Archive for October, 2009

What the wise see …

Posted on October 27, 2009. Filed under: Light plus Weighty |

An MBA and a Farm Hand  go on a camp trip, set up their tent and go to sleep.

Couple  hours later, the Farm Hand wakes up the MBA and asks, “Look up and tell me what you see?”

The MBA looks up, ponders and  replies, “I see millions of stars.  It tells me that there are millions of  galaxies and potentially billions of planets –      Time wise, it appears to be approximately a quarter past three, so theologically, it’s evident the Lord is all powerful and we are small  and insignificant –                                                                                                             Meteorologically, it seems we will have a beautiful day tomorrow – Astrologically, it tells me that Saturn is in Leo, which means that we are in for a torrid time –  What do you see?”

The Farm Hand is silent for a moment, then speaks . “Well for one thing … it looks like someone has stolen our tent”.

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‘Taps’ … the Bugle Call immortalized in ‘From Here to Eternity’ …

Posted on October 23, 2009. Filed under: Books, From a Services Career, Movies |

James Jones wrote the Army’s riposte to Margaret Mitchell’s ‘Gone With the Wind’.  Jones Company Sergeant, Milton Anthony Warden, is the counter to the suave, sensual, silky smooth, Rhett Butler. The motion picture GWTW made the till then most money and won the most ever Academy Awards – though Gable lost the Best Actor award to Robert Donat who won it for, ‘Good Bye Mr Chips’.

The black and white FHTE became famous, mainly on account of the beach frolic scene between Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr.

FHTE, the motion picture, lacks the broad canvas of the Book – it deserved a far better treatment. Lancaster is, as usual , very very good – though, perhaps a wee swash buckling. Perhaps, William Holden may have made a more scheming and earthier Warden.

FHTE’s other main character is Robert E Lee Prewitt (Montgomery Clift), who in Warden’s characteristic, succinct, richly earthy summation, is a ‘Fuck Up’. Yet Prewitt lives by cherished old world values and is the decent sort. Among other things, he is a top notch boxer and the best ever bugler. He epitomizes all that is good and noble in life when he plays ‘Taps’, the poignant bugle call – as only he can – on losing his good friend, Maggio (Sinatra).

The story of ‘Taps’ as per popular legend, which we all love to accept as true, is that  during the American Civil War in 1862, Union Army Captain Robert Ellicombe was near Harrison’s Landing in Virginia and the Confederates were on the other side of the narrow strip of land. During the night, the Captain heard the moans of a wounded soldier lying on this strip. Not knowing who it was, the Captain decided to risk it and bring back the wounded soldier. The Captain crawled across and pulled him back.

The Captain found that he had brought back a Confederate soldier who had by then died. Imagine the shock when the Captain discovered that the soldier was actually his very own son, who had been studying music in the South and unknown to his father had joined the Confederates.

The Captain requested permission to give his son a military funeral despite his enemy status. This request was partially granted when instead of a band playing a funeral dirge, the Captain was told he could take one soldier from the band to play what he wanted.

On searching his son’s pack the father had found some  bugle notes which had been penned by his son. Seeing these, he decided on a bugler, who played those notes, now famous across the  world.

Fading light dims the sight,
And a star gems the sky, gleaming bright.
From afar drawing nigh,
Falls the night.

Day is done, gone the sun!
From the lakes, from the hills, from the skies
All is well. Safely rest,
God is nigh.

Then goodnight, peaceful night!
Till the light of the dawn shineth bright,
God is near! Do not fear,
Friend, goodnight.

Popular Legend Yes … but alas NOT  TRUE! … There is no record  of a Captain Ellicombe in the Union Army of the time!

“>This bugle call was composed by Brigadier General Daniel Butterfield, a Civil War general (the lyrics were added later and continue to have newer versions).

Taps replaced the old French ‘Tatoo’ call for Lights Out.

Also see,9171,1990797,00.html   

And now!
Here is the amazingly beautiful! Melissa Venema, age 13, the trumpet soloist playing, ‘Taps’ for all the men and women of America who have died for their Country and its freedoms.

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A Patrol … and Mother of all ‘Viagras’…

Posted on October 9, 2009. Filed under: From a Services Career, Personal Stuff |

“Four No Trumps!” thundered an excited Karam Kang, the CO. The phone rang and I took the call. It was from a forward Police post. I was informed that a snow leapard had attacked a civilian, who was answering natures call but the Post Commander had shot dead the famished beast. The civilian had been badly mauled.

I informed the CO, who was far too  engrossed in the evenings  ‘Bridge’ with the upright Rafey Khan OC ‘A’, the ebullient Sultan Charupa OC ‘B’ and the Chanakya like Second in Command, the wily and scheming, Rajendra Pal. Without bothering to get any detail, the CO vaguely mumbled that the Band Major could do with a leapard skin. I gathered that he wanted a patrol to go get it.  I felt that at the very least  I should  ask as to which officer should lead the patrol. Without bothering to look up from his cards, he remarked “Why not you?”.

It was Jan ’64 and the Sector HQ in Trehgam alongwith all else was blanketed in snow. I had returned from a months leave the day before but acclimatization at my age was not an issue. The problem was that I had not immediately grasped how virgin snow.  several feet deep, militates against movement – be it foot or vehicle. With a rush of adrenalin, I gave the necessary orders after personally selecting a dozen plus of the fittest men. I knew the passes were closed and we would need to force a route. Stupidly I did not grasp that this would take double if not more time. 

Trehgam is near Kupwara,  the gate to the Lolab Valley, which is home,  arguably, to the most beautiful women in the world. Like most everyone I had been upto this Valley but no farther. The post lay across a mountain range beyond the Valley. Ahead of the post was a tributary of the Indus  across which lay the small hamlet of Ring Pain, from which evidently Pakistan had been collecting the revenue right till ’62 when someone in the  Government discovered that it was actually on our side of the 1947 Line of Control . Hence the importance of this Post.

