mother tongue. One of my friends in London, Ms. Hasumati Gangadia has been running Gujarati classes for the last 25 years and has developed curriculum and teaching aids. I can give her contact details if any one is interested.


As a  Marathi Gujarati, how do you feel about present day Gujarati literature?


As a Gujarati, I can say that by and large, the present day Gujarati literature is highly aesthetic. Level of quality and thought-expression of writers differ according to their genre. This opinion is based after I read modern writers such as Ravji Patel (Jhanzaa – a classic in its own way), Harindra Dave, Sain Makarand, Ishaa Kundanika, Shiv Kumar Joshi, Chandrakant Bakshi etc.  Other monumental books such as Amaas-na Taara, Baandh Gathariya, Himalayno Pravas stand out as all time classics. Saurashtra-based books of Meghani have made a great tradition in folk literature of Gujarat. We have a great contemporary literature, which is distinct from Bengal, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. I also find exceptional idealistic similarity between Gujarati and Marathi writers, which have made Khandekar and Khanolker household names in Gujarat. To be honest, I read both the above named writers in Gujarati. I have still not had the opportunity read original Marathi books.


The most active part of your life has been in Army. How is it that your literary taste remained unaffected?


I lived with books when I was alone in my Forward Defended Localities where I spent more than half of my life in uniform. An officer cannot fraternize with the troops he commands. With books, I was never lonely. I read a great deal and with the inspiration of an old friend, the late Ramanbhai Bhavsar of Jansatta, I started writing in Gujarati again. My column in Jansatta became very popular and remained so for a few years till I moved to UK. Thanks to Gujarati librarians in London, I could read many Gujarati books while commuting on London Underground.

Captain Narendra File photo

Captain Narendra File photo


You have lived in UK as well as USA. How do you compare the life of an NRI in two countries?


One can write books on this subject! If I have to answer this question briefly, I shall most probably encounter the pitfall of stereotyping. It is difficult to generalize. For instance, the other day my host was driving me to New Bruinswick NJ Transit station. When we had to halt at the traffic light, I saw on NRI casually winding his driver’s seat window down, spat out and wound up the window as if nothing wrong was done. On the other hand, I have also seen very courteous ladies and gentlemen, holding the door to let seniors pass first. Similarly in the UK, one sees extremes (but none spitting on the road!). It all depends on the family background, education and upbringing of each individual NRI.

One common thing I have seen both in UK and USA that NRIs is extreme racism against people of African origin, whether they are from the Caribbean islands or are American born Africans. I have rarely seen NRIs having social interaction with these ethnic groups. There is also acute prejudice against divorced US-born Indian women married to boys from India through arranged marriages. People have not been able to think that it could be the boys and their families who drove the girl to take the extreme step.


Tell us a bit about your post military experiences.


I moved to UK immediately after retirement from the armed forces. In Britain, I had the opportunity of working with many Pakistani, Indian and Bangladeshi families. It was surprising to see that of all the families from the Sindh and Azad Kashmir (Pakistan Occupied Kashmir in Indian parlance) made me more than welcome in their homes when I went to help them with their benefits and other issues. My best rewards were: Before retiring as a Director of Services for Children with Disabilities, I went to bid goodbye to some of my old clients. One of them, a single-parent Pakistani lady with four children said with moist eyes, “Take care, my brother. May God be your protector.” To be called a brother by a Pakistani lady was very touching indeed. I had similar experience from many of my English, African-Caribbean and Indian clients.

The second was when my friends and I started a talking newspaper in Gujarati in London for our visually impaired people. It is continuously providing recorded cassettes free of charge every week to over 300 people in Britain for the last 24 years. We started the Talking Newspaper in Gujarati. Now we have Hindi and Bengali editions also.


Do you think it is possible/ necessary tune USA/UK born kids to Indian culture?


Yes, it is essential. However, I feel that it should be done without making them sit on the high horse of moral and cultural superiority over the children of the host nation. I have seen, especially in the US that Indian children are taught by their parents to be away from the ‘Western Culture’ and not have close interaction with white American children and NEVER with African American and Latino kids. They are taught to be superior to their Western counterparts both culturally and morally.  This attitude insulates our kids from the mainstream society and makes them ‘birds of feather’. I have scarcely seen Indian children doing ‘sleep-over’ with their white friends. May be my knowledge of NRI families in the USA is inadequate. What I have said here is what I have seen.


If you were to relive your life, which most unpleasant incident you may like to change? How?


In retrospect, it is not an incident, but some close persons. We have free will as far as our actions in a given event are concerned. Events in my life took place as a reaction to the action I took, so I cannot call any incident as unpleasant. They were my own creations by choice. However, we cannot choose with whom we are born. We cannot change people’s mindset and their motives. Nor do we have control over their intentions and actions. We have to resign to our fate with a simple explanation that we often get what we deserve. Your question may seem unanswered, but that’s how my life has been.


Which was your happiest experience in life?


There were in fact two events. The first was in 1964. My mother was able to attend the ‘Passing-out Parade’ when I was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Indian Army. The second was in 1973. I was lying in a hospital bed in Amritsar, recovering from the effects of general anesthesia. My wife was at my bedside, when Hukum Chand, my elderly assistant came beaming with the news: I was awarded President of India’s Police & Fire Services Medal for Gallantry for leading my brave soldiers in 1971 War.


What message you would like to give to Gujaratis?


