Archive for January, 2008

Me – and the blasted SATMs …

Posted on January 28, 2008. Filed under: From a Services Career |

SATM (Special Army Training Memorandum). These evil creatures were born soon after the ’62 debacle, ostensibly to make us more professional. They had stuff on weapons, doctrines and what have you. Most self styled pros’ kept them as personal copies despite them being graded ‘Secret’ and hence accountable.

End Aug ’77 saw me reach the unit after my annual leave. I was surprised to be welcomed by all officers in the officers mess – not quite the norm!

And they sure appeared down caste. Evidently my return had been eagerly awaited. Major Gowri Shankar’s compassionate request for premature retirement had come thru but the guy could not go as he had taken one of these evil things several years earlier. And now he did not seem to have it.

The crux was that the chap had to go forthwith as his Dad was critical. Reporting the loss would mean an endless enquiry which would take months and negate the officers approved request. This was obviously unacceptable.

Gowri was one of those rare officers who apart form being upright, was polished and urbane. He was a thorough professional and an asset in any group. Handsome, gallant and gracious, it was a joy to have him. The only chink in his Service personality was that like all sincere souls, he was super sensitive.

Shashi Tharoor of ‘cattle class’ fame and with the massive Twitter following, is a poor comparison to the the polished Shankar.

I looked around at the sombre faces and suggested that why could’nt we just say that the damn thing got burnt in a fire? The Adjutant, the solid and supremely sensible PKK Raju, who was very close to Gowrie Shankar, explained that each of these evil things had a serial number and what if it surfaced later on??? That would really compound matters and leave us stuck in the mud.

Asking Raju to think of something, I rather brazenly ruled that we would do something and Shankar could go next day. I liked the guy and it was tough to have your Dad seriously ill while you were stupidly stuck twiddling your thumbs.

As I said Raju was doing Adjutant and was a truly solid regimental type. Later he commanded the unit in the Red Fort in Delhi and in Harsil. In Delhi he set new standards of regimentation when for the Unit Silver Jubilee he had a sit down Regimental Dinner Night for over a hundred guests including the then Chief, Gen Sundarji. Impressed by the excellent display, the Chief asked Raju as to who were the waiters? On Raju replying that they were the ‘Umedwar Cadre’ riflemen, the Chief ordered,  “Pass them all”.

In Delhi Raju raised the bar for Regimental ethos and values. The standards set by him will forever remain unsurpassed. The old COs living in Delhi like Brigs Puar and Grover and other regimental officers viz Gen Shingal and Gen Tuli plus the Regimental Cols and Majors, readily attested to this fact. Among other courtesies, boqueta and cakes would reach each on their birthdays. And the CO would frequently call on each.

To return. Raju sure came up with a brilliant idea when he advised that we take a promissary type note from Gawri  saying that he had the SATM at home and would send it back to the unit once he got organized. Raju kept this note with the other secret stuff in his Almirah – just in case there was an inspection and check of our secret documents.

When my posting came we had moved to Tibri, and the 2 i/c, was ordered to take over. He was a professional who much to the dismay of Raju and others had a swollen head curtsy me. thought that I had given him a swollen and hence he considered himself the permanent Col of the FIFTH.

He was the ambitious type and did not quite  relish the idea of serving under Zaki who though a gem of an officer, is forever perceived as the  ‘OG Type’  – right from his RIMC Days. To avoid serving under him the 2i/c concocted some domestic issues and applied for compassionate posting and said he was willing to delay his promotion.

When his request was turned down by Army HQ, he sought an interview with the MS, who had been his CO. Ganju Rawat offered him tea and biscuits in his office and said there was no way his request could be accepted.

So I handed over and moved out without any outsider the wiser re our ATM story.  All was quiet and went well till suddenly Army Headquarters learnt that such and such an SATM was not with the unit. Most probably the reprehensible work of a disgruntled chap who thought he had not got his due and thus resorted to this dastardly act to get back at all of us in the unit. The guy most of us suspected yook command of another unit.

On learning this I offered that I had plenty of these as I was looking after Training and could easily give one to the unit minus the cover as that had the damn number. The CO wisely decided to come clean as knowing what had happened he rightly felt we would get mired deeper.

