Travelling through Rohtak and Jhajjar districts (which along with Sonepat form the Deswal area of Haryana) I was struck by groups of keen young men running on the roads. Enquiries revealed that they were in training for the physical tests for army recruitment.
Truly is this region known as the Prussia of the Jats! Every young boy’s dream is to become a jawan. The infantry draws heavily from this region with the Jat regiment, Rajputana Rifles and Grenadiers getting the cream of their recruits from here. Iconic armoured regiments, including Poona Horse, Deccan Horse and 3rd Cavalry swear by the warlike qualities of the ‘Desi Admi’. Every village in Deswal abounds in warriors and heroes. Risaldar Badlu Singh and Havildar Umrao Singh, both winners of the Victoria Cross, Major Hoshiar Singh, PVC, Major Mahendra Singh Chaudhary and Captain Devinder Singh Ahlawat, both Maha Vir Chakra awardees are among the hundreds of war heroes from the area.
First stop on my tour was the huge ex-servicemen rally so excellently organised by the Hissar-based 33 Armoured Division at Jhajjar. It was addressed by the army chief whose village falls nearby. Interacting with the veterans here, one found the demand for speedy implementation of OROP resonating through the sentiments expressed by them. Next was a meeting with the doughty Captain Jai Singh Rathi, late of the Deccan Horse and the local chapter of the IESM. I was impressed with their spirit and the social work being done by them.
To round off the day there was an emotional visit to Sundana, village of my father’s former batman, Chaudhary Hardwari Lal. The 87-year old tau as we affectionately call him deserves a whole column on himself. He was hospitalised but the rest of his family and the whole village welcomed me like one of their sons. It was an affecting and enriching experience. This was heartland India at its best. For generations these Jats had forsaken the plough to fight the nation’s battles. Stubborn in defence and indomitable in advance, truly the salt of the earth.
Army’s World War One Exhibition
The army belatedly woke up to the need to commemorate the country’s magnificent contribution to World War 1. An ongoing exhibition has been organised at the Maneckshaw Centre in Delhi Cantt, showcasing the efforts made by Indian soldiers and the country as a whole both in terms of men, materials and money towards winning the conflict for the allies. The task was given to General NP Singh, currently chief of staff of the Ambala-based II Corps. Kudos to him and his dedicated team for putting up a truly magnificent show. What I particularly liked was the recreation of animal-pack mountain artillery teams based on the 2.75 inch screw gun complete with mules to carry them. On the PM’s imitative the event has been extended up to 25.
Death of a friend
Writers form a special bond with regular readers and respondents. Romesh Sharma of Ambala was one such who used to call up, congratulate me and discuss my latest column with unfailing regularity. The cruel hands of cancer snatched him away from us last week. I shall miss his friendship though a connect remains with his daughter, RJ Mannat of Big 92.7 FM. RIP Romeshji.
Would like to connect with descendants of World War One veterans. Please write in to firstname.lastname@example.org or call on 093161-35343