Happy Birthday, Small Brother

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1962 .. God gifted the cutest baby to the Sengupta family, a baby brother to 4 siblings … he was the most loved by one and all.

1972 .. in Military School boarding and the entire family missed the adorable little brother. His friends could not get enough of him, it seems.

1982 .. An Indian Army Officer, that made his family extremely proud. Commissioned into infantry and his men swore by him.

1992 .. married to his sweetheart from TOI matrimonials & a proud father. Doted on his family.

2002 .. A glorious service in the Army culminating in command of his battalion, fulfilling his duties & responsibilities towards his Nation, his regiment and his unit … He was honoured with ‘Vishist Seva Medal’ for his duties towards his country. He won accolades, medals, laurels and most importantly the hearts of thousands of his men he commanded – his ‘jawans’ brothers-in-arms …

2012 .. a guide and inspiration to thousands of YOUth of our Country. For him ‘Country First’ was his DNA .. He is a proud Indian, a doting father, a loving and caring husband, an adorable brother, a genuine friend and most importantly a good human being. Colonel Prabir Sengupta, VSM … 2017 – wishing you a very happy birthday .. a world of happiness and may you continue to blaze a trail of glory.

This note was penned by my sister on January 2017. Touched and obliged. Mission 600 million.

 

 

 

 

Live a LYF

Karmanye Vadhikaraste, Ma Phaleshou Kada Chana ! Ma Karma Phala Hetur Bhurmatey Sangostva Akarmani !!

Srimad Bhagvad Gita, Chapter 2, Verse 47

Nobel Prize winning author and iconic realist Ernest Hemingway defines courage in his memorable Spanish Civil War novel ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’ as ‘grace under pressure’. Had he added ‘untrammeled genius’ to this definition, he could well have been describing Capt JK ‘Chotu’ Sengupta. An amazing Cavalry officer-turned-entrepreneur-cum-social worker, Chotu (called ‘Jojo’ by family) became ‘profoundly blind’ in medical parlance after a Cobra Missile hit his Centurion tank turret during Sep 1965 Indo-Pak War. Though 100 percent blind; that blindness was a career turnaround for Jojo because he used it with grit to light up the countless lives he touched; all with Hemingway’s understanding of courage as ‘grace under pressure’. Respecting courage in all forms – across uniforms and gender.

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Capt Jayanta ‘Jojo’ Kumar Sengupta aka Jojo

What can You Say?

The unforgettable opening lines of Erich Segal’s Love Story come rushing in when Chotu Sengupta is remembered. What can you say about a brave, outstanding Cavalry officer who died at 70? That at 22, he was blinded by exploding binocular glass splinters caused by a missile hit during the 1965 Indo-Pak War. That he was a topper in all he did. That he was handsome, personable, perceptive, blessed with a family that doted on him. That he made blindness seem like a weapon which could be used for societal good. That he proved that when fate closes doors, the human spirit opens windows for achieving world class excellence in any work one chooses to do. That he loved life, helped children of lesser God cope with the travails of life with confidence, panache, that he also loved Rabindra Sangeet, reading, educating, sharing, fine dining, dressing with sartorial elegance. That the only battle he ever lost was surrendering with half smile to insidious lung cancer. May be there is no need to say more, instead, simply salute his memory at a time when the 50th anniversary of the war that him is being commemorated.

Early Genius

On Honour Boards and in the Army LIst, Jojo was called Jayanta Kumar Sengupta. Names don’t matter really as long as we get the point: ‘Honour’ figured prominently in his life because this officer and gentleman was special.

Born on 17 October 1942, Chotu was the second son of Amar Prasad, a corporate executive and Namita Sengupta. He left Huddard High School after making it to the Rashtriya Indian Military College (RIMC), Dehra Dun, where his genius blossomed. He was adjudged ‘Best Cadet’ and also stood 1st in the All-India UPSC order of merit for National Defence Academy (NDA). He won the Gold Medal for the 22nd course at NDA and again the Gold Medal at IMA, passing out tops with the 31st course.

Commissioned into India’s oldest Cavalry Regiment, The 16th Cavalry, in December 1962, Chotu was awarded the Silver Centurion trophy for the best Young Officer (YO) at Ahmadnagar. When the 1965 Indo-Pak War started, he was attending a Gunnery course at ‘Nagar. Soon enough, attendees were rushed off to war but his peers knew he’d have topped except that destiny had a higher form of life and living in store.

A Cobra Missile Hit: A Hard Knock by Destiny

US based veteran Lt Col Kartar Singh Sidhu-Brar, Chotu’s wartime CO, recalls that Chotu rejoined the Regiment past mid-September; family recall placing his arrival as 17 September. The Colonel recalls that Chotu ‘had a very special place in our hearts and those who knew him’. He recalls Chotu cheerfully roughing it out in the haystacks of village Arjanpur (near Amritsar) where the Regiment was deployed there during Op Ablaze. Pakistan launched Op Grand Slam in Chhamb and the Regiment was moved for the Sialkot Sector – a new area.