The great Regimental type that he was, Zaki, the Brigade Commander said that such things happened in all ‘Good’ units and he would ensure that no one came to harm. He had however to order a Court of Inquiry.

As the SATM had been issued to Shankar several COs before me, there was a right royal reunion of all old COs, Second in Commands, Adjutants and several others.

As I said, the Brigade Commander,  Mohammed Ahmed Zaki, Vir Chakra, was a great guy (there were not too many like him then and maybe there will never be ever). He  ‘advised’ the enquiry officer to spread the blame widely on all the usual suspects and sundry others so that the punishment would be broad and most every one would get off the hook. This was done with rare finesse.

Zaki then recommended to the Divisional Commander, Gen PN Hoon, who respected Zaki’s  integrity and professionalism, to give a meaningless censure to all of us and close the case.

But there was a catch. For each good guy there is always a crappy type and this time the latter type was old Stiffy Vadhera who was my BGS in the Corps Headquarters. He was a constipated chap who did not quite approve my easy casual lazy laid back methods. Hence he directed the Division saying it was far too serious a matter and so it should be referred to the Corps for more severe punishment.

A silver lining was that Ranjit,  also old FIFTH was in the Command Training Branch and he was close to Gen Hoon.

Thus there really were no clouds in the Corps that Happy Day when back came the one sentence reply from the Division, “Your letter was placed before the General Officer Commanding and he finds no reason to change his opinion!”

Wonder if there is still such gumption in the Army???

Another SATM Story!

Around that very time a brand new SATM was received in the Corps by me. As per norm it was sent up the chain in the ‘First Sight Dak’ for perusal of the next three guys in the chain.

Unfortunately it did not come back and neither the BGS, COS or the GOC owned that it had been kept back. After the branch was literally turned upside down trying to find the darn thing, I had to report the loss to the Army Headquarters.

I sent the draft of the letter reporting the loss and owning responsibility for approval to the BGS, old Stiffy Vadhera, who sent it up to the COS for his knowledge and approval.

This gent was Gen Bakshi, approved for Lt Gen but the Chief, OP Malhotra did not quite go out of his way to help the guy get his rank. He was from the Raj Rif and ex GOC of 6 Mountain Division Where his reputation, as per an old temporary ADC was none too upright. 

Vadhera sent me to him and the guy produced the thing from his cupboard!  So much for us officers of the Indian Army! As they say it takes all sorts to make this world.

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Heaven on Earth

Posted on January 25, 2008. Filed under: Light plus Weighty |

Work like you don’t need the money.
Love like you’ve never been hurt.
Dance like nobody’s watching.
Sing like nobody’s listening.
Live like it’s Heaven on Earth.

 Author – Unknown

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An Irishman observes …

Posted on January 20, 2008. Filed under: The English |

Brendan Francis Behan was the most successful Irish dramatist of the 20th Century.

A man is already halfway in love with any woman who listens to him.

Using a ‘quotation’ in speech or writing is like giving a glimpse of the hand gun in the shoulder holster.

Inspirations never go in for long engagements; they demand immediate marriage to action.

Every man, through fear, mugs his aspirations a dozen times a day.

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Snippets from ‘Alexander’ …

Posted on January 18, 2008. Filed under: From a Services Career, Personalities |

This is from JFC Fuller’s, “Generalship of Alexander the Great”.

King Phillip possessed in marked degree the gift of discerning what was in his enemy’s mind and when beaten in the field, he would accede defeat and prepare for victory.

Alexander had nobleness of bearing, chivalrous conduct and lived as a King should. He thought it more kingly to conquer himself than to conquer others.

Alexander had insatiable curiosity and love of knowledge; thirst and passion for learning. Wrapped up in his own destiny and completely devoted to his tasks, he cared little for physical pleasures – except hunting.

He subordinated his bodily instincts to his task. His iron will, self control and devotion to his lifes work magnetized all who came in contact with him. Alexander was much devoted to exertion. He subordinated strategy to policy which is grand strategy.

He realized harshness is equally grievious to those who show it and to those who experience it.

At Arabela (Oct 1, 331 BC), Alexander followed Napoleons maxim, “The whole art of war consists in a well reasoned and completely circumspect defence followed by a rapid and audacious attack”.

