Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Golden Handshake

Protocol Hand Shake

It was Dec 2002 and I was posted as the Group Commander NCC Mysore.

One fine morning I received a frantic message from the Sub Area HQ Bangalore that the then President His Exellency Dr Abdul Kalam would be landing at Mysore Helipad on 29th Dec by 1100 H and as per protocol I, being the Senior Armed Force’s rep at Mysore, am to receive him at the Helipad. The President was arriving at Mysore to inaugurate a function at JSS Mutt in the suburbs of Mysore.

Protocol demanded that when the President who is also the Supreme Commander of Armed Forces visits a station, the senior Army, Navy and Air force officials posted at the station received him. I contacted the District Commissioner and the Commissioner of Police and informed them about the impending visit and the role I had to play as the senior armed forces representative in the reception of the President. They were aware of the President’s visit and assured me that all protocols will be ensured. I tied up with the local Air Force Station to spare their senior officer for the occasion. Our Naval NCC Commander represented the Navy.

I was buoyant with the prospects of receiving the President that too His Excellency Abdul Kalam, who I revered as my role model. Preparations started earnestly and my, buddy and ‘man Friday’ Jagtar Singh got on with his part in real 'Pioneer' devotion. New medal ribands were sewn; the medals were buffed and honed to perfection.  New epaulets and peak cap were procured from Bangalore. The leather, brass and the terricots were all gleaming by the time Jagtar finished with his deft handiwork on them.

The President was to land at 1100h.  We, the Service reps, tied up to meet at our RV at 0830h and proceeded together to the Helipad. As we were closing in to the venue, we found formidable security cordons laid by the police. Since we were travelling in my Staff Car we got through the police cordons with out much difficulty. As we alighted from the vehicle we found a young smart lady Flight Lieutenant from Air Force manning the Air Traffic Control Station specially positioned for the President’s landing. It seemed, among khaki clad officious looking police swarming the area, the sudden presence of few defence service officers came as a great relief for the young girl. We exchanged salutes, pleasantries and stood together conversing to await the arrival of the VVIP.

The venue was teeming with all types of dignitaries. The MP, the Mayor, MLAs, Ministers , Senior Civil Bureaucrats, Social workers, Police officials, Politicians, Religious Heads of the Mutt etc etc. Seeing the crowd I was getting apprehensive as to how to reach the Helicopter breaking through this crowd. So I approached the Commissioner of Police, a friend of mine, who was in a conversation with the District Commissioner and told him of my role and requested him to position us at a vantage point from where it was easy to reach the aircraft when it landed. 

There was a discussion between the District Commissioner and the Commissioner of Police and the latter rushed off to some ‘dhothi’ clad person who had the airs of authority evident from the obsequious entourage surrounding him. After due consultations the commissioner came back and told me that the President is being received by the Mayor, the MP and few selected politicians and I have no part to play and we could go back. I was taken aback and explained to him the mandatory protocol and requested him not to break the protocol. Both the Commissioners were adamant and but I was insistent on my demand. The duo advised me to sit in the front row of the ‘pandal’ erected for guests, where the President would be coming after being received.

I was in a quandary as there was no time left to report the situation to my higher ups, since the President was already airborne and bound for Mysore. I could think of only one solution to the predicament. I called out for the ATC Officer and in the presence of the Commissioner I ordered her to inform the pilot of the helicopter and the Military Secretary to the President (who was also in the entourage with the President), that Mysore Helipad is not yet ready for landing as protocols were being violated.  On hearing this Flt Lt promptly took out her wireless set for communicating with the pilot of the aircraft. The Commissioner realized the gravity of the situation and requested to withhold the communication for a minute. He dashed off to some one in traditional attire and after a brief consultation with him returned with a wry face to usher me and my colleagues to the landing pad, assuring that we would be the first ones to receive the President when he steps out of the aircraft.