The Regiment entered Pakistan at 0630 hours 08 September opposite Ramgarh, Samba, as the right leading Regiment of 1 Armoured Brigade with The Poona Horse on its left. First contact was established with Pakistani armour within hours with mixed results on display. The official record of the MoD published in 2011 shows the Regiment as having shot 14 Pakistani tanks and 4 RCL jeeps but suffering losses too along with two officers who died; one of whom, Maj MAR Sheikh, was posthumously awarded the VrC and the other, 2/Lt Vinay Kaistha (another Silver Centurion) a M-in-D.

On arrival on 17 September, Chotu was appointed troop leader in B Squadron under Maj ‘Morris’ Ravindran. The squadron was then located near Bhure Shah located 2 km northwest of Alhar RS on the Sialkot-Chawinda BG railway line. Pakistani 22 Cav (Pattons) was tasked to hold the ‘Black Line’ – the railway line from Gunna Khurd to Bhure Shah. It was Wajahat Task Force, an adhoc jeep-mounted Cobra Missile set up deployed alongside.

On 21 September morning, Chotu had taken a well concealed position in a sugarcane field with his tank. He was standing on his commander seat, looking out of his cupola for enemy tanks by using his high-magnification periscope (some reports suggest he was conducting Artillery Shoot) when his tank sustained a Cobra Missile hit on the turret fired from Bhure Shah. The metal splinters smashed the periscope’s lens, the glass shards penetrating his eyes, blinding him and ripping up his face, fracturing his jaw and left arm. Capt (later Col) ‘Wendy’ Dewan was close by when Chotu was hit. Blood streaming from eyes and face. Wendy remembers that Braveheart Chotu was calmness personified; ‘I can’t see but “I’m fine”. How are the boys and the tank?’ The tank being serviceable, Chatu was placed on blankets on the tank deck and brought to headquarters as Gen Rajinder Singh ‘Sparrow’ MVC**, GOC 1 Armoured Division landed. He straightaway ordered his helicopter pilot to fly Chotu to the Udhampur MH.

All else Failed but for Chotu’s Spirit

Shifted to Army Base Hospital in Delhi, Chotu was visited by PM Lal Bahadur Shastri who found him cheerful and optimistic despite his bandaged eyes. He was shifted to INS Ashwini and later to top-ranked Walter Reed Hospital in USA but his optic nerve was severed and that meant ‘100 percent blindness’. The Army sent him to London to St Dunstan’s – a world famous medical centre for war-wounded soldiers rehabilitation and mobility training. Chotu learnt Braille and typing there, powered by his remarkable optimis, humility, wit and sense of humour and his zest for life and live. In 1967, he was boarded out from the Army on medical ground with 100 percent disability.

For anyone else that would have been the end but this was no ordinary man. In a rare interview, Chotu avoided speaking about himself, always about others. He smilingly recalled that ‘there was no emotional setback following the mishap. Indeed, my family and the Army were strong sources of support’. He added that his St Dunstan’s stay where soldiers blinded in war are trained was a godsend for him. It was a new beginning and he made it count. ‘I met a lot of Britishers with similar disability. Seeing them go about their work inspired me a lot’. The standards he later set are in actual fact the stuff legends are made of.

A Genius Reborn

Focussing on winning the ‘Battle of Life’, this unassuming, genuine real-life hero attracted people like a magnet to his persona. Nothing deterred, Chotu took up a dealership with Tata Oil Mills. In 1972, he was allotted a LPG dealership in Siliguri and relocated there from Calcutta with infectious positivity.

In 1977, Chotu got married to Ms Rita Biswas, a teacher driven by passion and remarkable self-starting traits. The duo were like minded in visionary goals, compassionate and compelling and together that made magic.  Jojo is on record paying his wife a handsome, heart-felt tribute for the manner in which she brought greater focus, happiness and harmony in his life. Blessed with twin daughters, Sreemoyee and Sreerupa and younger son Bibek, the careers of the trio were on song well before their beloved father, friend and role-model moved on. The lost him on August 31, 2013 but are living out his dreams with rare nobility, success and character.

Jojo kept the Honour Board ticking. He did his BA from North Bengal University obtaining the expected ‘First-class-First’ rating, by now his DNA. He also routinely won the ‘Best Dealer’ Award from the Tata Oil Mills for a number of years. As an LPG dealer at Siliguri, his consumers remember with awe how he had memorized about 8,000 subscriber names, consumer numbers and addresses, compelling people to call up ‘Joy Da’ to verify their details instantaneously when seeking gas refills or terminations/ transfers of LPG connections.

Reaching Out to Help Disadvantaged Society

Having stabilized his family’s future, Chotu went through a transformation in 1990, taking up social work on a big scale. By 1998, he, Rita and friends had founded The Prerana Educational Centre. Flourishing today, it has 145 physically challenged students on its rolls. Earlier, in 1990, Chotu had also founded the North Bengal Council for the Disabled (NBCD) to run the centre. Apart from Prerana, he also reached towards the rural handicapped under the Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR) program. Since 1998, about 700 villages around Siliguri have been covered to help rural disabled cope. Chotu ensured that the CBR became a WHO certified initiative which today benefits 3,000 people.

