As the Gorkhali music reached its crescendo, Bipin took off to do his Gorkhali Jhamre dance on his haunches, with infectious energy, total involvement and great gusto. This was on 04 December 2021 in Delhi, in 5/11 Gorkha Rifles, celebrating the Golden Jubilee of Battle Honour Day in full spirits and hearty laughter. This was the same vintage Bipin of 1978, when he joined the unit as the breath of fresh air.
Bipin was the rarest of the rare, an amalgam of hard work and diligence, professional competence and intellect, courage of conviction and forthrightness. Even as a youngster, Bipin was up-front; the epithet that youngsters must be seen and not heard, was not coined for him. He always said his mind, clearly, lucidly, without mincing words and unmindful of consequences. That endearing quality made him a leader from the beginning of his career, a born leader so as to say, with predictions that ‘he will go far’. Far he went, as far as he could, the Chief of Army Staff and then first Chief of Defence Staff.
Behind the apparent flippancy, and seeming shooting from the hip as critiques tended to say, was a very astute mind that had mulled the issues, sounded them off colleagues and friends and then articulated as if impromptu! That by itself was an art so well developed by Bipin. It is not that he was unmindful of the social media critique; Bipin’s research was immaculate and courage of conviction was legendary. Negative thoughts rarely crossed his portal, for he was destined to initiate the change and get it implemented.
Once, when as a Sector Commander he recommended a Commanding Officer of a RR Unit in Sopore for an award, it was because he had ensured long-term peace in the disturbed area, without firing a shot! That was Bipin’s vision on counter-insurgency! In his support for Major Gogoi, or his opinion on stone pelters or against those who had streaks of dishonesty, Bipin was categoric and held on to his opinion, despite the adverse television debates and social media. What is wrong in calling China a threat clearly, when the Nation believes China is a Threat! That was his immense strength and courage of conviction.
His humane qualities were par excellence; there was no empty rhetoric of nani bhaat khayo (son, have you had food!). There was redefinition of welfare in the Army. His mark is far wide, in improving living conditions of the troops and pushing for better maintenance of habitat. His interaction with troops was sans any formality, he just became part of them, a very endearing quality.
We lost Madhulika too! From April 1986, when Madhu and Bipin were married at Ashoka Road in Central Delhi, Madhu has retained her cheerful and ebullient demeanour. Her friendliness was evident by her very large repertoire of great friends, from school to college and service life, and the cheerfulness and informality that she brought to any gathering. With Bipin devoted full time to profession in counter insurgency in Kashmir and Northeast, Madhu was permanent presence in Arun Vihar Noida, bringing up Kritika and Tarini, and looking after Gen and Mrs LS Rawat, her in-laws.
Bipin left a very diverse imprint, an immense legacy, though a large list of unfinished, visionary work that would transform the Armed Forces. With absolute clear vision of what he wanted for the Services, and how he could propel towards implementing it! In his tragic passing away, the outpouring of grief among the peoples of India and internationally, showed his immense contribution. India lost a great patriot, a down to earth soldier and a strategic visionary, leaving behind an immense void! Gen Bipin Rawat literally left us wearing his boots and taking strong strides, and that was how he would have wished too! Unfortunately went too early; the best salutation would be that some of his visions fructify, even before he would have officially retired.
In the demise of Bipin and Madhu, the Regiment lost a piece of its soul. Wherever you are, dearest friends, remain cheerful and happy together in the world yonder, as you were in life.