Manohar Malgonkar and his “Bandicoot Run”


Originally posted on 16 Jan 2012 : 

Public memory is notoriously short. And therefore, if Lt Col Manohar Malgonkar (1913-2010) is not remembered any more, it should not surprise any one. He stopped writing several years before he passed away on 10 June 2010 at the ripe old age of 97.

 Col Malgonkar published about twenty five books, including such best sellers as “A Bend in the Ganges” and “Combat of Shadows” Today, I am reminded of his detective novel entitled, “Bandicoot Run” which I read in 1982. It was the story of two generals vying for the top post in the Indian army. The story is woven around a file which got ‘lost’ in the army headquarters and that aroused strong passions amongst the upper echelons of the military hierarchy. The tale was told in a breath taking manner and I remember having got so glued on to the book that I took a day’s casual leave to complete the book.

The narration moved me so much that I went all the way to the sprawling bungalow in a place called ‘Bithur’ (near Belgaum in Karnataka) where Col Malgonkar lived with his wife, and in the company of wild animals. I was struck by the presence of a portable typewriter in nearly every room of the house. At my request, he told me that he always read out his drafts to his wife, and he kept polishing the words until the sentences ‘sounded’ well. He emphasised the importance of phonetics. In passing, he told me that ‘Bandicoot Run’ was based on a real incident of a file that was deliberately destroyed in the South Block to help an officer.

 I am impelled to write about “Bandicoot Run” because of the similarity of events in the current race for the run up to the appointment of the next chief. If the contenders (and their aides) were to see life in the correct perspective, they would know that becoming the ‘Chief’ by itself is not as important as what happens after that. Gen SK Sinha lost the race, but has led a perfectly satisfying life. Similarly Gen Thapar did rise to the four star level in 1961, but had to face the ignominy of having to resign in 1962.

 I hold the view that at the end of the day, “the means which you employ to attain a goal are more important than the ends you achieve”

 What say you : Do ends justify means?



  1. Sitendra Kumar says:

    Dear Sir,
    Please let me know as to how can I get a coy of Bandicoot Run? I am searching the same for several years.

    • Surjit Singh says:

      Dear Kumar,
      I think the book is out of print. However, you might find it in a library; many military libraries had acquired the book when it was published thirty odd years ago.

  2. Amar says:

    Bandicoot Run was serialised in The Illustrated Weekly of India in the early 80s (1981 I think). I later read Distant Drums, which provides background on some the characters.

    Loved both books – a pity that they are out of print.

  3. Dr Yoganand Kore says:

    Dear Mr Surjit

    am sorry i not aware of the rank you held, and so therefore forgive me for not addressing you with it…

    most of the responses you have got to your post has come from army personnel (it appears) and this response, perhaps, coming from an academician is like a sore thumb…..i do know for a fact that the army men regard academicians as a bunch of dithering nannies. however, the object of my response wasnt to argue on this issue.
    am writing a seminar paper on Bandicoot Run, a novel most ignored by the english studies critical establishments – so ignored that there is hardly any study, even a cursory one on the novel. MM’s other novels have received enough critical attention and have been prescribed as text in several universities in india, but this one hasnt been because it is a spy thriller and indian english critical establishments will not acknowledge the significance of the novel for the simple reason that MM uses the thriller format….MM was, i argue in my paper, a courageous writer to attempt this genre which perhaps he knew would demean his reputation as a ‘serious writer’, something that most writers secretly enjoyed reading but wouldnt use. clearly, this attitude of the academia is hypocritical and elitist,:the thriller belongs to the the ‘masses’ and so must be shunned !!!! ) is the opinion they hold
    am happy that i’ve got some support from the indian army (even if it isnt from fellow academicians)….the novel is a brilliant attempt….no writer of any note in india has dared to write a spy thriller….oh they may attempted detective fiction…..’Bandicoot Run’ is a spy novel….
    Hats off to MM

  4. Yuvraj K Mehta says:





    LOVE U


  5. sushil sekhri says:

    It will be an unending debate ,whether end is more imp or the means.Ithink its a matter of perception.It differs from person to person depending on the values he has been brought up with.But one thing people forget is the damage they r causing to the Institution which has made them reach the position they have reached.Ithink we should not loose sight of the great Institution we beiong to and the great sacrifices it has taken to be what it is today.
    –Col S.K.Sekhri,S.M

  6. Ata Hasnain says:


    Happy Lohri to you and Mrs Surjit.

    It takes much to demotivate me but even I am dejected to some extent. Hope I can relate to you one day the full experience of this command tenure in which every obstacle was put in my way to ensure that I did not succeed, especially after the Outlook cover story.

    Best wishes


  7. dharam rawat says:

    Hallo Sir,

    I agree with you, means are more important than the ends you achieve.

