BOOK REVIEW
Piffer Potpouri – A Book of Anecdotes
Review by C. Naseer Ahmad
Washington, DC

“A thing of beauty is a joy forever, ” said John Keats. Piffer (Punjab Irregular Infantry Frontier Force) Potpouri – a book of anecdotes edited by retired Lt Col Nasir Ali Khan – is a thing of beauty too. Like a properly infused cup of tea or an aged spirited drink – depending upon one’s palate, the book is to be enjoyed with each sip. It is definitely not a decoration piece.
Piffer Pitpouri takes the reader through the country roads and alleys of history. One gets to enjoy snippets of visits by famous – and infamous – military leaders of the South Asian subcontinent as well as the British Raj. This book is not for those seeking instant gratification in the age of the Internet or adrenaline rush through speeding on boring wide highways of history, tinged with the victor’s revisionism.
With rigor and imagination, Lt. Col. Nasir Ali Khan has leveled the playing field where majors, colonels, brigadiers and generals have narrated the events and stories as they best remember – just like they would have performed on the battlefield. Occasionally, Lt Col Nasir has added some editorial comments.
There is humor – sometimes only for the locker room or the bar – and there is originality in this book. Through the language used, the editor takes the reader to the times when life was not rushed.
It seems that the book percolated through the mind of Nasir Ali Khan, with each step of the early morning (before sunrise) walks in Lahore’s Polo Ground. The banter with his buddies that followed the walk probably refined the material further.
The lack of pomposity in this book is refreshing. It reflects the 81-year- young editor’s humility who returns home from the Polo Ground walk to serve a cup of tea to his wife of six decades. A vivid example of his humility is a personal anecdote about driving by the Buckingham Palace and informing a visiting friend -during his years as a diplomat in London – that his friend was never likely to live there. Apparently the colonel had to eat his words because his friend ended up living at Buckingham Palace for three months at Queen Elizabeth’s invitation. The book contains some wisdom of the editor gained though age.
As Abraham Lincoln once said, “In the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years.” So it is about life in the years of so many Piffers – past and present. In the end, these anecdotes are about men who had sworn to defend their country even if it cost them their lives. The reader will find out about the real character of such men in a story – narrated by Lt Col Shamsher Ali Khan -- of Driver Mohammad Khan (nicknamed Kallo), who jumped over and lay over a grenade, which later turned out to be a dud. When asked by his officers about the reasons for such bold action, Kallo said, “If I had died, if would be of little consequence but if you officers had died, it would be a national loss.”
(C. Naseer Ahmad, son of a Piffer, lives in Washington D.C. area and writes for Pakistan Link. He is president of AZI Consulting Inc. He is a graduate of Forman Christian College, Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies and George Washington University’s School of Engineering)


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