Sunday, October 31, 2010

A General remembers (Excerpts from General Sundarji's book -"Of Some Consequence - A Soldier Remembers..."

Here's an interesting anecdote that I came across in General Sundarji's book, which is an autobiography, and could only be published after his death:

‘It was the winter of 1951. There was a function on a Sunday, at Headquarters Eastern Command which was then at Lucknow. General Sriganesh was to attend and an air force plane (a Devon) has been lain on. Apart form the Army Commander Major Generals Thimayya, Thorat and Chopra had requested for a lift and were promised a seat. I was to be the fifth passenger. We were all at Palam airport in Delhi on that Sunday, morning and just before take-off a brigadier from the Army Service Corps approached the boss and requested for a seat, and so I was unceremoniously taken off the plane. As a sop I was told that I need not come to receive the boss that evening, and could enjoy my Sunday! After we saw the plane off, Group Captain Rajaram, DFC who was the stations commander of Palam said to me In Tamil – “Sundar don’t be disappointed. Now that you are not required in the evening, I shall take you out to dinner. I’ll pick you up from your mess.”

That evening, Rajaram was in my room and we were having a drink, when Palam airport tracked him down and said that the Devon in which the VIPs were flying out of Lucknow, has lost contact with the control tower, soon after take off and was still out of communication. We cancelled our dinner outing and went straight back to the control tower where we got a disturbing piece of news from the Lucknow tower.

A railway signalman had seen a plane burning and down some distance away from his signal post. The railways informed the civil authorities and a few army search parties were sent out in the general area. Anxious wives of the passengers started bombarding the control tower with queries.

Air Marshal Sir Gerald Gibbs the air chief arrived and took charge. General Cariappa the Army Chief kept in touch telephonically. At about two in the morning, a message came from Lucknow that contact had been made and all aboard the crashed plane were alive and well. With a whoop, I rushed to the telephone, to give Mrs. Sriganesh and other wives the good news.

The next morning there was a message from General Cariappa to all these generals which said, I remember, “You naughty little children, so many of you should not have got on to the same pram. I as your mummy, thank the Lord that you had a competent nanny pushing the pram and who managed to save you!”

Tailpiece: Squadron Leader Suhas Biswas, the pilot got the Ashok Chakra for his handling of the situation.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A lesson in Kashmir history for Ms. Arundhati Roy...

Ok - I see that we cannot simply ignore Arundhati Roy. She has that knack of gaining publicity because that's what she thrives on. Her 'raison d'etre'....

According to her, Kashmir was never an integral part of India. This comment convinced me ever more, that there is really no substance behind this person and the cause she stands for, side by side with Mr. Geelani.

I also think that Ms. Arundhati Roy is fairly ignorant. Most probably, when she sat in Class in school, she didn't pay attention to the History lessons. For her benefit - let me summarise the facts and break the myth that the likes of Ms Roy would make believe.

On the eve of India's independence there were as many as 568 'princely states' in India - the 'Princely States'. Some of these were Hyderabad, Gwalior, Baroda and Kashmir. None of them were part of India.

When the British decided to leave, in 1947, the left two choices with the States - to affiliate with Pakistan or with India. Given a real choice most States would have liked to remain independent, but they were forced to make a choice. Their decision was made on basis of the religious domination of the majority of its citizens and the geographic location.

The State of Kashmir was the ideal candidate to join Pakistan - given its geographical contiguity with the newly formed Country, as well as the religious domination of its citizens. The Maharaja of Kashmir however was a Hindu. More importantly, he wanted 'azaadi' which really was not an available option. He continued to procrastinate, and remained non-committal.

Pakistan viewed this as a ploy jointly contrived by the British and the Indians to usurp Kashmir away from her. So in October 1947, Pakistan invaded Kashmir. The invasion was not direct but more 'Kargil like' in the sense the invaders were 'Pushtoon' tribals fully supported morally and otherwise by Pakistan. The invaders reached the outskirts of Srinagar which was on the verge of being taken over.

A panicky Maharajah Hari Singh called India for help. The Indian Government made it clear that legally, India could do nothing, unless the Maharajah acceded Kashmir to India. Left with no option, Maharajah Hari Singh signed the instrument of accession, sent by the Government. No sooner than this was done, the Indian forces landed in Srinagar. The invaders were beaten back out of Srinagar. However by this time they managed to gain control over about one third of the State. The part that India terms as Pakistan Occupied Kahmir or POK.

With this instrument of accession signed, Kashmir became an integral part of India, in the full legal manner. This instrument of accession was the same one that all the other States signed when they became part of the Indian Union. Let Ms Arundhati Roy understand this completely.  This is a historical fact that Kashmir became an integral part of India in 1947.

