We fight more among ourselves than against enemy, it’s time to change: Major General Rajendra Nath (retd)
“I’m only 93,” says Major General Rajendra Nath (retd) as he smiles for the camera. “And, I’m a proud Indian. The only problem is that since the days of Mahabharata, we’ve been fighting more among ourselves than against outsiders. That needs to change,” says the General, heading for his office at the Institute for the Blind in Sector 26, Chandigarh.
“We’re a defensive nation. We were attacked by foreign forces but did we ever march into Afghanistan or Persia (erstwhile Iran) and hit back? The only time we attacked was the Indo-Pak war for Bangladesh in 1971 and the result is for all to see,” he says.
Pointing to a document of surrender by Major General Mohammad Hussain Ansari of 9 Pakistan Division, that he has kept framed in his office, General Nath says, “Ansari surrendered to me when I was the 62 Mountain Brigade Commander in Bangladesh. Decades later when we caught up, there were no grudges.”
LEADING FROM THE FRONT
Life in the army taught him to take risks and stay grounded. “Whatever the odds, the commander leads from the front. As the brigade commander, I was in the first of the three light tanks that crossed the Padma river north of Dhaka at night when we hoodwinked the Pakistanis on the other side. My troops were upbeat and with God’s grace, we caught the enemy unawares,” he says. Though light tanks can float in the river, it was a risky move.
“The army brings out the best in you,” the General says smiling as he recalls his days as a cadet before he was commissioned into 11 Gorkha Rifles in 1947, and later as a Commandant, at the Indian Military Academy, Dehradun. “It was a proud moment. My wife Krishna would say, let me see how you command the academy that made you a soldier. I did my bit to improve the institution but I’m also a little miserly so I left the institution with double the funds without compromising on quality,” he says.
HUMBLE TO THE CORE
General Nath, who hails from Hoshiarpur, is a first generation soldier. “My father was an advocate and I’m second among four brothers, one of who joined the navy.” Nath was a young captain serving in the military intelligence directorate at the army headquarters in 1952 when he volunteered to lead a special reconnaissance into the forbidding Aksai Chin area of Ladakh. Ask him about the arduous task and he says, “I happened to be posted there and just did my duty. Yes, I led a team of 15, including Ladakhis who spoke the local language, and sent detailed reports to the headquarters. At the end of the day, all our achievements are because of God’s will. No point gloating over them.”
He has written four books on military matters and the first happens to be on Ladakh. “I intend to write another one. Collecting data takes about six months,” he says.
During his career, he got the opportunity to attend the Canadian Army Staff College Course from 1959-61. “My warfare knowledge diversified with this exposure. It’s good to learn from others.” He was an instructor in the Defence Services Staff College, Wellington, from 1965-68 and commanded the 10 Infantry Division in Akhnoor (J&K).
After his retirement in 1982, General Nath made Chandigarh his home and dedicated his life to the service of the blind. “The then deputy commissioner approached me and I’ve served this centre without taking a paisa. The children, particularly girls, here are so brave! Their laughter and commitment despite the odds are an inspiration. Living for others gives so much happiness that we forget our own,” he says.
As for Chandigarh, he rues the delay in providing an alternative means of public transport to ease traffic congestion. “It’s a blunder. When an old city like Kolkata could have a tram service decades ago, why did it take authorities here so long to connect the tricity through an alternative means to road transport?”
Be good, do good. Develop an attitude of gratitude.
The ego is the biggest problem. Learn to look beyond it.
A leader must set the precedent. Don’t watch, be a party to the mission.
Be observant but don’t offer your opinion unless sought.