The Children Follow Dad’s Lead

In 2003, Sreerupa got married to Maj Gopal Mitra, SM (Retd). By itself, this news should not be a reason for specific mention in a Braveheart tribute but for one compelling fact – Maj Mitra having been totally blinded in a terrorist encounter in Kupwara, Kashmir, in 2000.

Commissioned into 15 Mahar, this St Xavier’s Kolkata, Honours graduate suffered total visual impairment. He thereafter underwent extensive reconstructive surgery but his military career was over. Nothing daunted, this young gallantry award winner. He underwent several reorientation courses, ending up with is being the first ‘visually impaired’ student to top a Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai post graduate course. Mitra then pursued MSc in Development Management at London School of Economics (LSE) with outstanding grades. After several career advancements, he is now with UN Children’s Emergency Fund as Programme Specialist for Disability. Sreerupa completed her Masters from LSE, London and now works at the UN along with her husband Gopal. Her twin, Sreemoyee completed her Masters in Early Years Education from the famous Institute of Education, London and now teaches at Neev School, Bangalore.

Chotu’s son, Bibek, is a top-notch financial expert. Chotu’s sister-in-law, Nalini Sengupta, runs the famous Vidya Valley School, Pune, where Chotu was on the Founding Governing Board. Ms Rita carries on her shared legacy with Jojo and has ensured that the Institutions they started together remain vibrant and blooming.

The Never Say Die Spirit

Suffering for almost a year from lung cancer, Capt Sengupta passed away at Command Hospital Pune on 31 August 2013. He requested the astonished doctors for a shift to an ordinary Officers Ward to be more accessible to his family and friends. He faced death with the same calm and equanimity as he faced the Cobra Missile or his total blindness. There was respectful silence as their tribute for a Braveheart who, though small in size, had set sky-high standards of bravery in adversity and in conduct becoming an officer and a gentleman of impeccable class of the rarest kind.

What can you say for such a man who lived and died in a manner that one hopes future generations will take inspiration from? Nothing more than joining the author in respectful salutes for a man who though, ‘profoundly blind’ taught us to see life in all its vibrant colours; live a professional and socially responsible, cheerful, fulfilling, selfless life.

The tribute has been the work of a very fine Cavalry Officer:  Maj Gen Raj Mehta, AVSM, VSM (Retd), another fine soldier, whom I was fortunate to interact with during my service in the uniform.

WOSAF (WOmen SAFety)

Couple holding hands having sex inside a car

Better safe than sorry.

In recent occurrences of woman molestation by the driver(s) of taxi services. Certain facts came to fore. It is imperative that we share these among our friends. The onus of being safe is ours. How do I take precautions that such incidents are minimised.

One. Most of the time you are unsure of their police verification and hence their credentials. In some cases, their social background, their experiences in their families all lead up to such incidents. So be wary whenever you are in such paid taxi services. You don’t know what kind of day he has had – moreso, at unusual hours.

Two. Invariably, it was found that the child lock in the cab/ car/ van was activated. Now it is important to know how does it work.

Child safety locks are built into the rear doors, to prevent rear seat passengers from opening the doors during transit. They provide the driver with a simple, safe & secure method to prevent unauthorized exit from the car. Although called a child lock it is equally effective for adult passengers.

The lock is typically engaged via a small switch on the edge of the door that is only accessible when the door is open. Once the door is closed, control of the mechanical type child locks is completely inaccessible to the passenger. When the child lock is engaged, the interior handle is rendered useless. In this state the passenger simply cannot open the door and are effectively locked in. The door can only be opened by someone lifting the outside handle, either a second person or by the passenger opening the window and reaching the outside handle.

What should I do? The first thing before you board the cab/ taxi/ van is to check, whether the child lock switch is ON or OFF. You would like to slide it into OFF position prior to shutting the door. Better safe than sorry.

Three. The next thing to do onboarding (especially at odd hours) is to share the details of the cab to your destination OR fone-o-friend, in the language the driver understands, that is hindi. “Yes, Neha, I’ve just boarded the cab. The number is (you got an SMS) OR just read out from the windscreen; DL 02 …… Yup, I should reach by … “Bhaiyya, Malviya Nagar tak kitna time lagega?” by 1.30 am. He knows that someone is waiting at the destination for you. Should you not reach in time, alarm bells will be sounded. Better safe than sorry.

Be Aware . Be Alert . Be Safe .

