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. !!!.


  1. Wow :) didn't know that you knew A Kalam's classmate

  2. oops ....I had goose bumps on me when I read this. I could even recall your voice when you commanded that situation...

  3. Kudos to ur presence of mind, courage and wit to deal with the situation. It is indded great of u to mention about the role played by Jagtar and the young AF officer within their own capacity.

  4. Uncleji..,
    good to read the story.. Will get back to with "feed backs"

  5. LOL.. Amazing !! Great way of dealing with the Cops and other hang-arounds :)

  6. Ammava
    Hats of to courage displayed to tackle the so called privileged class.
    It proves DEFENCE is the TOP FORCE!!

  7. Thats why u r recognized and decorated as an Infantry Soldier Sir. Hats off to u for the presence (no - of mind) your exact intelligence. regards. ramanans

  8. Ravi, that was your presence of mind and the determination to uphold the dignity of the Armed Forces. Thank you from all faujis.

  9. Thank you Sir .
    We're at Atria. ?
    Ravi Nair