Is “Sabre Slayers” a Coffee Table Book?

By Gp Capt PM Velankar

The draft was hibernating for almost 10 months or so. Finally with great resolve I decided to complete it and blog it today.

Hope you enjoy the read.

Dear Gnat People, For those who attended the 21 & 22 Nov 08 do at Bengaluru, and have a copy of “Sabre Slayers” and with due apologies to those who do not have a copy of this book.


A commemorative book released on 21 November 2008.

I have always been fascinated and very dearly wanted to own a Coffee table Book. However the cost of such books has always come in the way of fulfilling my desire with a result that I have never had/owned a “Coffee Table Book” (CTB for short). Not withstanding my love for and desire to own a CTB I had my own ideas and    definition of what is a CTB . To me a CTB was and still is a book which is: – 1. Very very expensive and costs the world. 2. Very well printed on absolutely top class paper. 3. Mostly contains excellent photographs with a little bit of text to say what the photographs are about. 4. Only the snobbishly rich people purchase the CBT, not for knowledge or to read  or to see the photos but for the snob value and to impress the visitors who are  less fortunate then them. Generally such people do not read these books nor do they go through them because they have the moolah to buy them but don’t have the time for them.

When I got the book “Sabre Slayers” along with other complimentary items courtesy HAL, I was very happy for very many reasons. First and foremost being the book is devoted to evolution,history and feats of the Gnat in IAF and I am a “Gnat People” and very proud of the fact [?], Second being this happened to be the very first and only book,which I thought to be a CTB which we happen to own [?]

Now having come in possession of a CTB or what I thought was a CTB, I decided to make sure that I knew for sure that it was indeed a CTB !!! For this I had to know the definition of what was a CTB . Thanks to the internet, finding what a CTB was only a matter of a few clicks away ! This is what I found: –

From Wikipedia the free encyclopaedia: A coffee table book is a hard-cover Book that is intended to sit on a coffee table or similar surface in an area where guests sit and are entertained, thus inspiring conversation or alleviating boredom. They tend to be oversized and of heavy construction, since there is no pressing need for portability. Subject matter is generally confined to non-fiction, and is usually visually-oriented. Pages consist mainly of photographs and illustrations, accompanied by captions and small blocks of text, as opposed to long prose. Since they are aimed at anyone who might pick the book up for a light read, the analysis inside is often more basic and with less jargon than other books on the subject. Because of this, the term “coffee table book” can be used pejoratively to indicate a superficial approach to the subject.  A group of art-related coffee-table books resting on a coffee table. From what my understanding of what a CTB was , I must add this definition. CTB “it is also a book which is frightfully expensive”. The owners who buy them have oodles of money and buy them only “to sit on a coffee table or similar surface in an area where guests sit and are entertained,”and purely for the snob value to impress the guests as they are entertained!! The owners themselves never ever open CTB or read them unless they happen to contain artistic reproduction of nudes.

From the above it is quite clear that “Sabre Slayers” except for a few exceptions does meet the requirements of being a CTB to a very large extent, even if it is not kept on a coffee table and I am particularly happy to own one! The exceptions are given in following paras.

1. Sabre Slayers does not have a price tag . I have tried to find the price and no matter how hard I have looked the price is not printed any where.

2. Every owner of the book has gone through it at least 4 to 5 times. First time just to leaf through it. Second time to see all the photographs and read their captions . Third time to see in how many photographs they themselves appear  Fourth time to confirm that their previous count was accurate . Fifth time to see how many of their buddies appear in these photos. Sixth and seventh time to have a look and savour their young and handsome visage in those photos of an age gone by . eighth time to see if their name appears in the list of Gnat qualified pilots. Ninth time to see if their buddies and friends also figure in the list .

3. Tenth time just before writing a strongly worded mail to Gnat web site about the slip shod work done in preparing the list in that , so & so a kingpin on the Gnat does not figure in the list of Gnat Pilots etc. Quite a few of you may  remember reading such letters within a few days of the get together . Such letters may have turned in to a deluge but for the mail by AD Chibbs to say how does it matter if the name is there or not and that it was childish to crib about such matter or some words to that effect. I personally feel Chibbs did a great dis service to the Gnat site by putting sudden and complete stop to such mails. I feel continued arrival of such mail would have been of great readable value and brought much more contributions for much longer time to the site 🙂

4. A large majority must have also read the book completely from cover to cover, I know because I did read it fully 🙂 Some thing which never ever happens with a CTB.

5. “Sabre Slayer” the book, may or may not be displayed. However whenever and where ever it is displayed it WONT be to impress any one . You see a Gnat pilot truly and firmly believes that his being a gnat pilot in itself is more then sufficient to impress the World !!

6. I believe, the very people who conceived and brought the idea of “Sabre Slayers” to fruition and made this book possible had thought it be “a commemorative book”.

7. I believe it was conceived as “a commemorative book” but given a CTB look.

8. Contains far too much text in proportion to the photographs as is normally a case with real CBT

9. I feel it does not really weigh as much as a CTB should .

10. There is lot of “jargaon ” as compared to a real CTB.

So,as far as I am concerned copy of “Sabre Slayers” does not fit in to the definition of a CTB.

I am personally very unhappy about my own findings and conclusions as I have been very dearly wanting to own a CBT. After so many years coming in possession of a book so close to a CBT , only to conclude that it is not a CBT makes me sad. Will knowledgeable persons of the vast GNAT crowd like to write some words to say whether ” Sabre Slayers ” IS a CTB or not ? Preferably to prove that it is a CBT


One thought on “Is “Sabre Slayers” a Coffee Table Book?”

  1. We of the now defunct Steering Committee thought of it only as a commemorative book. That is why it has much more text than a normal coffee table book. Due to the large number of pictures available, we asked for a book of almost coffee table size. Actually, we had thought of A-4 as a desirable size. But it seems its proportions do not look good for a book. Sabre Slayers is almost the size of A-4, just two or three millimetres wider and about centimetre shorter. As assumed by Velu, it is a commemorative book, slightly smaller than most CTBs.

    The Gnat website was launched with the specific purpose to enable Pushpindar Singh and Kunal Verma to pick whatever they wanted out of it. Soon after the book was released, Pushpindar on his way down from the dais tapped me on the knee and said that it was my book and moved on to his seat. I told him later that the contributions had come mostly from others, with only the rare ones by me.

    The writing and publishing of ‘Sabre Slayers’ was paid for by HAL by a sum of under ten lacs. The stipulation was that HAL would be given a contracted number of copies to be distributed free to all delegates. By the way, I have now convinced HAL to send a set of items, including the book to all those who registered via the site but did not or could not attend the celebrations. Hopefully, this process is now on.

    I understand that Pushpindar Singh has some copies of his own. He is said to be selling these at Rs 1700 each. If true, you now have an indication of its (notional) price. But, even then the hearsay knowledge of the price does not remove one of Velu’s criteria for its disqualification as a CTB.

    My colleagues and I are pleased to see that Velu is still carrying on a crusade, albeit a lonely one, to keep the Gnat, the website and the memory of celebrations alive within our special community.

    But I am sorry for Velu. He first defined the criteria for a CTB and then disqualified Sabre Slayers from this laudable high status. If he still wants a real CTB,he has to go out and find one and pay for it out of his increased pension.

    With best wishes,
    Kapil Bhargava

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