Archive for March, 2012

1971 War – Of Soldiers and Sagas …

Posted on March 31, 2012. Filed under: From a Services Career, Personalities |

As narrated by Unni, an Air Force officer.

I first met AGJ Swittens (Joe) when returning home during the term break after the first term in NDA in Jun/Jul 1967. While ‘haunching’ and ‘front rolling’ in the corridor of the first class compartment, simply to entertain a few bored seniors, I discovered that Joe and I came from the same place in Kerala. He from the coastal town of Alleppey and I from a village called Ambalapuzha, about 13 km further south.

That front rolling and haunching was the start of a ‘beautiful friendship’.

Because neither had meaningful friends at home, Joe and I travelled the 13 km coastal strip to and fro to meet up practically on a daily basis. We did many interesting things together including joining a typing school because a large number of pretty Mallu girls were found going to the typing school. As a result of this very innovative idea we not only learnt to type but also the use of ‘Brail’ for man-woman communication after the sun set on Alleppey beach.

Sometimes we managed to get hold of a ‘Pauwa’ Rum (small bottle with just 6 pegs) and learnt to drink it neat because the sea water was no good and it was difficult to climb a Coconut tree for coconut water! And Coke was too costly. Licking lime pickle in between helped sobriety; and it came free with the Pauwa.

Joe was the eldest son of the keeper of the lighthouse at Alleppy beach and had more than a dozen siblings of all shapes and sizes – mostly girls who giggled loudly from behind closed doors when I visited their house. His younger brother Johnny (now an AF officer) was just a toddler. It was only natural that both our parents began to tolerate their sons friend.

While my father thought that I was incapable of earning a livelihood, Joe’s father was counting the days when Joe would get a commission and add something to the family income.

In our Fourth term, ‘Rangila’ the terrible horse, in the equitation lines, kicked Joe in the face and he lost four of his front teeth and had to get dentures when just 17. We passed out of NDA in Dec 1969, he from J Sqn and I from F Sqn. But we remained addicted to our tactical manoeuvres in typing and Brail at Alleppey and mastered the art of ‘Coitus Interruptis’!

While I went to the flying school in Bidar, Joe went to the Military Academy inDehra Dun. He was commissioned into the 1st  Gorkha Rifles on 20 Dec 1970. After a short break he joined his Battalion (I think 4/1 GR). His unit was in the Chamb sector somewhere near Mole and Phagla ahead of the Munawar Tawi river with 5 Sikhs on their northern flank and 5 Assam on their southern flank facing Koel and Bakan Paur, a few km ahead of them, probably held by the 111 Brigade of the Pak army.

Joe went through the usual initiation ceremonies in his battalion and by end of Nov 1971, he was already a hardened soldier and had endeared himself to his company commander. His company was deployed some 2 km forward from the Unit, which had his CO and   2 i/c.

For tactical reasons Joe’s Company Commander had established an observation post (OP) about 400 mtrs ahead of the company deployment almost on the Cease Fire Line (CFL) of The ’65 war which was at that time the border. The OP was around 5 feet higher than the surroundings and hence had a commanding view. The company itself was deployed in well prepared bunkers and trenches.

The OP was simply a fox hole behind a low bush, about four feet by three and around three feet deep – very painstakingly and surreptitiously dug over a period of time, at night, using helmets and Khukris so that it’s existence would not be noticed by the enemy. Every night the Company Commander would send someone or the other crawling forward towards the OP and they would replace the OP crew who had been there for the previous 24 hrs.

The OP crew generally consisted of a JCO or subaltern, an NCO and two Jawans simply for company and for time pass; usually playing cards while staying hidden and surreptitiously observing enemy movements and deployment across the CFL. The enemy was deployed in depth and hence there was not much that one could see from the OP. So the OP duty was considered a boring and unproductive job, though it gave 2nd Lt AGJ Swittens some respite and relaxation from the daily rigours of infantry life.

On the evening of 3rd Dec 1971, a Friday, it was Joe’s turn to do the OP duty. So after sunset, after an early dinner, he collected his two Shakarpara packets (next day’s breakfast and lunch), filled his water bottle, and along with a Naik and two soldiers crawled to the OP to replace those who had spent the previous night and day there. Everything looked peaceful, there was no noise or activity or any lights from across the border and so Joe called up the Company Commander and reported, ’All quiet on the western front.’

He could not have been more mistaken. It was the lull before the storm. To his horror Joe also discovered that the battery of the Radio Set had discharged and soon afterwards the ANPRC radio set went completely dead. But Joe was not too concerned, his entire Company was deployed just 400 mtrs behind him and that gave him a tremendous sense of security – adequate to fall asleep in the fox hole. This sleeping habit was inculcated in the NDA – it enabled  instant sleep – anytime, anywhere, in any position.

