By Maj Gen Yashpal Singh Mor (Retd)
In April 2003, after a demanding tenure with Rashtriya Rifles in South Kashmir, I was selected to attend Command and Staff Course in Bangladesh. Initially, I wasn’t too excited but my wife and the boys were very happy to be going ‘abroad’ even if it meant just across from Kolkata!
From Anantnag, we landed in Dhaka, initial welcome took our breath away and were totally overwhelmed by the hospitality. In fact this turned out to be the best year in our entire military life.
The aim of writing this little story is not to describe my experiences in Bangladesh but to share a great experience of running a ‘Two Mile Run’ in the Staff College. This was special because it solved many issues and made our lives wonderful for the balance of our time in Dhaka.
A circular announced the ‘two miles’ run for all student officers on the coming weekend, with a footnote that it’s volunteer for foreign officers. Having always run, this in excellent time decided to take part much against the admonition of my wife, ‘why do u take unnecessary panga every time’ and ‘why don’t you relax, India jaaker yehi kerna hai’! When I reached the start point everyone was quite surprised to see the ‘Indian Colonel’. Even the Directing Staff was quite amazed and asked me, ‘are you sure’ since among 35 officers from foreign countries only I turned up. I said Sir, “I had nothing better to do this morning.”
The run started and I was a little apprehensive because running two mile in excellent time was always a tall order! To my surprise at the midway turning point I was ahead of everyone, with Maj Faiz Ahmed, from Special Forces behind me! After this I ran my heart out, it was difficult but the pride in representing my country kept me going. The finish was in the college sports complex in presence of College Commandant. I finished first among 125 Bangladeshi officers. I tried to keep a low profile but the news was out!
This became the talking point for the morning gossip in the college. I was taking my Tea when I was called in a corner by the three Pakistani officers, their faces glum and serious. I thought something has happened between the countries! Maj Zeeshan being the senior most and my closest rival (Armed Corps) was the one who spoke. He spoke in Punjabi and said, ‘Sirji tussi kikerta (what have you done sir)?’ He went on ‘Sir ji tuhadepairi panna (Sir I want to touch your feet) but please sahnubak shadaiyo (but leave us alone). I was not prepared for this!! I said in my diplomatic best, ‘yaar what have I done Zeeshan, mainnu gal dasso kihaigi? (Tell me what has happened) now they all spoke, “Sir today you ran the two miles with these local officers, and you have also come first. This has become big news not only in the college but has reached Pakistan High Commission. Our Defence Attaché called me up and hauled me up on burning coals. He said what were we doing and why didn’t we run? If the Indian Army Colonel can do why not you guys? He wants us to give explanation as to why we did not take part and how did the Indian officer who is senior to us has come first? I showed lot of remorse and told them I never knew this would become such an emotive issue; I would never have gone for this stupid thing. Maj Zeeshan went further in chaste Punjabi so that the Bangladeshi officers don’t overhear, “Sirji please when you want to run next time tell me. We will get everything organised, one of us will take your time in stop watch, one will give you company by driving alongside and I will get nimbupaani.”
This episode eased out tense relations between three Pakistani officers and a lone Lt Colonel from India in Dhaka. We became good friends and I avoided running the next two miles!
-The writer is a PhD scholar (Nuclear Doctrine), and retired as Chief of Staff from a Corps in Desert sector. The views expressed are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of Raksha Anirveda