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Twin personality

M Yusuf Khan could not believe that an army officer can be an ardent follower of J Krishnamurti.

india Updated: Jun 13, 2006 13:27 IST

A placard carelessly placed on a writing table that I happened to see 30 years ago has been a source of solace to me in my troubled times ever since.

Once, I had to perform the rather unpleasant duty of being the armed escort to an officer who was placed under arrest at Pune airbase for being inebriated enough to offend the sensibilities of the IAF. At a party, he was enjoying his drink maybe just a little more than the others. But obviously his track record of heavy drinking was his undoing.

The officer under arrest greeted me with a smile when I went to take over my escort duty. His bachelor's apartment was sparsely furnished and shorn of any flashy posters of film stars and such, so common in the single officers' quarters. The bare walls had just one photograph of a Swami whose name I do not remember. The books stacked on the shelf were mostly religious with a generous sprinkling of J Krishnamurti's works.

The officer wore a white dhoti and kurta  and had sandalwood paste smeared on his forehead. It was rather unusual for a service officer even if an ardent follower of J Krishnamurti. The two traits of his personality were so difficult to reconcile that a man so spiritually inclined could have another side that was so distressing. He came across as man full of compassion. After spending eight hours with him I felt sorry that he had ruined a bright career through drink.

When about to leave, I suddenly realised that my ammunition packet was missing. My heart skipped a couple of beats. It was a court martial offence to lose live ammunition. What if the officer had hidden it just to create trouble? He sensed my discomfort and pointed to his writing table. The pack was lying intact next to the placard that I mentioned. It read: `I used to complain that my shoes pinched until I saw a man with no feet'. This message has lifted my spirits ever since.