Unknown to Joe,  at around 1800 hrs, while he was on his way to the OP, the Pak AF had crossed the border elsewhere and launched a massive pre-emptive strike on various Indian airfields in the western sector. But all was quiet around the OP and Joe slept and dreamt the kind of dreams that a healthy happy 20 yr old would dream.

At around 2030 hrs Joe was rudely awoken by incredible explosions of heavy calibre artillery. There was nothing that fell on him but when he looked back he could see that his Company position was being systematically plastered by a creeping barrage. He could not see from where the guns were firing as they were located a considerable distance towards the rear. However, he could see the entire sky filled with artillery shells streaking like meteors, each going overhead with shrieking banshee wails.

Some fell on his Company position but most went deeper towards the rear deployment of Indian infantry and armour. There seemed more than 150 enemy guns, probably 105 mm, firing with deadly accuracy. Soon Indian guns, probably of bigger calibre, began to return the fire. Heavy calibre artillery shells were flying to and fro – hundreds of them every minute over Joe’s head. But none fell on him. Joe and the three men lay flat in the foxhole, one on top of the other for lack of space, cringing and shivering, covering their ears from the unbearable, frightening and shrieking sounds.

After about 30 minutes the ground begin to tremble like in a mild earthquake. They heard clanking and grinding noises. When Joe peeked out of the fox hole he saw a Pak tank about fifty meters ahead, heading straight for him. Joe ducked back into the fox hole and the tank rolled right over them almost crushing the fox hole and burying them alive. Soon there were other tanks going around them and after a while he lost track which way they were coming or going. There were shouts and battle crries and soon he could hear soldiers running but he had no idea whether they were friends or foes. This went on all night.

When morning dawned, seemingly after an eternity, Joe poked his head out and found himself surrounded by Pak soldiers and two tanks. When he looked backwards, he could not find any trace of his company. Unknown to Joe, when the shelling started, the Company and the entire Indian Brigade had been ordered to withdraw – leaving poor Joe and his companions in the foxhole.

In the foxhole the Naik took out his Khukri. ‘Shhaab’, he advised Joe, ‘Kafar Hunu Bhanda Marnu Ramro (Better to die than live like a coward)’.The three soldiers took out their Khukries and Joe took our his revolver. 

‘Ayo Gorkhali’, they screamed at the top of their voices, jumping out of the fox hole and charging – catching the Pak soldiers completely by surprise since they were brewing or sipping tea with their weapons lying around.

One of the tank crew however jumped up, climbed his tank and let fly a burst of MMG fire at them. Joe tripped and fell down. The burst of bullets miraculously went by Joe, but cut the other three into pieces. By then the Pak soldiers had grabbed their rifles and formed a ring around Joe. Joe kept pointing his revolver from one to the other before they knocked it  out of his hand and shoved him to the ground and bound his hands behind his back with his own lanyard.

For the next half hour they played ‘Russian Roulette’ using his own revolver. They would insert a round, swirl the drum and fire on Joe’s head. Each time the gun clicked but did not fire, the Pak soldiers would laugh, pass lurid comments and poke him with a bayonet. This went on and Joe died a thousand deaths.

Then a Colonel came by in a jeep and Joe was taken to what he thought was 111 Brigade HQ. He was given a field dressing by a MO who stitched his bayonet wounds making Joe realize that he was probably the first Indian POW of this war.

Soon there was a flurry of activity and the Brigade HQs began preparing to move elsewhere. He was handed over to two villagers who put him in a bullock cart and took him westwards. His hands had been put around his legs and tied tightly with his lanyard so that he was completely immobile. En-route, along the villages where they stopped, children pelted him with mud and stones, while their parents watched. He was given no water or food.

After a long ride, he was taken to a police station and locked up, probably at Kakian Wala. The Military Police came, stripped him naked, hung him on a hook and beat him with a thin Malacca cane. All the bayonet wounds which had been stitched, bled profusely.

Joe gave them his life history; that he was twenty years old, that his father was a light house keeper, about how Rangila kicked him and how he lost his teeth, how much he yearned for his typing class in Alleppey and probably about a stupid friend called Unni in the AF.

However he stuck to his story that he had joined his unit just two days earlier and that he did not even know the name of his company commander leave alone deployment locations or strength of the Indian army in Chamb. They beat him some more but gave him tea and rusk twice a day and two chapattis and dal at night. A local civilian compounder was called and he applied Iodine on his wounds – more painful than any beating.

After a day he was put into a local bus, handcuffed to a policeman and taken by road to Rawalpindi jail. He was incarcerated there with common criminals. He was issued prison clothing but he kept his OG jersey, a memento of his uniform.

At the end of Dec 1971, because Joe’s name was not announced as a POW, nor the names of the three soldiers with him, his unit presumed that he was ‘missing believed killed in action’. Soon the Army HQ sent a terse telegram to his father, ‘Your son/ward missing/believed killed in action’.

