(1/1 GR is also known as a Lal Chindi Battalion for it wears red background under its badges of ranks and cap badge.)
1. I was in the best of my spirit umpiring in an exercise of 15 Inf Div in area of Dera Baba Nanak in Nov 1981, when I got a call from our Adjt (1/1 GR in Ferozpore) in one of the evenings that I stand posted / transferred to 4 Mech Inf.
It struck me. And it struck me hard.
What? 4 Mech Inf??? I gasped and asked him, what is that? A joke??
2. He informed that I have been transferred to Mech Inf Regt and I have to report to the new unit by the end of Jan 1982. I was still a Capt with 12 years of service. I was distraught. I did not know what hit me and did not know how to react. Sort of paralysis.
3. That evening we all were preparing for the night exercise. I began to get ready for the same, lost in the thoughts of uncertainty. I asked my colleagues about it who showed equal ignorance. One of them suggested that I should find out from the Armoured Regt which was also taking part in the exercise in the same area.
4. The following day I visited the Armoured Regt. The Adjt of the Armoured Regt didn’t know anything about this type of move and checked from his officers and told me that 4 Mech Inf was old 1 Sikh which had been mechanized and presently in Patiala. Shattered as I was with the news I returned to our skeleton HQs for the exercise with mind still measuring the future and fears of a new unit.
5. 1/1 GR was the unit where I was commissioned in Jun 1968 and I was the 4th generation serving in the same unit.
6. Exercise finished and we returned to Ferozpore. I told the CO (1/1 GR) that I was not willing to go to Mech Inf. I also wrote to the Colonel of the Regt of 1 Gorkhas to help me to cancel this posting as I was not keen for the same, but to no avail. Instead he wrote encouraging me to go to the new Regt as an ambassador of the 1 Gorkhas. I had no Godfather to pull any string to help me out of this situation.
7. I shared this with my wife and confided with her that I would have to start all over again as a youngster in the new unit. So expect no family life for next few months. We mutually agreed that it would be better if she moved to Darjeeling with our little daughter, Manu (Maneesha) till I settled down in the new unit.
8. I had hardly stayed with my family in Ferozpore in a peace station for about a year after our marriage when the fate separated us again. Though Patiala is a peace station yet we decided not to ask for any family accommodation to avoid any disturbance in my learning process of new things in new unit, new Regt.
9. I wrote a DO letter to the CO 4 Mech Inf informing him about the date and time of my arrival in Patiala. The day of reckoning arrived. I was dined out of 1/1 GR for the last time. Next day we (with my wife and daughter) took the Punjab Mail in the evening. I got down in Patiala in the morning and they continued their onward journey to Delhi and then Darjeeling.
10. Patiala railway station presented a very desolate and deserted look that wintry morning. I don’t think that there was any other passenger who either got down from the train or boarded it there.
11. 2/Lt Lal Kesavan, with few Khalsas, was there to receive me. He offered a hot cup of tea and then took me to the bachelor’s room where I stayed till we left for Jaipur in Sep 1982. Later Kesu took me to the Officers’ Mess for the breakfast and from there to the main office of the battalion and handed me over to the Adjt, Capt SS Gill. There I met the 2IC, Maj (later Lt Col) Guddi Uberoi and few other officers who were there. The Adjt asked me to fill those usual forms etc on arrival and then fixed my interview with the CO Lt Col NS Parihar (later Col).
12. After the CO’s interview I was handed over to the Officiating Sub Maj, Sub Nirmal Singh who later became the Sub Maj of the unit. He took me around the unit and introduced me to various unit institution and took me around the Coy lines.
13. I cannot close this without mentioning an incident which I cannot forget. While going around with the Offg SM. I remember that Bravo Coy lines were adjoining the Charlie Coy in Patiala. While passing through that area he remarked that Charlie Coy is known for doing all sorts of bad things and the Coy is known as a “Chor” (thief) Coy. In his words… “es passé koi Bravo Coy da kachha bhi nahin sukhaunda. Eh le jande han”, words to that effect. I was shocked to hear that but least knowing at that time that my fate was inter-twined with the Charlie Coy for next four years, till I stayed with the unit, 4 Mech Inf (1 Sikh).
14. I had an uninterrupted command of Charlie Coy for 4 years and put in all my efforts to make it a Champion Coy of the Bn on Tithwal Day in 1985, after 26 years. The “Chor Coy” became a “Chakde Coy”, a Bn Champion, and obliterated the tag of “Chor” forever.
15. This is the story of a foot soldier who became mechanized warrior. I had a fantastic stay in the unit in Patiala, Jaipur and Jodhpur. I had wonderful colleagues in officers, JCOs & men who tutored me in to the mechanized warfare initially. And to name few and leave out others may be unfair. Hence I will avoid that. Those who read it will know it.