While commanding the unit in Devlali in 2002, Colonel Azad Sameer the Colonel General Staff with our Divisional Headquarters visited us. After the discussions in my office, as I was leaving for lunch at the Officers’ Mess, Captian Mitra, our Adjutant (staff officer who assists the Commanding Officer and is in charge of all organisation, administration and discipline of a unit) came to my office and asked me “Sir, have you invited Colonel Sameer for the dinner at the Dhaba? Do I need to prepare an invitation card for the dinner?” (Dhaba is a roadside restaurant mostly frequented by the passing truck drivers). I replied “Send him an invitation card card for the evening cocktails at our Officers’ Mess.”
Colonel Sameer is a great thinker and we had many discussions varying from military subjects to parenting and also our outlook towards religion and politics. We both believed in our God, and did not believe in wearing our God on our sleeves or placing the images of our God in our vehicles in that many in the army never realised that Colonel Sameer was a Muslim and I a Christian.
Handing over the invitation card to Colonel Sameer I said “Sir, you are invited for a cocktails at our Officers’ Mess at 7 PM. It would be followed by a dinner at the local Dhaba.” From the facial expressions and body language of Colonel Sameer, it was evident that he did not like the idea of the dinner at a Dhaba. Being a thorough gentleman, did not utter a word and accepted the invitation.
During many tactical discussions and exercises we had, I had the opportunity of accompanying Colonel Sameer. He was a ever smiling, soft spoken soldier who easily passed off as a young Lieutenant. After preparations for the next day, in the evening we visited the bar at the Officers’ Mess. He ordered his favourite Old Monk Rum and I a peg of Teachers Whiskey. The barman assuming that Colonel Sameer to be a young officer, served me first. At last I had to request him “Sir, whenever we are together, we both will always move around in our uniforms.”
After the cocktails at the Mess, the vehicles lined up and all officers with their ladies and children got into them. I drove Colonel Sameer and we headed towards Nashik with neither speaking a word for the next fifteen minutes until we entered the Taj Hotel. That was when Colonel Sameer asked me “So this is your Dhaba.” Captain Mitra explained “Dhaba is the code word for such diners and our officers and their families know what it meant.”
Colonel Sameer with an open mind would always approach a military problem in a logical manner and I was associated with him in proposing many concepts and theories.
One such discussion on the effectiveness of a type of ammunition resulted in a probability theory we proposed to assess the terminal effect of that ammunition. After a few discussions we put the entire theory on a PowerPoint slide and explained it to all the officers and was accepted as the most probable result of employing that ammunition. Five years passed by and Brigadier Sameer was an Instructor at the prestigious Staff College and there was a presentation by the commander of the formation where we had proposed our theory. The very same slide we had prepared five years ago was flashed – behold – there was no change in it – even the colours remained the same.
May be someone is still flashing the same slide even now.