With in minutes the helicopter was circling the Helipad for landing. On landing the President came out followed by the Governor and his entourage. As per protocol I received the President. He gave me a firm handshake, read my name tab and asked, “Nair where do you hail from Kerala?” I replied “Alleppey, Sir” “Alleppey – the Venice of the East!!! My old classmate Mahadeva Iyer is from Alleppey. Do you know him?” I said gleefully” Yes Sir “, and then he moved on to my colleague standing on my left.

My mission was accomplished. The protocol was kept. While moving out I passed by lady officer. All beaming, she yelled out” Congratulations, Sir”. I shook hands with her and told her “All because of your presence of mind of having taken out your wire less set at the right moment.” She then enquired,”Sir, were you serious about what you asked me to do?” I said, “Obviously.. NOT... Just a ruse!!! ”.

XXIII Sikh Pioneers Moto  
Aut Viam Invenium Aut Faciam.
 If you don’t find a Road, make one. !!!.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Ambush at Point Pedro- Srilankan Diary


It was Tuesday on 25 July 1989 at Manthikka, in Sri Lanka, where the battalion was deployed during Operation PAWAN. That day there were multiple patrols operating in the area of Point Pedro. In one patrol, Major Rajinder Singh Katkat’s (KK) party was fired at when they were near the Burma Shell petrol bunk on the Thambashetty Road. Unfortunately, Sepoy Balwinder Singh of A Company got a clean shot through his head just behind his left earlobe resulting in a sudden death.

On hearing the news, I took two 1ton trucks and, along with Subedar Major Gurbachan Singh and the residual manpower left at the Battalion Headquarters, rushed to retrieve the body. We reached the spot with little difficulty and loaded the corpse in the truck. On the return trip, one of the truck engines failed. Leave it behind was not an option but we had no tow chain. In true infantry innovation, a rope was found and tied to the defective truck and we started towing it. As luck would have it, evidently some LTTE spotters had noticed our predicament.

We had driven barely 500 metres when an ambush was sprung on our convoy. Six to eight automatics opened fire on the vehicles. I was standing on the seat of the lead truck with my body out of the cupola. The firing was heavy but its staccato made it difficult to locate the weapons or the direction of fire due to echo in the heavily built up area. AK 47 and LMG fire was cackling all around. Reactively, fire was returned with all the weapons we had and bullets were flying all around. In the melee the tow rope broke. I could see the towed vehicle with the Subedar Major in the co-driver’s seat losing speed and coming to stand still and the distance between the two vehicles increasing. There was no question of leaving the Subedar Major and men behind, in the thick of an ambush. I ordered the driver to drive in reverse gear and get back to the disabled truck so that we could beef up the resistance.

The firefight was fierce and I could feel the bullets zipping past and ricocheting from the body of the truck as if caught in a hail storm. In our predicament, like a God-sent reprieve, Alokee (Captain Alok Raj) and his patrol materialized from the Point Pedro side. They too joined the firefight. The ambush seemed to be weakening and finally the firing petered out. Fortunately no one was hurt or injured in the ambuscade.

I detailed Captain Alok to take charge of the faulty vehicle and rushed to the Battalion Headquarters with the dead body. On reaching the Operations Room to give the completion report, I found the Commanding Officer (Colonel BS Pundir) and Surinder (Major Surinderpal) stooping with their hands on the heads, eyes closed, praying. They had heard that the ‘worthy Second-in-Command’ was caught in an ambush and was under heavy fire, as reported by KK. The Commanding Officer couldn’t believe that I was standing in front of him. His first utterance was – ‘You …. (expletives) … Ravi, you are alive!! Relief was writ large on his face. He later said that he was not worried about my fate but was horrified with the idea of how he was going to face Geetha (my wife)!!! Lucky escape indeed!!

The cremation of Sepoy Balwinder Singh was at 2 P.M. with the Babaji (Subedar Religious Teacher Jagrup Singh) in his inimitable style, lending sombreness and piety to the very poignant and sad occasion. May Balwinder’s soul rest in peace.

