Aposting to the North East always held a fascination in my mind! My late father was an infantry Officer from the Sikh Regt and had been posted at one time or another to every nook and corner in the east. I remember, even as I child, I used to hear gripping stories about his interactions with the local people, their way of life, the flora & fauna and the topography which was quite different from what we came across in the North India.
I was commissioned in 1976 and joined an elite Regt of the Armored Corps, The Seventh ‘Cavalry’! While attending the last leg of my YO’s course at Ahmednagar, I was handed over a signal from the Regt which asked me to report to our independent Sqn located in Masimpur near Silchar in Assam. The evening saw celebration with close friends, as it was a release from high pressure which was building up regarding what justification was to be given to the Adjutant & the Commandant regarding the course result.
I travelled by the good old Assam mail, from Delhi, changed 3 trains enroute & reached the Sqn HQ in the dead of night. Another officer who was travelling with me, had been posted at Masimpur for a while, he kept giving me tips of how to keep alert and careful during, the journey. Lest I loose all my belongings during the train journey. Unfortunately, during the night his starched uniform put up on a hangar in the train compartment was stolen through the window and we woke up with him asking me if I knew where his uniform was? Fortunately all my belongings were intact.
Life in the Sqn was laid back! But, since I was the junior most and had to be shown my place I was told to take promotional, driving and educational classes in the Sqn which started at 8 and lasted till 12:30 daily. With daily routine of teaching getting a little much, I was overjoyed to hear that I was to move up to Aizawl with a troop of armed cars for internal security duties. Life in Aizawl was a great hit! The locale which I was in, was in close vicinity of the Army location bazaar, was bustling with life from 10 am to 6 pm. The shops were by and large run by women and young girls, some of them were quite pretty but all were super salespersons! I remember having bought six dozen pencils “made in Japan” for my children whereas I was not even married then!
I had to hang around the Div HQ when not escorting a convoy moving from Aizawl to Lunglei or back. Being the junior most I found a seating place only in the reading room. The only entertainment was hearing stories of Rashtrapati Bhawan from Capt. Ahlawat of Fakr-e-Hind, who had been the ADC to the President and for unknown reasons (so he said) found himself posted to Aizawl overnight. Darkness fell early in east and almost daily as per a routine , all youngsters invariably made a bee line to residential quarters of the Bde Ordnance Officer who was married to a local mizo girl. His wife was very courteous to all the bachelors and had a string of friends who too brought their guitars along. Usually, there was a lot of music, wine and dancing. Sometimes we were invited by some of her civilian friends in the town. We were warned time and again that we should be careful about the underground militants when we go into town so when we were invited by civilians for parties I went fully prepared. The armoured car was parked a little distance away with alert crew and I would go in civilians clothes with a revolver stuck into the trouser which made dancing very difficult.
One such evening was invaded by four armed militants soldiers, two men and two women. Music was stopped and speaking in broken English one of the men asked me , who seemed to be in command, as to who I was. Our host sprang into action and speaking in local Mizo told him that we were IAS probationers who were visiting Aizawl. He didn’t seem very convinced but asked the other three to frisk us. Fortunately, they tapped all of us waist downwards and I had my revolver in a shoulder holster (which I had acquired that very day from the local market) under my jacket. After a while things settled down. There was a scared look on everybody’s face but after a while the four of them spoke to us in broken English and had a drink with us. They asked us to inform the Govt. in Delhi that they were fighting for a cause.
They left abruptly after hearing a shout in Mizo from outside. Before we could take a sigh of relief the Provost unit Maj. Poonia walked in with five military police soldiers. Maj. Poonia surveyed the room first, looked hard at all the persons in the room and walked up to us and said, “Today all of you could have been shot, get back to the mess fastest and report at the Div Hq at 8 AM!” Next day six of us were dutifully standing in front of the G 1 of the Div HQ trying to explain as to why were we at the party in civil area without proper permission. What a firing we got! We were told we would march up to the GOC for disobedience. But fortunately the GOC took a lenient view and let us go with a warning. The silver lining of the firing was that I picked up a rich vocabulary of abusive language used by senior Officers.
Very next day I got orders to accompany an infantry platoon on a month long patrol along the Bangla border and others got some parshad like wise. While on the patrol we passed through several villages. While passing through the villages, curious villagers would gather to have a close look at us. Sometimes we would buy biscuits or toffees from some village shop. One day while passing through one of the villages I found one of the girls in the crowd looking very curiously at me. I looked back, she seemed familiar, and then it came back to me, she was one of militants who had invaded the party in Aizawal. She smiled at me, winked and melted into the crowed. I tried to locate her but she was gone! I informed the patrol commander that we were under close surveillance of the militants. We become double careful but there was no attack on us. This experience has stuck in my memory as most exciting, dangerous and a very close shave.
I look back on my posting to the North East as a great opportunity to see India as the most divergent country. During my stint of a year and a half I was sent to Manipur, Nagaland, Mizoram, Tripura and Assam but there was never a dull moment and “what an experience!” The author is an ex cavalry Major and was a member of the Haryana Legislature