Archive for September, 2008

Perceptions…

Posted on September 20, 2008. Filed under: Guide Posts, Light plus Weighty |

The legend of Narcissus is very popular. It is that of a youth who was so fascinated by his beauty that he knelt, every single day, on the bank of a lake to comtemplate his beauty. He was so fascinated  that one day. as he admired his reflection, he fell into the lake and drowned.

The story does not end there as it goes on to the effect that when he died, the Goddess of the Forest appreared and found the lake, which had been a fresh water lake, transformed into a lake of salty tears.

“Why do you weep?” the Goddess asked the Lake. “I weep for Narcissus,” the Lake replied.

“Ah, it is no wonder that you weep for Narcissus,” the Goddess said, “for though we always pursued him in the forest, yet you alone could admire his beauty close at hand.”

“But,   was Narcissus beautiful?” the lake asked. “Who better than you to know that?”, the Goddess asked. “After all, it was by your banks that he knelt each day to admire himself !”

The Lake fell silent for some time. Finally, it said: “I weep for Narcissus,      but I never noticed that Narcissus was beautiful        I weep because, each time he knelt on my banks and looked at me, I could see only my own beauty, reflected from the depths of his eyes.”

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John of Antioch …

Posted on September 14, 2008. Filed under: Eloquence, Searching for Success |

Saint John Chrysostom was nicknamed, the ‘golden mouthed’; and rose to become Archbishop of Constantinople. He is supposed to have gone into the desert for nearly a decade of self study and discipline before he accidentally came upon his chosen field.

In the Nineteenth Century John Henry Newman painted this notable portrait –

“He spoke because his heart, his head, were brimful of things to speak about. His elocution corresponded to that strength and flexibility of limb, that quickness of eye, hand and foot, by which a man excels in manly games of mechanical skill. It would be a great mistake, in speaking of it, to ask whether it was Asiatic or Attic, terse or flowing – when its distinctive praise was that it was natural’.

‘His unrivaled charm, as that of every. eloquent man, lies in his singleness of purpose, his fixed grasp of his aim and his noble earnestness”.

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Onkar Kalkat’s Commando Competition …

Posted on September 13, 2008. Filed under: From a Services Career |

Onkar Kalkat, the brigade commander of the Tangdhar Brigade, had this yen about ‘toughness’. His brigade major, Adi Homji, was among the finer of God’s creatures and luckily for me, he seemed to find me OKish. The two of them combined to concoct a Commando Competition among the three battalions – 2 Bihar, 4 Kumaon and 8 Garhwalis – each of which were to select their men. The task was to be given after months of hard training. This was mid ’62, well before the Chinese flexed their muscle in Oct of that year.

The 8th Garhwalis commando platoon was handpicked and Dolly Raj Kapoor, who had done the mountaineering course was given command. These guys trained hard when the ever ebullient, Sultan Mal Charupa, the Adjutant, was forced to send Dolly on some course. Thereafter dear ND Dhasmana took over but alas, actually or otherwise, a week before the competition, which was set for 2nd Jan ’63, he said his knee had cracked. The CO, the wilful Karam Kang, directed that I, who was doing the chair borne job of quarter master, take over.

All my remonstrating and protests viz that I was doing a sedentary job and was therefore least likely to be fit and the fact that there were two just arrived, well trained and fit youngsters (Surinder Pal and the intrepid and gallant Harish Rautela, later to win a gallantry award in the ’65 War), who were much better suited, were over ruled. Kang Sahib remained adamant that I was to be the ‘bali ka bakra’.(sacrificial goat).

Reconciling to the inevitable I began to accept fate and plan out things and try psyche myself.. Fortunately for me, I was pretty fit as most weekends were spent shooting or climbing. On 30 Dec ’62, having sequestered myself, I set about the serious task of preparing myself mentally. I also selected the smartest guys in the platoon and making three groups, I sent each to check out the one patche on the route with which I was not familiar. I told them that they were to damn well familiarize themselves and I would skin them alive if we were to waste time finding routes, crossing places and so on. I skipped the NY celebs and tried to psyche myself telling myself that I was an OK Guy though a bone idiot.

The whole brigade sector was blanketed with snow on New Years Day of ’63. Each of  the Platoons were to start from their start points in their respective areas and moving clockwise, climb the highest Post of each of the three units, all which were well over 9000ft and return to the start point – all within 24hrs. 

