Subedar Major at NDA : Worth Reading to understand Discipline

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Subedar Major Guman Sinh's remarkable legacy transcends military service, showcasing disciplined leadership both on the parade ground and as a civilian cinema manager. His enduring influence, evident in the respect he commanded from former cadets and the local community, is a poignant reminder of the profound influence dedicated leaders can have beyond the confines of military life.


A remarkable man..... Subedar Major Guman Sinh. Though he was later awarded Hony Capt rank, to me and those around my seniority, he will always be recalled as SM Sahab. A towering presence, a ramrod erect bearing, stern visage as befitting the SM of the Cradle For Leadership, and a 'Parade Ground voice' that could rouse the dead!! 

And the most striking feature were his huge bulbous eyes. They missed NOTHING. One disapproving glance could transfix the hapless soul who was the unfortunate recipient of The Look. Rank/ position was irrelevant!!

At one POP Practice, he was not satisfied with the quality of drill put on show. It was the evening practice, on a Saturday, and we had already done two full procedures. There was the somnolence of post-lunch, coupled with his reputation of being a reasonable man. But he was incandescent with rage!! On his instructions, the Academy was marched back into the QM Fort. He walked (sorry MARCHED in) with a furious look on his face. In his hobnailed boots, he clambered up onto the stone cannon balls aka Academy Balls, and in his stertorian voice he intoned, 'Yeh Cadet log dhyan dein. Aapka drill durust nahin tha. Pehla yeh..........' and what followed after that 'Pehla' was about 20 'Doosra' points of debrief, leaving no one in any doubt of the level to which he felt that his standards stood vitiated. What followed was a set of repeats around the Drill Square (as it was then known), and he finally relented when it was nearly time for the streetlights to come on.

Cut to the early 80s. SM Sahab had been promoted to Hony Capt, and had retired. He had settled down at the Kachch town of Bhuj. Old Soldier that he was, he had been asked by the owner of a local cinema to act as manager, and he had acquiesced. As was to be expected, he ran the place with Military efficiency. Movie shows started on time, place was kept neat and tidy. 

The people of the region, aka the Kachchis, are a gentle folk. They like order and discipline, and hence adapted easily to his ways. No issues, no problems. 

Aha! But hark ye. There WAS one. 

The ex NDA Offrs at AF Stn Bhuj, mostly concentrated in the local fighter Sqn. On one occasion these guys, including 5 Tigers of 54th, decided to take in the movie at the hall. One of them called up SM Sahab, and asked if the required no of seats could be blocked for the group. But of course!! So all was set.

Came the evening, and the gang, dressed in their best bib n tucker, gathered at the Mess as a common meeting point. And as invariably happens, since a few were a bit tardy, the Early Birds decided to have a 'quick drink'. As the stragglers fetched up, they too elected to partake of the dark liquids. And as we are all well aware, getting a bunch oh hudaks to synchronise their drinks is impossible! 

The upshot of it was, the gang was surely delayed. When one of the teetotallers chided the hudaks, they all said 'Ok last drink'. Aha, we've all heard that one, and can predict the outcome!! In the end by the time the gang set course, they were very late. They consoled each other by telling each other that they would only miss the Newsreel, and make it for the main movie.

No such luck!! 

They walked in to a silent lobby, with very little noise emanating from the audience, and a stern looking SM Sahab pacing in his familiar and inimitable manner. Ramrod erect, glowering with annoyance, hands locked behind his back, waiting for the officers whom he considered his charge. As they walked in.......well crept in on tiptoe really once they saw his demeanour.. he turned towards them. 

Dressed though he was in civvies, he might as well have been in full regalia, medals, Sam Browne et al!! And there was no mistaking his annoyance. And in his rumbling Parade Ground voice, he gruffed 'Aap log NDA mein training kiya, Pass out huye, Officer ban gaye. Main bahut khush hoon. Magar aap log abhi bhi time pe nahi aa sakte!! Ab jaldi se apna sthaan lijiye, aapke liye last row booked hai, phir hum start karenge'.

That's when they realised that the show was on hold, till 'His VIP Sahab log' could reach!! 

All suitably chastised, they crept past him, with sorry Sahabs and a tail-between-the-legs look. Naushad Imam took it on himself to enquire about the price of the tickets, as he was from the holy tribe comprising Academy Cane Orderly/ Table Orderly/ Right Marker etc. and could could be a little less fearful of the Man. With a look that would freeze an Eskimo, the Man intoned, 'Yeh gustakhi phir nahi karna, Sahab! Ab jaiye aur seat per baithen. Log intezar kar rahe hain!!'

No one ever dared be tardy for SM Guman Sahab again!! 

Cut to 1998. I was commanding a Sqn at Naliya in Kachch. We were op as a dett at Bhuj, while the RW at base underwent repairs. One evening I visited the marketplace, to personally collect some items I had ordered. Standing in the shop, I heard a shopkeeper being berated for his inability to deliver in time. The tirade was being delivered in The Voice. I turned around and was greeted by the sight of a proud Veteran, same erect bearing, the fire in his bulbous eyes undiminished, educating the shopkeeper who had dared to delay his orders, in chaste Kachchi dialect, which is sweet on the ear even when the content is not!! 

I waited till he was done, and then approached him. 
'Jai Hind Sahab'.
'Jai Hind Sir', was his courteous response, even though he showed no recognition, understandably so. 
'Jab aap NDA mein posted thay, hum Cadet thay Sahab'.

Up came his hand in a smart salute!! And I immediately returned the compliment. 'Ab kahaan pe hain? Thoda apna parichay dijiye'. So I told him that I was from the 54th Course, the Sqn Cdr of a fighter Sqn, and based at neighbouring Naliya. 

At this his face fairly glowed with pride. He reeled off the names of those Tigers whose names he could recall. Kanad, Dilwali, Rastogi and a few others, appointments all, with special mention for PK Raghavan, who was at that time the CO of the SAGW Sqn at Bhuj. He was a particular favourite, as he was in the Nishaan Toli at the Colour Presentation in Dec 1978. 

'Hume bahut achcha laga, hamare Cadet aaj ke Commander hai, kal CinC aur Chief banenge. Hume khushi hai ki hamari mehnat kaamyaab hui!!'

With a smart crisp salute and a firm Jai Hind to his Cadet, returned in full measure, my Subedar Major and I took leave of each other. He walked away, still every inch the martinet that he was in uniform. Did I see an extra spring in his step?? 

Yes I did. 

A most remarkable man.....Subedar Major Guman Sinh.

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