Archive for the 'Humour' Category

What Decision is good for your survival ? – Bhoop Singh’s LMG

As a Leadership and Management student and trainer over the last two decades , I have come across large volumes of books , research papers and stories on Decision Theory , Decision Process , Heuristics , Game Theory,Decision Trees and the like .But , no one can ever tell you with certainty what is good for you in a given circumstance except yourself ! .You may take inputs from multiple sources , get your decision reviewed up the hierarchy , but finally you are responsible to decide what is good for YOU .

The following story which periodically do the rounds in the Army Circles and many times used by me in my training sessions will illustrate this point. Before we go to the story , let us understand the concept of positional defense at a forward Army post facing the enemy in a mountainous terrain.  Our troops generally occupy a piece of high ground overlooking a possible enemy approach and try to dominate it both by observation and fire power. In the smallest field formation called a section consisting of a dozen soldiers , the main fire power is provided by the Light Machine Gun [LMG] which can fire a salvo of rounds in an automatic mode at the approaching enemy column. From an enemy stand point , the attack will be mounted to neutralize the LMG post at the first instance before the attacker fight with the others dug in . In defense , the positions and sighting of the LMG is reviewed up the chain from the Section Commander , Platoon commander, Company Commander and the Battalion Commander .  In the case of some key locations where guarding and defending a possible enemy approach is vital for the success of the defensive battle , at times the Brigade Commander may review the gun positions prepared by each section . Needless to say,this management review process holds good in civil life also whether in the government or with the industry .

Now , the story . In a section of Army Troops occupying a defensive post in a mountainous terrain , Naik Bhoop Singh was in charge of the LMG . Considering various enemy approaches and selecting a post which gives him the best field of fire with the widest sweep of the gun possible , Bhoop Singh dug up his position in a forward slope selected and assigned to his section by the Company Commander. Later on , his Platoon Commander reviewed the lay out and suggested a different position for the LMG and asked Bhoop Singh to move his gun there and dig again. Bhoop Singh did this and moved his gun there. Soon, the review by the Company Commander followed and as luck would have it , Bhoop Singh was asked to move his gun to another position which according to the Company Commander gave Bhoop Singh better field of fire to inflict maximum casualty on the attacking enemy ! . Bhoop Singh dug up his new position and moved his LMG .

On the following day, the Brigade Commander accompanied by the Battalion Commander visited the defenses to review the layout down to the section level. The Battalion Commander discussed some details reviewing the gun positions with the Brigade Commander considering various threat perceptions. Bhoop Singh’s LMG position also came under review . The Battalion Commander instructed the Company Commander to select a better location for Bhoop Singh’s LMG . Before leaving , The Brigade Commander casually asked Bhoop Singh to tell him where he would be comfortable to locate his LMG  to face the attacker effectively . Bhoop Singh smartly saluted him and told him that he would like to site  the gun where he dug up the position originally !. The Brigade Commander told him to go back there !. Moral of the story and the Decision Process – It is mostly your  ‘ GUT FEELING ‘ that holds good both in war and in business !


Inspection Blues !

An Inspection in any organization is a major task involving month long preparations , brushing up all the SOP’s [Standard Operating Procedure ] , and many rehearsals before the D Day .There is always an element of  ” window dressing ”  to hide any possible shortcomings in the system , especially in the upkeep of facilities and equipment .The main purpose of an Inspecting Officer is to judge  the state of  ‘ fitness ‘ of an organization to discharge its intended role. In the case of Armed Forces , it is  to test  the ‘ battle readiness ‘ of a field force when there is no war  around. Thus , peace time soldiering is all about training for war and periodic inspections including technical inspections .

The incident here happened at Bareilly  in UP during the late 60’s where I was posted as the Adjutant in the rank of Captain in an EME Battalion. Our operational role was in the UP – Tibet  border against any possible threat from the Chinese. It was my job to ensure that all administrative aspects about the inspection was taken care of which included a ‘ book inspection ‘ by the staff of the divisional Commander  and above all  pull all the strings to get a good impression of the General during his visit to the battalion which includes a working lunch at the Officers Mess .

