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Sunday, April 17, 2011

Travails of A Tambi in Jat Regiment

(The article was published in the Regimental magazine JATVEER, years back, titled "travels of a thambi" [I presume , some JAT , had done a spell check for me] The magazine had to be dug up by my daughter, dusted, reclaimed , typed out again and finaly I had to be coaxed to upload it here.)

In IMA, when the allotment of arms was announced I was a bit apprehensive as well as elated; elated because my first choice was JATs and basically I had no doubts about finding my place in the battalion. However being from the south of Vindhyas I was a little worried if the latitudinal difference may result in an attitudinal difference, complicating matters. Whatever be, I told myself that I should have no problems with JATs or they with me. After all I knew Hindi well, or so I thought. I could play a good game of basketball and I had learnt enough about soldiering in NDA and IMA.

The reality struck as soon as I reported to the Unit. The Hindi I knew had not prepared me for a satisfactory verbal communication in the Unit. I learnt that “adjutant saab yaad kar rahe hain” meant that I had been summoned forthwith and that “gaari aa rahi hai” meant that the vehhicle had been waiting for me over an hour. The real shock came when I overhead my helper telling someone that “saab ko kuchh bhi bera nahi, saab ka disciple thik rakha bari mushkil hai”. What he meant was that I understood nothing and that it was becoming increasingly difficult for him to ensure that I was at the right place at the right time in the right dress.

The play fields required no verbal communication and I thought I would fare better. At the basketball court, I never had any illusions about the limitations imposed by my height or the lack of it. At five seven I never aspired to be part of the national team but I could always make my presence felt in the court by speed and skill. Here I found that not only was every player a six footer, but I remained a clear six inches below the plane where the ball was in play.

Coming to the aspect of professional soldiering, the issue requires a little anecdote to bring out the attitude of JATs toward training. It was a long drawn training exercise wherein the division was required to advance across multiple obstacles. After a particulary hard day of assault, the company was required to dig in for the night. One of the platoons, I noticed was taking it a little too easy and in the morning I was surprised to find the platoon in fully prepared defences. I realized what had happened only when a JCO of the neighbouring Unit, a battalion of the MADRAS regiment complained that our men had quietly occupied their defences for the morning inspection.

My Platoon Hav was nonchalant, “ke baat se, hum ne 'stand to'(morning inspection or a state of readiness) kar lia, abhi aap kar lo” I was nonplussed. Here was a regiment that had won the ARA (Army Rifles Association) Championship for the year, and yet the men were taking the training so casualy. Again I recalled that even in the formation the Unit won most of the sports and training competitions, which was not possible without dedication and hardwork.I later realized that “The Chaudhary” did not like to follow rules and regulations just because “ Rules are to be followed”. You have to have a tactical objective or a Prize. it was not that things did not get done. You can show him the objective and he will reach there, but it is extremely difficult to explain to him why he cannot smoke a bidi in the excercise area when there were no live bullets being fired.

All these incidents happened in the first year of my service. The language barrier was the easiest to overcome. About games I soon realized that it was not just basket ball, but even while playing football, the JATs believed in keeping the ball high. The logic was that the higher you kick the ball, more time you get to reach under the ball. Ultimately a fine game of soccer is turmed into a game of endurance. Again it was a difference in attitude. Strengh was worshipped. Winning a game with strength was better appreciated than scoring points through skill. This attitude is best demonstrated in boxing in which winning by knock out is more apreciated than winning through points. Once you understand this attitude, it is fun to be in th Unit. Before I conclude, let me confide about a shortcut to impress the JATs.

This is one field in which I could reach nowhere near the the acceptable standards. It is about how much raw milk and ghee one can consume.

Gen Thimayya writes in his memoirs that, in 1947, while the Indian and the Pakistani commanders were busy discussing the situation on the borders, their helpers were equally absorbed in a discussion on the quality of milk on either side. All said and done, looking back, today I can say with pride, “if I am given an option again, again I will opt for the JATs.”