Wednesday, March 26, 2014


Where are the villages of yore? Driving on the short stretches of smooth roads, shorter patched of mirror smooth roads and long stretches of road sections under utter disrepair we hit the Chutmal  Pur Mohand section on way to Dehradun and soon come to a grinding halt at the tail end of a massive traffic jam.

Long wait and no progress possible Ranjit turns the car off the road and to a track leading to the village on the side, with high hopes of bypassing the

Surprised in find missing the villages of Yore: no mud house, replaced with brick ones, cars parked in the courtyards where once the pride of place was generally occupied by the two wheeled carts, the water logged lanes with paved ones, in much better state than the N H we had just left behind and the ubiquitous DTH dishes adoring the rooftops of every house..

We hit into a marriage party: with the local beauties decked in the latest fashion, thanks to the access ads on TV and wonder of wonder even a mobile repair shop, possibly doing good business, with a mobile in each hand.

Prosperity has come to the villages in a big way following progress.

We did manage to by pass the traffic jam by a circuitous but good track. and after an hour's drive hit the Chaos of Dehradun Thanks once again to progress and prosperity.

Sunday, March 23, 2014



VERY TIME THERE IS AN ADVERTISEMENT for   Body Odour or Perfume cylinders with or without gas, targeted at the minds of the impressionable youth, creating a delusion of their potent effect on the female of the specie, on the TV screen and these are many  and frequent, I am reminded of the dreary room in the VIP ward of the RR Army Hospital.

 I had been running a low temperature, especially in the evenings, progressively loosing energy and becoming weak in addition my gate was getting prone to loosing balance and     falling down.

The Specialists  of the local Kailash Hospital despite advising   tests after tests, all   giving   negative results,  had not been able to provide any succour, Even a desperate visit to the local Homeopath did not help.

As a last resort I thought it better to get admitted in R R Army Hospital, where they could   conduct research on me, diagnose and hopefully treat me back to health...

 With the ECH cover now provided to the retired personnel of the Services getting referred, to RR is a bit tricky.  However, I did manage and landed in the Neurology Department OPD.  After a long wait, with the department chockfull of patients, my number flashed and I was wheeled in the consulting room by my son, Ranjit, where a young Lt Col recorded my case history in detail. I was also made to walk in a straight line and do some twists and turns, a few question were thrown at a me regarding my various faculties,

After a short consultation among the Head of Department and the junior doctors it was decided that I was a fit case to be admitted:   for research leading to the advancement of medical science. And that is how   I landed in the dreary room with two of the three beds already occupied.

Apart from the routine   blood and urine tests   soon started  the daily trips  to the more exotic X rays, ECGs, EEGs  and  MRIs  and other   labs with State of Art equipment, recently acquired requiring testing  and practice  on the recently acquired patient.

 I was subjected to electronic pin pricks, on my legs,  calves, on my forehead ,temples and many more places, by transducers  connected to shiny boxes with knobs, dials , flashing lights and flat panel displays, adding their own electronic hum and crackles, coupled  my sighs and ouches  uttered at each prick,   to the  hum of the Split AC.

It was every day a new lab, every day a new box, some so recently acquired that the test was conducted by the supplier’s engineer, and a new instrument of torture for me.

What these test revealed or did not, was the result   negative or positive I was never made privy to: a National secret or an RR secret, except the usual assurances by the doctor on his daily morning rounds.

  Coming back to the room, and the main story, with thee beds occupied by  so called VIP patients in  various stages of disrepair, all in a state of flux moving in and out of the room to and back from laboratories, Operating theatre, ICU  or getting discharge as the case may be.

 “We are near the diagnosis,” was the usual refrain; with me eagerly awaiting the Final Diagnosis. That did come on one morning...

“You have Tubercular meningitis”

T B was a dreaded word, remembered from child hood, as dreaded then as Cancer is now.

I took the announcement bravely and with out betting an eyelid  

“What Next “I asked

“Now we treat you”

“How did you come to this conclusion? ’

“We did a Lumber Puncher”

So started the long and slow treatment, a number of capsules taken couple  of times a day, I remained in the hospital for a few days more   till the  fever was brought under control.

On discharge, my son drove me to our flat in Greater Noida, where there was no help waiting   to look after and  provide support , this onerous duty falling in the willing hands of Ramjet ,  by default, but that is another story to be told some other  time.

 The treatment which could be effective, partly effective or totally ineffective, this I was told much later on one of the review visit to the Hospital., by then I had progressed well on the path to recovery  and possibly considered in   a fit mental state   to  be apprised of the severity of my affliction and possible consequences.