For several nights, though the lighthouse continued to go round and round beaming high power beacons to the ships at sea, there was gloom and darkness in the household below the lighthouse. The war had extinguished all their hopes and aspirations for an increase in their earnings.

Seven months later, on 2 Jul 72 the Shimla accord was signed by Madam Gandhi and Mr Bhutto. The two armies went back to business as usual – with their guns pointing at each other. A new Line of Control (LOC) was defined, doing away with the earlier CFL of ‘65. All captured territories by both sides were returned baring those in J&K.

Indian and Pak envoys began to once again mingle, have Mushairas and Mujras, hug and kiss each other along with their wives. Everyone was happy and there was much international acclaim re how well India had handled the handing back of over 90,000 Pak POWs. No one asked how many Indian POWs were still in Pak jails.

Joe managed to make friends with his ‘Ward Supervisor’ in Rawalpindi jail, who was a convict with a life sentence for murder. He was a very tall well built  and sympathetic Pathan who was ‘desperately seeking his Susan’. In Joe he found his Susan, ‘a life companion’.

As Joe told me later with a sad smile, “What did it matter? What difference did it make? I was just 21. What choice was there? It was either being public property or exclusive private property. God probably decided that it was payback time for what we did on Alleppey beach”.

Despite his wearing his OG Jersy with a pip on each shoulder with GR written on the epaulletes, no one asked who he was, what crime he had committed and whether he had ever been tried for any crime anywhere. He had no access to any news – be it papers, magazines or radio. In the Pathan’s cell, which Joe shared, he had a calendar in Urdu on which he kept ticking the days and months as they crawled past. 

Several times he wrote to the jail authorities telling them that he was a POW, an Indian being kept in a civil jail with convicts without any trial and that he should be moved to where other Indian POWs were kept, if there were any in Pak. But because the application had to be routed through the Pathan, who was the ward supervisor, who knew no English and who did not want to lose his Susan, none of his appeals reached anywhere. Two years went by.

Everyone including me forgot about Joe Swittens, who indeed had no idea that the war was over, that there was a Simla Accord and that over 90,000 Pak POWs had been returned to Pak and in reciprocity all known or publicly acknowledged Indian POWs had been sent back to India.

Then one day, in Feb 1973, the Pathan told Joe that there was a team from ‘Amnesty International’ who was to visit Rawalpindi jail, to check for human rights violations. He wanted Joe to act as the interpreter. Joe really had no choice, he had to do whatever the warder told him to do.

So he went and had a haircut, shaved, got his prison clothes pressed, rubbed toothpaste on his 2nd Lt’s cloth pips on his OG jersey so that it looked bright, rubbed shoe polish on the pips and the GR  to get them to lose the faded look, polished his torn and tattered shoes and was ready for the Amnesty team when they arrived.

‘Ladies and gentlemen, follow me, I shall take you on a conducted tour of the prison’, he announced imitating Dev Anand in the movie Guide – smartly saluting the ladies and shaking hands with the gentleman. The Pathan had briefed him that he was to make all efforts to show off and to make belief that there was no human rights violation in Rawalpindi jail.

‘Of course not, everyone is treated well here,’ Joe kept saying with a sad smile whenever someone questioned him. There was an elderly Swiss woman from the Red Cross in the team who was more curious and inquisitive. She took Joe aside. ‘Mon Ami’, she asked, ‘Who are you and why are you wearing an army jersey with a pip on each shoulder? Were you in the Pak army ?’.

‘No M’am’, replied Joe vehemently. ‘I am a POW. I am 2nd Lt AGJ Swittens of the Indian Army.’ ‘Arme de terre l’Indianne ? Incredible’, the lady exclaimed. ‘Don’t you know that the war finished two years ago and that all POWs went back home last year?’.

The Pathan did not like Joe having a private conversation in a language which he did not understand and he sensed that something was going wrong. He quickly shepherded the lady away. But before they left the jail, the lady asked the Pathan, ‘May I take your photo and one of this young man for my personal album?’

The Pathan had no choice because there were Pak jailors present at that time who desperately wanted to please the foreigners. The lady took several photographs of the Pathan and of Joe too. ‘Please send one photo to my father, he is at Alleppey light house in India,’ Joe whispered to the Swiss lady from the Red Cross.

So one fine morning in Jun or Jul 1973, a Photo card came by ordinary post, addressed simply to ‘Mr Swittens, Light House Alleppey, India’, on which there was an address and telephone number of the person who sent it from Switzerland. And the photo at the back was a black and white close up of a smiling Joe Swittens with no teeth, in a torn OG jersey, but with shining pips and GR on his shoulder. Below the photo was inscribed ‘Rawalpindi Prison’.

There was much consternation as well as incredulity at the light house. Mr Swittens immediately sent a telegram to Army HQ and MoD describing the event. It took MoD almost four weeks to send a reply by normal post. ‘You son/ward missing/believed killed in action,’ the Under Secretary simply said. They had not even bothered to type the letter. It was a mere form, unsigned  and uncompleted, leaving it to the recipient to cross out whatever was not applicable.