Another Day, Another time

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November 18, 1962! Another Day, another time. The winters had set in. It was icy cold and the snow covered peaks sent down breeze that penetrates to your very bone. The night temperatures dropped to low single digits. It was icy cold on the peaks around Chushul. Our adversaries from China decided to unfold a devious plan. The wanted to annex the entire Leh/ Ladakh sector. The entered from Rezang La and they encountered 13 Kumaon led by a tiger Major Shaitan Singh (MSS). The battle was fought at an altitude of 18,000 feet in Ladakh.120 soldiers of the Indian Army pitched against 5,000 soldiers of the Chinese Army. The Chinese also had artillery support. The brave 120 soldiers were bereft of artillery support.

This is the story of unparalleled valour, raw courage and victory buried in the overall defeat in 1962. Even to this day, my heart fills with immense pride regaling the saga of the battle. Rezang La (a pass in the mountain range), Gurung Hill and Spanggur Gap. Charlie Company of 13 Kumaon was at Rezang La. MSS was a Rajput commanding an Ahir company. Around 4 in the morning the scouts alerted MSS about advancing troops through the gullies not in ones or twos but in hundreds, heading for the peak.

MSS told his men to remain alert but not to open fire until he gave the command. As the Chinese troops advanced, the light machine guns opened fire with menacing accuracy. The first wave retreated. But the Chinese were numerically far superior. Before dawn the second wave advanced. This too was beaten back. By now at least 100 Chinese troops lay dead or injured but even before the Indian soldiers could replenish their stocks and reload the machine guns, at Number 3 Platoon Post Chinese soldiers kept advancing wave after wave. MSS and his boys kept firing even though they were under constant barrage of artillery fire. There was no way of replenishing ammunition.

MSS had two options: a. Fight to the last man, last bullet or b. Abandon Post.

His soldiers were tired and bleeding. But their morale was high. They chose option A. Not a single soldier abandoned post. Not a single man fled the battle. But 120 men against 5,000? Isn’t that very heavily skewed? Yes, it was and yet each man fought till the last bullet.

Individual gallantry apart, there were innumerable stories during the battle. The wrestler who crushed two chinese soldiers head with his bare hands. Another flung himself on two Chinese soldiers as they were climbing the peak – and took them down along with him. MSS did not want to be captured. He was mortally wounded. He ordered his jawans to hide his body behind boulders. One of his buddies unslung his rifle, used the sling to tie MSS’s body to his and rolled down the hill, all this while MSS breathed his last. His body was hidden. Only six of the 120 soldiers survived.  Five were taken as Prisoners of War (POWs). One slipped back and narrated the story. MSS was awarded the Param Vir Chakra (Posthumously).

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Major Shaitan Singh, PVC

As the folklore goes, the Chinese stopped at Rezang La to count their dead and tend to the injured. They lost their will to move forward and retreated. The battlefield was covered in snow. In 1963, when the snow melted and a new battalion returned to Rezang La, they found the brave soldiers of 13 Kumaon still in their trenches, frozen, fingers on their triggers.

This was bravery beyond the call of duty, in the line of fire. 114 bodies were cremated with full military honours in 1963 at those icy heights. Bravery that continues to inspire generation of soldiers. At Rezang La are etched the lines:

“How can a man die better than facing fearful odds, for the ashes of his father and the Temples of his Gods.”

Just Show Up …

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Soldier in alert at Amar Jawan Jyoti, India Gate

The Autumn Term had begun at the National Defence Academy. The rejuvenated Cadets were trickling into the Academy portals and excitedly looking forward to the new Term and to meet their Brothers-in-Arms. The almost salubrious climes of Pune were witnessing the changes of weather. The climate was changing and the summer had been giving indications of its harshness. The training Officers and their team had devised a new methodology of getting the best out of their Cadets. It was decided that the Drill Practice would be in peak afternoon followed by a practice cross –country run in the drill boots!! The idea was to strengthen the legs of the Cadets and on the final day of the Cross Country, the Cadets of the Squadron would be able to fly wearing the lighter version running shoes. It is a well-known military tactic to train harder in peace and consequently bleed lesser in war.

The new training sequence was planned well but the human bodies take their own time to adjust to the rigors of physical pressure modifications. The new term also saw the joining in of a new Drill Instructor (Drill Ustaad), Lance Naik (L/Nk) Diwan Singh Danu. The first looks of the affable Kumaoni were pleasant and he had replaced the tough task master Company Havildar Major (CHM) Girdhari Lal of the Grenadiers Regiment. CHM Girdhari Lal was an epitome of fitness and personal conduct. He would ensure that the Cadets would deliver their best and he would himself take great pride in demonstrating drill movements of great finesse and energy. Girdhari Lal had moved on posting and L/Nk Diwan Singh Danu had replaced him in our Squadron.

The first day of the new term began on a somber note as the Squadron began its training activities. Post lunch, the Cadets mustered in the Squadron Parade Ground and the training team took its positions. L/Nk Diwan Singh Danu had a sun burnt face and crow lines were sketching across his eyes. His veins stood out in his hands and his creased Uniform matched each angle of the Indian Army’s decorum. Fit as a fiddle, L/Nk Diwan Singh Danu came across as an ideal replacement of CHM Girdhari Lal. 150+ Cadets stood on the compact Squadron Parade Ground and L/Nk Diwan Singh Danu commenced the drill training. The heat of the atmosphere and the heat of closely maneuvering human bodies started building up to its crescendo. Soon, the starched Khakis were wet with sweat and the metabolism inside the human bodies was burning the lunch at double the pace to meet the energy level demands.