Reverting to the main thread of the story, when in room,   I become a silent spectator to the comings and goings around me. Visitors arriving with broad grins,   move straight to their near and dear ones ignoring the others like me. The wives, soon on arrival getting busy with setting house from the various carry bags, brought along, moving items from one bag to other from the bag to the cupboard top and back in the bag, a frantic activity to keep the mind busy and occupied.

Friends narrating   stores from old times, while in service and sharing their own ailments and nicks, hoping to cheer up the disinterested patient albeit making him tired, who has to,  Wily Nelly,   suffer  them, with a wane smile in addition to his own predicaments of the moment.

  The bed next to me is occupied by one not only with medical problems but also   burdened with other more pressing issues. His diatribes, soliloquies and angry mumblings have the poor wife a suffering and silent listener.

 The two daughters, one of them unmarried, hover around.   The   son -in- law, not part of the inner circle, with a deadpan expression, a bit distraught, a bit fore lone,  there but not there,   stands slightly away..

 The junior sisters who tend and look after us watch us with compassion and curiosity. The senior sister, a Lt Col, a bit of a battle axe, is there to keep every one, the staff and the patients included, under   control and check with her sharp tongue.

There is also a young ward boy, meticulous in his grooming, shrouded in an envelope of liberally doused with one of the sprays being advertised on the TV.   Not too welcome but always hovering around and over zealous to tend to the patient behind the cloth screen, in the process creating additional tension in the mother, and the married daughter.

He, smitten with the young daughter is under the illusion,  thanks to the  suggestive power  of TV advertisements, convinced of the power  of the  perfume cloud  enveloping him,  that he has made a mark  on  her and has some thing going for him: possibly a small smile,  a long eye contact   had   acted as a  the trigger, or may be there was   really more   than some thing gong between them .

One day he looses his object of desire, the daily visits come to a stop as the father is discharged to home.

What happened to his short lived romance, remained one sided or was responded? Did he stalk her or set up a vigil at her house on his off days? I wonder.

 The social gap, between the two, that was too large to bridge or did it get bridged?

Who is to be blamed : the barrage of  suggestive advertisements on the TV  showing  a gaggle of lissom ladies in various stages of undress, getting  willingly entrapped in the cloud of the perfume spray or the gullible  youth  of  today getting misguide and  away from the reality of life..

 But that  the real  charm of youth : experimenting,  without fear of the outcome   and consequences,  having  immense faith and confidence in self,  ever  willing to experiment, taste  and enjoy. Hang the consequences. Live life,   Live for Now.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014


Braving the bright evening sun of early March, I am deep in the U Tube story “The Beast with a Million Eyes” carried in the current issue of TIME, when I am distracted by the piercing sound of an electric horn.

 A bit annoyed, I look down from the balcony  trying to identify the culprit, where I notice  a couple : husband and wife, lap top across shoulders, a working couple, back from work, alighting from the Motorcycle, who have distracted me.

 I also see a toddler, waddling towards them as fast as he can on his baby short legs, whom I had earlier seen playing, in the lawn below, under the watchful eyes of an elderly lady, possibly the grand mother.

 The beep of the horn was the signalling   the child that the parents were back home.

 The excited mother, possibly also under  the burden of guilt, with open arms, steps forward towards the child, who totally ignores her  and  continues  moving towards the father, standing net to the bike, in the process  he stumbles and   falls.

 Lifted from the ground by the father and made to stand once again, strangely the child ignores even him and has eyes only for the bike, in the mean time the disappointed mother, hiding her hurt feelings, retraces her steps and joins them.

 The father picks up the child and places him on the fuel tank, the mother, once again, is back on her perch on the small seat, the father kick starts the engine while the child gropes for the horn button and gleefully gives a long beep and the trio take off.

 I keep hearing the frequent tweets of the horn till they disappear round the corner.

 I am saddened, to release how times have changed:   a child prefers a horn button to the embrace and cuddle from the mother and father in that order.  In a contemplating mood, I return my attention back the Beast with the Million Eyes, staring at me in the TIME Magazine


  We had an invite from Girgila, who lives in Janalk Puri for lunch.

 Prudence demanded that, even   though  among the five of us, Bajajs, Hari Aggarwals, only Bajajs had  earlier experience of travelling by Metro, we  decided  to take the Metro, rather drive down all the way to Jank Puri  to avoid the  heavy traffic on the road,

 Girgala, excited about our visit, has been on phone many times passing instructions on how to reach his place.

