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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Regimental Reunion

It is about a Regimental Reunion or a Paltan reunion and I shall restrict myself to my thoughts rather than people and events.

I had left the unit in Mar 1997, and it was after a long gap of 16 years, that I found myself back with the family.

Unlike a School  or College, there are no buildings or landscape to identify the Paltan with. It is just an idea that gives people a sense of belonging. Of course, it was easier to mingle among familiar faces, but one could feel the deep sense of familiarity even  with members of the family who were not yet born, at the time I left the unit. The turn out was so good, that, we were counting the people who couldn't make it , rather than the number who made it.

Just as you get a better perspective of ground from a vantage point, seeing the course of events from a distance of long years adds to the clarity. You look back on your own journey in life which is inexplicably linked with the Paltan's journey through the highs and lows. People make the paltan and paltan makes the people. A Reunion affirms that it is indeed a worthwhile journey. 

There was a lot of  “do you remember when…..”  The Freudian filter was definitely on, leaving only such memory that was good for the system, leaving out the unpleasant and harmful pieces.

While in service, a senior is always a senior and a junior is a 'bloody junior'. The kind of advice , guidance and  words of wisdom freely dished out to the captive audience, “bloody juniors” is also off the memory map.

Reunion is the place where the 'then juniors' remind you of these words.  “Oh yeah, did I really say that ?" Well it certainly feels good to have said that.

There are others who get to receive a realistic feedback after long long years , on some debatable  actions taken at the spur of the moment, in organizational interest or just as the result of an  emotional outburst. One officer got to hear from an NCO, some kind words on how much he was impressed by the riot control action of the young adjutant. The act involved beating up own jawans with a tent pole to break up the warring factions after a “not so friendly' football match with another unit.

Yes, we did talk about the bad times, when things didn't go well for the paltan. A battalion is like a human being , complete with memory, mood swings, and ups and downs in performance and  potential. Perhaps, that is why  'Morale' , is an important  principle of War. The morale presently is definitely sky-high.

At home I am outnumbered 1:3 as the only one who is not an army brat. I keep wondering why army brats love to return to the services fold even after spending considerable time in the corporate world or even a stint abroad. May be there is something the kids raised in  cantonments pick up even as a children.

From reception to seeing off there was an overwhelming sense of being wanted (but not dead or alive :)). As my train pulled away from the Station , the foremost thought in my mind was " Oh God !, what have I done to receive such warmth, love and affection ?"

(Photos: Courtesy Rohit Chandra)

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

A Fauji and his Rank

In a strictly hierarchical  system, comfort is, knowing where exactly one fits in. A man in uniform is quite uncomfortable in a flattish organisation, where people don't give or take orders unquestioningly. That is why, when the stars and stripes on the shoulders look similar, people discretely look for the service number or date of commission to ascertain the correct pecking order.(chapati seniority as they say in army) . Literally you can't even move a step forward , as you wouldn't know whether to walk to the left or right of a person if you don't know the inter se seniority.! A senior always walks to the right of his junior. (may be that is why a south indian bride stands on the right, while in the West, the  bride stands on the left !)

As a sixteen year old, when I entered my squadron in the NDA (National Defence Academy) I got a welcome bark from a senior, “what's your name ?” “muralidharan", I replied. “what muralidharan ? Bloody Bhangi muralidharan ? Get rolling. So I got rolling, and kept rolling till another boy, who had joined a day earlier was called up to demonstrate the correct response “Cadet Rakesh Marwaha , Sir”. Oh , so I see . That is how it started and till today, I have always had a tag of cadet, GC (gentleman cadet) capt, major, whatever. Finally it will be col (retd), as for a military man 'stars and stripes are forever . No one is so attached to his rank as an army man.

Back home, there are people who generally refer to me by the rank I held when I first met them. I remember being asked as to how I got this 'pattam' (pattam in Tamil roughly means a title) . It is understandable as , for many tamilians, the only major is major sunderrajan and the only capt is capt vijaykanth; both actors got their titles playing the roles of army men on screen / stage.

