We were commissioned as Second Lieutenants from the Academies and joined our Regiments – eager to go- like an unguided and nuclear tipped missile.
While commanding our unit, our young officers often remarked that when they messed up something, however serious the matter was – I always said, “That’s all – Do not worry – I will handle it now on.” They now wanted an explanation as to why I neither rebuked them nor got involved in a ‘fault finding mission.’
One day on a lighter moment I gave out the answer. “When I was a Second Lieutenant, I messed up much more than you guys have put together done till now.”
They prodded me for ‘Dil Mange More’ and I obliged.
I joined our Regiment in 1983 at Gurgaon and during a deployment exercise of our battery, traffic was stopped for the 130mm gun towed by Kraz to pass through the Delhi-Jaipur Highway. In those days the highway was narrow and followed a different alignment. Superintend of Police of Gurgaon wanted to pass through but was refused and it ended in a physical bout. Whatever it was – I ended up with a criminal case of attempt to murder using lethal weapons and a Court of Inquiry – both I got saved from – Thanks to our then Commanding Officer, Colonel Mahaveer Singh.
On 31 October 1984, Prime Minister of India, Mrs Indira Gandhi, was assassinated, and her mortal remains lay in state at Teen Murthi Bhawan. By evening that day, our Battery was tasked to take over security of Teen Murthi Bhawan. Our Battery Commander was residing at Delhi, hence I marched the Battery and reported to General K Balaram, then Adjutant General, who was in command there. Anyone of that era would better know the qualities of General Balaram. He was the first and perhaps only AG to be granted Vice Chief status.
Our Battery Commander then – now Veteran Brigadier CM Nayyar, Sena Medal – was a student when General Balaram, Signals, was the Commandant at Wellington. He warned me by narrating many incidents about his conduct – that he even rode his scooter and never his staff car after office hours. I had some great moments with him as he and I smoked ‘Capstan‘ cigarettes then. All shops selling cigarettes had closed down due to riots in Delhi after the assassination. Naik (Corporal) Paul, my driver kept a good stock of it (Still do not know how he managed it) and supplied me regularly with it. Whenever the work pressure got on to General Balaram, he called me to the Operations Room which we had set up inside Teen Murthi Bhawan. He wanted to inhale a deep smoke and a cup of tea – that too the tea in a steel glass our soldiers made. Thus, whenever General Balaram summoned me, it was when the situation at the gate had gone awry or he wanted a break.
We were responsible for the VIP entrance gate through which all heads of states would pass. Whenever things would go wrong, General Balaram would shout at the top of his voice “Get that Second Lieutenant – only he can solve this chaos.”
In came Yasser Arafat with his four bodyguards – armed to their teeth – and I refused entry for the bodyguards saying that our boys would take care of Arafat’s security. He gave me a deep glance and ordered his bodyguards to stay put with me. Even Yasser Arafat did not want to take a chance with a Second Lieutenant!!!
Next on the receiving end was the Japanese delegation led by their Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone. The delegation had over a hundred press people – journalists, reporters, photographers. I requested their liaison officer that I could only send in five persons with their PM. The liaison officer pleaded helplessness. I had to solve the issue. I assembled all their press crew outside the entrance and when the PM came in, I called out five people and send them inside. Now there was more chaos with everyone shouting, “My photographer is inside, but I am the reporter” or “My reporter is inside, but I am the photographer.” I told everyone that whosoever has gone inside will come out with the necessary material and you all can share the same.
Then came a person claiming to be the Commissioner of Police of Delhi. He too was denied entry through the VIP Gate. He shouted at me “Who are you to stop me? What are you doing here?” To this I calmly replied, “If you had done your duty, I need not have been here.”
These were few of the highlights that happened at Teen Murthi Bhawan in those three days.
After a few weeks there was another altercation with a senior police officer from Delhi and again it was the same story of a Court of Inquiry – and again our CO managed to save me.
Now that was that when we were Second Lieutenants! Luckily for me – when I was in command (2002-2004,) the species had become extinct.