                   -Col Ravi R Nair (Retd)-

Friday, November 12, 2010

Living with The Pioneers - A true Story

Living with The Pioneers

(First Bn the Sikh Light Infantry-
Descendents of
XXIII Sikh Pioneers)

Fighting First some where in North, c/o 56 APO. To be precise at Meerut. Year 1974-75.

We were out on one of our 'Schema te Jangaa vitch fateh bakshna ' missions. Paltan out on its first 'Schema' on reaching the 'Chabi' Div from a long drawn High Altitude Field tenure, with the 'Burning ---- Hole' Div. Orders of the GOC was that the Infantry 'thur ke'(on foot), as part of economy measures. Nation was as such reeling from the depression post-71 War!!! Army also had to chip in with austerity measures. And the only organisation which could chip in by 'turke' was the Queen of the Battle- the Mighty Infantry.!! First mission was to carry out the Field Firing at Dehradun Badshahi Bagh Ranges.

No questions asked. 'Not to question why, but to Do and Die'. That was the order of the Day!! On vee hours of the D Day, the Fighting First, straining on its leashes for action, put the ‘first step forward’ for Dehradun Ranges which was only 300 kms away. After a solemn 'Ardaas'( invocation to ‘Vehe Guru Jee’ – God Allmighty to shower mercy to us on our sojourn) at the Unit GDS (Gurudwara Saab). 'Prashaaaday Chhak ke, Munde te Sardaar te Afsar' took to road with a heart renting 'Bole So Nihaal'. Famous saying ‘A thousand mile journey commences with the first step!!!!, and we had put our First step forward!!.  Reaching D Dun after an arduous march of 5 days is another saga to be elaborated at some other occasion.

The solace was, while returning we would be carted back in vehicles. But then, promises are short lived with higher echlons. And a determined GOC thought it proper to exercise the troops while on their sojourn to the base. So the Fighting First played and 'enjoyed' (sic!) various war 'games' enroute which culminated in a proper Divisional Exercise at Rourkee. Playing all the cards of the game, the Exercise was called off. The Paltan crawled in to the sultry comfort under a Mango grove seething with multitudinous insects, and heaved a sigh of relief, precisely after 3 weeks, since we had taken ('Shakk'en) our 'Prasaad' at unit GDS .

The Comdg Offr was the first one to peel off after handing over the command to the 2 I/C. The Second in Command was a large hearted man and followed suit after excusing the company commanders to proceed to base on 'compassionate' grounds. So the yoke fell on the bachelor boy - the Adjutant (yours Truly), who had nobody waiting for him at Meerut, but for his beauty- the Red Royal-Enfield. 
This is where our incident commences.

The Divisional transport - one platoon of 3 ton trucks reported as scheduled. The move plan was meticulously arrived at. Orders were given on the scheduled halts en route and the strict ban on wanderings on or crossing the High way while on halts. Speed limits were laid down. De-induction Tables and Move Orders were prepared and sent to the Brigade Hq. And after the 'Ardaas', the Paltan was bouncing back to Barracks. As usual the worthy Adjt in his Ops Room 1 Ton truck was on the lead to check the speed of the convoy and the Sub Maj was bringing up the tail with the URO (Unit Repair Organisation) complement. After 2 hours of traverse the Convoy halted for ‘rest and recuperation'. Head counts were taken. All OK reports were coming in. Adjt was on his 5th cup of tea on fervent requests 'ghut ghut' pee laiye saab , from reps of various admin groups.!! Still waiting to have a glimpse of Sub Maj saab to get the final OK report. Hours passed. Adjt’s adrenalin mounting. Then the Nissan truck of Sub Maj appeared on the horizon and drew near. The Vehicle stopped and he alighted, accepted the solemn salutations of ‘mundas’ (jawans) around and walked off for his tea. Getting impatient, the Adjt summoned the Sub Maj and asked for the 'Sab Achha' (All OK report).
Then the Sub Maj started spinning his tale. 'Saabji, mein taan aakhiri gaddi vich aa reha si. Mere saamne apni RCL jeep si, jhinu Banta (Sep Bant Singh) chalanda paya si te Santa (L/Nk Sant Singh) co-draver seat te einakaan (driving goggles) lai baitha si'. I knew what was coming. I held my breath and asked him. 'Sab jaldi bolo. age Kiya hua'?. He replied, ‘Kujvi nahin saab. Ek eetaan da truck (truck carrying bricks)aage chal raha si'. Now I became fully defensive and asked him 'Ok saab, jaldi bolo kya hua?'. 'Saab jee Eetaan de truck da draver ne ekdam break lagaditi, te apne Sante ne gadi nu idha morh dita' . He showed a 90 Degree turn with his hands. Then I asked him 'Saab RCL Gun da ki haal hai’? He said ' Oho taan bach gayi. Sirf Clamp tut gaya, hor gun maarra jeha mur ke idaan hogaya’. He again showed a 270 Degree turn with his right arm. By now I was fully exasperated and panicky. An US manufactured RCL Gun is a controlled item and soldiers handle it with reverence. One of them getting condemned makes the Battalion unfit for war!!!

