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Tuesday, Aug 20, 2019

Guest column: Give way to innovative remedies

Our commanding officer, who was open to innovative ideas, gave thumbs up to a jawan’s idea and the next day the former had trapped all the rats

punjab Updated: Jan 28, 2018 16:08 IST
Col Avnish Sharma (retd)
Col Avnish Sharma (retd)
‘Out of the box’ remedies are quite common with the armed forces.
‘Out of the box’ remedies are quite common with the armed forces.(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

The ‘way out’ suggested by a friendly honourable judge in response to a serious concern expressed by an indicted senior political leader in a fodder scam seemed quite practical , but hilarious. Hilarious because if one feels chilly in an enclosed desolate environment of a clink, an advice to play harmonium or tablaa is certainly not what one’s grandma would approve of. Practical because an activity of the nature suggested would take his mind off the conditions that induce chill as also generate adequate warmth.

Such ‘out of the box’ remedies are quite common with the armed forces. The earliest one being when we were cadets at the Indian Military Academy (IMA) at Dehradun. Way back during 1979, the pre-global warming era, nights at this town at the foothills of Mussoorie, the queen of hills, could be during winters, least to say chilling. An unsuspecting, Anil Simon, our batch mate from down south, appeared in a monkey cap and gloves as early as four in the afternoon at the tea collection point at the barracks, “Hey you, what is this rig (dress),” yells a senior. Simon, hardly able to clench his teeth, “Vherry cold sah!!” “Oh! yes, indeed. Which place?” “Sah, Tirunelveli” was a proud reply. And the orders came, “Quick cold water bath, PT rig (vest and shorts only) and report here in next 10 minutes. Remember, don’t wipe yourself dry after bath.” The procedure was repeated throughout the evening. Anil Simon never wore a monkey cap thereafter. In fact , later in life we played golf during January at Delhi, he was attired in shorts and tee shirt sans a jersey and no glove.

I joined my regiment during winters at Jaurian in Jammu and Kashmir. Probably, a hot cold mixture during welcome rituals, I was down with a sore throat, which our unit doctor Godara gave a technical name, URTI (upper respiratory tract infection) and came up with an innovative prescription “Youngster, 120ml of Sea Pirate(it was a popular rum then), a tiny sprinkling of honey (which was optional), dash of boiled water. To be consumed within 3 minutes … repeat twice and report tomorrow at 8.” I was kicking the next day but a hangover delayed my reporting to the Doc at 8. Godara was the most popular medical officer in the station. He rose to be a general and his patients still swear by him.

The ‘food piper’

Our temporary hutment accommodation at the forlorn cantonment that my unit moved to during our perpetual stint at the desert was infested with rats. We tried everything, till our commanding officer (CO) brought it up in his monthly durbar (sainik sammellan), “Yeh sankatt, hammen malum hai bahut gambhir hai, koi sujhaav?” A young recruit from the front row stood up and casually suggested, “Sahib, dining hall mein bharpur khana bikhaar den aur baaki mere upar chorr dein (spread food in the dining hall and leave the rest to me).” The remedy was quite outrageous since rats relish and multiply amid food, but our CO always open to innovative ideas gave his thumbs up. Next day, around a hundred rats were found trapped and disposed by this enterprising jawan. The word spread around among the rodents that this unit means business and they didn’t dare spoil our stay for the next one year. The celebrity jawan , now a retired honorary captain earned the title of a ‘Food piper’, the innovative version of good ol’ ‘Pied piper’.

Sweat it hard

This golf buddy, chip of the old block, sensed our discomfort to play during the difficult and energy sapping months post monsoons. Not ready to let go of his captive source of income, he came up with a sermon in his usual serious dialect, “A body which sweats during sultry months experiences no chill during winters.” Weird that it sounded, never the less, skewed wisdom works with the fickle minded golfers who need their daily dose of vitamin ‘G’. With one stroke , the wise fellow achieved an uninterrupted access to his victims for the whole of the year.

First Published: Jan 28, 2018 15:55 IST

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