The sharp eyes of L/Nk Diwan Singh picked out various categories of Cadets and he gauged their efficiency levels. Quiet in his demeanor and efficient in his moves, he himself moved with the Squadron adding his tips to strugglers and appreciating the swift movers. Military drill is an art and when done with precision, it is a treat to watch. The mind coordinates the movements of the body in an effortless fashion and the erect postures bring out the best performance from the military folks. It is also a form of rigorous exercise and if done with passion, it can rejuvenate the human body and soul. Diwan Singh turned out to be a participative trainer. He would complete the drill class and then be available on his bicycle to join the Cadets for the run in the drill boots.

The first week of run in the drill boots immediately after drill class post lunch started taking its toll on the Cadets. The strong ones completed the routine like a clockwork, the middle ones completed the chore with some strain and the weaker ones/the fresh Cadets struggled to cope up with the grind. The long term idea was to strengthen by training hard in the beginning and then to reap the fruit on the day of the competition. The pain in human bodies had started visiting and each day, a couple of Cadets went down with various types of body aches and stress pains. Sloan’s Balm started spreading its aroma in the Squadron corridors and the crepe bandages started showing on shins and other parts of legs. The fighters had started struggling with the new concept.

The ever watchful Diwan Singh had by now got well versed with the Squadron and knew each Cadet’s strengths and weaknesses. He too sweated with the Squadron and was never found slow in his moves or sluggish in his approach. The tiring out Cadets were now making the tail of the Squadron a bit longer each day during the run. The training Officers were looking a bit worried as the strategy was boomeranging on their plans. The final day was a couple of weeks away and the Squadron was struggling to keep bare minimum competition strength on to the circuit. The bench strength was rising. Diwan Singh Danu was now a worried man too.

On that day, the Cadets went about with the drill and many had reached their tipping point. Maybe, many of us had peaked earlier than expected and many were struggling to cope with their shin pains et. al. The drill practice was sluggish and not like the requisite clockwork. L/Nk Diwan Singh Danu was still performing at his peak and stamped harder in each move. The class came to an end and it was time for the Drill Ustaad‘s pep talk. Diwan Singh spoke passionately about his drill training, his achievement of the famed Drill Instructor’s qualification and subsequent posting to the Academy. He spoke with passion, zeal and tried to motivate everyone to overcome their pains. A hapless Cadet just let his emotions out and shared the vows of his now pulpy shins. The pain was all in the mind, said L/Nk Diwan Singh and exhorted Cadets to stamp the feet harder to train the body to a tougher level. The argument built up as the new experiment theory was being challenged. This was the time that Diwan Singh took off his shoes and showed his feet to the Squadron. The sun burnt face never did reveal what Diwan Singh had undergone. Both his toes were sans 3 fingers as the frost bite in the Glacier (The Highest Battlefield) had eaten his feet. The posting to the Academy was due and he was not being given a Squadron due to his physical inability. The affable L/Nk Diwan Singh wanted to perform his job as a Drill Ustaad and not on a desk. His fighter’s attitude got him one chance to perform with the Squadron and he was stamping his feet harder than anyone around.

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The mere sight of those feet, the sun burnt face, the crow lines and Diwan Singh’s pep talk pushed the fight into the Cadet’s minds. The Fighter’s spirit was rekindled and the Squadron got invigorated. Each cadet came out the next day with a rekindled challenge and the human machines started operating again in tandem. The strategy was tested at its peak and the results came out 2 weeks later. The Cadets fought well and the Squadron rose up in position from the last term’s performance. The upward climb had begun and the results from here on were put on the rising graph mode.

In all human endeavors, the energy levels vary from one grid point to the other. Some humans have the capability to keep their energies focused and keep achieving their aims. Some are not so fortunate, lose out steam and go down into the annals of their life as ‘also participated’ variants. On the final day, each one of us gets an equal opportunity to showcase our strengths. On the practice days, all of us have almost equal opportunity to hone and sharpen our skills. All humans are not made equals and our brains are wired differently. However, when the challenge is common, then the practice has to be challenge specific. The legs and shins may pain, but when the drill is common, the feet have to rise up together and come down together in a synchronous motion. In a clubbed movement, the prize is common. In an individual movement, the stakes are personal prizes and gains.

There is no gain without pain and gains earned by sweat and toil bring everlasting happiness. The spirit of the competition rises as well trained humans participate to win. The winner does take it all but all others must stamp their feet harder to keep the competition alive. Do not worry about the pain as the smell of the victory wipes off the harsh training. Just stamp your feet harder and do not give up till the target is met. So, go on, stand up, put on your shoes and just stamp your feet harder. Will you?