I got into the act and ensured that everything is taken care of in its minutest details. I came to know from the ADC to the divisional commander  that the General was very fond of gardening  and always appreciated good potted  flowers . Our Officers Mess lacked a good garden and I had noticed some good flower pots painted in blue with a variety of seasonal flowers with the neighboring Signals Regiment . The adjutant there was a good friend and I borrowed about two dozen flower pots from him for our Inspection. After a successful tour of the Battalion in the morning , the divisional Commander along with his staff came over with our Commanding Officer [ C O ]  to the Officers Mess for lunch. While walking in , the General noticed the freshly painted flower pots with good flowers and appreciated the same .  Everything went off well and my CO was very happy .

It so happened , our battalion was the first to be inspected by the General and the Signals Regiment was the last after a gap of two weeks or so . During the visit of the divisional commander to the Signals Regiment , unfortunately , there were some glitches while they were tested for establishing communications with the higher HQ and the General was not very happy with the CO about this lapse which reflected poorly on the ‘ fitness ‘ aspect of the regiment. When , he moved into the CO’s office for a final chat ,  he saw the same flower pots he noticed in our officers mess , this time displayed in front of the office of the CO of the Signals Regiment . I heard  he sarcastically commented to the CO there ” Come on Colonel , I am sure you can at least  have your own flower pots in front of your office ! You don’t have to borrow them from the EME Battalion ! ” .  The adjutant of the Signals Regiment , I believe , got a strong reprimand from his CO for this fiasco and did not speak to me for some time! . Inspection Blues!

Field Punishment – An episode from my early days in the Army

I tasted my first drink at the age of 15 when I was barely out of school . I used to drink once in a while at the college. During our training at the Indian Military Academy [IMA] ,Dehra Dun , India , we ,Gentlemen Cadets were  not allowed to drink .[I understand now they can have a glass of beer during social occasions!]. This episode happened when we were on a forward area tour of Sikkim during our course break in December 1965 .

After landing at Siliguri , the rail head , our batch of 20 cadets proceeded by road in military vehicles towards the Chinese border under the supervision of  an instructor, a Major  from IMA . After a lunch break at Teesta , we proceeded to Rongli , our night halt for Day 1 at a height of 3000 feet above Mean Sea Level. We were accommodated at the Officer’s Mess of an Animal Transport Company. The officer commanding of this Company  invited us for dinner . It was very cold at night in the peak of winter and the Major , our host ,wanted to offer us all a drink. He requested our Instructor for permission who reluctantly permitted all of us to have half a peg of any alcoholic drink.

While I was grudgingly taking my rationed drink, a Captain from the host company asked me if I would like to drink more, I said yes  and he took me to another side room and poured me a large peg of Rum. Needless to say I thoroughly enjoyed it and continued drinking with him for more than an hour without our Instructor noticing it . I believe I took about eight large pegs and was told later on that I was really in ” high spirits ” throughout the rest of the evening , started singing loudly and indulged in all “un- officer like ” behavior and skipped my dinner. I passed out on top of a ping pong table and was escorted to my tent by my colleagues for the night.

All hell broke when I got up in the morning and our Instructor wanted to take severe action on my conduct and report  this at IMA when we got back. He told me I will get relegated to the next junior batch losing 6 months of seniority in the bargain. The Company Commander pleaded with our Instructor against it and suggested that as this “offence ” happened in the field , I may undergo a ” Field Punishment ” there only . The punishment decided was that I should walk to the next destination – Padam Chin [height 10,000 feet] ,about 5 hours drive up the hills . Another cadet who did not give me away to our Instructor  ,the previous night when questioned about my identity , was also sent along with me.

We started after break fast and enjoyed the journey of about 12 hours on foot , bought some liquor en route and reached the destination by late evening. The party was already there by lunch time. It happened to be 31st December and our hosts at Padam Chin , another Army Unit wanted us to join the cocktail and dinner. We confided in the host about our rules for drinking. He said ,not to worry. What he did surprised us for its ingenuity – He got our instructor drunk in his tent , before joining for dinner . During the cock tail session, we played a game singing ” Nine green bottles hanging on the wall ‘ and each cadet singing will move to the bar and take a drink in turn. Our instructor was present but could not comprehend clearly what was going on !. Need less to say we enjoyed the New Year Eve party thoroughly and I for one and my buddy, the ” Field Punishment ” In Sikkim preceding that ,during the day.

Tail Piece – On the following day , New Year Day , we were hosted for lunch at Kupup Tri-Junction short of Jelep La pass by the local Brigade Commander. He ordered for beer for all the cadets and when our instructor objected , told him to keep quiet as he ,the Brigadier , is in command there and everyone will follow his orders!  We secretly said ” Three Cheers” to the Brigadier!