Mr Swittens went to see the local MLA in Alleppey who then had an agenda of his own. However he raised the issue in Kerala assembly and soon there were questions asked by MPs in Delhi. It became a starred question in the question hour. The defence minister Jagjivan Ram sought time to reply.

The RAW were told to go and investigate in Rawalpindi Jail. They embarrassed the Pak Govt as the system in Pak did not want to accept that they had sent POWs to ordinary jails. They did not wish to proclaim that that POW camps were set up only after 15 Dec 71 and that there could also be others who had suffered the same fate as Joe. ‘There is no 2nd Lt AGJ Swittens in Rawalpindi Jail,’ was their reply.

‘There is no 2nd Lt AGJ Swittens in Rawalpindi Jail’, Jagjivan Ram announced in Parliament with a sense of finality.

Mr Swittens, Joe’s father, did not give up. He mobilised a few sympathetic Mallus and they in turn mobilised some more Mallus. There was a demonstration outside the Pak embassy in Chanakyapuri.

The press picked up the news. Someone, I think the ‘Hindu’ paper managed to get a sworn statement from the Swiss lady that she had indeed met a person in Rawalpindi jail who claimed that he was Joe and corroborated it with several photographs that she had taken.

MEA requested the much maligned US and its Ambassador to intervene. Finally Pakistan bowed to international pressure. They admitted that they did indeed have a person in Rawalpindi jail named ‘Wasim Khan Akram’ or some such name, who had been arrested for murder in general area of Kakian Wala. If the Indians thought he is one of their army officers, they were welcome to have him.

2nd Lt AGJ Swittens walked through the Wagha border into the waiting arms of the Indian military police (CMPs) sometime in Sep/ Oct 1973.

He was the last POW to be exchanged after the 1971 War. However, as soon as Joe Smittens set foot in India, he was arrested and incarcerated in the Red Fort in Delhi. He was accused of being a spy, of voluntarily staying back in Pak and that he was now brain washed.

Joe told me afterwards, ’I did not mind what they did to me in Pak -after all they were the enemy. But what the Military Police did to me afterwards in the Red Fort was completely unjust’. He said all that with a smile, proving that a man who had been through such hell still retained much of his sensibility.

There were more protests by Mallus in front of the Red Fort and after a month of more harsh ill-treatment by our own CMPs, Joe was told to go and join his unit in Arunachal, at a post called Gelling which took about 22 days to back pack (walk) from the Unit rear. I think that is where I met him in 1973 or 74, and where he told me his POW story.

Gelling was another POW camp of sorts, at least for a 23 yr old.

After 1973, Joe Swittens lived to fight again and again, with tenacity, courage and with the same ‘Ayo Gorkhali’  – the last time in Kargil in ‘99 after which he retired and settled in Pune. Col Joe Swittens spoke perfect Gorkhali besides several other languages.

The last time I met Joe was in his flat in Hinjewadi in Pune, around two years ago (2010). He only smiled and talked of the very happy things about our life and times while we passed the Pauwa back and forth.

The last time I spoke to Joe was around three days before he died of a brain haemorrhage last year in the middle of the night with just his Alsatian dog for company. He died a lonely man.

I can say this with certainty that his last words must have been, ‘Kafar Hunu Bhanda Marnu Ramro’. As for me –

I went to the lighthouse in Alleppey, With half bottle of rum looking for the youth that I miss. They looked at me with suspicion, ‘Are you a terrorist ?’, they asked. I went out into the setting sun and to the beach where we learnt to Brail,

The Typing Girls are all grand moms in DubaiAnd the sea water tasted just the same. So I passed the bottle from the  left hand to the  right hand And took sips from each hand, one for Joe and one for me. Joe my friend, I am glad you are gone, A prisoner of life no more. Set a table for me, where ever you are. And keep the chair tilted for me, I am bound to come after this life.

I walked back in the dark, the sun had set. The band began to play Sare Jahan Se Acha, Hindustan Hamara, The band began to play………….. With an apology to Rudyard Kipling as well as Joe. I stole the story from both of you. Please forgive me. Cyclic

ETERNAL VIGIL 

In the National Defense Academy at Khadakwasla , at the entrance of the dining hall there is a small round table, all by itself with the table set for one.

The empty chair is tilted forward. The table is set in honor of those missing in war, those believed to be still Prisoners of War.

The wars are forgotten quickly and missing persons forgotten even faster by all except their families and comrades who fought alongside. They cannot and will not forget. They hang on to their undying hope and confidence that the missing persons will one day return.

This table awaits all who should have such fate  befall them. The Placard on the table reflects the sentiments of a soldier for his fallen comrade.

‘The table set is small, for one, symbolizing the frailty of one prisoner against his oppressors. The single rose displayed is to remind of  families and loved ones who keep their faith.