(Authored by Commander Arun Jyoti, IN)

 

Soldier! … what goes in

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Several years ago, the story is told of a Soldier who always wore his Regimental Tie and Lapel pin when in public (distinguishing him as a soldier; from that particular battalion/unit). On some occasions, be rode the bus from his home in the suburb to the city. On one such trip and when he sat down, he discovered that the conductor had accidentally given him a Rs 100/ too much change.

As he considered what to do, he thought to himself, “You’d better give the Rs 100 back. It would be wrong to keep it.” Then he thought, “Oh! forget it, it’s only Rs 100; who would worry about this little amount. Anyway, the transport company gets too much fare; they will never miss it. Accept it as gift from ‘God’ and keep quiet about it.”

When his stop came, he paused momentarily at the door, then he handed the Rs 100 to the conductor and said, “Here, you gave me too much change.”

The conductor with a smile replied, ” I noticed the Regimental Tie and Lapel pin. I have been thinking lately about asking a Soldier how to join the Army. I just wanted to see what you would do if I gave you too much change. You passed the test. Can you please mentor my son to join the Army?”

After exchanging contact details, the soldier stepped off the bus, he said a silent prayer, “Oh God, I almost sold you and my beloved Army out for a mere Rs 100.”

A soldier is distinguished by his actions. His actions speak louder than his words. YOU can identify him from a distance. From his bearing. From his demeanor. From his actions. From his words. He stood by the nation and has promised to stay put, when all else fails.

#Respect #Pride #Honour # Patriotism #Honesty #Integrity #Loyalty #NationFirst #Dignity #Nationalism #Righteousness #Army #JaiHind

 

 

Sep 12 .. Mark it in YOUr Calender

You would say, So, what’s special about Sep 12? Why should I remember it at all? This is one day in the history of the world that the maximum number of gallantry awards was conferred for a single day’s battle – 21!!! Each and every soldier felicitated with the Indian Order of Merit (equivalent to the Param Vir Chakra of today). The entire British Parliament gets up and in unison recognize the Valour of these brave SIKH soldiers.

UNESCO recognizes eight great battles, of which two of them are the greatest last stand battles. The Battle of Thermopylae captured on celluloid by Gerard Butler as King Leonidas in the movie ‘300’. And the Battle of Saragarhi. 21 Sikh soldiers and 10,000 tribesmen assaulting them. Such skewed odds stacked against the 21 soldiers and what do they decide to do – stand up and fight!!!! Each one of them.

The year 1897.

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The Forts on Samana Range

Saragarhi, is a small village in the border district of Kohat, in the Samana range in present day Pakistan. After the seize of Malakand, the British had partially succeeded to control the volatile area. However the tribal Pashtuns attacked the British from time to time. During the Tirah campaign of 1897-1898, it was planned to occupy a series of forts, originally built by Maharaja Ranjit Singh, ruler of the Sikh empire, to control and dominate the area.

Fort Lockhart on Samana range, Fort Gulistan on the Sulaiman range and as a heliographic communication post, Fort Saragarhi, was created midway. It was situated on a rocky edge, with a small block house, loopholes on the ramparts and a signalling tower. On Apr 20, 1897, 36 SIKH was raised under Col J Cook. In Aug 1897 under Lt Col John Houghton five companies were dispatched to occupy these forts. A general uprising began in 1897 and between Aug 27 and Sep 11, vigorous efforts by the Pashtuns to capture these forts, which were thwarted. On 03 & 09 Sep, the Afridi tribes attacked Fort Gulistan. A relief column from Fort Lockhart, on its return trip reinforced the signal detachment at Saragarhi. The total strength at Saragarhi along with this relief column rose to 1 NCO and 20 OR.

Battle of Saragarhi Hav Isher Singh

Hav Ishar Singh, The Commander

Sep12, 1897, a 10,000 strong Pashtun, Afridi and Orakzai tribes attacked the signalling post to cut off communication between the forts. The details of the Battle are considered accurate as Sep Gurmukh Singh signalled the events to Fort Lockhart. Lt Col John Houghton, watched from Fort Lockhart, with his own eyes, and counted at least 10 enemy standards (each representing 1,000 tribesmen) facing Saragarhi.

What happened thereafter is what makes it a folklore. At around 9 am, Gurmukh signals to Fort Lockhart, “Enemy approaching Main Gate. Need Reinforcements”. Lt Col Houghton states he cannot send help to Saragarhi “and to hold on”. In the Saragarhi post the bugle was sounded and in a flash the troops formed up two line abreast, one row in front, in a squatting firing position and the other standing as per the bugle’s tone. He speaks to the soldiers and gives them an option to move out and join Fort Lockhart or stay and fight. Each one of them univocally expressed their choice to stay and fight.