Post Script – I served in the rank of Major during 1979-82 in Sikkim at a high altitude field workshop as its Officer Commanding near Nathula Pass. I made it a point to visit the Officers Mess at Padam Chin out of sheer nostalgia.

The story of a pre-dawn raid

We , the cadets in the Indian Military Academy [ IMA] were out on a tactical exercise for a week in the Sivalik hills near Dehra Dun , India . Lack of sleep and fatigue  had set in already due to the continuous movements on FSMO [ Field Service Marching Order] carrying a rifle and 70 pound of weight on back pack  . Day light ambush , patrolling , digging at night and sentry duties in turn took the toll and we were all really exhausted . All of us were hoping for the final phase followed by the camp fire before returning to the barracks .

The last item was a pre-dawn raid on an imaginary enemy post and our platoon of 30 cadets were given the task which included the capture of the enemy commander . We were to start walking at midnight for about 10 miles in jungle track and complete the mission by 4 .30 AM . Once , we do that and report success , the follow up echelons were to clear up the remaining opposition at the enemy post .

At about 3 AM en route , our platoon commander wanted to stop for a minute as he had to attend to a nature’s call . When he went off the track into the bushes , he ordered us to  take lying position on the side of the road and keep touching each other physically so that we do not miss the signal to start when he comes back .  I was holding on to the left hand of my colleague in front and fell asleep.

I opened my eyes and to my consternation ,  found that there was no one ahead of my colleague [ there were at least 10 cadets ahead of him when we started] and he was still fast asleep . It was 7 AM and soon we found the raiding party returning with the prisoner !

Needless to state , all of us , 20 cadets who slept on the track and missed the action got REAL field punishment on the spot ! I cannot forget this hilarious incident during my training days even after 46 years !!

My friend Columbus and the art of copying in examinations

Back in my school days , we had a class mate nick named – Columbus . I do not recall now as to how he got this name but I vividly remember a very hilarious  incident during our examination on the subject – English Language – Stories from Shakespeare .

Columbus did not believe in spending his precious time in reading Shakespeare or any such things and therefore resorted to his usual practice of carrying  DAP [ specially cut paper]  with answers scribbled on them for all possible questions that may come in the examination.

In the instant case , he did not want to leave a chance in missing any questions and therefore devised a very ingenious method for the purpose [ suspense at this stage] . The invigilator in the examination hall [ who knew Columbus and his tricks well] kept a vigil over him when the examination started . Sure enough , he found Columbus taking a small DAP sheet out of his inner pocket , confronted him immediately and caught him red hand .

To Columbus’s great discomfort and to the amusement of all present in the hall , the DAP turned out to be an index sheet with location in his body of all the papers he kept for the purpose . The invigilator with a sense of humor called out the titles one by one – character of Iago in left shirt pocket , dilemma of Hamlet in the trouser inner flap and so on  – and retrieved all the material which were quite a few and covering all the possible questions in the paper !!

A great ART not worth copying !

From Medium to Heavy Gun – A page from my Army Life.

The year 1972 – I was promoted and posted in the rank of Major in Delhi Cantonment to command a field repair workshop to support an Independent Artillery Brigade equipped with three regiments of medium guns . It so happened that I was overweight marginally by military health standards and my second in command – a captain was at least 10 kg heavier than me .

The Director General of our Technical Corps at the Army HQ was retiring and was on a farewell visit  to the technical units under his jurisdiction in Delhi Cantonment . He happened to be also a paratrooper  and was very particular about physical fitness .

I received the General at the entrance . He gave me only one look and commented  ” Major , I think you are the right choice to look after the serviceability of medium artillery guns – your physical size is an asset only in that respect !! .”

Walking around the technical area , he met my shop floor manager [ my second in command ] . The General with all his sense of humour commented ” With this officer in your facility , I will recommend the Army assign some heavy artillery guns also under your maintenance charge !! .

Jagjit Singh’s encounter with Jagjit Singh – A real incident

We were at Allahabad , Uttar Pradesh , India and I was the CEO of a defense undertaking  from 1993 to 1995 . Every year in the of month  of January ,  the citizens of Allahabad  used to organize a music and dance festival for a week and famous artists performed for the public in an auditorium . We were special invitees for such events as I was also the sector commander for Internal Security duties .