Once a hostess from non army background, in a party,  repeatedly called a major general as major. She had to be taken aside by the husband to explain the huge difference between a major and a general. She quickly apologized, but had the presence of mind to coo “ Oh.. General, but you look soooo.. young”

That reminds me of a briefing at the academy for an important tactical exercise. Commandant, who was a Major General, addressed the cadets, stressing on the importance of training and tactical exercises. Once he left, a tall, big mustached Major stepped up and bellowed “ok... now that the General has given the general points, note down the bloody MAJOR points if you want to save your ****”

Having settled in a retired officers colony, I hardly hear anyone being referred to, without the rank tag; and sometimes it comes in handy to differentiate, as between Gen Jetley and Col Jetley. I personally feel , the earlier one can shrug off this tag better it is, at least after retirement. In uniform , one is used to getting saluted, not ignored or challenged . In the civvies street even a lowly security guard may behave rudely, unless of course you are Amitabh Bachan or Sachin Tendulkar. As a civilian one is in a better position to handle it than as a  retired “General Officer”. After all we are all civilians except for the brief period of 20-30 years when in uniform.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

leaning in - The Indian Scene

continued from ........... lean in

What srtuck me in the book was the frequent references to India and a number of anecdotes where indian names figure. (some of the names, originated in India and corrupted in America ). Foreword is by Naina lal Kidwai. Wherever statistics are quoted, besides US, the only other country considered is India. As always, these figures cannot be verified and a database can confess to any crime, if tortured long enough. Here's one,

....According to the most recent analysis, when a husband and wife both are employed full-time, the mother does 40 percent more child care and about 30 percent more housework than the father. In, India women do more than ten times as much child care and thirty times as much housework as men ...

ie 1000% more child care and 3000 % more housework.. When you see some of the specimens in the category of 'working moms' , pregnant or not,  you will be tempted to name every project in every organization as 'Project Whale'. If only they do 10 % of what is projected they would have been leaner long before Sheryl Sandburg thought of leaning in.

That brings me to a gem of a theory from SS, though it is not directly linked to lean in.

..We overcome biology with consciousness in other areas. For example, storing large amounts of fat was necessary to survive when food was scarce, so we evolved to crave it and consume it when it’s available. But in this era of plenty, we no longer need large amounts of fuel in reserve, so instead of simply giving in to this inclination, we exercise and limit caloric intake. 

It means Nature intended us to be fat and we fight Nature to be fit. How preposterous !

So how will lean in affect the Indian work-space and Indian homes?

I'll try not to be judgmental, but make an attempt to foresee the trend.  More and more women will strive for a career and compete to reach top posts. They will fight at home if need be, to preserve their career prospects. Young girls may delay marriage or altogether avoid marriage. Once married , they would delay child berth or avoid child berth if not assured of help from organization and husband in child care. I am not sure if Indians will as readily as Americans resort to reformatting and reconfiguration of  career or marriage , if bugs persist. So wherever things don't work out, struggle will be long and bitter. Of course men will change, for peace at home or simple economy, if not due to change of heart.

In traditional male bastions like defence forces, induction of women will increase, but for whatever reason the ladies will  take a lion's share of the desk jobs which normally is occupied by war wounded soldiers or soldiers returning from exceptionally difficult assignments.

The X factor

The X factor in India is affordable domestic help and help from grand parents. The leaning in couple will make most of this factor to 'lean on' any such available help.

Apparent Anomalies

Sunday times will continue to be popular for matrimonial advertisements. Bharat matrimony will continue to be the first web page viewed, for many parents, irrespective of whether their children or leaning in or not. Big fat Indian weddings will continue to be funded by parents and brothers and rarely by sisters.  Sons are likely to remain 'number one , in-demand offspring' when it comes to looking after parents or dependent siblings.

Another term that I learnt from SS.

...He cooks and cleans more, knows the details of the schedule, and is happy to be the ' number one,  in-demand parent' for half the week....

All this applies to the affluent regions; in  the islands of California in a sea of sub-Saharan Africa. Where even survival of a girl child is an issue, lean in will have no effect . The real work for empowerment of women would be in this area. One startling fact is that the skewed sex ratio is  not due to poverty but due to the fact that a girl is perceived to be a liability on the family balance sheet, be it an affluent household or not. The greatest  service that anyone can do is to change that perception across the country and to change a perception some realities have to change. 

Friday, November 8, 2013

lean in

The last blog post I did on the subject was 'When work doesn't work any more ' . WOMEN, WORK AND IDENTITY and Sheryl Sandberg's  'Lean In ' bears a similar subtitle with a major shift in goal., WOMEN, WORK AND THE WILL TO LEAD.

