So an officer who was due for promotion would certainly go out of the way to please the reporting officer and tried to get good report. At this juncture I came to serve under an unknown officer. But I came fully loaded with knowledge and experience of service in Training Battalion and college of military engineering. I had no doubt that I was far superior to all those officers in the Regiment at that time. So without any due caution I took charge as company commander and started my activities. In every field like Sports, Training, Entertainment, Welfare and Family care, I had set new dimension which was not heard in the past.
There was intercompany football championship. I was playing centre forward for my company. The first match was with last year champions. Everyone thought the champions would certainly take lead. I was in midfield terrorising the opponents and driving my team. We scored the first goal and people thought it was a fluke. We scored the second goal and people started looking up. Third, fourth, fifth, the crowd was wonder struck. Finally my team won 8-0 and sent a strong message and my presence to the entire Regiment.
There was a bridging camp in the Regiment. The regiment was to move to Doraha a place near Ludhiana where Sirhind canal coming from Bhakranangal dam crosses National highway and camp there for three months. All ranks would practice various types of bridging activities and return. The CO would go through the camps and helped the subunit commanders to improve their performance.
The subunits were preparing for the camp and loading their stores. Since the bridging stores were to be collected at the site only the subunits were loading their administrative stores only and hence no great supervision was required. But I wanted that even a routine work if it was to be done by me it had to be different and conveyed new meaning to others. So I gave direction about what all to be carried.
Next day the Regiment moved to the camp site along the banks of Sirhind Canal and unloaded their stores and at the time took charge of Bridging stores as allotted to each subunit. The day -1 of the camp started. Generally the first day there would be puja and safety instructions and lay out of Bridging stores so that D-2 would be active training.
Followed by this we started our training. The CO came around and saw my Training. He immediately directed all officers to assemble at my site. Within few minutes all officers came and stood little away. The CO went and asked other officers, whether they were all not proud of their sub unit? Where was your subunit flag? He hoped that they had not come there for picnic. He asked to look at my site flying company flag as high as our morale. He didn't have to say any more. All of us then broke off.
The CO left. Other officers had no option but to run back 100Km to old location and brought their flag. I returned for lunch and shared a glass of beer with others. But they bullied me for doing things different than usual.
Preparation for war was a continuous process. Every unit big or small practiced their roll continuously and the ultimate real war would also be like an exercise. In this way even Army commands conducted exercise. It would be very big roughly 50,000-60,000 troops taking part. Such exercise would require elaborate arrangements including demarcation of international border etc. When such exercise was ordered quite a few units would be taken off as opposing forces and would be used for making arrangements for the imaginary war.
During my tenure there was one such great exercise conducted by western command. In that my sub unit was taken off from the opposing forces and was asked to prepare an imaginary international border between two forces Red and Blue. The works involved making a track for about 5 Km; constructing 3-4 bridges including a very big 300mtr bridge across River Beas. Even though the water would be flowing 80-100 m wide in the sandy bed which stretched to 300m.The enemy forces that were controlling the Headwork on upstream side would flood the river if required.
Taking all these into consideration I moved my subunit 2 months before start of the mock war! to the imaginary border. All Engineering machineries and all Bridging equipment were dumped at my disposal. A great work was executed as I had first-hand war experience in 1965 and 1971. The road work was named as National Highway no.56 and all posters as it appeared in any highway were placed. The bridges were named in honour of the troops constructed as "Charlie Crossing"(C Platoon)" Bravo Bridge" (B Platoon) etc. The River Beas bridge was named "Falana Dimkhana" Bridge as almost all engineering bridging equipment were used there. In the entire stretch a number of boards were kept, "Balvinders Boys were there. Bash on Regardless.'"(The CO name was Balwinder singh.)
The war started. Troops were moving up and down. Every time we entered the new road we would communicate as "we were now entering National Highway 56". We were now at "Falana Dimkhana Bridge" etc.
The Army Commander Lt. Gen K.S. Krishna Rao came around and stood at the Beas Bridge site. He called the Chief Engineer and asked him who constructed the Bridge. I was introduced to Gen Rao. The General asked me what the meaning of this name was. I replied as this Bridge could not be named in any way, it was named as something like this Sir. Gen laughed and ordered all officers (about 600) to cross the bridge while coming for summing up. He specially appreciated my work and congratulated in open.
Command, some take it to please others and got elevated and of course retired one day. When such opportunity mongers retire they were just kept on the road side, while the first said officers were held in high esteem by not only men in or out of uniform but also by public in general.
I was going around the working site accompanied by my subedar. A jawan came in attention and saluted me. I smiled and paid back the salute and proceeded. The Subedar said that the jawan went on 2 months annual leave but returned within 3-4 days. I looked at the Subedar with a question mark why? The subedar explained that the jawans hail from poor families and at home they don't even get full three meals and hence returning like that was not uncommon. I did not accept that and ordered to bring the jawan for an interview.