We left at 6am next morning in two one ton trucks. I had hoped to make it to the foot of the pass in couple hours and climb some before nightfall, cross the pass early next morning and reach the Post by evening making it a two day affair. In the event even after we had put on non skid chains, the vehicles could hardly make headway once we left the metalled road. So with the beginnings of uneasiness, we got off and began foot slogging.

Though fresh, we were moving in virgin snow and made slow progress. Indeed we barely made it to the base of the pass by nightfall. We spent the night in some abandoned animal shelters and were lucky to do so as it began to snow. I spent a very unpleasant night.  I now worried about crossing the pass next day and the fact that we were carrying food for only two days.

Anyway we were up and climbing by 5am and were lucky in that it had stopped snowing. However how exhausting it is to climb through waist deep snow is to be tried to be believed. The lead guy would take barely couple steps before the next guy would be required to take his position. This was no way we were going to make it so I decided that the lead person should give his pack to the last guy and the lead guy should strap on those tennis racquet like contraptions (which were issued as snow equipment) to his boots as these would prevent him going down in the snow to the extent  he would without them;  and they would help stamp a firmer path.  

The lead guy could thus blaze a  route for the rest to follow. In this sombre fashion we very slowly climbed. Even so, the lead guy could take only so many steps before he was spent and needed the next guy who would give him his pack and having tied those contraptions, take the lead. The erstwhile lead guy would then move to last position and carry two packs but moving over a solid route. It was in this manner that we climbed and climbed and by nightfall managed to barely reach the pass.

Here I was in a dilemma as to whether to spend the night on the pass itself, (usually most ill advised) or to move down in the dark and  find some sheltered spot. Fortunately there was no wind and there was a plus in that  there were a couple dead trees lying in the area which made me opt for spending the night on the pass itself. Actually we were bone tired and badly needed rest. So we lit up those dry trees and waded into our rations enjoyoing the warmth from the  fire and the rum. We spent a very enjoyable night on the pass – not really to be recommended!

Next day we moved on. The going was easy and comfortable and we hit the Company post by evening. The Commander here gave me his quarters and to get the fatigue out of the system suggested that in lieu of the tea which I requested (and had not had for two days), I have  ‘Silajeet’ in its purest form. It really is the ancient equavelent of modern day viagra in its most potent form. 

He personally brought me an Army enamel  mug  full of hot water and after showing me a muddy grey rock hard stone, he plunked the stone in the water. Within a half hour the sone had totally melted turning the water a muddy grey. He then asked me to hold my nose tightly  and drink the bitter stuff eyes closed. Truly it was bitter and I had a hard time swallowing it. But that night I threw the sleeping bag off and was rearing to take off  like a mountain lion.

He told me about  ‘Silajeet’. As stated this is the ancient version of the most potent Viagra ever. It is actually a gum like excretion which comes out and solidifies outside cracks in rocks on barely accesible cliffs. It is gathered by experienced mountain folk and consumed or sold as it also has manifold other medicinal uses. Never ever have I had it or seen it in its natural form bar here.

And boy, was it potent. I had a hard time to stop myself from running next day. We reached the forward post and I saw where and how the leapard had been shot. I also visited the badly mauled local who by his gallant courtesy and courage filled me with admiration. He was truly a brave soul who deserved a long life. I also met an old man, who was said to be around 120 yrs old. He was in radiant health and boy was he fit. I  noted that the general run of locals, both men and women, enjoyed sound health and had large frames. Perhaps civilization had not yet corrupted their bodies and minds or for that matter their land.

Rather sheepishly I collected the leapard skin, which had been salted to conserve it. I felt pretty guilty but thanked one and all for their generosity and  kindness. By day’s end we were back at the Company Headquarters where again I spent a comfortable night but without any ‘Silajeet’ being offered or requested.

The weather had in these two days cleared and we returned without much ado. And the leapard skin duly adorned the Band Majors back – well, for the next couple years.

In this two year span Jerry Jhirad had taken over from Kang, only to be blown up by an enemy  tank.  Rafey Khan, who then took over was similarly  cut in half the very next day by an enemy tanks main armament. All this in the 20 days or so of the 1965 War. And yours truly was lying in a hospital bed recuperataing from wounds received when Rafey was killed.

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Solid Stuff from Colin Powell …

Posted on October 8, 2009. Filed under: American Thinkers, Guide Posts, Personalities |

Colin Powell was Secretary of State in President Bushs’ First Term.and served as National Security Advisor to President Ronald Reagan. He  was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the Gulf War.

These are some gems from him –

Not everyone has a right to sneak into your life. Never make someone a priority when you are only an option for them. The less you associate with some people, the more your life will improve. Any time you tolerate mediocrity in others, it increases your mediocrity.

An important attribute in successful people is their impatience with negative thinking and negative acting people.  If you run with wolves, you will learn how to howl. If you associate with eagles, you will learn how to soar to great heights.

As you grow, your associates will change. Some of your friends will not want you to go on. They will want you to stay where they are. Friends that don’t help you climb will want you to crawl.  Your friends will stretch your vision or choke your dream. Those that don’t increase you will eventually decrease you.

Never receive counsel from unproductive people. Never discuss your problems with someone incapable of contributing to the solution, because those who never succeed themselves are always first to tell you how. You are certain to get the worst of the bargain when you exchange ideas with the wrong person. Don’t follow anyone who is not going anywhere.

With some people you spend an evening: with others you invest it. Be careful where you stop to inquire for directions along the road of life. And by the way, all this  applies to family as well as friends.


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