 Deciding against taking a cycle rickshaw to the Sector 18 Metro station, only a short distance away, we decided to walk it.

 Atta market, that we had to traverse, remembered from past, always in chaos, has overtime become worse. Traffic of all genre and type, bus, car, push cart rickshaw, cycle plying on road, haphazard road side parking, traffic converging  from all directions,  foot path taken over by vendors and their customers, soon the short walk became a nightmare for our wobbly legs.

With the staircase looking too daunting to take, choosing the lift up   to the station, we landed in altogether a different word: swanky, clean, and managed it was:   a virtual haven   from the real hell below.

 I was still lost as what to do and where to turn. Mrs Bajag had in the mean time rushed to the ticket window, collected the magic, black discs, the tokens to allow us entry to the platform. Each of us got one with instruction, at our own peril, to keep it safe as   the disc had to be dropped in the slot of the barrier at the destination to allow one to exit.

 On   to the platform I was left wondering and amazed at the organized chaos, the cleanliness,  the digital scrolling displays, the announcements in a soothing voice, unlike the squeaky, irritating and incomprehensible announcements on suffered at Railway Stations.

 The Dawrka Metro whooshed in, dot on the time on display and came to a stop, the doors open automatically and we are swept in along with other passengers.

The past veterans   of the Metro quickly find vacant seats, leaving the first time novices like me standing.

 In side the compartment there is crowed but no chaos, commuters, those who could not find a seat, stand holding to the over head handholds all the time looking around for the seat likely to get vacated at the next stop, those sitting appear lost in their own thoughts, some playing with the smart phones other on the mobile involved in some animated conversation. The over keen continue hanging next to the door despite the aural warnings against the risky practice.

Surprisingly the young do vacate the seats for the elderly and I soon become the benedictory of the courtesy.

 I keep watching the goings on in the compartment, at each stop a few   commuters get down and another lot gets in, however at Rajive Choak, the exchange station, it is a different story: a mass exodus replaced by an equally large contingent to and from other lines.

 We anxiously keep watching the display, accompanied by the audio announcement   indicating the next stop till we see Uttam Nagar East on the scrolling display and star gathering near the exit

 A pleasant surprise awaits us in that Girgila is there, to receive and welcome us,   standing right opposite our compartment.

He shepards  us down below  and we are in  back  once again  in Bharat and the accompanied  chaos: buses, both of ancient vintage   and the newer, low floor ones, cars, rickshaw, road side vendors, with their push carts, all vying for the limited space on the track of the road: we are truly back in Bharat.

 On way to Girgila’s place we have to struggle against the surge of humanity from opposite direction, consisting mainly of the young; the youth in a hurry.

 I am surprised to note that it is youth everywhere on the road and more so in the Metro that we have just left.

  As I walk through the swarm of the young, some with backpacks, others with buds in the ear or laptops on the shoulder and mobile in hands, seeing them in such numbers gives me a feeling of high: the young generation, our future also it is a bit frightening with a daunting thought at the back of the mind as to what is going on in their young minds, what are their aspirations, hopes and value system and more impotently what are the opportunities and openings available to them. I do wonder as to how this source of energy is gong to be harnessed.

 We struggle forward , short of confidence, guided by Girgla,  on our  wobbly legs,  with our heart in mouth  some how mange to cross the road, with fast flowing traffic, and reach Girgila’s place for a warm welcome by Kamal, a resident of Arizona whom I meet more often on the Facebook than in person and others.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

  108    THE TRAP IS     SPRUNG
   Headquarter Seven Brigade               Valley of River Namkachu
   20 October 1962

T WAS 5 O' CLOCK IN THE MORNING; the mountains and the valley were all asleep.  The  gurgling small waterfall, opposite the HQ,  was  quietly adding its music to the prevailing tranquil environment,  It was quiet in the Brigade HQ at Rongla, 10500 feet above sea level, in the narrow valley of river Namkachu lying  sandwiched between the Thagla feature, infested by the Chinese and Tsangdhar occupied by own troops.

I was sleeping in my one-man arctic-tent, fully clothed, as was my practice. Suddenly a mortar bomb landed in the HQ with a big bang, rudely awakening the sleeping valley and shattering the prevailing fragile pace, the make believe war  over and so were the pious hopes of all and sundry, all the way, right up to Delhi. The Chinese meant business.  It took me a few moments to locate my snow-boots and put them on and get going

My first and immediate reaction was to get the Brigade Command Radio Net switched on.  On checking the lines to the battalions were found to be out. The Chinese had done the trick and cut the lines just before commencing the shelling.

