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The  Army is often a place stiff as a paapad with hierarchy and invisible guy ropes around the top brass..Its a nation within a nation. Perhaps it is the only real  India because here in every small set up called a unit,there are men from all parts of our country.The human forces at play in the narrowed world of  discipline ,sewn  by steel thread of regulations and an exasperating class system based on ranks and privilage,is  forever at play.Even the length and thickness of moustaches has unwritten laws in the army.

I remember when I got comissioned in 1966 in the Sikhs as a second lieutenant,my first Commanding Officer was colonel Durjan Singh from Bikaner State Forces to Indian Army.He was a tall ,balding chap who had bloody thick solid moustache like a rope.Like a pucca Rajput of the desert.

Our battalion had just moved from Nagaland to Barrackpur near Calcutta.He commanded the battalion in full Raja style.He would come at eight o clock in the morning to office.Adjutant and the subedar major would meet him,salute him.Then he would ask the adjutant.

"Anything important?"

"Sir the routine training is taking place."the adjutant would say.

He would take the subedar major,a giant sardar built like the Zamzama cannon of Lahore.

"Come lets go and see the training of troops,that is going on."The CO would say and the CO ,the adjutant and the subedar major would walk out towards the battalion's training area.

As soon as they would enter the training area,he would walk two steps,notice something amiss with the first squad post of trainees.He would shout loudly from a distance,

"No jawan,that is not the way it is tobe done.Do it properly and seriously.The enemy never gives a second chance in combat. etcetera etcetra."

Then he would turn back ,return to his office and call up the adjutant.

"I am here for an hour,get me anything you have to show me or that which requires my signatures."the CO would announce.

The Brigade headquarters was two kilometres away from our battalion.And the CO's house was exactly two kilometres in the opposite direction from the battalion.He would get up from his chair at ten am.The subedar major would come to him.He would sit in the Willy's  jeep,ask the subedar major to get into the jeep and say to the driver,

"Gharr chaow."(Head home.)

He used to stay alone.His wife was in Jodhpur.He would chat with the subedar major for twenty five minutes about whats happening in the battalion and what should be done and give his mind to the big sardar.Then he would tell the subedar major,

"Okay sahab,we will now meet in the evening." and the subedar major would come back to the battalion.

Then the CO would call his batman and say,

" Fauja Singh ,sharaab lao."(Fauja Singh,get me a drink.)

He would open the bottle and start off his first drink of the day.

That time our four company commanders were,Major Pannu who would have been an army commander had he lived.He died in the 1971, Battle of Chhamb.Lt General Malhotra was the second company commander,third company commander was Major General Waseer and fourth company commander was also a hot shot guy,Brigadier MML Ahuja who suffered a heart attack and had bypass surgery or he was also a sureshot General.

When I think of the past,it only tickles me and I burst in laughter even now when I am seventy four years of age .Our commanding officer was a man of most retiring habits.Half an hour in the morning and half an hour in the evening,thats all the duration for which he appeared in the battalion.He mentored such a fine lot of officers.All four of his rifle company commanders became brigadier's and generals later on.

Not only that,our battalion used to end up winning most sports and training events also of the brigade and division also.We were part of 32 Brigde of 9 Mountain Division.We used to represent North Bengal Sub Area.Once there was the command atheletics championship.4 Corps Commander General Vohra came to witness the finals.His officers had told him,

"Sir please come to receive the trophy,as 4 corps is winning the atheletics trophy straight away."

Sam Maneckshaw was the Eastern army commander that time.He was the chief guest at the Command Athletics Championship.Vohra reached as anticipated and was pumped up by his staff to take the cup in presence of Maneckshaw.The whole army knew that Maneckshaw was tobe the next army chief.Vohra also reached to make his naukri and to win Maneckshaw's esteem and recognition.

The final race was tobe the 4 into 100 meters relay race on which the final result  depended.Our  "khaalsas ragdoed( defeated) every other team and we were the winners.North Bengal Area had just 2 battalions.5 Sikh and 19 Rajput.Two bloody piddly battalion teams took the Eastern Command Atheletics Championships Cup.After that we won the Eastern Command swimming championship also.That was the standard and spirit of my battalion in those days.

Our CO was a bit of a tanker as far as drinks were concerned. He took a drink at mid day and took a cup now and then till till sun down. Thakur sahab,Bikaner state forces,red eyes,ramrod straight physique like a Rajasthani Rajput, pointed thick moustaches and I have never seen a commanding officer like that.

He never troubled or got behind anybody.If a jawan got late from leave and was marched up to him he would gently admonish the offender.

"Jawaan,tumhey sharm sey doob marna chahiyey.(You should feel shame)Do not repeat it.If you repeat it ,mujhey badaa afsos hogaa(I shall be constrained),and i will have to give you 28 days imprisonment as punishment  and I shall have to  put you in the quarter guard."

Then he would address the subedar major once the offender had been marched out of his office.

"Subedar Major sahab leave him."

The adjutant would interject and  say,"But sir this fellow is a habitual offender.He always rejoines the battalion late and over stays his leave."

"O,Laali give him another chance.He is a young boy,he will improve."Laali was the name of the battalion adjutant.

The troops used to love him.The officers used to love him even more.

Usually the adjutant had to remind him,"Sir you have to come to so and so place today evening to take the Trophy.We are winning the football cup."

He would turn to the adjutant and say."Yaar you chaps are full of mischief for your old commanding officer.You trouble me too much by winning every championship and make me attend too many podium finishes."

He had no interest beyond the battalion.He was not interested in promotion or anything.He ran the battalion in his own style.Total Rajah admi to whom the battalion was as dear as his own family.

Whe our battalion was in Nagaland in counter insurgency operations in the nineteen sixties,one brigade commander tried to feel funny with him and tried to corner him over a very petty thing.Usually senior officers are not bothered by small things.Brigadier K was our new  brigade commander,he didnt know with whom he was taking pangaa when he tried to cross swords with our Thakur sahab.He came for the battalion's inspection.Officers were as is the standard practise,lined up for introduction with the brigade commander.

"What is this Durjan?Your bloody captains are wearing corduroy pants.Is it authorized in dress regulations.Corduroy trousers are only authorized to Majors and above."He hooked on to a petty technicality in the dress regulations for officers and hoped to humiliate Thakur sahib,when he saw one of the captain's in the line wearing corduroy trousers olive green instead of the starched cotton drill trousers.

In those days there was a great craze for corduroy olive green trousers in uniform among the officers.Only majors and above in rank could wear them as per prevalent dress code of that time.

"You have no control over your officers."sneered  the brigadier in a superior voice that seemed to suggest,see how easy it is for me as a brigade commander to tweak your ears.

This infuriated Thakur sahab.But he was too well bred an officer to loose his temper.It was an no light affront to him.He said to the brigadier,

"Sir,how is my battalion doing here in Nagaland insurgency operations?"

"Your battalion is doing very good." and that was a fact that the brigadier couldnt dispute.Our battalion was infact doing a very good job in Nagaland.

"Sir if my officer's efficiency is not effected by putting on a scarf or a corduroy trouser,I let him put it.It is good for an officer to look neat and we'll dressed and distinct.He is an officer and a leader after all."

And after a pause,he added an after thought.

"Moreover,if tommorow my officer will get a bullet in the chest and die,he will atleast have the satisfaction that he was wearing a scarf and a corduroy trouser when he stopped a bullet."

The brigadier was never seen again in our battalion.So that was my first commanding officer  Thakur Durjan Singh of Bikaner State Forces.They dont make officers like that any more or do they.

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