'Lean in '; What does it mean ? Is it one of those untranslatable American slangs ? (Unfortunately none of Cambridge, Oxford, and Merriam Webster Dictionary includes “lean in” as an idiom.) But going through the net, there appears to be vast differences in what even Americans understand by that term. Reading and re-reading the book doesn't throw much light as there seems to be an effort to keep the meaning vague, elastic and inclusive so as not to upset any section of the society.

Now consider a 'leaner ' as described by the author ...My mother has leaned in her entire life. She raised her children, helped her parents spend their final years in dignity and comfort, and continues to be a dedicated and loving wife, mother, and grandmother. She has always contributed to her community and the world. She is my inspiration........

So, the term can be used in an elastic mode. It can mean anything from grabbing an opportunity, staying focused on a career and reaching the top posts with out holding back for any reason, internal or external. It can also mean 'just being assertive and boldly expressing the needs and wants of women individually and collectively”. by the way, why do Americans always 'grab' 'stuff' ? Grab a coke, grab a plate etc, why can't they just take a drink or pick up a plate ?

Well, I am digressing, coming back to 'leaning in' ; from the book it appears to have two essential ingredients viz, sitting at the table and keeping the foot on the gas (reminds me of the motto of Sikh Battalion "Jo hoga so hoga ,Dabbi chal" - come what may, bash on regardless-) . And all this requires making your partner a real partner!

Here we go.

The first part is applicable for anyone, man or woman who wants to go up in his/her career. grab opportunities, sit at the table, raise your hand, don't mute your achievements, negotiate well for your compensation (ask for more and get it) and so on. There are any number of men who are shy or self-effacing as there are pushy women. If you want to stick to stereotypes  well , anybody in India should be able to compare Tamilians and Punjabis, to get an idea.

The second part , don't leave till you leave.. focuses on the unavoidable obstacle in the career path (ladder or jungle gym) . People talk of women's liberation , first wave, second wave etc.... . It is child birth that confined women to home rather than men or a patriarchal system and it is the pill which liberated them from multiple / unwanted pregnancies. Pregnancy meant the end of economic independence, and the pill meant 'freedom to choose your own path' .With almost 100% fertility control, women were able to postpone having children or space births to pursue a career or a degree that had never been possible prior to the Pill.

Despite all modern medicines and equipment, there is still the issue of 'period of confinement', however short, that is sought to be addressed through 'leaning in'. That is where the institutions need to change the work culture to suit moms and expectant moms and of course, the work place needs to be considerate to dads and expectant dads as well. Here again it is not men or the patriarchal society that has evolved the current work culture, but capitalism and corporate values .

Be that as it may, neither sitting on the table nor stepping on the gas will be possible without the right partner at home as the author points out. Making  your partner a real partner can be broken down into identifying a partner , and settling down to a working arrangement.

Sendberg's advice on looking for a partner, .............. When looking for a life partner, my advice to women is date all of them: the bad boys, the cool boys, the commitment-phobic boys, the crazy boys. But do not marry them. The things that make the bad boys sexy do not make them good husbands. When it comes time to settle down, find someone who wants an equal partner. Someone who thinks women should be smart, opinionated, and ambitious. Someone who values fairness and expects or, even better, wants to do his share in the home. These men exist and, trust me, over time, nothing is sexier. .......

The operative phrase is “Someone who wants to do his share in the home” And what does a woman offer ? ..”to be smart, opinionated and ambitious and of course an equal partner, whatever it means ” Does it just mean equal share of house hold chores, or does it mean equally share paying of the bills, financial management, maintenance of car / gadgets etc equal time and energy spent on family.... ? It is easier to understand equal partner in a commercial venture; ie equal ownership and equal rights in decision making; but equal partners at home ?! Sounds vague. May be it could be equal respect and dignity . 
On the lighter side, in a culture where dating is rare or non-existent , I can visualize the matrimonial advertisements !

There is an anecdote on how to test a date. After finding the right guy, then you train him, to suit your requirement, .....Even after finding the right guy—or gal—no one comes fully formed. .........If you want a fifty-fifty partnership, establish that pattern at the outset. (What kind of user manual is this ? Why stop at 50-50 and not go for a guy who would do 80 or 100 % of the work at home ? What if you want a 25-75 partnership or 75-25 partnership,or may be 25-75 in one aspect and 20-80 in another aspect, and different ratios at different stage of life ?)

After trying, testing, and clinching the deal, still things can go wrong. The author sums up the issue of women having both a career and family in the words of Nora Ephron of the famous “When Harry met Sally” , “It will be a little messy, but embrace the mess. It will be complicated, but rejoice in the complications. It will not be anything like what you think it will be like, but surprises are good for you. And don’t be frightened: you can always change your mind. I know: I’ve had four careers and three husbands.” 

