Meet the baritone behind R Day commentary: A retired colonel
On Saturday morning, when 457 newly commissioned officers marched out of the Indian Military Academy campus after their passing out parade, everyone was talking about one man, whom they called “Amitabh Bachchan”.
No, it was not Big B, but 53-year-old Col (Retd) Jiwan Kumar Singh, who won many hearts while doing commentary for the programme. In his baritone voice, which sounded similar to the Bollywood icon, Col Singh impressed everyone in the audience with self-written Hindi discourse and patriotic poems.
Col Singh, who served as commando in insurgency-hit areas of the country during his army career of 32 years, has been doing commentary since 1999. “I started commentary accidentally. I always had profound interest in poetry and wrote my first poem when I was in class 7. I imbibed it from my father, who also writes poem. Then one day during an army event, I explored my hidden talent of commentating,” he said.
Recalling the incident, which took place in Rajasthan’s Pokhran, he said, “I was with my wife to attend a two-day army function in 1999 when I was a serving officer. On the first day of the event, one of my senior officers, who was on stage, recited one of my poems, followed by huge round of applause. I told my wife that the poem was written by me, to which she asked me the reason of not reciting myself,” he said. He told his wife that it was like that in the army.
But the debate went unresolved. “I contemplated on my wife’s opinion and then on second day of the event, taking inspiration from Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s poem ‘Hiroshima ki Peeda’, I wrote ‘Pokhran ka Ulhaas’ within 15 minutes and recited it there. I was appreciated a lot for the recital filled with fervour of patriotism, followed by invitations for recital and commentating at other army events,” said Col Singh.
Since then it was no looking back. Col Singh’s took his commentating skill seriously after an army event organised in the memory of a martyred army officer, who was posthumously awarded with the Ashok Chakra in 2004. “Since then I have commentated in many events. I have been commentating in Hindi in Republic Day parade and Army Day parades in Delhi since 2010. Apart from this, in all major army functions since last 15 years,” he said.
He has written four books and given voice-over in more than 14 movies of different army units.
Col Singh has received praise for his commentary and poem recitals from various army officers and governors of states but, according to him, the most memorable appreciation he got was by a Pakistani brigadier. “It was during a military event in which Pakistani defence attaché was also formally invited. I received appreciation from them, which I consider the most significant one. Also, one of the memorable ones was in another event, in which a Param Vir Chakra awardee soldier of Kargil War told me that if he would have listened to my poems earlier, he would have killed 10 more enemies.”
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