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Looking behind: It all seems incredible now!

Looking behind: It all seems incredible now!
Highlights

Training at the Academy also includes activities such as horse-riding and rigourous physical training. The programme is interspersed with frequent visi...

Training at the Academy also includes activities such as horse-riding and rigourous physical training. The programme is interspersed with frequent visits by distinguished guests who deliver lectures on topical matters. We, ourselves, had Morarji Desai and Montek Singh Ahluwalia among many other noted public figures

The four of us, Charan, Anand (T V Anand Kumar, who unfortunately met an early end while working as the District Collector of West Godavari district a few years later), Vicky and I played a lot of contract bridge in our four-berth compartment in the railway bogey allotted to the group. Our loud arguments irritated Shashi and Aruna, who were in the adjoining coupe, and we were properly pulled up and told to confine ourselves to the game and not make a nuisance of ourselves! One morning, when Anand asked where his "mug" was, Vicky showed him a mirror!

Our four-berth foursome had an amusing experience while in Calcutta. Usha was staying with the Swamys, good friends of my sister and brother-in-law. They had a daughter, Padmini, who was affectionately called Ponni. We were there for a courtesy call. During the conversation, Ponni asked each of us what we were doing. The common reply was 'the IAS'. When all of us had spoken, Ponni's eyes lit up with realisation and she exclaimed "so all of your work for the same company!" What little self-esteem we had plunged to new depths that day!

It was during those days that a very interesting incident took place with another Bharat Darshan group. LM Sud (who unfortunately passed away a few years ago), a member of that group, had gone out to dinner. He returned somewhat late at night, went to his compartment (a coupe shared by him with S N Kakkar), and started calling out "Shanti, open the door".

As it turned out, that compartment was, as a matter of fact, occupied by Mrs and Mr J K Kohli, (a Deputy Director at LABASNAA), in charge of the group at that time. And, the funniest part was that the first name of Mrs Kohli was Shanti too! Fortunately, the misunderstanding was quickly cleared up.

Another important part of the training at LABASNAA was the attachment with the Indian Army. During that year, however, the Western Command, to which Officer Trainees were normally attached, declined to accept the responsibility – probably on account of the preparations being made for the Bangladesh engagement in 1971. Perforce, we were sent to different parts of the country where units of the Army were located. Krishnan Nair (closely related to the eminent diplomat and statesman K M Panikkar) and I were sent to Jabalpur. So, for the two of us, it was the blistering heat of Jabalpur in May, instead of the usual snowbound Himalayas, where the attachment took place! We spent a few days with a battalion of the Rajasthan Rifles. One night, as part of the training, I was asked to lead a unit in a 'route- march' in accordance with the directions contained in a map. Even in broad daylight in a crowded city, yours faithfully is quite capable of getting totally lost. You can, therefore, imagine what happened that night! Only customary military politeness and the fact that, when all had been said and done, it was, after all, a training exercise, that saved me from the ignominy of being hauled across the coals by the Company Commander! I just about managed not to lead the unit out of the State of Madhya Pradesh! Another memorable event of that attachment was the appointment of Manekshaw as Chief of the Army Staff, an appointment greeted by a "Bada Khana" with a battalion of the Gorkhas also located at Jabalpur. The revelry and the merriment of that night will forever remain etched deeply in my memory.

Armed forces are somewhat like civil services in terms of statutory/constitutional protection and insulation from political interference. The common misconception, about the lack of mutual professional respect and bonhomie, between the two services, is misplaced. In fact, there exist, between them, well-established arrangements for official interaction and protocol. The concept of "aid to civil authority" is a clearly laid out arrangement and very valuable in law and order situations and in the aftermath of natural calamities. The attachment, therefore, serves the purpose of helping the Officer Trainees appreciate the hardships and travails that the armed forces face as also the respect for discipline and adherence to lines of control and chains of command that are characteristic of the ambience in which they function.

Training at the Academy also includes activities such as horse-riding and rigourous physical training. The programme is interspersed with frequent visits by distinguished guests who deliver lectures on topical matters. We, ourselves, had Morarji Desai and Montek Singh Ahluwalia among many other noted public figures.

Bharat Darshan also includes a visit to a public sector undertaking (which, in our case, was the BHEL at Ranchi).Thus, at least from the Central government's point of view, the programme offers a holistic, integrated and wholesome package designed to make the Officer Trainees blossom into fit, confident, well-informed, balanced and dedicated civil servants.

Before I leave you, I should share an amusing incident. Unusually for Mussoorie, we had that year, a truly White Christmas. We were to leave for Bharat Darshan in a couple of days and were getting ready, packing for the long journey ahead. On Christmas evening we had gone around, visiting a couple of churches, listening to carols being sung and enjoying the freezing cold, before coming back and going to sleep. When I woke up the next morning I stepped out of the room - and straight into the snow which had hardened overnight – and slipped all the way down to the riding rink some hundreds of feet below!

I am indeed fortunate that I have access to the digital speech–to– text facility via my cell phone thanks to Gayathri my granddaughter. Otherwise, thanks to my notoriously bad handwriting, my assistant and I would have found it well-nigh impossible to decrypt my written material. I often boast that this is one quality, namely poor handwriting, that I share with the great Mahatma! In fact, doing the days when I was posted as Collector of Guntur district, the office was constrained to put together a small group of people solely in order to decipher what I had written!

(Concluded)

(The writer is former Chief Secretary, Government of Andhra Pradesh)

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