In our case, we were to start off from about 6000 ft and after a couple miles begin the 3 mile, gruelling 3000 ft plus accent to a Post named Nagina. Sliding down from there and moving West some 4-5 miles, cross a small rivulet at 2000 ft MSL. Then begin the 4/5 mile ascent to another 9000ft Post named Kela. Coming down from there we were to move East some 8-9 miles along the Southern Bank of the Tangdhar River arriving at the base, ht 4pt5000ft MSL, of the next 9000ft Post named Gonda, which was to be reached after some 4 miles or so . From there we were to come down and moving a furhter 3-4 miles back to our start point at 6000ft. All this in 24hrs or sooner!! And all this in severe winter when the snow is the maximum

On evening of 1 Jan the select band and I set out for the Start Point, which was in the middle of no where and far from any Post. We sheltered in some abandoned huts amidst deep snow.. Anand S, my ever solicitous Man Friday, woke me at 4am  and I braced myself, steeling my body by pouring a bucket of ice cold water over my naked self and my heart nearly came in my mouth. But the body became stone hard.. I then made the mistake of gulping down some scrambled eggs which he had so kindly prepared for me. We were flagged off at 6am.

The boys set a punishing pace and I barely managed to stay latched. When the steep ascent began, I got stomach cramps and the eggs and everything else came gushing out. My head swirling and giddy, I barely managed to keep going but slowly. Subedar Ram Chander was champing at the bit and getting impatient. I silently urged myself on and was about done in when we reached the Nagina Post. A short break which saw me flat on a bench breathing hard and deep and then we began the descent. I really do not quite know how I stayed with the pack till we reached the river. A short halt as we began the fording and then it was the steep climb to the Kela Post. But by now, it was well past midday and I had got into my second wind. As I climbed with renewed strength, I saw Subedar Ram Chander struggling. He was older and I asked him to bring up the rear. .

Down from the second post and on the long hike east along the southern bank of the river, I found myself rejuvenated and striding strong and solid. Being taller then the hill folk, the longer stride made it easy to out pace the rest. 

When we had a short break before the third ascent, we were pretty done in and could barely eat anything –baring maybe my friend the cheerful Ram Lal Dhyani and the sincere and stolid Bahadur Singh, who was to die so gallantly in the hard fighting at Butur Dograndi in the ’65 War with Palistan.

As we climbed slow and steady It became night and the moon came up.  As we neared the last highest Post, Gonda, one boy slipped and slid down the slope which was luckily not too steep. Lonely and tired I panicked and was near cracking point as we rescued the guy. It was after 1am when we reached the post and a rather excited CO spoke with me urging us on.

Having come down before dawn, to beat the dead line we had to run as day light broke. Some how, tired, disheveled and disorganized, we were able to reach our start point where Onkar, Homji and Karam Kang, were present to welcome us with open arms. Truly we were heroes.

By the way the famed 4 Kumaoni platoon under Puran Uppal, was  struggling to reach their Third Post.while the 2 Bihar boys under “Pest’ Verma had yet to reach the Second Post. All of which just shows how fast we had moved. Truly those were the ‘Days!’.

I collected a bottle of rum from each and every one who congratulated us. And we had a rip roaring party with more bottles  then men to drink them. We got stone drunk and slept in the open snow till day light.

The CO thereafter wanted to make me the permanent Commando guy but luckily, I succeeded in begging off.

PPS.

In one’s youth, when ever one saw a Peak, the urge was to climb it … There were days when one would just climb the 9190 Hill above Yol which involves a climb of over 3000ft, and that just to have Breakfast.   ………

I remember after one Dinner Night,Som Jhingon, Ranjit and self were walking to our rooms when Ranjit challenges Som to climb the damn thing and puts a bottle of Scotch on the line.

Som orders me to accompany him and I order coffee and sandwiches. Seeing we are serious, Ranjit offers me half the bottle should I not go. I promptly accept and stand down. Forthwith Som offers me the whole bottle to go and I equally promptly accept.

And then there is Ranjit dears ejaculation in typical Dogra accent, “Blown bidth the Bind!”

After one is 40, the desire is to enjoy watching the damn things from down below only.

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Onkar Kalkat … Adi Homji … some breed …

Posted on September 12, 2008. Filed under: From a Services Career |

Onkar Kalkat took over the Tangdhar brigade in ’62,  a bit before the Indo China War. He was an old Frontier Force turned Gurkha ala Sam Manekshaw, who rather liked this burly, colorful Sardar. 

Later Onkar commanded the Sela Division where his ‘Pad Yatras’ became famous, making people think him a sadist. He missed going into Banladesh in the ’71 war because he and Gen Arora, could not stand one another. The only thing they had in common was that both enjoyed the confidence and basked in the aura of Sam Manekshaw.

There is little about General Arora that makes him anything other than mundane. He has earned notoriety by making a buck for an advertisement with him standing in some branded woolen suit with his famous photograph in which he is seen looking on while Gen Niazi signs the surrender document. The real credit, and richly deserved too, for all that Headquarters Eastern Army did rightly goes to its brilliant Chief of Staff, General JFR Jacob.

In the present case, Sam saw the vibes between his select duo and wisely moved Onkar to the Western theatre where he gave him a Sector which was the equivalent to a Division and Onkar promptly began to show his theatrics by activating the near obsolescent French AMX 13 light tanks and hurling them against an obscure Ranger post. Of course most of them broke down before they could reach the objective! The post was taken because the Rangers wisely pulled out. We lost one soldier. 