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Stuff for a Young Mind …

Posted on January 18, 2008. Filed under: From a Services Career |

Tidbits from random reading, which impressed a brand new young 2nd Lieut, way back in 1959 and there on –

“Neither numbers, armaments, resources nor skill can compensate for the lack of courage, energy, determination and the bold offensive spirit which springs from a national determination to conquer”.

“Buoyancy, devotioin, keenness, optimism born of confidence, endurance and above all, adaptability and the will to win, have stood out in all great commanders. The opposite is indolence, obstinacy and carelessness”.

“War is a trade for the ignorant, a science for men of genius. It is a contest between two opposing wills”

“Soldiers will do anything for a competent commander who combines pride in himself and in them with a humble recognition of his privllege in commanding them”.

“Genius is neither high talent nor outstanding intelligence; nor is it the product of learning or discipline or training. It is a creative gift, intuitive and spontaneous in its manifestation. It achieves ends which reason can seldom fathom. It is neither capable of analysis nor explicable. It is solely demonstrative. The startling rapidity with which Alexander always acted, affirmed his genius”.

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Lord Curzon on an Irish Leader …

Posted on January 17, 2008. Filed under: Eloquence, Personalities, Searching for Success |

Curzon as Viceroy of India, controlled the NWFP and established British presence in Tibet. He was perhaps the only civilian leader who lost to the army when he failed to get political support in his dispute with the army’s Lord Kitchner.

Curzon did not have Lloyd George’s support either. This PM thought him overly pompous and self-important. It was said that he used him as if he were using a Rolls-Royce to deliver a parcel.

Lloyd George said that Churchill treated his Ministers in a way that he would never have treated his; “They were all men of substance — well, except Curzon.” The sense of opportunities missed by Curzon was summed up by Winston Churchill when he observed, “The morning had been golden; the noontide was bronze; and the evening lead. But all were polished till it shone after its fashion”.

Now let us hear Curzon describe an Irish Leader in Parliament –

“The ill kempt handsome Irishman who could so soberly, steadily, deliberately and with that full familiar deep insight into the facts speak on any thing touching his nation- rarely spoke. But when he did speak, the silence that crept over the House was painful in its intensity’.

“He was not eloquent, much less an orator but as he hissed out his sentences of concentrated passion and scorn, he gave an impression of almost demonic self control and illimitable strength”.

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“Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn!”

Posted on January 17, 2008. Filed under: Books, Great Writing, Personalities |

Tall and powerfully built with animal white teeth …..  Sense of his physical power struck like a physical blow ….. Something breathtaking in the grace of his body which made his very entrance into a room seem like an abrupt physical impact ….. peculiar lithe ‘indian’ like gait ……. a dashing figure

Dark of face, swarthy as a pirate. Eyes as bold and black as any pirates appraising a galleon to be scuttled or a maiden to be ravished. A man of lusty and unashamed appetites ….  the bold way his eyes looked out of his swarthy face with a displeasing air of insolence, as if all women were his property to be enjoyed in his own good time ..

Stood alone, starring in a cool impertinent way … Looked as if he had not a care in the world;  face bland, mouth sensual, smile careless ……..  Cool recklessness in his face and a cynical humor in his mouth . .. An air of utter assurance, of displeasing insolence … ..

Always looked as if nothing had ever surprised him and much had amused him … Reckless,  utterly without nerves. Completely impregnable, admitted everything and laughed …..

Looked lazy, voice had a silky almost bored note …. Glint of amused contempt in his black eyes, contempt as if he listened to the braggings of children.  Contempt in his manner, overlaid with an air of courtesy …. discomfitting laughter …. bland impudence

Voice oddly pleasant to the ear, the well modulated drawling voice of a gentleman ……. Completely masculine ….. unfailingly courteous. His clothes were the height of style and tailoring  but worn with a still more elegant air as if he were unaware of their glory …  Something stimulating about him, something warm and vital and electric.

There were few persons who could resist his charms when he chose to exert them. Could look so kind and concerned. But then there was an impersonal contempt for everyone and everything.

Body tough and hard; as tough and hard as his keen mind.  Beneath his seeming lightness, something malicious, almost sinister in its suave brutality. His was such an easy graceful strength, lazy as a panther stretching in the sun, alert as a panther ready to strike.