When Pakistan invaded Kashmir, Prime Minister Nehru appealed to the UN for help in forcing Pakistan to pull back its troops. The UN responded by calling for an immediate 'cease fire' and also called for a 'plebiscite' to determine the wishes of the Kashmiris.

The advice of Sardar Patel as well as the Army Commanders to Nehru, to not call a cease fire unless all occupied territory in Kashmir was vacated by the Pakistanis, was ignored.Nehru went ahead and made the 'fatal' mistake of  not only announcing an immediate  cease fire but also agreeing to 'plebiscite'. 

Those with an ulterior motive like to focus on this one fact that India has not conducted a plebiscite till date and continues to ignore the aspirations of the Kashmiri people.

But the reality is this. The UN resolution is a written document and very very clearly states that the first and foremost 'pre condition' for plebiscite to be conducted is that Pakistan will first withdraw from all areas of Kashmir as that it occupied after October 22, 1947. In other words all Pakistani soldiers and tribesmen were expected to pull out from all areas of Kashmir as it existed prior to October 22, 1947.

Its a fact that Pakistan did not vacate what is now called 'POK' It was Pakistan who violated the spirit of the UN resolution, whereas it is India that is criticised - sometimes by its own people.

For plebiscite to be conducted today, would Pakistan consider vacating POK - 63 years after it forcibly and illegally occupied it? The answer is anybody's guess. When this is not possible, neither is plebiscite.

The UN resolution is as good as dead and buried. The solution to the Kashmir problem lies anywhere else but not in 'self determination'

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Do you know the CISF?

These are the guys in uniform, who you see at secuirity check points at the airport - everytime you take a domestic or an international flight. They are the ones, who frisk you, check your baggage on the x-ray machine, and politely ask you to remove your lighter or batteries from your cabin baggage.

They are also the soldiers in uniform who guard the Delhi Metro. You will see them manning all security check points at the Metro stations. You encounter them for maybe five seconds - occasionally they may have frisked you, and you are on your way.

What you probably might not know is that the Central Industrial Security Force, established in 1969 with the primary objective to provide security to Public Sector Undertakings in India has, over the years become a premier multi-skilled security agency of the country, mandated to provide security to major critical infrastructure installations of the country in diverse areas. CISF is currently providing security cover to nuclear installations, space establishments, airports, seaports, power plants, sensitive Government buildings and ever heritage monuments. What is a matter of pride for the force is that it has played the role of a consultant in security matters, to the private sector has also. 

These are the guys who aren't the normal 'cops' - you wouldn't have seen them behave like the local police.Instead, they go about performing their job with cool and calm efficiency, amidst tremendous pressure of all kinds - huge amounts of traffic in terms of incoming and outgoing passengers, and the ever lasting threat of a terror incident.

The next time you undertake a journey by the Metro in Delhi, or by air, remember - that it is the CISF that makes travel safe for you - always and every time.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

DELHI: Doubters should just get out there and enjoy the Games.

We heard of the huge amount of criticism of the Commonwealth Games in the foreign media. Here's something different that Peter Lalor of 'The Australian' wrote...

This has been contributed by an old School mate David Conquest who lives in Australia.

"The Commonwealth Games are apparently under way. Not without
glitches and no doubt there will be a few more to come, but for pity's sake
what do people want?

India is a Country with more than a billion people. It is chaotic, eccentric, colourful and unlike anywhere else in the world. You reckon Australia
would run smoothly with that many people?
It can be dirty and is often frustrating, but it is also endlessly fascinating.
Every moment something new and enthralling happens. If you can't find
interest here, you should check your pulse.

You get the feeling from all the hoo-ha of recent weeks that people expect
life to be lived inside a shopping mall. Bland, secured and air-conditioned.
That goes for athletes, media and officials. Cue the mundane. Let the
frightened triumph.

Journalists were given hostile environment training before they came.
Please. It's that sort of thinking that has a growing number of us huddled
in gated communities.

Yes it is nice when the traffic flows smoothly, but really when it is a cow,
an elephant or even a dead body on the back of a Ganges-bound rickshaw
it is worth the price of the inconvenience (this won't happen in Delhi).

The sports editor of a major newspaper based in Delhi vented her
frustration recently. Her email box was full of questions from quivering
potential visitors. Could they go outside, or was the danger of being
kidnapped too high? Could they ask a woman directions, or would that be
culturally insensitive? Do women need male escorts?

"I want to tell them that they all have to wear a burka and stay in their
rooms," she sighed with frustration. Delhi is a modern city. You can get McDonald's there, don't worry.


