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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4 Responses to “Onkar Kalkat … Adi Homji … some breed …”

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May I ask how you are associated with Onkar Kalkat?

I was his Blue Eyed Boy!

Ahh. I am his mischievous granddaughter he was always telling to go to Timbuktu! I would hear more about your time with him.

[…] on September 13, 2008. Filed under: From a Services Career | As recalled here, Onkar Kalkat, the brigade commander had this yen about ‘toughness’. His brigade major, […]

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