Thereafter Sam did his best to get him the next rank and once after being wined and dined out, he was recalled back but alas in vain as the vacancy hitch could not be overcome, even by Sam, and Onkar had to retire. Being rather well connected he managed to became a State Selection Board Member.

Onkar was a well built heavy boned Sardar with an arrogant swagger to his walk. He kept his eyes hooded in a crooked sort of manner and the cruel twist to his mouth made him appear intimidating. But he was basically nice, free from rancor and large hearted. A soldier of the old school he restarted the old tradition of cock fights in the officers messes. And it was jolly good fun too. 

Way before he passed away, an old youngster of his saw him as he came out of the MH, bending with pain, and holding his aching behind where he had been injected. Onkar grinned and exclaimed, “In the old days I used to do the poking, now its me who is getting the poking”.         

His brigade major was Adi Homji, the perennial bachelor boy. A most upright and able gunner officer who appreciated and reveled in the finer points of the simple, spartan, abstemious lifestyle. I had less than three years service, yet he always had time for me and once remarked that if I could wade through James Joyce’s Ulysses,  I was a better man than him! Later we often met when he was in the Southern army and later in Army HQs – always in the operations side.

I once traveled in a Military Special when he was taking his Regiment as the Second in Command to Col Gurbachan for a Camp. Gurbachan was another really solid mountain gunner and a fine gentleman. He and I had been the only two dining members in Yol during my very first year of service; and when he was preparing for an adventure expedition he was kind enough to allow me to take him into the Dhauladhars and introduce him to the basics of mountaineering.

Funny thing that despite such high caliber gunner officers (like these two) plus the fact that the artillery seemed to me to be the most professional corps in our army, yet it was specifically in the artillery that we were completely outclassed and bludgeoned by the Pakistanis in the 1965 War.

Back to Onkar. On taking over the brigade, Onkar set about imprinting his style and making a splash. He forthwith decided on a Commando competition between the three units. He gave them three months preparation time to get their acts together and get fit and tough. 

In the last week 1962, he gave the task. The three platoons were to touch the highest posts in each of the three unit areas. All within 24 hrs; starting and finishing from their own start points at 6am on  2nd Jan ’63 – the dead of winter when the snow is maximum everywhere.

These posts were some 3k meters high while the valley was between 1.3k to 1k metres MSL, running east west.. Rough distance to be covered would be say some 35 miles. And there were the three climbs and descents of over 2k metres.

Some task. (Contd at Commando Biz)

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Change your orbit, constantly!

Posted on September 12, 2008. Filed under: Guide Posts, Personalities, Quotes |

Dhirubhai Ambani would often explain that we are all born into an orbit. It is up to us to progress to the next. We could choose to live and die in the orbit that we are born in. But that would be a criminal waste of potential. When we push ourselves into the next orbit, we benefit not only ourselves but everyone connected with us.

However, when you change orbits, you will create friction. The good news is that your enemies from your previous orbit will never be able to reach you in your new one. By the time resentment builds up in your new orbit, you should move to the next level.  Changing orbits is the key to our progress.

Dhirajlal Hirachand Ambani (Sindhi: धीरजलाल हीराचंद अंबानी), also known as Dhirubhai (Sindhi: धीरूभाई), 28 December 1933, – 6 July 2002, was an Indian rags-to-riches business tycoon who founded Reliance Industries in Mumbai with his cousin. Ambani took his company (Reliance) public in 1977, and by 2007 the combined fortune of the family (sons Anil & Mukesh) was 100 billion dollars, making the Ambanis one of the richest families in the world.

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Success is based on …

Posted on September 5, 2008. Filed under: Personal Magnetism |

To be constantly doing something, whether of mind or body is the greatest of all virtues.
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It is the employment of the little minutes, the spare grains of time. In every 24 hrs there are more than a hundred small periods of time, of a minute or more, in which it is easy to let time wing its flight, never to return.
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There should be a supreme goal in life but also many minor ones constantly being selected and attained.
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.Nothing should be left to shifting moods. Waste of time is the greatest sin.  It is robbery of life.
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the Negatives … Irritibility …

Posted on September 5, 2008. Filed under: Personal Magnetism |

Irritibility destroys power.

Snapping at everything and everyone from dawn to dusk; fretting, fuming, giving way to irrititation makes for the negative temperament. You will say mean things, do acts of violence, be at cross purposes and act most ungracious. Habit of giving way to little things soon grinds out the exalted part of your character – and leaves dross.

It comes like sneezing; in fact it is the temper having a sneeze. The secret is to recognize its approach and then deflect it to the side line. Nothing needs more mastery than the temper.

Irritibility shows uncontrol in the meanest degree.

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