The Red Ribbon on the vase reminds us of the thousands who show unyielding resolve to obtain proper accounting of those missing in action.

The candle is unlit and symbolizes the upward reach of their unconquerable spirit. The slice of Lemon on the bread plate, reminds us of bitter fate. The salt on the plate – symbolizes tears of families as they wait.

The inverted Glass says there is no toast tonight. The empty chair shows they are not here.

O’ Remember ! All of ye who served with them and called them comrades, who depended upon their might and aid and relied upon them – surely, they have not forsaken you. Remember them until the day they come back home.

The table was installed by Air Marshal Randhawa (NDA 38th ) when he was Commandant NDA, 2007-08.  Most touching, emotional and motivating. Reminds me of Joe Swittens.

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Comment by Sikander Pasha, a retired Civil Engr, who lives in Lahore – “I had widely circulated this article specially in the military circles. I fought with the editor of Defence Journal to print it but without success. But I can tell you that everyone here felt sorry for what happened to Joe”.

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An Ode to the Marvel that is INDIA …

Posted on March 24, 2012. Filed under: Searching for Success |

India with its 700 million + of humanity is moving its ancient civilization into the future.

Its challenges are immense – more so probably than anywhere else. Particularly in development and fending off terrorism. Considering these challenges and its neighbors, it is even more astounding that the most diverse nation on Earth, with hundreds of languages, all religions and cultures, is not only surviving, but thriving.

The nation where Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism were born and which is the second largest Muslim nation on Earth. Indeed where Christianity has existed for 2000 years.

Where the oldest Jewish synagogues and Jewish communities have resided since the Romans burnt their 2nd temple; where the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government in exile reside; where the Zorostrians from Persia have thrived since being thrown out of their ancient homeland; where Armenians and Syrians and many others have to come live.

Where the Paris-based OECD said was the largest economy on Earth for 1500 of the last 2000 years, including the 2nd largest, only 200 years ago.

Where 3 Muslim Presidents have been elected, where a Sikh is Prime Minister and the head of the ruling party a Catholic Italian woman, where the President is also a woman, succeeding a Muslim President who as a rocket scientist is a hero in the nation.

Where a booming economy is lifting 40 million out of poverty each year and is expected to have the majority of its population in the middle class already -equal to the entire US population, by 2025.

Where its optimism and vibrancy is manifested in its movies, arts, economic growth, and voting, despite all the incredible challenges and hardships; where all the great powers are vying for influence, as it itself finds its place in the world.

Where all of this is happening is India which has more than 1/10th of all humanity. It surely is an inspiration to all the World.

V Mitchell, New York, NY

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Carriappa and Sunderji write to Officers of their Army …

Posted on March 14, 2012. Filed under: From a Services Career, Guide Posts, Personalities |

Here are two illuminating letters of two Army Chiefs addressed to all officers of their time. They are a study in contrast. Both have been been edited to reduce length but they still remain long. Each gives us a glimpse into the inner core of the man as well as of the Army he commanded. 

General (later Field Marshal) KM Carriapa was the first Indian Chief who is much loved and respected to this day.  He was a man renowned for his character and core values. The stories of his atrocious Hindi are legion – and exceedingly funny. On our First Independence Day, he said, “Aaj hamara Desh Muft – Aapt Muft aur Hum Muft!”

As a small school boy, I first caught a glimpse of the man atlose quarters while at the Rajput Center Reunion in ’49. Years later lying badly wounded in the Delhi Military Hospital in Sep ’65, I was accosted by him when he barged in like a tornado, going to each bed, shaking the hand or arm of each officer and gifting him an autographed Magazine with a ‘Bravo and Well Done’. He left us dumbstruck with his energy and purposefulness. 

His letter shows his deep love for his Army and Country laying bare his values and priorities.

Letter of General KM CarriappaCommander – in – Chief, to the officers of the Indian Army.

As I have often told you all, I have nothing but admiration for the very satisfactory way in which you have all carried out your respective tasks in the few years we have been a free country.

I know most of us are holding responsible appointments with very little experience behind us. However, I am very pleased to see that nearly every one has done, and is doing, his bit to my entire satisfaction. There have been a few disappointments, but then of course that obtains in any Army.

I have told you all time and again that we are the pioneers of our Army and, as pioneers, we must make sacrifices, personal and collective, to lay a really sound foundation upon which the edifice of the Army can be built so that we leave a legacy for the future officers of our Army who will always thank us for all that we have done for them. I know it can be done. Nothing is impossible if only we really get down to it as officers and gentlemen in the carrying out of our duties.

It must be your constant endeavour to see that you are upto date in military teachings. This calls for extensive and continuous study. Do NOT waste your valuable time on useless pursuits. Plan your time in such a manner that you allot adequate portion of it for study without forgetting time for recreation and relaxation. You must take part in organised games,  individually and with your men.