Although one suspects that the sight of a menu that features such strange 2
delights as McAloo Tikka might have them running back to the Vegemite
sandwiches they packed. Just in case.

The pathetic hysteria before the games reveals the naivety and lack of
urbanity of so many.

Too many Australians have lived sheltered lives down here on an isolated
island with no neighbours at the borders and only redback spiders to fear.


The xenophobia in the air is extraordinary. Are we scared of the people
who arrive by boat, or do we resent them? We seem far more comfortable
with the asylum-seekers who come on aeroplanes.


India has an order within it that takes a long time to see it or appreciate it.
The other morning Justin Langer and some other members of the cricket
support staff were out running in Chandigarh. The local police insist on
tailing them in a Jeep. When the runners reached the local lake, there was
an obvious problem. The trio wanted to continue along a path but the Jeep
wasn't going to fit.


The police had no warning and didn't speak English, but with 30 seconds
of assessing the problem it was solved. Out of nowhere somebody
appeared holding a police bike, one of the guards jumped on. The runners
hadn't even broken stride.

It is one of the minor mysteries of India how that little exercise was
organised so quickly and so seamlessly but you are always surprised here.

Mitchell Starc was summoned to tour on Friday and had a visa by the time
the plane left on Saturday.

People will probably counter that story with a thousand tales of frustration
about attempting to get visas. They should tour the Third World
consulates and see the heart-breaking queues of people winding down
streets. Queues that stretch for weeks, months and years only to end with

If you think it's hard trying to get a visa to India, try being an ordinary
Indian trying to get one to Australia. The poor have no hope, the rich
however are acceptable. Yet India has been hosting our barefoot hippies,
drug addicts and spiritual seekers for decades with good grace and cheer.

Ever seen an Indian ascetic in Australia?

Didn't think so.

All of us are guilty of chuckling at India's occasionally mangled English or
becoming frustrated at somebody's incomprehension of our wishes. How 3
many of us speak Hindi or whatever language is relevant?


Still, it was side-splittingly funny when one cricket correspondent ordered
a naan bread to his room and was promptly delivered an ironing board.

India is incredible in so many ways. If you peer within the apparent chaos,
you will find some extraordinary order. Send your smalls out in the
morning to be washed and an intricate system that would put a computer
to shame sees them delivered to the river, beaten on stones and dried on
the banks with a million other items of clothing and somehow returned by
day's end.

Most of us can't wash a pair of socks in the laundry of our own home
without losing one.


It's time for a lot of us to 'get a life.' "

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Commonwealth Games - more popularly referred to as CWG - 2010, are finally over. And India managed to put up a rather good show, despite all bungling, disasters and controversies.

But just because the Games were finally a success, does not mean that those guilty of all the corruption, mismanagement of the entire project, delays and disasters, should be allowed to go scot free.

The guests - mainly the athletes from about 70 Countries had a nice time - and even they are now admitting it.
The foreign media, so critical at two weeks ago, is not shying from stating that the CWG 2010 were the best ever.

To a 'peripheral observer' like me, and to one indirectly impacted, as I am a citizen of Delhi two aspects related to the Games will remain 'top of mind'

First - 'Bravo' to the Delhi Police force, for having successfully managed a huge, huge challenge - that of  ensuring security and an incident free Games for a fortnight, and for having organised and controlled the traffic in a City, that has more number of vehicles than the total number of vehicles in Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata put together. The police was 'visible' on the roads, with smart policemen and women constables lined up on every major road, in neat, new uniforms. They were there, stuck to their posts for long tiring hours, every day of the entire duration of the CWG Games.

Thanks to the Delhi police - traffic was smooth, and no untoward incident marred the smooth progress of the Games.

Second - shame on the Australian delegation ! For the worst kind of behavior displayed on the last two days of their stay in India. They call themselves athletes, and they did win the most medals in CWG 2010. But were they sportsmen? Not really ! The created a 'ruccus' and 'booed' Sachin Tendulkar when they heard that he had scored a double century in the 2nd test match against their compatriots.

The next day, when India won the test match, the Australian delegation literally went berserk. They went on a rampage - destroying the property in the Games village, and even threw a washing machine from the eight floor of the building they were staying in. 

Here again, it was the Delhi Police that came to their rescue and saved not only the guilty, but also the Country from a major political and diplomatic embarrassment. The Delhi Police let bygones be bygones, and did not register a case at all !  I wonder if the Australian police would have been that magnanimous if the Indian delegation had misbehaved.

Two aspects of the same event, same happening. One praiseworthy and the other, deserving condemnation. One, an example of implementing discipline in a police force. And the other, of a team expected to be disciplined but breaking discipline in the worst possible way.

'Jai Ho' - India - for the all time highest medals tally. Keep it up !