 The purpose of the book is a clarion call to the women to lean in and attain half the top positions in every field and change the world from top. More than the book itself, it is thought-provoking to read articles/blogs and comments  on the net from working moms, stay at home moms, feminists and so on.

New terminologies learnt

  • Traditional marriage(Only man works outide), Neo traditional marriage(man does full time job and woman part-time job) and Modern marriage (Both work outside)
  • Jungle Gym Career Path
  • Stay at Home Mom (not home maker or stay at home wife)
  • Benevolent sexists or nice guy misogynists
  • Maternal gate-keeping (mother in law like supervision on household chores)
  • Intensive Mothering (Done by stay at home moms to justify their title, shall we call it smothering ?) 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Sarvam annamayam : Food for Thought

I was casually asking a JCO from my regiment about his post retirement plans (for non-army types, a Junior Commisioned Officer is only junior in rank but very senior in age and service.)  His answer was simple, ' kya karna hai saab, kaafi naukri kar lia, abhi ghar rahenge, makaan hai, khet hai.' I knew he had no huge land holdings and that he had three young children to bring up. I liked his optimism, considering the professional advice one gets these days on finances; something like 60 lakhs for children's education in 2020, 80 lakhs for children's marriage in 2025 and  a pension corpus of 2.5 crores in 2028 and so on.

What about health insurance,  I asked. 'Hamen bazaar men thodi rahna hai saab, gaon men rahenge.' I was still trying to make a connection, when he elaborated ,'saab, bimaari to bread khaane wale, shahar men rahne walon ko hoti hai. Hum to gaon men rahnewale, aur roti khane wale hain' . Seeing me not very convinced, he went on " Saab petrol gaadi men deezal dalega , tabi to bimaari hoga na ? Socho

That "socho" set me thinking; may be he has a point there.

But people today can't imagine having daal roti or daal chawal day after day, even if topped up with dollups of ghee or spices. One has to have Continental, pizza, burger, Chinese,  Thai  not to mention South Indian  (I have stopped counting the sign boards , on the wrong side of Vindhyas, announcing “Indian, Chinese and South Indian” cuisine)

What if automobiles start demanding variety fuel not based on some design but prompted by a    connoisseur's tongue and an elastic fuel tank.
  • there would be a great market for variety of fuels.
  • we may have vitamin supplements and herbal supplements(for nature lovers) added to fuel           to offset the effect of tasty fuels.
  • auto garages and vehicle insurers will make make more money than hospitals and health insurance companies.
  • Traffic police will have to check not just the drivers , but also automobiles for drunken driving.
  • when fuel is tasty, tanks would be filled to bursting point and tanks would be left shrunken  when the fuel lacks variety and is not so tasty.
But then, to get back to the world of human beings, when eating habits get  too precise like Dr Sheldon Cooper's, it  does look more like refueling rather than dining. 

Some food for thought.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Empowerment of Women : Army Style

Empowerment of Women : Army Style 

      She gets the first taste of empowerment when her husband gets to command a battalion , she is further empowered when he commands a brigade and is fully empowered when he becomes a general officer.

......and when he retires , there is the inevitable,  sudden power shut down...

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Teaching about Computers

Did I say, in this blog that F1 is the greatest teacher ? Well I said that to my class as well. It took some days for me to realise that neither  F1 nor google was  the idea of help for 'normal' people, I mean IT-scared people who call themselves 'just being normal'.

help meant pressing a button and ... they hear a celestial  voice or the terrestrial voice of a friendly  guru (don't ask me to read anything , please)

help- What can I do for you?
user - Oh , my internet is not working..
help- what exactly is not working sir, (or madam, as the case may be)
user- I pressed the E (intenet explorer icon, friends) and i am not seeing the web page I want to see.
help- can you see the network icon on the system tray sir?
user - what network? what system tray ?
help- I mean the twin TVs at the bottom of your screen
user - yeah , why couldn't you speak clearly, now I see the TVs, but there is a red cross over it.
help- then you are not connected.  did you switch on the modem sir ?
user - modem ?? oh the box near the phone. ? where is the switch ?
help- behind that box sir..
user - no one told me there was a switch behind that box...........
help- sir, I'll switch it on for you... wait for 10-15 seconds sir, your page will be displayed..
user- yeah, now it's ok, I knew I could fix it.....