Please do NOT get into the despicable habit of becoming rank conscious. Take what job is given to you. Do NOT ask for jobs. Give your best, you’re very best, at all times. We have all got to do this if we want to serve our Army and our country.

I would like you to make quite certain that you do not over do your amusements. Do not indulge in lavish entertainment. I would like to see the Mess life kept up with all its dignity, propriety and correctness. Do NOT make your Messes cheap by inviting all and sundry to your parties. I regard Messes as  training ground for offrs of all ranks for discipline, comradeship, teamwork and building up one’s character. Make quite certain the Mess is treated as a home for the offrs of the unit.

There seems to be a good deal of miss informed talk about promotions, appointments and transfers. Promotions are made according to seniority compatible with efficiency of the officer.  I assure you, as far as I am concerned, there is NO `bhai bandi’.

Appointments are made on the principle of `A square peg in a square hole and a round peg in a round hole’. The mere factors of seniority and any special staff qualifications alone do NOT entitle one for consideration for every appointment that falls vacant.  All selections are made after due consideration of the officers’ suitability professionally.

I give this matter my personal attention.

As you know, our troops have always been magnificent in their sense of loyalty to the Army and the country. To ensure that this state continues, personal attention of every officer to the welfare of the men placed under his command is vital. Their needs are simple. If the `Jawan’ feels that he has an offr who is professionally efficient, is a gentleman and a person in whom he can place his confidence to safeguard his personal and domestic interests, we officers will have gone a very long way to ensure the man’s loyalty to the Army and our Govt.

I want you all to know your men thoroughly, attend to their needs promptly and effectively, inquire about their domestic matters, take steps to redress justifiable grievances and make them feel that they are much better individuals as soldiers than any one outside the Army. Their food and pay and allowances must be checked regularly. They should not be called upon to do things which are not their duty. Treat them as gentlemen and human beings and NOT as machines.

Above all, you must set a personal example in matters of moral integrity, honesty, truthfulness, smartness and efficiency in every thing you do by maintaining a very high standard of personal conduct and character. The ‘Jawan’ is a very good judge of  the good and bad in his officer.

I would like you all to make every one of them feel  proud to serve under you as a Commander, whatever your command. I know most of you are doing this, but there may be some who through no fault of their own but through lack of experience and guidance, may not appreciate the vital necessity of these things.

One word of warning. Do NOT overdo the ‘welfare business’  by providing excess of ‘creature comforts’ . Troops must be kept content and happy but MUST always be kept hard and efficient in their profession. They must not be made soft.

You must concentrate on ensuring that the basic training of the men you command is thorough in every respect. Do NOT be slip-shod in this respect. This means your spending more time on study and training. Do NOT waste time on useless pursuits for every second you so waste in peace you will pay for in blood in times of war for the lives of the men you command are in your hands and lives are too sacred.

Please deal sympathetically with all cases of ex-Servicemen. Remember, these ex-Servicemen have done their stuff for the country. It is because of their grand work in the past that our Army today enjoys the respect, confidence and affection of our people. Go out of your way  to help them.

The other point is about our attitude towards the civil population. We are here to serve the people. We must make them all feel that we, as officers, are always ready to associate ourselves with them as citizens of the land in our common efforts to serve our country. Be as courteous as you can, as an officer and gentleman to those above, equal and below you. Courtesy and good manners do NOT cost you anything. Let us set an example in regard to the value of the two essential of ‘courtesy’ and ‘good manners’.

Please do NOT get mixed up with politics. Remember, we serve the people of the country and, therefore the Govt which is put in power by the people. However now that we have a right to vote, it is imperative that all of us, officers and men, should be quite clear in our minds in regard to exercising our privilege of voting.

The strength of a country depends on the high morale of the people. If the morale of the people is low and the people are not determined to face the horrors of war, no matter how gallantly troops fight in the battlefield, success will be very hard to achieve.

It is no good our thinking in terms of ‘peace’ and neglecting our responsibility to provide for the ‘safety and security of the country’ tomorrow.

Finally, as long as you remain in the Army please give your very best in service of the country until the very last second you are in the Army, working as loyal, well disciplined and honest member of this big team-our Army-as and Indian and with no communal feeling of any kind whatever.

Please do NOT allow the virus of communalism to get into the Army. Communalism is a most destructive parasite, which if allowed to grow in the Army, will spell disaster for the country.

I feel absolutely certain, with NOT an atom of doubt in my mind, that all officers in my team, of which I have the proud privilege and the honor today of being the Captain, will help me in the matters I have stated above to see that we have a first class Army in all its aspects.

I wish you all the best of luck.

AHQ New Delhi 1 May 1950. 

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

The second letter addressed to all officers was written by Gen K Sunderji in Feb ’86. 

