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Friday, September 4, 2015

OROP, What it means to me

As a veteran, do I want or, more importantly, do I need OROP ?

To be more precise, do I need that extra money ? I don't think so. It is a soldier's dignity that take a beating , when he is back among civilians in the society.

Money is really is of no consequence. Any amount of money is insufficient if the society robs you of your dignity and honour.

       That is the way army was when I joined. It was considered too 'bania-like' to have a second look at your pay statement. A pay statement (pay slip as it is called ) was routinely torn up after seeing the figure 'remittance to bankers'. Today it may sound foolhardy. But it is not unique to Indian Army. Warriors all over the world disdain money,  it is only the banias or bandits who accumulated wealth(banias did it without weapons and bandits did it with weapons).Japanese concept of Bushido explains it best.  Here's an extract from the book BUSHIDO THE SOUL OF JAPAN BY INAZO NITOBÉ, A.M., Ph.D.

.........He disdains money itself,—the art of making or hoarding it. It is to him veritably filthy lucre.  Niggardliness of gold and of life excites as much disapprobation as their lavish use is panegyrized. "Less than all things," says a current precept, "men must grudge money: it is by riches that wisdom is hindered." Hence children were brought up with utter disregard of economy. It was considered bad taste to speak of it, and ignorance of the value of different coins was a token of good breeding. Knowledge of numbers was indispensable in the mustering of forces as well, as in the distribution of benefices and fiefs; but the counting of money was left to meaner hands...........

        We never complained about not getting our due , for the simple reason we hardly knew what was our due. While on leave, I was surprised to find that my civilian friends not only knew the current DA rate but were also aware of the next one. That explains why OROP was not talked about for four decades.

      On the other hand, Dignity and respect were valued a lot. One only had to see a military special train , where compartments are marked "officers mess' 'Tiger', Lion and so on. Even in the middle of a jungle, a clearing where the CO's tent was put up attained the status of a bungalow. Furnishing was done with available material like logs , planks and grass. It resembled the den of 'Hagar the Horrible' but far from complaining about, we were proud of the arrangements. It was termed 'jungal men mangal'.

Lack of money did not affect the dignity of a soldier when he returned home after completing 15 years of service. He had a place in the society. Education and medical expenses were less or non existent. After all army had one of the best networks of hospitals and medical centres.

The liberating nineties , as Gurcharan das calls it changed all that. It was extremely difficult  for a fauji to seek admission for his children in private educational institutions and treatment at private hospitals became out of reach. Even to die with dignity it cost money. I could not leave army as I had no civil qualifications and people at the universities and colleges wanted you to apply a year before and go through the process of entrance exams and enrolment. I actually met the Vice Chancellor of Madras University . I thank him for agreeing to meet me without prior appointment, but the rules quoted by him were absurd to me. How can these babus, who have not served in army ever understand how difficult it is when posted at Tawang or Poonch to go through this one year process. No sir, I did not want money, I just wanted an opportunity to study, upgrade my skills to suit the civilian life.

An army man misses the opportunities to invest, to upgrade his skills or simply learn the way of life in civil environment. And it happens due to his spending the most  productive years at the borders or at sea, not through chasing money at Gulf countries or a better life style in the West.

When a society does not give an opportunity to find a dignified livelihood, the least they can give is the means , extra money , to buy a modicum of dignity and respect. I rest my case.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Scottish Tunes and the Desi Regiments

Having served for 35 years in a Regiment and having frozen to attention every time the Regimental March past played, all I remember is a feeling of intense pride and a deep respect for the Flag and the Regiment when I heard these notes.

Back O Bennachie is our Regimental March-past. Though I never learnt the lyrics nor the history of the song I have developed a close attachment for the tune. I just presumed that it was a song about soldier, soldiering and battles. In the pre internet days, ignorance on any subject was well preserved as there was no way to check out facts. One just went by feelings rather than well researched facts.

I remember , a commanding officer musing aloud, “why do we need a march-past called 'Back O Bennachie' ? Half the people can't spell it or pronounce it and nobody can understand it; we need an Indian tune composed by a great Indian musician like Pandit Ravishankar.” The next day was 15 Aug and after the function at the JCOs Club, we were all standing in attention and as the last notes of the Regimental March past played , he looked at me , gently shook his head and muttered 'no, no, we should stick to it'

As a good adjutant, I agreed with him on both the occasions and as the feelings go , it was not difficult to agree.

Years passed and one fine day, my son sent a video clip of the song played on mandolin. Following that link and further surfing in breadth and depth led to numerous versions. I downloaded and read up everything on the tune and also listened to some terrific versions of the tune played on mandolin, guitar and bag pipe.

It is a Scottish folk song, a sad love song about a girl who talks of two suitors. As the story goes, both the suitors die under different circumstances and it ends on a sad note

"   It's noo that twice I've been a bride,
I've been a bride, I've been a bride,
It's noo that twice I've been a bride,
But a wife I'll never be.    "

For whatever reason , the song is set to a lively tune. Today, it appears to be a huge joke; it could well have been 'Mary had a little lamb' . What comes to my mind is the words of Jiddu Krishnamurti that seemingly meaningless rituals and words can become profoundly sacred through repetition over a period of time.It was  something I had read long back, but courtesy, 'the net', I reproduce it below.

.......By repeating Amen or Om or Coca-Cola indefinitely you will obviously have a certain experience because by repetition the mind becomes quiet. It is a well known phenomenon which has been practised for thousands of years in India - Mantra Yoga it is called. By repetition you can induce the mind to be gentle and soft but it is still a petty, shoddy, little mind. You might as well put a piece of stick you have picked up in the garden on the mantelpiece and give it a flower every day. In a month you will be worshipping it and not to put a flower in front of it will become a sin......

Some links to lyrics and videos   (The song is called ' back o bennachie' or 'gin I were the gadie rins' )

On mandolin

Old Blind Dogs 

The Bag pipe

On Accordion

The Lyrics