That's the kind of help people want... not some silly process ... read- understand-try it out -read again- and .. if it works, ok else, repeat from step 1.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Learning to Learn

My experience with Computers : Learning and Teaching


"You bought a machine? At the grocery-store? How big is it?"
"It's sort of a grocery. It's an Apple."
"Richard, your thought is very sweet but are you sure I need-an apple-at this time?"
"By the time you pop out of the shower, wook, you are going to see a miracle, right here in our trailer.' I promise."
"We have so much to do, already, and there isn't enough space. ... Is it big?" But I said not another word, and at last she laughed and went for her shower.
She came out of the bathroom fresh and clean, her hair gathered under a towel-turban to dry.
"OK, Richie, I can't stand the suspense! Where is it?"
I unveiled the computer from under the dish-towel. "Ta-da!"
"Richard?" she said. "What is it?"
"Your very own . . . COMPUTER!"
She looked at me, wordless.
"Sit you down right here," I urged, "and then press the key marked 'Control' and at the same time press the 'B.' That's called 'Control-B.'"
"Like this?" she said.
The light-square vanished, and in its place the screen filled with words:
"Isn't that sweet," she said.
"I made a mistake."
"Move the cursor to the right of the mistake, then type Left-Arrow." She did, and the mistake disappeared.
"Does it have instructions?"
"It teaches you itself. Press the Escape key twice, then the M key a few times, and follow what the screen tells you. ..."
That was the last I spoke with Leslie for the next ten hours. She sat tranced in front of the machine, learning the
system. Then she typed things-to-remember flies into it, building schedules, idea-lists; attacked correspondence.
"Wookie," she said, after midnight, "I apologize to you. I am sorry."
"That's all right," I said. "What are you sorry for?"
"I thought you were being a silly gosling, I thought here's just what we need, a big electric toy in the trailer to put us right out in the rain, but I didn't say anything because it was your sweet gift. I was wrong! It's so ..." She looked up at me, searched the word and came down on it center-square: ". . . organized! It's going to change our lives!"

So enchanted was she with the powers of the computer that more than once in the days that followed I had to ask very courteously if it might be possible for me to have a few minutes at the keyboard. I wanted to learn, too.
"Poor dear," she said absently, as she typed. "Of course you want to learn. Just a few minutes more. . . ."
Minutes turned to hours, to days; interrupt her I refused to do.

Soon I was back once again from the Apple store, a second computer in tow.


That was an extract from “A bridge Across for ever “ by Richard Bach
The book was written around 1984, but it was in 1993, when I came across this passage... and it just hit me...(India, then was about 5-10 years behind US and we were still using AT- 286, and 386 machines and Personal Computers were rare yet, at least at homes.)

It teaches itself; the idea really hit me. I am yet to see anything else that teaches itself as a computer does. Now  of course it teaches not just about itself, it teaches everything. To know anything you just google.. . A computer , in any form + internet + a search engine = learn anything about anything.

My battalion, then, was deployed in high altitude area, locked out from the rest of the world by snow for over six months. Why not spend the winter usefully ? It was Aug and just about 3 months left for the snowfall, to cut off our link to Uttarkashi. I bought a AT 286,with all the money I had plus some borrowed . Still I was falling far short , so I had to defer buying a hard disc. Armed with a floppy of dos-5 and a few floppies of word star, story board, lotus and dbase, I just made it to our base a month before the snow fall started.

We had electricity, but that was from a rudimentary hydel power system ; can't call it a plant; it was more like the one in 'Swadesh' movie, enough to light a few bulbs.

The problem was that the output voltage fluctuated between 50 v to 350 v. When the snow became hard, the turbines stopped and it was zero. We had to send out a patrol to break the ice with pick axe and the power was restored ! When it hit 350v, only the very ruggard appliances survived. So the power to computer had to pass through three voltage stabilizers. The boot floppy was the most precious commodity since there were just two PCs in a radius of about 50 kms of mountainous terrain covered with snow. Every time you switched on the PC, it was through the boot floppy. !

F1 key is the greatest teacher. By the time snow thawed around march, I had learnt, Word star, lotus and dbase besides advanced commands in DOS. Then we had whole lot of applications like card maker, picture maker, banner maker and so on. There were also codes written in 'BASIC' to draw pictures or play music. Those were 'no mouse' days. I had actually learnt to draw portraits using the key board, pixel by pixel.