I asked him 'Saab Gaddi da ki haal hai?’ Then he brought his hands in a namasthe posture parted to nearly one foot and then said ' Saab ji maarra jeha kloj hogaya' and brought his hands to 6 inches , held it at that and left it to my imagination.!! Just imagine an RCL jeep with a gun (US Made) mounted on it, of 12” long getting 'closed' to 6"!!

After having taken the 'panga' (risk) of eliciting the could’ve been 'avoidable' unpleasant report from the Sub Maj, the Adjt was in trouble. Sub Maj had done the ,'Thonu dassiassi' ( I had tolded you !!)trick and was sipping his tea amongst his admirers across the road. I ordered him, much to his chagrin, to cut down on his tea, and join me to proceed to the site of accident.

When I reached the site, I found no trace of the RCL Jeep or the 'eetaan da truck '. Sub Maj was least flustered. My fear was whether the Recovery Detachment of the Corps HQ EME Workshop had taken the jeep away. Then the report must have reached the Bde / Div Cdrs who insisted on a 'zero' accident state. If it happened, it was a 'command failure'!!! I felt terribly guilty that I had let down my Battalion and the Commanding Officer!! I was already hallucinating the tough times I would have to explain my inept handling of the situation to the Comdg Offr, who by now, much oblivious of the mishap, be on his third ‘gin cordial flavored with angostura’ at the Wheeler's Club with his family.   

Then I asked Sub Maj ' Saab gaddi te munde kithhe aai?' He coolly led me to a way side house on the NH 3. After having entered the court yard of the house through the narrow entrance in the mud wall, I found my RCL Jeep with the rcl gun  still mounted in a cocky position, with 'Santa te Banta' thoroughly occupied in fraternising the inmates of the house!!. I wondered, how a jeep with a gun could enter the court yard through the narrow passage in the wall?!! There didn't seem any other opening from any where too!!.  'Santa te Banta' and the old lady of the house were soon hosting me. 'Puttar, bai jaa. Garam chaa pee lo.' -Coaxing of ‘mataji’.  'Rottian nahi khaonge saab . Garam garam haigian, hor sabzi te taaji lassi -'Banta te Santa'. I lost my cool by then and gave both of them and in that veil to the Sub Maj, a vent to my pent up fury. All the B..C..s, and M..C..s I learned in 'First Battalion', gushed out . I was myself surprised at the 'lucidity' and 'diction' of my phonetics in Punjabi. Not very much to the liking of the old lady, who vanished from the scene shedding all her maternal charm!!!
    As expected in 'First Battalion', the mundas froze to 'shun'(attention) and cocked their heads to one side and concentrated, looking philosophical!!!. Once cool and spent out after the shameless tirade, the Sub Maj approached me cautiously and pleaded. 'Saabji  tusi ghusse nu chhaddo, munde siyane (good people)hege ,. Then I asked him what the jeep is doing inside the house and how it got there from the site of the accident?. He told me that after the accident they got hold of the driver of the truck and bashed him up. Manhandled the gun and leveled it to the truck, and did a firing practice with the breech of the gun being loaded with a 'khali khokka' and the 'all clear ' indication to the firer to Fire. Before the 'Firer' could press the knob, the driver of the truck, who was defiant and quoting all the traffic rules & regulations till then, was prostrating before them and ready for any compensation. Sub Maj took out 1000 bucks from his breast pocket and showed me, with glee in his eyes. Then, knowing well that the Bde Convoy was to follow in an hours time, he ordered the 'mundas' to break down the mud wall of the nearby house, and push the jeep in side and re-make the wall to its original state. That's when I realised the reason for dampness on the wall of having recently hand plastered.!! He said 'tussi phikkar na karo saabjee, apaan poora convoys jaan deyange baa..ch, CMP Check Postaan de hatan ton baa..ch, raat nu baapis aake jeep nu Shaktiman vich load kar ke junit MT (Unit mechanical transport park) lae challange. CO saab bhadar nu mein appe das deyanga.' The latter part of his statement pricked my ego for certain and was of no relief to me.