Margaret Munnerlyn Mitchell (November 8, 1900– August 16, 1949) was an American author, who won the Pulitzer Prize in 1937 for her novel Gone with the Wind. The novel is one of the most popular books of all time, selling more than 30 million copies.  An American film adaptation, released in 1939, became the highest-grossing film in the history of Hollywood, and received a record-breaking ten Academy Awards. Its record of eight non-honorary Academy Awards stood until 1958.

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The SUTLEJ Shooting Club … circa 1925 …

Posted on January 17, 2008. Filed under: Personal Stuff |

There is this vastly treasured 1925 booklet  –  ‘Rules of the Sutlej Shooting Club’. This indicates that the Club had its Headquarters in Village Mahmudpura,  Tehsil Kasur, District Lahore.

Today, there is NOT even a brick to testify to the existence of this once bustling and historic village, which existed prior to Guru Hargovind, the Sixth Sikh Guru. The village and its perifphery was ruled by one Mahmud,  whose ancestors had given their name to the village. The Sikh Guru is mentioned because it was He who had banished the Bhullars, from their base at ‘Maarhi’, near Rampura Phool in the Malwa Region. This Great Guru had ordered them to cross the Sutlej and settle in the notorioius ‘Khara’  part of the Majha Region.

But I am digressing. To return to the Booklet.

The Patron of the Club is CMG Ogilvie Esquire,  CBE, ICS, Home Secy Govt Punjab.  Also included are Esquires AA Lane Roberts and M Macfaquhar, respective Deputy Commissioners of Lahore and Ferozepur.

The general shooting grounds are the area of the  River Sutlej where it is joined by the River Beas at Harike. Arrangements are there, however,  for big game shooting in the hills. Evidently the Club was  quite active as photographs of that period testify.

The Club was formed in 1925 or earlier and was most active in the decade thereafter.  Credit for forming it is primarily given to S Davinder Singh Mann, Rais Manawala, He was posted as the Inspector at the Valtoha Police Station in whose area lay Mahmudpura as well as the Harike Region, now renowned for its fledgling Bird Sanctuary.

The  active founders included – S Amar Singh Bhullar, Ex Risaldar, Hony Magistrate Kasur and Zaildar of Mahmudpura. There was S Gurdial Singh Bajwa Rais, Jagatpura, and S Niranjan Singh Dhillon, Rais Nayanke.

The annual fee was Rs 25/- It further contains various rules and regulations.

Well, this is treasured Family History!!! Not a single descendant of  the Bhullars resides in the village proper which is indeed an open patch. The current generation of Bhullars reside in their Havelis which dot the landscape from the area of this village to Amarkot, a thriving town ship which was also founded by Sardar Amar Singh Bhullar.

All marks of Progress and Change.

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A Prayer for your Birthday …

Posted on January 16, 2008. Filed under: Personal Stuff |

A Birthday Card, which I treasure highly, was received by me in 1977 from three small kids. It graced my office table during all the Mendhar and Tibri days. It had the following on the Cover,

“The Loird Bless thee and keep thee. The Lord make His Face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee. The Lord lift up His Countenance upon thee and give thee peace”.

And then a dozen years later, this note  –

“.Dear Papa,

Inconvenience caused is regretted.”

Obviously this solid right to the solar plexus, is very dear to an old heart!!!


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Virgil …

Posted on January 16, 2008. Filed under: Roman Thought |

Virgil was a classical Roman poet,  author of epics and the Aeneid. This was an epic poem in the heroic mode and comprised twelve books (as opposed to 24 by Homer). It became the Roman Empire’s national epic.

Fortune favours the bold. Go forth a conqueror and win great victories. They succeed, because they think they can. They are able because they think they are able. Who asks whether the enemy was defeated by strategy or valor?

Come what may, all bad fortune is to be conquered by endurance. Perhaps even these things, one day, will be pleasing to remember.

Wherever the fates lead us let us follow.  Cease to think that the decrees of the gods can be changed by prayers. But meanwhile time flies; it flies never to be regained.

Even virtue is fairer when it appears in a beautiful person. Happy is he who can trace effects to their causes.

The world cares very little about what a man or woman knows; it is what a man or woman is able to do that counts.

If ye despise the human race, and mortal arms, yet remember that there is a God who is mindful of right and wrong. Myself acquainted with misfortune, I learn to help the unfortunate.

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