In the year 94 , Jagjit singh , the famous Ghazal  singer was invited to  this event . When we reached the venue , it was over full and there was almost a stampede at the gate . We occupied our seats with some difficulty . We were told that the artist will arrive late as his flight from Mumbai to Varanasi – the nearest airport – was delayed . The organizers played a few cassettes of Jagjit Singh in the mean time .

Jagjit Singh finally came after a two hour delay from the scheduled start time and he narrated to the audience a  hilarious experience he had outside at the entry gate . The policemen on duty stopped his car and refused entry . When some one accompanying the singer told the policeman  it is the VIP Artist Jagjit Singh who is in the car , the policeman dismissed the claim summarily telling him that  Jagjit Singh is already in and has been singing for the last two hours . The poor guy apparently mistook the recorded music for the real singer singing inside . It took the organizing staff some time to clear this issue and get the artist into the auditorium .

The Artist with this introductory remarks won over the audience who were getting rather edgy because of the delay and the musical concert which followed was a great experience for all.

The Lost Bayonet – a page from my cadet training days

As officer cadets  in the Indian Military Academy at Dehra Dun way back in 1965  , we have scaled the Sivalik hills and jungles many times practicing  jungle warfare ,  raids and  night operations  .  I still remember a very funny incident  on one such occasions  involving my friend  Rao  , a cadet belonging to the Education Stream .  He was a lecturer in a college in Guntur ,  Andhra Pradesh  ,  before getting selected for the Army Education Corps and did not have the necessary  ” cadet acumen ” normally found in those selected through military schools etc .

We were on a night patrol exercise starting at 9 pm and were walking for almost 7 hours  through inhospitable jungle terrain with one or two halts in between  wearing full FSMO  [ field service marching order ] with weapons and bayonets strapped to the waist belt  . When  we reported at the RV [rendezvous] point at 4 am  to the Instructor on completion of the mission ,  the instructor asked for a report that all is clear and there are no injuries to any one or losses of  any personal items issued for the training .  At this stage ,  Rao found out that his bayonet is missing from the strap attached to his waist belt  .

The instructor shouted at Rao and pulled him up along with the patrol leader cadet  who should have checked this before leaving any location where the team rested en route .  Seeing the mood of the instructor ,  Rao innocently  suggested   ”  Don’t worry sir about the loss , I will pay for it !! ”  .  The instructor just exploded and answered ” You idiot and clown ,  like hell you will pay for it !! go back on your haunches along with your buddy , the patrol leader on the route you came and find the bayonet and bring it before day break ! OK  ,  is that clear ? ”

Rao brought the bayonet  by day break as ordered and we  all sighed in great relief !! . I met Rao as a colonel  in the Army HQ  after 20 years where he was   a staff officer in the Army Training Directorate   and we spoke about the above incident over a cup of hot coffee with a lot of nostalgia .

Kutub Minar Tea !

Ever heard of Kutub Minar Tea?

It happened in  Bareilly in Uttar Pradesh , India  . A senior Air Force Officer was  visiting the  Air Force station on an official inspection .  The Station Commander  checked  from the Air HQ in Delhi  if the visiting Air Marshal  has any personal preferences and he got a long list from the Visitor’s staff officer .  He , in turn , briefed  the LO [Liaison Officer] deputed to look after the VIP Visitor . One of the item the LO noted down was “Kutub Minar Tea ” , which  the Air Marshal  is very fond of and he drinks only that brand .

The LO mobilized  the resources all over the command and even contacted far off places to get this rare brand of tea which no one has ever heard of before .  All the routine sorties landing at Bareilly  were specifically tasked to get this brand some how  but no one could get it .  The LO was mortally afraid to go to the Station Commander and  inform him that he could not get ” Kutub Minar Tea ” .  Finally , with only one day to go before the scheduled day of the VIP Visit , the LO  decided to face the Station Commander and informed him about his failure to get ” Kutub Minar Tea ” .

The Station Commander to the LO  – Are you Mad ?  . What is Kutub Minar Tea ?

The LO – Sir , you gave me this name while briefing me  about the VIP Visit and was very particular that I should procure this brand only.

The Station Commander – May be you heard me wrong or I must have  by mistake given  you the wrong name . But , you should know that there is no such brand of Tea . The Air Marshal likes  ” Taj Mahal Tea ” .!!

Morale of the Story  – Yes sir , Yes sir , three bags full !!