Then I went back to the convoy and proceeded to Meerut, highly tensed up.  After having checked in correctly, while giving the 'sab achha' report to CO, I included the 'mishap' also with great caution and apprehension. CO imbibed all coolly and queried whether Sub Maj is handling the situation and then  to my utter surprise and disbelief, told me to relax.
That's the END of my part in the episode. Weird are the ways of Pioneers!!! . Aut Viam Invenium Aut Faciam. If you don’t find a Road, make one. !!! That’s what they did in this case!

I still get shocks when I think of that 'Maarra jeha kloj ho gaya' state..
Such incidents make you fit and strong to survive amongst Pioneers and fade away smiling, with sweet memories to savor for the rest of your life!!!

                             Col Ravi R Nair (Retd)

SD College & Memoirs of an Ex Cadet


[Col R Ravi Nair (Retd) –Sr Under Officer NCC 
 & Gp Cdr NCC Kollam & Gp Cdr NCC Mysore - 1996-2003

Santana Dharma College is my Alma Mater and the only College of my allegiance. The Golden Phase of my youth was well spent in this campus. In retrospect, I vividly recall this phase by my intimate relations with NCC primarily and then by my involvement with the College Students’ Union. 

Unlike my contemporaries I did not have a pre-university exposure, since I had joined BA English Literature (The premier batch 1965) after having completed the Senior Cambridge Examination from Sainik School. While in the College I had the opportunity of being elected as the Secretary of English Language and Literary Association, the Cabinet Member of Students Union and finally the Speaker (Chairman) of the College Students’ Union under the banner of Independent Student‘s Union (ISU). From a modest member of the Party I could graduate to Party President by the time I left the college. I am convinced that it is the National Cadet Corps, which imbibed in me the confidence and managerial acumen to acquire and hold important offices within the students’ community, and that too devoid of any exterior political influence or sponsors working towards it. 

The tuition culture was non-existent those days and looked down upon. The college campus reverberated with hectic activities of athletes and games lovers; with Mr.Naidu the Physical Director omnipresent on ground from the last gong for the day till twilight fades. All-round development was the key and no student prematurely worried about a career for one self. The Medicine/Engineering mania was not felt and the parents seemed to desire their wards to spend more time in campus. “Why are you late?”, “ I was in the Hockey field.”, was taken as an impressive alibi by parents. I wonder how many students play hockey, football, basketball or even enter the playing fields or track now a days, other than may be flexing muscles occasionally in a game of cricket? 

