With love, from Rawalpindi | chandigarh | Hindustan Times
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With love, from Rawalpindi

chandigarh Updated: Jan 25, 2014 12:16 IST
Col Avnish Sharma (retd)

Soldiers have a unique disposition. Where will you find a community charging at each other at the battlefield and again eager to hug off it. Such is the irony, exemplary dedication to professional honesty both as a soldier and as a human being. The India, Pakistan peace initiative (IPSI) epitomises one such spirit.


Veterans of Indian and Pakistani armies, in a bid to forge a 'track two' bonding, have embarked on a peace initiative, a grassroots-level initiative while exchanging visits of members and their families. The other day, I had the opportunity to interact with members of the Pakistani delegation during a social event hosted by a top-level political functionary. Apprehensive of breaking ice with our adversary in the battlefield, our friends from across the border were more forthcoming. The colonel from the Pakistan frontier force was the first one at the bar. The mention of prevalence of alcohol consumption in the army came up for discussion. Noticing my bewilderment on a presumable abstinence by Pakistanis from the spirits, the gentleman remarked, "Colonel saab, when both our armies have a similar job profile, why should the liquid diet vary?"

He recounted the days of happiness before their chief-cum-president enforced prohibition in the army. Taking a dig at me, since the hugely moustached villain of alcohol and I belonged to the elite Cavalry, he said, "Will you ever stop feeding grams to horses and expect them to perform!" His wife joined the discussion reprimanding him and reminding him of the day the order by the late dictator banning liquor in the army spread like wild fire in the Pakistani rank and file and how her husband had rushed to the army canteen in his official jonga and dumped the last available bottle...the stock was lasting him to date.

Then there was this veteran Indian officer who had gone to Wagah to escort the delegation to Chandigarh. Pointing to a particularly cosy old couple, he narrated how they did not speak to each other and insisted on travelling in different Innovas just because the officer had forgotten to get her favourite CD of Jagjit Singh and Chitra hits along for the fear of it being taken as misplaced loyalty by the customs at Wagah. The lady was taken to a music shop in Sector 17 for an immediate reunion with Jagjit Singh's choicest collections.

As the evening progressed, the fierce encounters with their sworn enemies during 1971 took the shape of an emotional conversation. A brigadier from the Pakistani armoured corps recounted the faceoff with Param Vir Chakra awardee Arun Khetarpal. He talked of how the Poona Horse youngster shot more than half a dozen Pakistani Pattons despite his tank having become a redundant machine. The close functionary of the host mistook me for a friend from across the border. In fact, he even asked if I was related to a former Pakistan chief and president who is under the judicial lens at present. Bemused, without disclosing my identity, I asked him what made him think I was related.

To which he remarked, "Bhai jaan, you bear an uncanny resemblance to him, both of you look like twins." Before the discussion could transgress to an unmanageable conclusion, I decided to shave off my moustache and replace my spectacles with contact lens lest I get hounded by the Pakistan judiciary as a fit accused rather than the recuperating heart patient who had been admitted in the Army Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases at Rawalpindi recently.