Gen Sunderji was a handsome dashing debonair flamboyant figure, forever in a hurry – what with his tear off calendar! He had become Chief and he desperately wanted to do something that would enshrine his name in immortality. Hence there are a number of controversial and impetuous decisions which resulted in fiasco’s for ever associated with his name. To name a few  –

1 Operation Blue Star (as Army Commander) and Operation Pawan as Chief. Both planned in cavalier fashion and atrociously executed, leaving disasterous long term consequences.

2. ‘Brass Tacks’ Exercise and the long Operation Alert on the Western Border which left the offensive capability of the Army badly mauled for years thereafter. 

3. His ‘Forward Posture’ policy in the NE which apart from other negatives put finis to the  career of outstanding officers such as the Guards Gen KD Majumdar,  who as the deputy Director Military Operations opposed it tooth and nail.

His lengthy letter, which too has been shortened, depicts his tone, tenor, values and the weaknesses he saw in his Army. The pity is that with his countless array of gifts, had he  done something about these, he would surely have ranked with the Three Immortal Chiefs post Independence – Carriappa, Thimaya and Sam Manekshaw!

General K Sundarji, PVSM, ADC, Army Headquarters, New Delhi – —  1 Feb 86

All of us talk about `Officer Like Qualities’ and about being officers and gentlemen. I am not sure whether to many of us these terms means the same thing.

It refers to the `Sharafat’ that is ingrained in the best of Indian culture; of honour and integrity; of putting the interests of the country, the Army, the unit and one’s subordinates before one’s own; of doggedness in defeat; of magnanimity in victory; of sympathy for the underdog; of a certain standard of behavior and personal conduct in all circumstances; of behaving correctly towards one’s seniors, juniors and equals.

I am very concerned about the increasing sycophancy towards seniors which unless checked will corrode the entire system.

Much of this, I realize, is due to the pernicious system of recompense and financial advancement being totally linked to higher ranks. These are of necessity limited due to functional compulsions, and which notwithstanding cadre reviews, are microscopic compared to prospects of our peers in other Government services.

And finally, prospects of promotion in rank, being totally dependent on the reports of the seniors.

I am hopeful that the introduction of the `Running Pay Band’, which would offer equitable prospects without being fully tied to ranks, would break this vicious circle and help us to develop strong back-bones and guts.

I would like to make a point regarding those officers who are unfortunate not to be cleared for promotion to various selection ranks. Barring a very small minority, the bulk of them have not been cleared, not because they are not good, but because the system functionally cannot absorb them in a higher rank, and generally it is a difficult choice.

In any of the civil services, these officers would have passed through their respective selection grades with ease. The fact that they are retained in the Service upto the ages of 50, 52, 54 or 56 depending upon their rank, is not an act of philanthropy, but because the Army needs them for a vital function.

They are not discards or deadwood; they are the salt of the earth and are required to lead companies, squadrons and batteries in war and it is at this level that actions are won or lost and fill equally vital positions in the various higher ranks at which they have got blocked. A running pay band will recompense them for the job they continue to do well and also restore their self-esteem.

On the symbolic and psychological plane, I would like to see much less of obsequious and compulsive `sirring’. A `Sir’ on the first meeting for the day ought to be adequate, followed up in later conversation by `Major’ or `Colonel’ or `General’ as the case may be. I am not suggesting familiarity or impertinence – seniors ought to be treated with due respect and courtesy but cringing must be avoided.

On the part of the seniors, there is an unfortunate tendency today of more or less sticking to one’s own rank level even in social intercourse and not mixing adequately with junior officers. This must be put right.

We cannot afford to have a caste-system within the Officer Corps. In dealings with peers and juniors also, courtesy, consideration and good manners are equally essential.

There is none so disgusting as a person who boot-licks the senior, boots the junior and cuts the throats of his peers.

I also notice that of late there has been a regrettable communication gap developing between officers and men. I attribute this primarily to selfishness on the part of the officers and not caring enough about the men. This must be corrected. At all levels, we must insist that we live up to the Chetwodeian motto.

There is a lot that we can do to improve our quality of life. The standards of officers’ messes in all areas have deteriorated badly. Dust, dirt and grime, sloppily turned out mess staff, chipped and cracked crockery, unpolished furniture and silver etc, are more and more in evidence.

A pseudo-plush decor is attempted, with expensive and garish curtains and upholstery, wall to wall carpeting and so on; these cannot compensate for lack of care, attention to detail and maintenance of standards; nor can aerosol room fresheners substitute for fresh air and cleanliness.

Messes are generally run down and seedy on a daily basis and though special efforts are made to spruce them up for special occasions (generally following the aerosol route) the lack of standards still comes through. This must be put right by the painstaking method of insisting on standards.

We must keep the messes traditional without opting for a 5-star decor. The standard of food is generally poor and lacking in variety, not because the ingredients are not available but because of lack of attention to organisation and poor training of cooks.

With free rations, there is no reason as to why we cannot spend a little on training our cooks and modernising our kitchens.