It was amazing to see the raw signalmen, some of who had joined the section only a few days back straight from the training centre, on job without fear or tension visible on their faces.  Maybe it was the team spirit; perhaps it was confidence in their superiors or sheer ignorance of the danger being faced.  No one left the radio sets or the Signal Centre even though mortar bombs were exploding over the Brigade HQ fairly rapidly.

2 Rajput who had faced the brunt of the initial Chinese attack came on air for about 15 minutes to inform that they were under attack; soon there was this ominous silence. What had transpired, as we learnt later, was that the battalion’s Signal bunker was demolished by enemy fire, killing all including the operators of my section manning the link from brigade to battalion.
We had also got through to 1/9 GR and Divisional Tactical HQ immediately. As mentioned the Chinese had cut the telephone lines from Brigade HQ to the battalions.  However, the portion of the lines from Div TAC HQ passing through 9 Punjab and 4 Grenadiers was still intact; both had tapped this line, clandestinely to eavesdrop on the conversations between Division and Brigade.  This   act, though unauthorised, kept us informed as to what was happening in their locality through   Headquarter.

Lt Col Tewari, my commanding officer, on a short visit, who had spent the night with the Gurkhas had by now come to the Signals bunker and was on the set, with me sitting on the control at Brigade HQ. 1/9 GR remained on the air till about 8 O’ Clock and then went off.

 According to Col Tewari, who was taken prisoner by the Chinese, on his return, the Chinese converging on to the bunker and firing had hit both the operators; one of the operators was riddled by bullets and must have died immediately the other was also hit though partially protected by the radio set.

First time in action for me it was all so unreal - like a bad dream which would hopefully go away.  To the Commander and his experienced staff it was real.

I can still recall Brig Dalvi’s ashen face, seeing his command disintegrating right in front of eyes, his helplessness to do any thing, his frustration on what had been happening since 8th September the date  when the Chinese had confronted our forward post Dhola.  It makes me sad even now as I can only now understand as to what must have been going on through his mind at that time and his impotence to influence the events.

Casualties had by now started to trickle to Brigade HQ.  The first officer to land in Brigade HQ was Lt. Ravi Eipe of 2 Rajput, who staggered with a few of his Jawans, worse for wear and rather incoherent, but made the gravity of the situation more obvious to the Commander and all of us.  Next to fetch up was Major Pawar of 1/9 GR Company Commander of the forward company on the left of the Brigade HQ. He walked in a dazed condition with his revolver pointing straight ahead and informed the Commander that the Chinese were just 200 yards away and following.

The Brigade having lost both command and control could do little to influence the battle.  We could only cluster together and look around and up, the question of bed tea and breakfast never arose that day and for the next few days to follow.

With the deteriorating tactical situation we were told to organise our-selves in 10 minutes flat and get out, the next destination being the earlier location of Tsangdhar to where Brigadier Dalvi having taken permission from the GOC planned to withdraw and hoped to re-establish his command: at least two of our battalions 9 Punjab and 4 Grenadiers still appeared to be intact.

In the short time available we started getting organised at a fast pace for the move. I asked Manikam to arrange for some sugar and tea leaves for the move to Tsangdhar, but according to him all the stock had already finished by the previous evening, so much for Administration in War. There were no porters and the equipment had been distributed on various personnel of the section to carry on non existing tracks. 
With this limited equipment and the approximately 40 Signals personnel with me at this time I hoped to provide hard scale communications to the Brigade HQ at Tsangdhar.

For the first time I was going to have excess of manpower than required. Hard scale as a slogan coined by Gen Kaul had by now become famous.

My last look at the till now Brigade HQ location that we were abandoning was that of a solitary goat tied to a tree scared to death and   bleating loudly due to the deafening sounds of the ongoing bombardment. It had travelled all the way from Gauhati by air, parachuted at Tsangdhar, brought down to Rongla possibly on some one’s shoulders as meat on hoof for the troops. The poor goat was now being left behind by us to welcome the Chinese.
I do not recall my feelings at that time or what was going through my mind.  It is a total blank. A thought did pass through my mind at that time, It may sound funny or improbable to some but it is factual otherwise I would not have remembered it even after so long. With mortar bombs falling all around, a couple of casualties already in the Headquarter location with the prevailing confusion and chaos and the attacking Chinese possibly very near with death or worse a serious injury happening any time being very much on cards, I did think of approaching   God. Though God fearing, I did not pray, nor do I now: immediately after the first a second thought came fleeting in, about the book of records up there of my deeds and miss-deeds, if any was being maintained, a prayer at that time would be the only entry and may be considered as a selfish action by an opportunist; an adverse entry on my report card. I quickly discarded the idea; in any case there was no time even for a silent prayer.