Honestly, the thrill I got from using those apps, I don't get with modern day apps like photo-shop or movie maker. There was so much novelty in the idea of  rearranging '0's and '1' s to produce pictures or music. Every time you switch on the comp , it was pure magic. So much about nostalgia !

And there were games, prince of Persia  paratroopers, mario, pc-man, carman sandiago and alley cat , just to name a few.

Nowadays, learning anything has become even easier....It's a magic moment when a child realizes that 
seemingly unrelated scribbling on paper actually conveys so much. Its a revelation that you can learn anything by reading a book. So is it a magic moment when you realize that you can learn anything by typing on the google bar “how to xxxxxxxx”.It may be a short term task like how to make 'mor koozh' ? (a near extinct South Indian dish) or it may be a long term project like 'how to learn Sanskrit ?' . 'how to play guitar ?' What's more , you get various options , learning on line, downloading ebooks, or viewing visuals on you tube or a combination of all.

If learning was fun, then teaching was more fun, about that later.....

Saturday, March 16, 2013

A View from the Outside

Recently read a book "A View from the Outside" by P Chidhambaram. It is a compilation of articles written by the current Finance minister, in the period from 2002-2004, when he was out of power and in political wilderness. He was not even in the Congress Party, but in a kind of splinter to a splinter party of Congress. Fresh from his stint as the union finance minister and with plenty of time on his hands and with no compulsion to stick to a party line, he has expressed himself freely on a range of political and economical issues. He has unambiguously expressed his views on monetary policy, black money, inflation, trade policy, FDI issue, Support to farmers, election reforms, and so on. It is creditable that till date he has not had reasons to regret for expressing any such view which would embarrass him or his party which is now in power.

On the issues of political parties diametrically changing their views on critical issues,P Chidhambaram had once remarked, "Where you stand (on various issues) , depends on where you sit". For once , as a leader of a one man party (congress jananayaka peravai , much like Subramnyam Swami's one man party) he could take any stance on any issue, any time. There are many controversial ideas like he argues then , as he argues now that colour of money does not matter. The Nation needs money for infrastructure, so let the black money rotting in swiss banks (or now in Indian private banks) come out in the open

Most of the articles are critical not only of the then NDA Govt , but also of earlier govts on various aspects of commission or omission on economic policies. His view on politicians and corruption in the political system is strikingly similar to those of Anna Hazare and Arvind khejrwal. It is ironical that he was in the receiving end in 2011, during the so called August kranti.

View from outside is always interesting on any issue. Retired cricketers look so much more relaxed and so  enthusiastic when commenting on the game now than in their playing days.

Life itself is more interesting when viewed as an outsider, with 'Sakshi Bhava' (as a witness), or udasin Bhava (detached state) as a Hindu philosopher would call it; may be that is why it is easy to find solutions for most difficult problems concerning others while a trivial issue concerning oneself gives such sleepless nights.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Indo-Pak Sports and Cultural Ties as seen from the LOC

Unlike the earlier posts , this is no anecdote, funny or not so funny. I am aware , I am walking on thin ice , when expressing any opinion on Indo-Pak issues. I am no rightist or leftist but just a left-rightist , and would just like to ask some simple questions and leave it to the reader to answer.

Sports has no boundaries, art has no boundaries; fair enough.

Firstly, Will the sports persons and music maestros, continue to disregard the boundaries if some of their loved ones are deployed on LOC and may be shooting or being shot at even while the sports and cultural events are taking place at New delhi or Islamabad ?

Secondly, In case there is a War on , will the sports and cultural ties still  be as important ?

As seen from the LOC, you hardly find any kith and kin of a soldier amongst the people rooting for  sports and cultural interactions and secondly, there is always a war on.

Saturday, January 12, 2013


          In continuation to my last blog post, in this post, I cover, another regular feature on LC, which I have never seen in media reports or discussed in civilian circles . At places, there is an annual ritual of setting fire to our posts (or attempt to set the post on fire). In most of the areas along LOC, the other side is greener, literally. Their villages extend right up to the LOC while on our side we have a wide buffer zone where noncombatants are not permitted. So in the summers the area is covered by dry grass and pine needles, which readily catches fire.

As it happened , one fine day, I noticed that enemy was not firing at the post but was concentrating on the dry grass to initiate  a fire. With persistent firing of tracer rounds,(tracer rounds have incendiary component to let the firer know where his rounds are going), it was only a matter of time before  a line of fire started creeping menacingly, towards my post from three sides. 