While on the quality of life, I must mention that by custom and usage of service, some privileges do go with added responsibility and senior rank, and I am sure that none would grudge these if used sensibly. However, in some cases senior officers tend to get delusions of grandeur and overdo their privileges on a Moghul style. This is bad and must stop. Otherwise privileges themselves might be withdrawn.

Let us all resolve that we will :-

(a) Shed the dead weight of mediocrity and strive for excellence, each one in his own sphere.

(b) Hold fast to all that is best in our traditions and the finest in values, while doing away with the useless and meaningless.

(c) Avoid ostentation.

(d) Not sell our souls for a good ACR and promotion.

(e) Constantly enhance and update our professional competence.

(f) Sensibly decentralise authority and responsibility.

(g) Permit maximum initiative to our subordinates, and accept a fair quota of honest mistakes as necessary payment for their professional growth and maturity.

(h) Encourage dissent and new ideas at the policy formulation and discussion stage and insist on implicit obedience in the right spirit, post-decision, at the execution stage.

(j) Cultivate a justifiable pride in ourselves, our units, formations, the Army and the Country.

(k) And finally, live up to the motto:

“The safety, honour and welfare of your Country come first, always and everytime. The honour, welfare and comfort of the men you command come next. Your own ease, comfort and safety come last always and everytime”.

Yours sincerely,

General K Sundarji

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This Crazy English Language …

Posted on March 12, 2012. Filed under: Light plus Weighty, Public Speaking, The English |

Let’s FACE it – ENGLISH IS A CRAZY LANGUAGE. 
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There is no egg in eggplant nor ham in hamburger; Neither apple nor pine in pineapple. English muffins weren’t invented in England.
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We take English  for granted, but if we explore its paradoxes – We find that quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square, And a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.
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And why is it that writers write, but fingers don’t fing, Grocers don’t groce and hammers don’t ham?
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Doesn’t it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend? If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one of them, What do you call it?
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If teachers taught, why didn’t preachers praught? If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat?
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Sometimes I think all the folks who grew up speaking English Should be committed to an asylum for the verbally insane. In what other language do people recite at a play and play at a recital?
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We ship by truck but send cargo by ship… We have noses that run and feet that smell. We park in a driveway and drive in a parkway. And how can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same, While a wise man and a wise guy are opposites?
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You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language In which your house can burn up as it burns down, In which you fill in a form by filling it out, And in which an alarm goes off by going on.
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There is a box, and the plural is boxes. But the plural of ox becomes oxen, not oxes. One fowl is a goose, but two are called geese, Yet the plural of moose should never be meese. You may find a lone mouse or a nest full of mice, Yet the plural of house is houses, not hice.
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If the plural of man is always called men, Why shouldn’t the plural of pan be called pen? If I speak of my foot and show you my feet, And I give you a boot, would a pair be called beet? If one is a tooth and a whole set are teeth, Why shouldn’t the plural of booth be called beeth?
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Then one may be that, and there would be those, Yet hat in the plural would never be hose, And the plural of cat is cats, not cose. We speak of a brother and also of brethren, But though we say mother, we never say methren. Then the masculine pronouns are he, his and him, But imagine the feminine: she, shis and shim!
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              And in closing………..If Father is Pop, how come Mother is not Mop??? 
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English Usage – Humor and Irony …

Posted on March 10, 2012. Filed under: Light plus Weighty, Public Speaking |

PARAPROSDOKIANS are something Winston Churchill dearly loved. It is a figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected and with much pungent wit. Eg “Where there’s a will, I want to be in it,”

Here are some classic examples.

Do not argue with an idiot. He will drag you down to his level and beat you with experience.

The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it’s still on my list.

Light travels faster than sound. This is why some people appear bright until you hear them speak.

If I agreed with you, we’d both be wrong.

We never really grow up; we only learn how to act in public.

War does not determine who is right – only who is left.

Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.

Evening news is where they begin with ‘Good Evening,’and then proceed to tell you why it isn’t.

To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism. To steal from many is research.

A bus station is where a bus stops. A train station is where a train stops. On my desk, I have a work station.

I thought I wanted a career. Turns out I just wanted paychecks.

Whenever I fill out an application, in the part that says,’In case of emergency, notify:’ I put ‘DOCTOR.’

I didn’t say it was your fault, I said I was blaming you.

Women will never be equal to men until they can walk down the streetwith a bald head and a beer gut, and still think they are sexy.

Behind every successful man is his woman. Behind the fall of a successful man is usualy another woman.

A clear conscience is the sign of a fuzzy memory.

You do not need a parachute to skydive. You only need a parachute to skydive twice.

Money can’t buy happiness, but it sure makes misery easier to live with.

There’s a fine line between cuddling and holding someone down so they can’t get away.

I used to be indecisive. Now I’m not so sure.

You’re never too old to learn something stupid.

To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first and call whatever you hit the target.

Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be.

Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.

Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.

Where there’s a will, there’s relatives.

Take your time , we have got all evening.

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