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

These women did India proud !!

Finally, a jinx more than five decades old was broken yesterday at the CWG games, with three Indian women - Krishna Poonia, Harwant Kaur and Seema Antia, bagging the Gold, Sliver and Bronze medals and thus making a clean sweep of the medals tally in the Discuss Throw event.

It was a very proud moment indeed - for India, when these athletes won their medals for their Country in the Athletics category after a gap of more than 50 years ! The last medal was won by Milkha Singh in 1958.

What is even more a matter of pride -is that it was womens' athletics that shone bright, and achieved what the men are yet to come near to...

Well done Ladies - you did India proud !

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Play it Safe...!!

You know what's the latest at the Games Village?

The days of the dirty rooms, water logging, and dogs' footprints (and other prints too) are over. The king cobras and their babies have also thankfully decided to leave the athletes in peace. After all they too are Indians and believe in the philosophy of "Atithi Devao Bhava" or "Our guest is like God to us" 

So, no more harassment to the guests. This time - the problem has been created by the guests themselves. As each day passed, complaints started ringing in, of clogged toilets. And when the maintenance men came and investigated the root cause, guess what they found. The toilets were clogged with -hold your breath - CONDOMS !!

All eyes then turned to the very 'large' condom machine installed at the village (We do know how to take care of our guests - don't we?). And a quick stock taking revealed that of the 4000 condoms stocked in there, about half of them have been taken ! Wow ! Today is only the fourth day ! A quick calculation - 2000 condoms in 4 days -actually three days gone ! Right now - the fourth day's games are on - (I mean - the sports activities - I mean - games like athletics, swimming, weight lifting - those games).

What does Mr. Flennel say? What can he actually say - except - that he's happy all the condom users are practising safe sex...

Apparently, condoms in Games villages around the World - invariably ran out. It happened at Beijing in 2008, about 1,00,000 condoms were over and gone, before the Games were two weeks old. And before this, in Sydney in 2000, the initial stock of 70,000 ran out within days.

The Organising Committee had better do some advance planning. Remember - A condom means never having to say you're sorry !

And if things do go wrong, guess who's always be blamed ? Yes - the committee..!

Sex is certainly not a Commonwealth sport. So how come..??

The key drivers of such fast "consumer off take" apparently are - more than 7000 athletes in the Village, a lot of time at their disposal, and many of them knocked out - (pun unintended - I mean they are out of the sporting events which they came to participate in) in the early days of the Games.

Well - the athletes are enjoying themselves. We are the good hosts, as ever. And the condom Company's sales team will have a good month to report.

Everyone's happy. And I am not complaining either. All I can say is - "Play on - safe"

Monday, October 04, 2010

Let the Games begin...!

I have to confess - that there is a 180 degree turnaround in the state of affairs since - let's say a month ago.

Well- maybe not a full 180 degrees but we're getting there....

We had corruption, missed deadlines, shoddy workmanship, a complete absence of leadership etc. etc.
And all of this was highlighted by the Arnab Goswamis and the Barkha Dutts of the World. Today while they are being lambasted for having focused on only the negatives, the media sure has my appreciation. Had not the media cried hoarse over the massive bungling in every department, we the people wouldn't ever have realised the seriousness of the situation. Neither would have things started changing for the better.

So now, most of that is behind us. And going by what one has seen of the 'bandobast' in our own 'Dilli' the planning and organizing has been worth appreciating. Particularly the 'two lane traffic' The cops are more than visible - policemen and policewomen, in new clean uniforms. The 'janta' is following traffic rules - mainly for fear of being fined Rs 2000. Whatever be the motivation, people are acting decent on the roads - and that's a change.
The roads are newer and cleaner. And the icing on the cake -is Dilli's own brand new Metro train.

The one event that probably reinforced the confidence amongst the citizens of Dilli and also of India, was the opening ceremony yesterday.

Some aspects of the presentation were familiar scenes - showcasing India's rich cultural heritage...

What was unique this time, was the use of technology. The 'aerostat' balloon, supposed to have been bought at a staggering 65 crore was an instant hit. The same can be said about the laser show.

The dances were choreographed well and executed almost flawlessly perhaps because the performers were a set of highly enthusiastic school children. The music was refreshingly original, and above all, there were no glitches - no breakdown, no power shut out - no nuisance.

Nothing is complete without a good audience. And a good audience we had - about 65000 enthusiastic people, who cheered with a sporting spirit not only the home contingent, but also those from the neighbouring Countries like Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

A great show which was meticulously planned was successfully presented by India, to its guests - participants in the CWG as well as millions of viewers across the Globe.

The World got to see India that is not only a cultural treasure, but also a 'Modern India'