The troops were equipped with Martini Henry breech loading rifle, which at that time was the standard British infantry rifle. The Sikhs had only recently received these rifles, replacing the venerable Enfield. The rifle was capable of firing ten .303 calibre rounds a minute, it proved to be more than a match to the antiquated muzzle loading rifles possessed by the tribesmen. Each soldier had 400 rounds. But mere superiority of the rifle was no match for the hordes that confronted Saragarhi. Hav Ishar Singh, the Commander in location, decides to fight till the last and prevent enemy from breaching the fort.

The defenders now stood ready to face the advancing enemy. Ten thousand tribesmen of the enemy against just 21 of the defenders. Artillery pounded their position. The tribesmen had planned to overrun the Saragarhi post and move onto Fort Gulistan.

Battle of Saragarhi Sikh Soldiers

The Bravehearts

Though the rifle had an effective range of 600 yards, Havildar Ishar Singh held his fire, allowing the enemy to come closer, the better to deal with them. “Fire”, he yelled, when the enemy was just 250 yards from the post. The massed fire effect was deadly and the leading lot of the enemy crumpled to the dust. “Reload”, ordered Ishar and then the next volley was fired. But the enemy was not to be halted and the following lots of the enemy continued to advance towards the post. “Reload and Fire at Will”, ordered Ishar Singh and a hail of bullets soon followed the command. The ding dong battle continued till the first wave of attacks was beaten back and the enemy forced to regroup. The first wave of the enemy had fallen, but there were countless waves behind them. It would be but a matter of time before the hordes were at the gate.

In the first assault, Sep Bhagwan Singh and Lal Singh are seriously injured. Firing from one loophole to another, they beat back the first wave and hold on till noon. Sep Jiwa and Lal Singh bring in the dead body of Bhagwan Singh to the inner sanctum.

The Pathans now changed their strategy, and approached the post from two directions., one towards the main gate and the other towards the gap at the fort. To counter the charging enemy, Havildar Ishar Singh gave his next set of commands. “Squatting Soldiers to the Left, Standing Soldiers to the Right, QUICKLY, QUICKLY.

The tribals launch a second attack and breached the picket wall. The Afghan leaders promise the soldiers to entice them to surrender. Another attack fails. There is no question of surrender. And by early evening the inner wall is breached. By now the post has run out of all their ammunition. The tribesmen pour into the inner sanctum.

Some of the fiercest hand-to-hand battle takes place. Hav Ishar Singh orders his men to fall back into the block house, while he continues to fight. The soldiers refuse and remain fighting alongside their leader. Fighting with their bayonets and kirpans.

Sep Gurmukh Singh, who communicated the battle to Lt Col Haughton, was the last Sikh defender. He signs off his communication and goes to fight and is claimed to have killed 20 Afghans. The Pashtuns having to set fire to the post to kill him. As he was dying he was said to have yelled repeatedly the Sikh battle cry, “Bole so Nihal, Sat Sri Akal” (shout aloud in ecstasy, True is the Great Timeless one). Akal, meaning immortal.

Having destroyed Saragarhi, the Afghans turned to Fort Gulistan, but they had been delayed far too long and reinforcements had arrived. Some 500 bodies are said to have been seen around the ruined post when the relief party arrived. The planning figures for any offensive is to the ratio of 1:3. It goes up to 1:9 in the mountains. At Saragarhi the ratio was 1:500!!!!!!

All the 21 soldiers who laid down their lives in the Battle of Saragarhi were posthumously awarded the Indian Order of Merit, the highest gallantry award that time; corresponding to the Victoria Cross and the Param Vir Chakra of today. Till date this is the highest number of gallantry awards given for a single day battle in the world. When the details of the battle were read in the British Parliament, the entire house rose in unison and paid homage to the valiant soldiers. The SIKH Regiment continues to celebrate Sep 12 each year, the day of the Battle of Saragarhi, as the Regimental Battle Honours Day. The battle is taught in the Schools of Punjab and in France’s National School curriculum.

A number of you questioned me why would the soldier lay down his life? Why would they unflinchingly display such acts of valour? What makes them tick? I’ll answer them in my next communique. Till then ‘Bole so Nihal, Sat Sri Akal’.

Mission Possible

Mission: To Impact 600 million YOUth of our Country

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Hello Sir,

This is Adorable ***** once again wishing you a very special morning. As I always say your mails always have been a source of motivation to me and yes it again proved to be true. The amazing attachments that you mailed me were just fantastic.
Sir as the quote goes, “Motivation never lasts. Well, neither does bathing, that is why we recommend it daily.” The same aptly lies to me. I am always motivated and when the time comes that my level motivation goes low, I found one of the greatest mail blinking in my inbox again boosting my motivation like anything.
I heartily thank you for that sir.
Always awaiting your presence here and just recalling the moments spent with you that were awesome.
I also welcome all other mail that shall motivate me the moment I feel low at times.
Thank You so much sir for getting some time for us from yours busy schedule and showing us the path to happiness.
Thanking You
Note from Me
It inspires me to continue in pursuit of my “Mission Possible”!!!! These mails and your regular feedback push me towards my goal.
Looking forward to seeing each one of you more often.
Till we meet again. Adios. Ciao. Cheerio. Godspeed. Bye. Tada. Hasta la vista. Adieu. Salut. Au Revoir.

