Kargil War Indian Army

Here is some fun stuff from a rather difficult situation!

Op Vijay and the Feathered Battle Casualty

‘Operation Vijay’ had just started.

8 Mountain Division had been inducted in the Dras - Mushko sector. Part of the Division was still in the Valley.

The war in Kargil was crystallising and the logistic support was in its infancy. Everything was more of a rough and ready solution to universal problems. The scene was like the World War II movies; lots of beehive like activity with teeth-on-the-edge confusion. Unlike the movies, the pretty women resistance fighters were missing. The other difference was that Op Vijay soldiers shaved, had their baths and they did not eat out of mess tins with broken forks. They also did not sport faces hewn from the Rocky Mountain.

My General, the GOC 8 Mountain Division looked young [honest and no buttering!] and was as sophisticated as any Delhite could be. Providentially, he was not the nouveau riche variety that is found under every stone of Delhi, talking of their ‘M’rutis’ [Maruti – a popular small car] and ‘Assteams’ [Esteem – a bigger car] but the DPS {Delhi Public School} nose-in-the-air ones, talking of Frankfurt and Disneyland. Of course, the General did not have time to perk his nose in the air as also he was wise enough to know that was not good for his delicate nose as the air was cold, it being High Altitude and winter. He could have had got a red nose or chilblain [‘chillybilly’ as per the jawans]! He was determined to fight the war and not get a Wound Medal via a ‘wounded’ nose.

It had been a harrowing day [not only for me but for the General]. I had arrived from our Base where I was in charge of ‘pushing’ the non-existent supplies and equipment up to the front. I arrived when it was lunchtime.

The General was, at this critical moment, huddled in the pathetically pitched tent, masquerading as the Mess with his ‘jungi’ [warlike] lot, looking solemn and sombre, as any war would demand. Interestingly, their war weary looks belied the fact that till then none had the foggiest and all were probing in the dark! They looked as limp as any self respecting aspen leaf. In contrast, I was as buoyant as one could be, after half a day’s helicopter ‘ride’ trying to organise the administrative ‘tail’.

I was brought up on the bottle. A General or no General in attendance, high altitude or no high altitude, I required my high octane quota of two to three small gins. I was an old Kargil hand [something like the old India hand of the British Raj days]. I had served earlier under combat conditions in the same area where the General and his ‘jungi’ lot were making their abode and planning the war. So, I was more seasoned to the ‘ill effects’ that high altitude and Kargil can offer. The only ill effect I can remember from those days was that High Altitude bestows something that Kushwant Singh [a popular writer having no qualms about writing on intimate encounters] badly needs – a toned down libido. However, Kushwant’s claim of nursing a hyperactive libido maybe residual effects of High Altitude hallucinations, but then I could be wrong! Therefore, two gins were no big deal and Kushwant ‘Pecker’ Singh would salute to it with no ill effect to his fantasising.

Lunch was served and the Jungi lot attacked their plates [they had no options]. The fare may have appeared on my plate too, but then my palate at the sight of the gruel could not be placated.

I stood away from the table and ordered and knocked another gin down to develop the courage that was necessary to even politely nibble at the Mess [any Officers’ Mess] food. The unfortunate part was that I, as the Chairman of the Mess Committee, was technically responsible for the tripe passing off as food.

The chicken came. The General bowed his head and murmured something like the Grace said at school before a meal. I stood aloof. I was savouring the unique singularity of the Indian synthetic gin – absolutely free from such noxious and obnoxious substances like the juniper berry from which gin is supposed to be distilled.

The General dug his fork and the chicken somersaulted like an East European champion gymnast in the Olympics. A beauty 10 so to speak! It was as if all the guns from Tiger Hill and Tololing had exploded. At least that is what occurred in my heart. Quailing in my combat dress, I adopted the best defence in these types of crisis – the sheepish, asinine, dopey smile. It worked! The General melted but not as much as butter on a hot frying pan. But just about.

Dutch courage vitalised me to enquire like a steward of a second rate restaurant, ‘A tough cock, sir?’

The General did not answer. He bowed his head like a pious shaven devout at Tirupati [an important temple all Indian VIPs visit regularly] and went through the murmuring ritual through clenched teeth as if he was the modern Osho [a Godman specialising in liberating the soul do what it wants including free sex]. I never knew the General to be sexy though.

‘No, not really, Roy. It is as soft as a rhino’s hide’ said the General, all 32 showing with immense control as if I were a dentist inspecting his molar.

Curiosity got the cat. I could not but venture to query his sudden religious affliction, since he was no religious man; and, anyway I am wary of these religious blokes. I stood my ground and ventured with the maximum of déjà vu that I could muster.

‘Sir, why did you say the Grace before your meal? Has the uncertainty of the War made you a trifle more dependent on God than before or have you turned a devout Christian?’

‘No, not all old cove’, replied the General. ‘It is just that I have been taught as a child to respect those elder than me. That’s why’, he hissed like a lost adder in the deserts of Arizona or wherever these lost adders hiss.

Since I was older than he was, I was flattered. ‘Thank you, sir, but there was no requirement; after all I am your junior in rank’. I beamed. Good old orthodox Indian upbringing. You could not fault the General for manners, both Indian and English. The bloke was sterling silver and better quality than the gold in Fort Knox. I was impressed that modernity or Delhi had not ruined the good old Indian ethos of the General, even though he was a Baywatch [he called it Body Watch] fan!

That got the General’s goat.

‘Who the Dickens [remember, he was from DPS and so he spoke with all these British ‘uupah’ class style of talk] was giving respect to you. I was only respecting the chicken. It is older than Mohanjodaro and Harrappa [ancient excavated undivided Indian towns] rolled in one, damn you!’

The silence was ominous.

I beat a hasty retreat, murmuring something about the heavy turbulence for the helicopter at this hour and safety requirements demanding that I left. The speed, with which I left, I am told, proved beyond doubt the veracity of what is known as the Venturi Effect. The silence and the vacuum were loud! There was no option. The General’s mood was as hot as that of a Bofors Gun on heat!

The next day, the Mess got younger chicken and a new pressure cooker!
Tell us Rayc - do you write these on the fly or are they taken from work you have already completed? Just a question so I might fantasis when I'll be able to curl up in bed reading them rather than sit here bathed in light from the pc.
I'm sure there must be some good tales about the "Izzat-O-Iqbal" guys; our own gunners are quite mad. The Mountain Artillery song about screw guns sums them up.
OldRedCap said:
Tell us Rayc - do you write these on the fly or are they taken from work you have already completed? Just a question so I might fantasis when I'll be able to curl up in bed reading them rather than sit here bathed in light from the pc.
I'm sure there must be some good tales about the "Izzat-O-Iqbal" guys; our own gunners are quite mad. The Mountain Artillery song about screw guns sums them up.
Most are from my completed work but still requiring a lot of work to polish them to be readable.

They are based on my experience.

Well, as far as the Izzat o Iqbal chaps, they are interesting chaps!

Well, thanks to them I nearly died, once during the war and once at the field firing range. It is funny by itself, what ho? ;)

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