During the interview, the jawan hesitatingly told that there was some problem at home. I explained that the Officership did not end with unit only but extended beyond that and hence I would help the jawan if it was explained all in detail. The jawan told that there were some altercations at home with his neighbour and that the neighbour being an Andra Police locked up jawan's brother and jawan came back running for safety. I smiled and looked at the subedar. This was what generally would happen. If he had kept quiet on Subedar's explanation the Jawan's morale would be at my feet and that would indirectly affect his performance.
I consoled the jawan and immediately ordered a fact finding team including the jawan. The team went to jawan's village and got all details including name and address of collector and superintend of police of that area, without interfering in the problem. The team returned within few days. What the jawan said earlier was true and his brother was still in the lockup.
I drafted a strong and highly sentimental letter explaining the role of Army and the help they would require from civil servants in protecting the safety, honour and integrity of this Nation. He humbly requested the collector to interfere and help. The letter was posted and the jawan continued his work. After about a month, a reply came from the collector that the Jawans problem had been solved.
I ordered the same team including the jawan to go to the village and check-up the case. When they reached the village hundreds of public came and gave a roaring reception to the jawan and took him in a procession to his house.
The collector had gone to their village, suspended the Andra Police neighbour ordered restoration of water problems to the jawans land and corrected the revenue records.
It did not happen every time. But an officer who did not act based on the report placed on his table but found out himself would certainly be appreciated. I sent the Jawan for 2 months leave fresh and forgot about it. Years rolled.
I was posted out and was at Bangalore. The Regiment was located at Allahabad and they were celebrating 25th year of their raising. I was invited and attended all functions. One evening I was in a civil dress walking casually in the unit. An NCO saluted me. I smiled and enquired about him. Even though 10-12 years passed after I left the unit, I wondered how the NCO remembered me.
I was surprised and requested him to explain. He said that he was the same jawan for whom I helped in restoring his land in Andrapradesh and he had kept my photo in his puja room and hence how he could forget him. I told him that I did the duty of an officer only and beyond that nothing was there.
I shook hand with the NCO and left.
It was almost 3 years after I came on posting and hence due for a transfer. At that time Tamilnadu Govt. issued a circular that all those who were allotted plots under Tamilnadu Housing board scheme should build the house within 3 years failing which the allotment would be cancelled. I was having a plot at Annanagar but not built the house. I was afraid that the allotment might be cancelled in the event of non-construction. So I wrote a confidential letter to AHQ explaining the situations in Chennai, requested whether I could be posted to Chennai. The commandant of CME was at AHQ at that time. So he immediately posted me to Chennai as DCWE under CWE Chennai.
At the same time 4 ER was ordered to move to Arunachalpradesh as 5 Mountain Div. Engineers. The advance party to 5 Mtn. Div. was to move shortly. Without any consideration CO 4 ER appointed me as advance party commander and ordered me to move to Arunachalpradesh. I was with wife and children, so I asked for 10 days leave to dispose the family. But due to urgency this was denied and the family left for Chennai with an escort and I left for Arunachalpradesh as the advance party commander.
5 Mtn. Div. was guarding the Chinese border at high altitude and lot of defence works were going on. Many places were not covered by road and one had to walk 2-3 days to reach the camp. I enjoyed this role and as I was physically very fit kept on moving from one point to other continuously. The outgoing Engineer Regiment was very happy so also the GOC of 5 Mtn. Div. The main body of 4 ER came after three months. Meantime AHQ asked explanation of CO 4 ER as how an officer under orders of posting was sent as advance party commander. I came forward and gave explanation as I was associated with the Regiment for a long time I volunteered to go as advance party commander. This had impressed the CO very much.
After the Regiment settled the CO relieved me to go on posting to Chennai. Before leaving he invited me for a special and personal dinner. At that time he said that within a year he was likely to be posted out and in his opinion I would be most likely to take over on promotion. If that happens, I should put my first signature with this pen, telling this he presented a pen to me. I thanked everyone and left Arunachalpradesh.
I was third senior officer at that time in the Regiment. Whoever was approved for promotion would claim to be CO 4 E R. No one could say what would happen then
In Army Services, life up to the rank of Major is on a time scale factor (now up to Colonel). The first selection is for Lt. Col. and it comes after about 20 years of service. The worst part of it is that it has to be simply based on confidential reports. The confidential report depends simply on the discrimination of the Reporting Officer.
I assembled my troops and first we hoisted our company flag followed by puja on the banks of Sirhind canal. I explained to my team that "Flag" represents the honour of the unit and all ranks should take care that it was respected.
People are not different but their thinking and actions are only different
The NCO replied that "an officer" comes across thousands of jawans and hence he may not remember all. But a Jawan comes across God like Officers very rarely and that's how one cannot forget that God.
Going as advance party commander was certainly an honour as I would represent the Regiment in the new location and would display the image of my Regiment.