    I may also add, to me , journey is more important than the destination.

    Thanks for the mails,some of them were very interesting.

    With regards,


  8. Sandeep V Unnithan says:


    We are on the same wavelength here. I have a Xerox copy of Bandicoot Run. It was given to me a decade ago by a movie scriptwriter. Fantastic plot. Have always wanted to meet Malgonkar after reading that one. A pity he passed away.

    Warm regards


  9. Sudha Murgai says:

    This mail is most interesting. I too am compelled to read thi

    s book, The Bandicoot Run. The officers will probably find it more interesting since they can relate to it better. All the same i too have heard so many such incidents .I too believe in the fact that it is the means that you employ to achieve the goals that are more important than the ends you achieve.The best of people in the rat race forget this.

    I wish to convey to you that i truly enjoyed meeting you at the reunion and am looking fwd to seeing you again.

    my hello to your charming wife.

    Sudha Murgai

  10. Lt. Col Anand says:


    Your article has inspired me to read ‘Bandicoot Run’, which I will
    do shortly.

    Lt Col Anand

  11. prakash gokarn says:

    Dear Surjit,
    A strange coincidence. Being a ‘fan’ of Col MM, in 2001 I also drove thro the beautiful forests via Gokarn and Karwar to MM’s beautiful American style residence. His wife [who was the Maharani of Gwalior] had passed away. He was lonely and happy to see me.
    I had informed him well in time and he had asked me to spend the night in his guest room.
    He gifted me one of his short story compilations. He wanted to write a short story based on the locale to the beautiful beach temple town of Gokarn [see Google]. He wrote at least two on Karwar.

    I would not like to comment on the highest military office. We were not taught to do this.
    Take care.
    Prakash Gokarn

  12. harindar bedi says:

    Dear Surjit,

    An interesting piece and relevant to what is happening today.
    Coming to our present chief. I am at a loss to understand why he kept quiet all these years and only raked up the issue in 2008 when being considered for higher commands. If he was circumspect enough, he should have taken up the matter soon after receiving his school leaving certificate with the correct date or soon fater being commissioned. Or is it that he had to write his DOB as 1950 to meet the min age requirement? If that be so, then that would reflect on his integrity. If it were not so, was he so naive (or careless) to have filled in the wrong date? Difficult to believe this.

    He now says that he is not interested in serving beyond May 2012 and only wants to clear his ‘honour’. Why did he rake up the issue in the first place? It has landed the army in an avoidable mess.

    I do hope he does not compromise his position further by accepting an ambassadorship or governership as indicated in the print media some time ago!


  13. Ata Hasnain says:


    Your contention fully agreed to and accepted. I wish all this would stop.

    Our best wishes to Mrs Surjit and you.


  14. Nirmal Mahajan says:

    means are always important sir
    As always gr8 pleasure reading the article


    Colonel Nirmal Mahajan, EME

  15. Sandhya Jain says:

    thank you I will try to find this book


  16. yoginder sharma says:

    Thanks Surjit for an interesting anecdotal account and an ‘intriguing poser’.
    We also knew the Malgaonkars from our days in Belgaum-charming couple, heavenly-home and a delightful storyteller.

    As to the eternal dilemma, my answer is quite categoric i.e ‘Never the ends justify the means ;not even in a warlike situation’; barring in the Creator’s script(Mahabharata/Gita), which was also for a higher purpose/design, unbeknown to ordinary mortals.


  17. DNSOOD says:

    Dear Surjit,

    His daughter Sunita was married to a close family relative in Mumbai.

    He has left the rights to his two unpublished books to him.

    He is trying to get them published and give the proceeds to his family members.

    I will let you know when they get published. This time you can read them without taking any casual leave.

    I also had dinner with him when we were coming out of Goa in 1962.

    He led a good life near Belgaum.


    Dave Sood.

    • Vikram says:

      Dear Sir

      My parents were great friends of the Malgonkars and owned two signed first editions – Princes and A Bend in the Ganges.
      I am truly sorry to learn of Sunita’s passing in 1998. Unfortunately I was abroad for many years and had not heard the sad news.
      Grateful if you could fill me in and also email me Anjre’s contact details so I may belatedly condole.
      I recall how proud her father was of Sunita’s first modelling assignment published in Readers Digest circa 1968.

      Best regards

      Vikram R SriHari
      Mobile: +91-95998-44454

  18. Raj Kadyan says:

    Dear General,
    Is the book available online?

    Best regards,

    Lt Gen Raj Kadyan

    Chairman IESM

  19. MAHAVIR JAGDEV says:


    I feel the matter will be sorted out once Gen.V.K.Singh is assured of a suitable post retirement post, as of a Governor of a state. In today’s world of “Dog bites dog” attitude, the General is rightly justified in the pursuit of “Ends justifying the means”.


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