Such a situation gives you an opportunity to know your men. It happens that, there may  be fierce looking six footers trembling in their knees while a timid looking guy may remain composed. I myself was not exactly a picture of confidence, till an unassuming NCO walked up to me 'ke baat se. saab, post kagaz ka to bana nahin.. pathar ka hai, hum appni side se ek aag shuru kara dete' (The post is not made of paper and we just need to start a fire in the opposite direction). Sure enough, the fire from our side was started and in a couple of hours, the situation was totally under control. By the end of the day the entire area from the post upto LOC was chaared. The lesson learnt was that as long as you had dry grass all around, you can never be at peace; the earlier it is burnt, better it would be; it did not matter, as to who set it on fire, you or the friends across.

Whatever happened on the LOC, we never thought of it as violation of cease fire , but just a routine problem in a  job to be done. We just had to find the means to stay there, sustain ourselves and hold on to our defences, under all circumstances. Period. If it meant retaliation, ok, if it meant digging down, so be it.


Friday, January 11, 2013


           Of late there is a lot of discussions on 'violation of ceasefire ' along the LOC. The term LC or LOC itself became popular in the country only after Kargil conflict. Otherwise 'border' was just 'border' as in Wagha Border; known for chest thumping and bizarrely aggressive drill movements by the para military forces of both sides. It was all glamour and ceremonial and no hint of the blood, sweat and gory aspects of soldiering on the frontiers.

           For the uninitiated, LOC itself means line of actual control, meaning there is no formally agreed upon international border but whosoever is actually in control of a particular place continues to be  in control unless physically ejected by some external force. (sounds like newton's first law !). That means there is no "no man's land' and the troops are in eye ball to eye ball contact with machine guns trained on each other. What kind of cease fire can you have in such a situation, at best a 'Mexican stand-off' ?

             Now what triggers a fire-fight ? A trigger happy soldier? Both armies are highly disciplined professional forces and the officers exercise strict fire control. In reality, there are many things that can lead to firing across the LOC.

             Someone had tweeted about troops on LOC enjoying Indo-pak cricket as much as other citizens of the subcontinent. It is true, they do enjoy. But LOC paradigm is quite different from watching a match with your family in the comfort of your home. Here's an anecdote from an old soldier.

        It was a fine day , in Apr 86,  I was sitting in a 'hawa mahal' (a hut type of structure open on all sides and covered on top with thatched roof) in the forward defended locality. the hut had benches and a table made of pine planks , like you would find in 'Hagar the horrible' comic strip. I was listening to the commentary of Australasia Cup Final  India-pakistan  cricket match. Incidentally, those days we could catch only Pakisthani channels of TV and even Radio. Die hard cricket fans would remember Javed Miandad's great effort. The match went to the last ball and as soon as the commentator said '....last ball.. and it is a six", suddenly, the entire front erupted . It was all lit up like a diwali night, with tracer rounds from machine guns. The only difference was that while Diwali rockets were headed skywards every projectile from the Pak side was homing on to my  post.

           There was no damage as troops get used to confining their movements to places covered from direct fire. My CO called me up to ask what was up. It would have been too much of a coincidence if the last ball six had nothing to do with the fireworks. So, I told my CO, "all okay sir, there is no damage,   they are just celebrating a win. "

          Sure enough in 10 - 15 minutes, it was all quite on the western front  and it was "God's in his heaven, all's right with the world"

So fragile was, and is, the cease fire at LOC !

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Technology to the rescue

Much has been said and written in the past two weeks about safety of women in our cities. Once the dust settles down and the emotions subside, we need to take some real measures to prevent crime against women. Indian movies are full of depictions of horrendous villains getting after the heroine , but in the nick of time, hero comes to the rescue, much like Krishna Paramatma comes to the rescue of Draupati.

Can it  happen in the reality, that help arrives in time to bring the culprits to book, before a crime takes place, rather than after ?

In my school forum (an all boys school) I came across a post which I cut and paste , complete with credits.
Date : Dec 31, 2012
From : Prabhu Andrews Lazar (2009), 1990 Batch
To : All
Subject: Prevent crime against women
Tech Mahindra had developed an application called “FightBack” – which was being used only by the staff members of Mahindra Group.

After the gang-rape of a woman in New Delhi; it has now thrown open this smart phone application for public use, beyond Mahindra employees.

The FightBack application tracks a user's location and sends SOS messages to selected contacts in case of an emergency.

