Recently, I attended the reunion of our battalion in a somewhat remote part of Rajasthan.
Though the battalion is comparatively young being a new raising, it still is all of 42 years old! It was indeed a pleasure and privilege to meet so many of my erstwhile comrades and their wives, both serving and retired at the reunion. Our gracious hosts, the serving team of all ranks and their wives, had left no stone unturned to make us welcome with their warmth and hospitality. Shy brides of yesteryears were now graceful mothers. The naughty young toddler of the company officer, was now a strapping handsome major! The son of a martyred jawan now a proud captain, and many more such stories. It is the unique and unrivalled strength of our regimental system, ethos and camaraderie, that so many of us made the journey to our emotional home; the parent unit! I think this relationship is so special and unparalleled, that very few outside the army can grasp this exceptionally close bond, often understated, yet all prevailing. It has been said that the army regiments are like a joint family, with its ancestors, current generation and descendants! It has history, pride, possessions, quirks and traditions, a living, growing and vibrant entity.
The moist eyed, bearhug that I exchanged with my octogenarian Subedar Major had so much pathos and emotion that it would have put many separated and reunited lovers to shame! He had been just promoted as JA when I was the adjutant, and later became my SM and conscience keeper, when I commanded the unit. Our relationship, strong, stable and with mutual respect spans 42 years, and counting. Though frail, he had travelled 3 days by foot, bus and train from an interior village of Himachal to be present and spend a few
hours in a frugal unit environment, to meet old timers, share a few memories, renew old bonds and go back reenergised and reassured that we cared! The same was replicated by all the veterans who made this humbling pilgrimage. So why did so many old timers, some with indifferent health, make this longish journey from India and abroad for a few days of bonhomie? The answer lies in the undying spirit of our time tested regimental system. The shared journey, the hardships, challenges, blood, sweat and bitter sweet memories make for an everlasting bond! Many had shared near death experiences together, had played hard fought games and shared frugal and lavish food from the same plate!
Our regimental system is one of the few redeeming gifts of the British Indian Army. It had stood them in good stead for centuries and they replicated the same in India especially so for the infantry and the armoured corps. The Royal Scots raised in 1633 in Scotland is reportedly the oldest regiment of the infantry! The regimental spirit has since become the backbone of the esprit de corps and the lynchpin cum motivating factor for valour and sacrifice in battle. Our regimental war cries still echo and reverberate in many battlefields across the world. While national spirit and patriotism are indeed important factors, but the Izzat (honour) of the paltan and reverence for the regimental lanyard and colours is placed on a higher pedestal and is more intimate and tangible for the jawans who relate to it more passionately. In all the wars and difficult operations where success and failure hung by a slender thread, the sheer bravery and fortitude of a body of men, buoyed by rallying cry of regimental spirit has often won the day. It is therefore imperative and in our national interest to not only maintain the sanctity of our regimental system but to also nurture it and strengthen it meaningfully, for it is a war winning tool and the crucible of our morale and our emotional anchor! We must resist any steps which in the garb of modernisation or expediency, weaken the regimental system. Some of our units are more than two hundred years old and proudly parade their lineage of astounding valour and even today are one of the finest units and perform admirably as compared to others! Long live our regimental system and may all our paltans thrive and remain the repository of our collective admiration, respect and affection. Jai Garud!