 Possibly my unsaid prayer did some how reach God otherwise I would have still remained ‘Missing in Action’ as I was soon to be declared by AG’s Branch at Army HQ.


....Signals officer had a role to play, others apart from the mess staff providing unending supply of mugs of coffee and tea were just hanging around, trying to look involved and useful not unlike friends and relations holding vigil outside the Operating Theatre with some
near and dear one on the surgeon’s table inside.

Willy-nilly the Brigade HQ swung into action Maj Pereira took charge of the situation. Commander was located in the guest room of the Mahar Regiment at the Tezpur airfield next door to the air field from where his IAC plane was to take off early next morning carrying
him thousands of miles away to Meerut in North India.

The plane did takeoff the next morning. However, his seat was empty. He took another seat but in a helicopter back to Tawang.

And soon with a knee-jerk reaction, the Brigade tasked and well entrenched for the protection of Tawang was ordered to exit and move to relieve the post and drive the Chinese out of the Indian Territory.

The cleverly baited Trap, laid on 8th of September, was, to be sprung shut, with frightening consequences, on the 20th of October

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

  From my new   e book  Book  Tears Smiles and Heart breaks 
 ( from


IT WAS THE PROVERBIAL ‘LULL BEFORE THE STORM’ that day of September the 8th, a Saturday, a weekend, the legacy left by the British. In bracing cold Tawang at 10000 feet plus was basking in bright sunshine. A clear day with the greens of the meadows, the  deep blues of the sky, the silver of the river Tawang Chu flowing deep in the valley, the browns and reds ofhouses of the Tawang village, the
majesty of the Tawang Monastery visible not far away was over powering.
It was not too cold, not too hot but just pleasan
Tawang that day was a tourist’s delight. However, there were no tourists to Tawang those days, except the occasional VIP brass, those who choppered to
stay for lunch, give sermons, and talk in platitudes and fly back again to civilisation in plains of Tezpur, Lucknow or Delhi.

In any case it was too quiet and peaceful to resemble a noisy and bustling tourists resort with the Brigade HQ equally quiet. There was no officer present in the HQ except Lt Sharma, the Brigade Ordnance Officer, the duty-officer of the day; all others had gone off to attend a Bara Khana in one of the battalions.

It was my practice to go for an evening walk in the afternoon. I was reluctant to go out on this day as there was no one in the Brigade HQ. However, Lt Sharma insisted even though he was the duty officer. We had been lulled to the extent that even the duty officer was
willing to leave his post with firm faith that nothing could happen, especially in our Brigade Sector. We left via the Signal Centre as was my practice. It was all quiet there, nothing on the air or line: some how too peaceful for my liking. We may have been away at the most for an hour. However, as we approached the HQ, I could feel a tension in the air resulting in quickening of our pace. The scene had completely changed. It was
getting dark and gloomy and there was unease in the atmosphere.

Some thing was wrong, very wrong.

Wondering as to what had happened to bring about the sudden and drastic change, both of us gingerly trooped in to the Brigade Major Kharbanda ‘s room, apprehensive and expecting a rocket for our absence from the HQ, where in every one seemed to have

 No one took notice of our entry. It transpired that ‘Bingo’ the Assam Rifles post had been surrounded by more than 600 Chinese earlier in the day.

Kharbanda a bit worse for wear, thanks to some extra beer, incoherent with his eyes- bleary, red and watering but a soldier to core - he was all decked up in full battle gear with his large-pack ready for move, as we could see was, and all set to relieve the post single-handed.

All of us were more worried about him, desperately trying to hold him back, than the Chinese or Bingo.

The scene would have definitely appeared a bit comical to an outsider, ideal for a sequence in the war movies being produced in Bombay.

Suddenly Hindi Chini ‘bhai bhai’ became Hindi Chini ‘bye bye’
Kharbanda’s small room, the telephone ringing continuously with incoming and out going calls to Tezpur where all of us of the Brigade HQ had gathered resembled an ad hoc Operational Room.

With so many of us crowding around the air had become charged with combined energy of diverse emotions: excitement, apprehension, uncertainty and even fear of the unknown, all adding to the whole in various proportions depending on the attitude of the particular

With the BM being out of action, Major Pereira the DQ, the only
possible link with the Commander at Tezpur and possibly me the  Signal Officer….

  To  be continued