Women Atrocities

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Women Issues – a Taboo Topic

Feminism in its noun form is the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of equality of the sexes. It is a range of political movements, ideologies and social movements that share a common goal – to define, establish and achieve political, economic, personal and social rights for women that are equal to those of men. This includes seeking to establish equal opportunities for women in education and employment.

In the increased instances of atrocities against women, one major factor which stands out is the level of education amongst the victims. It is not to say that the educated are NOT harassed but the instances reduce drastically. More often than not, when uneducated, the chances are the atrocities have gone unnoticed and unreported. Cases of police refusing to write down a complaint are galore. Complaining and cribbing is NOT the solution. We, as a society, have to take up cudgels and make sure that the ‘Right to Education’ is truly implemented in letter and spirit.

Importance of Women education

It is imperative that the women be educated for various reasons and its importance is briefly summarized below:

1. Economic development and prosperity: Education will empower women to come forward and contribute towards the development and prosperity of the country.

2. Economic empowerment: So long as women remain backward and economically dependent on men, the helpless condition is prone to exploitation. Economic empowerment and independence will only come through proper education.

3. Improved life: Education helps a woman to live a good life. She can claim her identity as an individual. She can read and learn about her rights. Her rights would not get trodden down. The life/condition of women would improve.

4. Improved health: Educated girls and women are aware of the importance of health and hygiene. Through health education, they are empowered to lead a healthy lifestyle. Educated mothers can take better care of both herself and her baby.

5. Dignity and honour: Educated women are now looked upon with dignity and honour. They become a source of inspiration for millions of young girls who make them their role-models.

6. Justice: Educated women are more informed of their rights for justice. It would eventually lead to decline in instances of violence and atrocities against women such as dowry, forced-prostitution, child-marriage, female foeticide, etc.

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7. Choice to choose a profession of her choice: Educated women can prove be highly successful in the fields of life. A girl-child should get equal opportunity for education, so that, she can plan to become a successful doctors, engineers, nurses, air-hostesses, cook, or choose a profession of her choice.

8. Alleviate poverty: Women education is a pre-requisite to alleviate poverty. Women need to take equal burden of the massive task of eliminating poverty. This would demand massive contribution from educated women. There cannot be much social and economic changes unless girls and women are given their rights for education.

Until the middle of nineteenth century, girls and women were educated only for traditional household works. Now, the society is witnessing changes in the role-status of women. There is greater emphasis on education girls and women in the same way as we educate boys and men. The modern-day parents want to fulfill the aspiration of their children without gender parity.

The overall position of women in society definitely will improve with better education and a general conscious effort on our part.

Our Collective Conscience in Auto mode

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In the recent past a number of incidents of ‘Atrocities against Women’ has been reported by the media but the vox populi seems to have numbed. Our collective conscience seems to have gone on an Auto mode. No more the candle light marches, seen after the ‘Nirbhaya’ episode. No more raising slogans. No more student agitation. It seems to have been accepted as part of the scenery. Just passes by as you pass by life.

A law student killed in gruesome manner, very akin to Nirbhaya, in Kerala. A young girl tortured and murdered in Ahmedabad. A girl raped twice over by the same assailants. A small girl raped and made to wait at the Police Station the whole day before the complaint could be lodged (the tests need to be performed within 24 hours). Where is the fury? The rage? The Justice Verma Committee came up with several recommendations. He chiefly blamed failure of governance. Despite the Act, passed with great fervour, it doesn’t seem to have helped much.

Stalking and voyeurism are offences punishable by seven years in jail. There is not a single case of anyone put behind bars. Stalking continues. Voyeurs continue to spy. The first place to go after any incident is the Police Station. It is here that the law has to transcend from the exalted books to action. And yet it is here that we fail miserably.

The proposed Bill of Rights for Women, which would entitle women to a life of dignity and security and ensure that she has the right to complete sexual autonomy including with respect to her relationships is hardly even talked about. Fact is, as a society, somewhere we have abdicated our sense of responsibility. We are looking for some ‘Mr India’, who’ll come and sweep away all our ills. We are therefore NOT taking the onus; passing the buck and NOT standing up and are NOT being counted.

The Delhi rage should’ve pushed us for stricter and faster reforms and their implementation. But sadly we missed the bus. Public anger did not translate into action and the fury did not manifest as a law. The misogynists and criminals rampantly harass women in several ways and sadly the onus is put on the women. That she drew the ire of the assailant, she dressed skimpily, or somehow it was all her mistake.

It’ll take time to change mindsets. The law should be a deterrent. But it is a provocating thought that should get us going. A few years down the line, “it’ll be my daughter walking down the street. If the street is unsafe today, will it be safe for her tomorrow?”

If the answer is an univocal NO, then ask yourself, what are you doing about it?