Indians speak 398 languages with an official status given to 22. However, on donning the military uniform one realises that there is a 399th and a 23rd quasi-official language, and that is the military lingo.
Two million or so Indian military population (this includes our ex-faujis)
converses on a common language platform, though not necessarily in a common dialect, which varies on a regional basis.
On induction into the training academy, most recruits are greeted with a pleasant welcome and words of encouragement by senior termers, "Clot, so you have come to disgrace the uniform. Get rolling." Over the week, it is, 'Aee you, come here', signifying your non-descript status. 'Get on your haunches, up the tree, go from the left and come from the right; kaddoo (pumpkin), get into bajri order (haversack filled with bajri and lugged on the back)' are common.
Then, there are intellectual discourses comprising pet questions with guaranteed accurate answers. "Why have you joined the service?" "Sir, to serve the nation" and there is an immediate response, "You will be a blot on the nation, look at your paunch, you fatso." Then there is another question, "Which all games do you play?" In case one proudly says, "Sir, carrom, chess, table tennis and badminton," the mention of such sports would make a senior's day. "Why didn't you join the local community centre and serve your locality and leave the nation alone? Report in double bajri order (two bajri haversacks on your back) at 2300 hrs."
The remarks like "You walk like a pregnant duck", "pull up your socks", "tighten your belt", "get on the ball, move, you lazy bum," "get lost", etc, don't leave you till the grave.
I was commissioned in a mixed cavalry regiment, which was an amalgamation of three pure-caste squadrons, hence more or less, each squadron maintained its original composition of troops with three prominent north Indian castes. I was greeted with a new name, not out of sarcasm but purely based on their dialect and common understanding. "Secand Laftain Vanesh Singh Sharma".
Well, the new name was neatly spelt on a slip of paper and inserted in my quarters name board. I could recognise my abode only by seeing the word Sharma. My efforts to amend my name on paper did succeed in due course but their dialect and mindset remains the same till date. My friend, Beji Matthews remains 'Biji Singh Mehta'.
My sahayak came to invite us to his wedding. When asked about the schedule, he said, "Saab, baraat will report at RV (rendezvous) at 2000 hrs. Issue (bar functioning as equated with the weekly issue parade in the units) will be from 2000 to 2100, bhojan at 2100, followed by mandir parade, and lights out at 2330 hrs."
When I got married, my wife from a civilian background underwent a culture shock, especially when my sahayak briefed her on my routine, lest she should falter. "Memsaab, saab takes bed tea at 0500 hrs, breakfast at 0800 hrs, lunch at so and so time," down to even my preference for savouring a drink. Then he said, "Memsaab, please write down these instructions on a piece of paper at least 20 times so that you don't go wrong and put my job in danger." My wife almost walked out on me.
Reading Beetle Bailey comic strips reinforces my conviction that the military lingo is not confined only to us, but is universal.
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