Wednesday, November 17, 2010

कर्तव्यं अन्वत्मा -- Duty Before Self

   Jalandhar Cantonment, 21st July of 1985: As i woke up in the morning, it was still raining. In fact it had been raining 'cats and dogs' throughout the night and as a result the water had accumulated in the neighborhood of our Army residential complex called Honeymoon Park (though this accommodation was not only meant for honeymoon couples but yes we could qualify as one such couple as we had been married for two years and did not have any issue till then). I had been allotted a two BHK terrace apartment in a two storied row of houses which was called Captains' accommodation in the Army parlance.

I came to the balcony and saw that there was knee deep water all around. In the normal circumstances i would have put on my PT uniform to attend the morning PT parade, which is normally the first routine of the daily activities of an Infantry unit, but bearing in mind the level of water on the ground, i decided to put on my gum boots and rain coat and walked out of the house.  My purpose was to visit our unit lines to see that everything was in order there. I took a round of the unit area. The jawans were busy throwing water out of their barracks with the help of mugs and buckets. That was the first time that i had seen it raining so heavily in that part of the country. Normally Punjab gets its fair share of rains during monsoons but never before i had seen the land turning into lakes and ponds due to heavy rains.

I thought of my own home at my village which was approximately twenty five kilometers away and where my parents were staying. My wife suggested that i should take leave and we should visit our village to see the condition there but i was doubtful of getting leave because things were not hunky-dory in the unit area due to heavy deluge.

While my taking round of the unit area in the morning had increased my comfort level, it also gave reassurance to the jawans of our unit to see an officer taking round of their barracks in such adverse weather condition. At the same time it also sent very positive signals to my superiors about my sincerity, as i was one of the few officers out of twenty odd in the unit, who had ventured out to take a round of the unit area. Later when i reached the office after breakfast, our Commanding Officer Col RK Sharma, called me to his office. I prepared myself to brief him about my morning round but he already seemed to know all. He started with a word of appreciation. I wanted to en-cash that opportunity to request him for giving me a day's leave so that i could visit my parents at my village. But there was something else waiting for me.

While the Commanding Officer did appreciate my having gone around the unit area in the morning, he also, in the same breath, gave me instructions to prepare my company for flood relief operations and rush to Nakodar Tehsil (Taluka) of Jalandhar District,  where a large number of villages had been inundated by flash floods which occurred because a barrage on one of the canals of the Satluj river had collapsed and given way.

After listening to the Commanding Officer's instructions, there was no question of my asking for any leave to visit my own village but, before leaving his cabin, i did mention about my desire to send my wife to visit my parents and a kind hearted person that Col Sharma was, he promised that in my absence he would arrange her visit there.

I immediately initiated the process of preparation of our company for the flood relief operations which, in addition to getting approximately one hundred and fifty jawans ready for the move, also involved collection of  Out Board Motors (motor boats) and other essential equipment from local Engineer Regiment.

I got back home to pack my personal stuff and told my wife about my next assignment. She laughed aloud without saying anything and started to prepare for the visit to our village.

By lunch time my company got ready and by evening we reached the flood affected area. For the next one week our place of stay were only our boats. It was heart wrenching to  see only the tree tops instead of cluster of houses in a large part of Nakodar Tehsil. We shifted a large number of villagers and their essential belongings to safer places with the help of our boats and other special equipment. Once the water receded in the area, i fell back to the base where i had left the administrative detachment of my company and reported about successful completion of the flood relief operations to the Commanding Officer through Wireless Set. After getting due orders from him, we returned to Jalandhar.

Later i was asked to assist the local helicopter unit to conduct an aerial survey of the area where we had conducted the relief operations on ground (or in the water, i should say). Though the flood waters had vanished, nevertheless, leaving the signs of widespread devastation with damaged houses, crops, roads and railway lines etc.

Meanwhile, in my absence, my wife had been assisted by our battalion to visit our own house in my native village. Thankfully, except for damage to some of arterial as well some link  roads, the area was more or less safe, as the flood waters had not entered villages in that area which lay north of Jalandhar.

Our company not only received due appreciation from all ranks of the Battalion for representing 10th Battalion of the Dogra Regiment popularly called 'Shaktishali Dus' in the flood relief operations, but i was also awarded Chief of Army Staff's Commendation on the occasion of Army Day, 15th January1986. On getting the news about the award, as i went to convey my thanks to our CO, Colonel Sharma, for having recommended me for the same, he smiled, tapped my left breast pocket (over which medals/ribbons are displayed) with one end of his baton and said that the award which i was getting was actually for my 'कर्तव्यं अन्वत्मा ' which is the motto of the Dogra Regiment and which means "Duty Before Self".


How do we know said...

wow.. am so proud to know u.

Balvinder Singh said...

HDWK, thanks

J P Joshi said...

It is such a heart warming post. Thank you for sharing this inspirational post.

Latin Sardar said...

beautiful post, sir.

shail said...

Very uplifting post Balvinder.

Balvinder Singh said...

JP, thanks and sorry for long absence from the blog world due to occupational exegencies. It will be some more time to go over to the posts of my blogger friends.

Latin Sardar, thanks

Shail, thanks.

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