Take pride in the fact that we are Gujaratis, and live our traditional values that we are people with adventure, humility and humanity in our blood.


What has been your Jivan Mantra ( guiding principle of life) ?


The saying of Karna in Mahabharat: DAIVAYATTAM KOOLAY JANMA, MADAYATTAM TU POUROOSHAM. It is difficult to give appropriate translation of this Sanskrit saying. The rough translation is: The station of life in which I am born is controlled by Destiny, (but) courage to achieve my goals is in my control.

N.B. I have mentioned a few things about India-Pakistan relations. I give below some useful links, which will support some of my assertions:



See NY Times report of July 26, 2009 vide the following link:


Booklet on Secondary School Certificate Examination Syllabus for History of Pakistan (Std. IX & X) of Agakhan University, Karachi, Pakistan. (Available on Internet).


P.S.: Interview conducted by Shri Sureshbhai Jani, the volunteer correspondent of Speakbindas.com


Posts by SpeakBindas Editorial Team.

19 thoughts on “Speakbindas interviews Captain Narendra

  1. Extremely balanced views expresed, demonstrating maturity that life experiences yield after 70 years of dedicated life time.
    You have lived your life well Captain !

  2. Read review of his book ‘BAAI’ a translation of autobiography of his mother –


  3. Mukund Desai'MADAD' says:

    This good biography.He is very helpful to me when I wrote a book on ‘Jersey City’.

  4. Harnish Jani says:

    Excellent-Captain Saheb-Seen the otherside of ur personality- Good Job Devang- keep it up.

  5. Hats off to you Captain. Salute.

  6. Tushar Bhatt says:

    Captain Narendra Phanse is a Guajrati of Marathi origins, an officer of distinction and a gentlemen to the core. In my view, he is the finest writer after Kaka Kalelkar from among our Marathi brothers. In fact,both write much better Gujarati than many of us whose mother and moter-tongue both are Gujarati.Narenbhai( who loves Ahmedabad and Bhavnagar is a perceptive observer and chronicler of life,military and spiritualism all together.Mr Jani has acquitted well himself in this to-the-point interview.

    Congratulations to both of them and Mr Devang Vibhakar for this gem.–Tushar Bhatt

  7. B..G.Jhaveri says:

    Uttomottam.Janva Jeva manas-CaptanSaheb.Pranam.
    our tribute to Saarvshree Kakasaheb Kalelkar, Vinoba Bhave And Gopalrao Vidwans may be considered.
    Kakasaheb Kalelkar-Jeevanleela.{Tribute to Rivers of Bharat.-Jeevan is Water.}
    Vinoba BHave -Geeta Pravachano.
    Gopalrao Vidwans -Translation of Marathi Fictions of V.S.Khandekar,G.T Madkholker,Mama Warerker.

  8. hiteshbhai joshi says:

    Heart Touching Real Story Congrants to you to put here

  9. Ramesh Patel says:

    Salute to bravo Indian son.

    This is not story but mirror of true things.

    Thanks for introducing.

    Ramesh Patel(AakashdeeP)

  10. Oh, I really enjoyed reading this interview…Thanks to Sureshbhai who sent me the 1st invitation to view this….thanks to you, Narendrabhai, for informing me by an Email.
    Narendrabhai, your answers display your DEEP UNDERSTANDING of the questions asked & your wealth from you reading diiferent literary persons, your OWN PERSONAL EXPERIENCES in your Life.
    You lived in Gujarat & you are poudly declaring yourself as a GUJARATI & still not forgeting your MARATHI ROOTS & to top it all you are a PROUD to be an INDIAN !
    I had the pleasure of knowing you even before this interview…BUT, reading your INTERVIEW & seeing your PHOTOS in the Military Uniform & then receiving your Military Honors at a Ceremony, along with a Photo of you as a young person with your bowtie makes me ALL PROUD that I have a FRIEND in YOU.Let our Friendship blossom & may be one day , God permitting, we will meet eachother.

  11. Gajanan Raval says:

    Hearty congrats and best wishes to speech Bindaas!! You have done an excellent task by taking
    an interview of my bosom friend and extremely nice gujarati writer Capt. Naren Fanase. His articles
    make you peep into inner level of human mind, relationship and moral values without using much jargaon and big words. He is modest enough not to crave for being recognised as a writer yet he is
    noteworthy to be recognised. Let’s expect more articles from him in strengthening our Gira Gujarati..
    —Gajanan Raval. Durham-NC USA

  12. Pinki says:

    Real celebration of our freedom,

    nice to read u on speekbindaas

    congrats to Devang, too and salute to u and our army !!

  13. Very informative interview. Thanks for sharing with us.

  14. dipak says:

    This is a really very nice interview.So many things we came to know through this.I salute to
    Shree Narendrabhai & many thanx to Sureshbhai to share this with us.

  15. Maheshchandra Naik says:

    Salute to Capt. Shri Narendrabhai for inspiring & thought provoking views expressed in interview……………….

  16. DINESH PUROHIT says:


  17. uday says:

    i know elderly friend like Capt. Narendra since a few years, but here i got opportunity to read his precious thoughts on very important topics. thanks goes to Shri Sureshbhai.

  18. Saurabh Rai says:

    now a days… young generation don’t remind these kind of patriotic …. 🙁 🙁

  19. Dear Shri Capt. Narendra Sir,
    I never knew that you gave interview to this Institution. However it is never too late.Thrilled to read. I have saved valued Photographs of your good self in my Photo collection.

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