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Posted at: Jul 5, 2018, 1:06 AM; last updated: Jul 5, 2018, 1:06 AM (IST)

Maa ko le aana...

Brig Gurinder Singh (Retd)
Maa ko le aana...

Brig Gurinder Singh (Retd)

In the Army, it is not unusual to find real brothers or cousins serving together in the same unit, especially in caste and region-based regiments as parental and sibling claim is given due consideration while assigning battalions. Not only multiple pairs of brothers, but also father and son serve in the same company and battalion. As a young officer, I saw a Havildar who chose to be the Guard Commander at the Quarter Guard on the last day of his service with his son (who had joined the battalion a week earlier) as a sentry.

Subedar Prem Singh was one such proud father whose son Subhash joined our paltan while he was still in service. While Subedar Prem, stout and handsome, had been a wrestler of repute in his youth, Subhash was thinly built and barely met the basic Army physical standards. He managed to pass the mandatory physical tests with some push from his colleagues, a bit leniency of the officers and abusive threats from his father.

Subhash had an uncanny knack of misinterpreting a simple order and executing it in exactly the opposite manner and justify it too. He surprised everyone with his misadventures where ever he was assigned any duty. But his father continued to harbour high hopes for him. 

In 1985 when our battalion was in Dagshai (HP), Subedar Prem’s request for the family quarter was accepted. He arranged Subhash to proceed on leave with the instruction ‘Maa ko le aana’. The ever obedient son left for his home in Ghaziabad. Meanwhile, Subedar saheb took charge of his new quarter, arranged furniture and prepared himself to live with the family for some time before retiring a year later. He was determined to spend some quality time after years of separation. He also made plans to take the family to Shimla and Kasauli.

On the day of Subhash’s return, Subedar saheb dyed his greying moustache and whatever hair on his mostly bald head. He double-checked every detail at the newly allotted quarter and reached the Dharampur Railway Station well ahead of the scheduled arrival of the narrow gauge train from Kalka. He also arranged some chai-pakora to welcome memsaheb at the platform.

Finally the train arrived and Subhash alighted from the train with a couple of suitcases and then extended his hand to help Maa get down. An 80- year-old lady emerged and slowly walked towards the reception party. Furious, Prem Singh dragged Subhash to the side and shouted, ‘Arre, maine teri Maa ko lane ke liye kaha tha meri nahi, nalayak!’ (I asked you to bring your mother not mine). Unapologetic, Subhash retorted, ‘Apne bola tha maa ko lana, meri ya teri ka nahi kaha tha’ (you asked me to bring mother, but didn’t specify whose). 

In 2006, Prem Singh came to my house and presented me a can of homemade ghee. When I asked him the reason, he said: ‘Subhash thik-thak pension aagaya hai aap logon ki meharbani se.’

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