This application is now available for download on the company website for free & IS ONLY FOR INDIAN MOBILE NUMBERS.

The FightBack app allows the user to press on a panic button whenever he/she feels unsafe.

It tracks the location using GPS and alerts chosen contacts about the location map and is available on Android and Blackberry.

Steps - How to download the application

1 - Register yourself or login through Faceback with Post click.
2 - After the successful Login in the portal, Click to Download.
3 - Enter the mobile number on which you want to deploy for the Fight Back application.
4 - Select your handset on which you would like to download the application from the device list.
5 - Click on Download button, and you will receive the link to download via SMS.
6 - By clicking on the downloadable link within the received SMS your application will start downloading.

I went throgh the site and the app looks promising.
a message from the site/
FightBack, the women's safety application, sends SOS alerts from your phone. FightBack uses GPS, SMS, location maps, GPRS ,email and your Facebook account to inform your loved ones in case you are in danger. Join us and help make our streets safer for women. 

The second issue is awareness. While most TV channels were focussed on India Gate (War Memorial), I switched to Doordarshan for other news. The channel was educating the viewers on Women's legal rights, in  a kind of Presentation format in English and Hindi. Much of this information was new to me and I am sure it would be for many of our citizens.

After some googling I found similar contents here
1. Free Legal Aid

Always be accompanied with lawyer when you go to file a complaint or FIR against any mis-happening. Because being in the world of MEN, a woman is never taken seriously and sometimes even the FIR is not lodged. Also, as per the Delhi High Court ruling whenever a rape is reported, the SHO should inform this to the Delhi Legal services Authority. The Legal body then arranges a Lawyer for the rescue.
2. Right to Privacy while recording Statements
In any case if a woman finds inconvenient to record her statement she can always do the same in presence of only one Police officer and a lady constable in a less crowded place so that no fourth party can overheard. Also it is the duty of Police to keep the privacy of a woman intact and closed. Section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code, a woman who is raped records her statement in front of the Magistrate when the case in under trail and no one else is needs to be present.
3. Time doesn’t Matter
Filing a FiR by rape victim or someone who is molested has no time boundary. As noted rape is a very severe thing that can happen with a woman and if she reports about it later, her appeal cannot be rejected on the duration of time as after the incident many are in shock or in danger of their family’s reputation or else other reasons.
4. Email to the Rescue
As per the recent report by the Delhi police, if any victim cannot comes to the Police Station she can any how email or file a written complaint and post it to the Head Police officer who will then direct the SHO of the area to look into the matter and also register a FIR against the crime. Also, the Police will then go personally to the residence of the victim and take the statement.
5. Cops Can’t Say NO
A victim can report a FIR in any police station under the Zero FIR ruling. As per the Supreme Court, if a police station refuses to lodge the FIR, a woman in that case can register the same in any police station and then the Senior Officer will direct the SHO of the concerned area to take actions.
6. No Arrest after Sunset
A woman cannot be arrested after sunset and before sunrise. All the dealings should be done in the day time in presence of a woman constable. Many complaints about women being mis-treated at police station has been called, so now women should be aware and act, as per Supreme Court ruling. If under special and urgent cases a woman has to be arrested after sunset, the Police needs to get a special in written warrant by the magistrate.
7. Cannot be called to the Police Station
Any woman who has faced harassment cannot be called to the Police Station. Her statement should be recorded at her residence in presence of a woman constable and her family. Under Section 160 of CPC, a woman cannot be called for interrogation in Police Station. A woman should not be physically present in the police station.
8. The Doctor can’t decide
A case of rape cannot be declined on the base of denial by a doctor. A full report has to be given in case of a crime of rape happens. A rape victim should be examined medically as per the Section 164 A of Criminal Procedure Code(CrPC), and only the report acts as a proof.
9. Protect your Identity
Under no circumstances the name of the victim can be revealed. Neither the Police nor the media can publish or leak out the name. The identity remains intact and if the identity is disclosed it is punishable as per the Section 228-A of the Indian Penal Code.
10. Employers must protect
It is a necessity for every Employer to create a Sexual Harassment Complaint Cell within the organisation for the redressal of such complaints. It is as per the guidelines of Supreme Court issued. It should be headed by a woman and should be 50% as women. Also, a woman of women welfare group should be present.
So at any moment, if you fee that you are harmed or harassed or you face any difficulty in your path, never forget to launch on your rights and get what you should. JUSTICE.