Enrolling in NCC those days was a natural response to any active and well-meaning student. The nation was still in the fervor of 1965 Indo Pak War and any able-bodied youth desired to be of some service to the cause of National Defence. Enrolment to the NCC was selective and an aspirant had to undergo stringent physical and medical screening and there were many unfortunates who were left out as unfit. We had six Senior Division Companies and the senior ANO (then known as Part Time Officers- PTO) was Major Rajashekaran Nair, He was solidly built, sporting fearsome ‘walrus moustaches’ with a dominating personality and blessed with a ‘Drill Sergeant’s commanding voice’. Cadets and common students were so sacred of him that even the most ‘mis-adventurous’ gave him a slip when he happened to trundle past. He had a dedicated team of PTO’s like Captain PK Padmanabhan Potty, Lieut R Ramachandran Nair, Lieut N Gopalakrishnan Nair, Lieut RV Ramachandran, Lieut MP Subramanian and Lieut CJ Rao. They were a team and fully in control of nearly one thousand cadets and their dealings highly business like. The Battalion Commander was Major Herman (17 Kerala Battalion – then located at Alleppey), and the Group Commander at Thevally Palace, Kollam was Lt Col CV Donoghue. 

The senior Division NCC, then was known as NCC Rifles and the uniform was mazri shirts and khaki trousers. The college had an imposing firing range where firing was a normal feature on any parade day. The cadets fired.22 and .303 bolt action rifles and even Light Machine guns. Weapons of all sorts and ammunitions were kept in a large Kote consisting of four classrooms within the college. To the best of my knowledge I do not remember having seen any police guard for its security. The ANO’s and the Under Officers were fully responsible and accountable. The security was untenable and the Kote was granted its due sanctity. The NCC administrative office, stores, Kotes and classrooms occupied the entire complex adjacent to the boy’s hostel, which now is the Commerce Department. The place was out of bounds for non-NCC students and non-functionaries. 

As a Sr Division NCC Cadet, I had the unique privilege of taking part in two Annual Training camps, Army attachment Camp with 1st Battalion the Brigade of the Guards. Advanced Leaderships Camp, Republic Day Parade Preparatory Camp at Munnar and the All India RD Parade at Delhi. Normal parades were on Saturday afternoons and Sundays. The ‘falling in’ on the parades, I distinctly remember as a solemn and impressive occasion. With a near 100% attendance of cadets who are properly turned out, the ANO’s falling-in at the head of each Company, the PI staff (Regular Army personnel, mainly from the North India-Dogra and Punjab Regiments) in full strength, and the parade being handed over in succession to the “Supremo” – Major Rajashekaran Nair, his imposing words of Command and the humanity responding to it!! . All were a herald of what I was to witness later in life while commanding troops of a well oiled Infantry Regiment”. No giggles, no suppressed coughs, no whispers, no comments, no unto wards movements!!. Every parade used to be affirming and reaffirming the authority vested on a student as an appointment holder- as a Leader. The defaulters if any were summarily disposed off either by ‘physical handling’ or by awarding stringent punishments on the spot – to be forgotten immediately. One normally found dozens of such ‘unfortunates’ revolving around the parade ground with the rifle held high!!! Long side burns and long hairs were becoming a fashion those days. But an NCC cadet stood out by his demeanor scrupulously insisted and set example by his ANO’s. Senior Under Officers took mostly all theoretical classes including ‘Military Tactics’. One had to spend hours to prepare for the classes one had to take. The only reference book available was a small NCC Handbook. Rest was all left for imagination and how good one is in spinning the yarn !!! But it was a stage to bring out ones latent Instructor prowess. 

The Espirit-de-Corps amongst the cadets of the college was commendable. They were one, when it came to competitions. Our competitors were Carmel Poly Technic College (under Major Kuzhuveli – another dedicated ANO) and TD Medical College. As I can recall, the winners were always SD College. SN, St Michael’s and NSS Colleges were in their conceptual stage only. 

The cadets took pride in their turnout and they even compromised their precious looks to a tough soldierly bearing, even to the risk of giggles and disapproving comments from the girls. Most of the cadets, specially Under Officers had their own uniforms stitched. Honing impeccable military bearing was the dream of every cadet. The order of the day was that one should see his reflection on the toes of his boots. We discretely took advice and tips from the PI staff on ‘spit-n-polish’ and maintenance of leather, brass and uniforms. The night prior to parade was always spent on spit and polish and starching of uniform. Remember, the ‘terry cottons’ had not entered the market. Upgrading of the issue hackles to nearly one foot long by joining two or three patent hackles used to be a delicate and deft task. One really felt elated fully decked–up like a ‘tonga horse’ and cycling to a NCC parade. One always felt that the ‘world’ around is gaping with admiration!! One felt on top of the world, if one happened to ‘home-on’ to a ‘Ladies only’ bus!! Those were the days! Will it ever come back!! 

There was an unwritten camaraderie in NCC. A senior cadet always took a junior cadet under his wings. Any mis-adventure with a cadet was taking a big chance with a 1000 strong organisation. Even ANO’s took a stand on this. The ANO was the ‘Guru’ and even the Head of the Department or the Principal had a secondary status. The former always accepted his obligations as such. There had been instances of ANO’s financing the college fees of cadets who could not afford it. That was the bond!! I distinctly remember an incident when the police wanted to make a forced entry into the college campus. The man on fore resisting the attempt was Major Rajashekaran Nair. There were some altercations and finally the police withdrew. The grape –wine is that the ANO ordered the ‘Kotes’ to be opened and the cadets be armed, to defend the sanctity of the campus. May be a myth!! But well accredited! Now days I see a police posse posted permanently within the college. I still recall an incident when an Under Officer cadet was facing dismissal on alleged misbehavior with a girl. The ANO stood-by and even to the great dislike of the management the Under Officer was reinstated. But the summary disposal met out to the Under Officer by the ANO ‘in camera’ is still a mystery. He is a very senior bureaucrat in the Government service. 

I as a cadet had just glimpses of the Battalion Commander and Group Commander. As far as the cadets were concerned their ultimate was the PTO. When I was detailed by Major Rajashekeran Nair to attend the Republic Day Parade at Delhi, I raised my fears of missing the ensuing examinations. He gave me an assurance not to worry on that score. Now I recall that I had missed all the college examinations, ie: Onam and Christmas Exams for my entire three years in college. But still the Principal and the English Faculty always considered me as a disciplined and ‘bright student’!! 

Those days the student politics and NCC movement were inseparable. NCC Cadets held nearly all the Students’ Union offices. This arrangement assured disciplined leadership and governance and students accepted it. In my first year the Speaker was Senior Under Officer Sadasivan Pillai. In my second Year the Speaker was Senior Under Officer CM Babu. I followed suite in my third year with the same qualifications. The sad thing is that now a days discipline and politics do not mesh well. I doubt whether any student of importance affluent or effluent is connected with NCC movement.!!!

There were no incentives to cadets as you find now a days. A student got enrolled due to sheer love for uniform and an orderly life. All the Under Officers and cadets who I know and recall have done very well in life and they all reminiscent with reverence their association with NCC in SD college. 

I for one, always remember with gratitude all the PTO’s (ANOs), PI Staff (permanent instructional staff- deputed from the Three Services) and the functionaries who had given me a direction in life and also brought to fore latent Leadership qualities including the confidence to face the world – to make me what I am today.

I also take this opportunity to pay tributes to the Principals Prof. Akhileswara Iyer and Prof Vaidyanathan and the Patriarch Sri Parthasarathy Iyengar (reverently known as Pappa Swamy), the Manager of SD College, for their unflinching and proud sponser and blessings to me as a student and a functionary of the student community.

Last but not the least, I am grateful to Prof Iyengar Sir and the members of staff of English Department, who were proud with a sense of belonging, to one of their student’s achievements in the extra curricular fields  and also encouraged me all the way for higher goals in life.
-Col (Retd) Ravi R Nair –
Ex-Group Commander NCC
Kollam Group, Kerala & Laksha Dweep NCC Dte
& Mysore Composite Group, Karnataka & Goa  Dte