A recent article by General Hasnain about an escapade in the Indian Military Academy (IMA) reminded me of an incident which I was party to, but from the law enforcer’s perspective. It is not so dated back in history like that of the senior General, but it has been almost two decades.
The Assistant Adjutant of Indian Military Academy is a powerful appointment in terms of enforcing discipline. Normally a bachelor officer performs this function as the duty is 24×7 wherein the more active he is, better monitored will be the Gentlemen Cadets (GCs). But again it’s not a one man job; actual task is of the Academy Adjutant who is supported by the Assistant Adjutant, four Battalion Adjutants and a team of drill instructors.
The year was 2003. Me and my wife, both instructors, were returning after an early dinner from a local restaurant (yes, I had married an Army Educationist, Reena, immediately after becoming the Assistant Adjutant, much to the consternation of the Adjutant who felt that our honeymoon will impact my 24*7 discipline enforcement time).
Post 8 pm, the main road in front of Chetwode building (Chakrata road) is normally desolate barring a few trucks, but on that day there was an autorickshaw which was moving at a mysteriously slow place in front of us. Since Reena was in her eighth month of pregnancy, our pace in the black Indica was also not much.
When you drive in to the IMA from town, there is a side road to the right few hundred metres before the Chetwode building, which leads you on to the Section hospital and Sangro company. The autorickshaw slowed down in that area and very briefly I saw a person with a Gentleman Cadet haircut (what we call a Zero cut) peeping behind.
My black Indica and blue bike were red alert landmarks for the GCs and I guess the passenger recognised my car and associated imminent danger in that split second. Before I could halt the autorickshaw, it surged ahead, now at a faster pace.
With Reena in such a state, I didn’t want to risk a road race with an uttarakhandi Bajaj autorickshaw but the Assistant Adjutant instincts kicked in and we decided to follow. The Auto slowed down a bit in front of the main gate (another 500 metres after the last slow down), giving me a temporary false hope that it was a legitimate outpass type, but that was not to be.
The Auto picked up pace, like 60 km per second in 10 seconds (zero to 60 in ten seconds..not bad!) thereby spoiling my plans to get additional drill instructors from the main gate, who normally remain on standby. On one side was a GC attempting Escape and Evasion tactics and on the other hand was our yet to be born child who could be risked by this race…..
Being from the military, Reena was ready to risk it and so we kept the chase alive. An autorickshaw and an indica, two indian brands of Bajaj and Tata, racing on a faintly lit Chakrata Road…a fairly balanced bet it was and I was confident about trapping him in the next kilometre.
Expect a GC to come up with out of the box solution especially when his freedom is on the line, says the Drill Instructors Manual and sure enough this GC came up with one. Within 400 metres, the autorickshaw took a sharp Mission Impossible sort of left into one of the bylanes, almost at the same time when I was overtaking him to stop him. I followed suit after a quick manoeuvre with the Auto now having a lead of almost 10 seconds over me.
Hollow square is a known drill sequence wherein the participants perform drill to stand on the three sidelines of a hollow square. The fourth side is used by the Dignitary addressing the parade. The manoeuvre executed by the Auto was similar to a hollow square, with the next two left turns getting him back on the main road.
Now enraged and excited, I also homed in and immediately on entering the main road, blocked the puny Bajaj. How can a Bajaj challenge the Tata, after all?! The dinner now fully digested, I was hungry and angry; so didn’t waste a second to jump on to the Auto.
The ultimate surprise was to see that the rear seat was now empty and the auto driver was profusely apologizing for aiding in such an activity. As per him, the GC jumped off after the second left and should be hiding somewhere in the dark bylanes.
Not wasting much time on further questioning, we executed another hollow square but could not find anyone. While dropping Reena home, I activated all the discipline networks to alert the sentries and have a company wise countup in all battalions. The whole exercise took almost an hour and my confidence that the GC will be caught was waning by the minute. Few other indiscipline cases came to light, but all battalions reported full strength, that night.
The incident surely left behind a sour taste, but as Instructors, me and Reena were appreciative of the GC’s quick thinking under pressure. Surely, our Academy was training them well. Yes, it surely hurt my ego and I would have taken it out on some hapless GC who appeared for the next day morning Drill test, but then, that’s the way it is….
Well, life moved on. Parin came into our lives and we too moved out of Dehradun to two different stations and this incident was tucked away in some part of the brain where all such unsavory thoughts and experiences are kept.
One fine day, when I was performing the duties of Unit Adjutant, I received a nicely crafted demi official letter from some Captain A. I vaguely remembered his name as one of the GCs who underwent training during our time in the Academy.
The contents of the letter reaffirmed my faith in this wonderful organisation, which is known for acknowledging valiant acts by even sworn enemies. In two pages of beautiful calligraphy, my ex GC A, now a Gunner Captain had mustered courage to write to his ex Assistant Adjutant to apologise for that night.
On that night, GC A was returning after a coffee meeting with his beloved when he spotted the ominous black Indica on his tail. His Company (Sangro) was closer to the Section Hospital and that explained the autorickshaw slowing down near that bylane, which totally slipped my mind after the chase. Once he executed the hollow square escape and evasion procedure, he was sure that I would come sniffing soon after. Like a well trained ‘to be commando’, he jumped into an adjacent drain, which incidentally had 3 feet of stinky water; he lost his unauthorised mobile phone also in this dive. Even if I would have searched the area, it would have been difficult to detect such a well entrenched or should I say en-drained GC. So, he stayed in that stinky drain for 10 minutes or more, and then took a circuitous route to reach his cabin in Sangro Company which was on the other side of the road, diagonally opposite. How he managed to reach his cabin 👀 is an action which only he can explain. All this, while my team was focusing more on the battalions closer to the area of escape and evasion! Bravo.
Well, on a balance sheet, it’s not so tough to establish who won or lost. GC A lost his new mobile (which I vaguely remember, was gifted by his girlfriend) and had to endure ten plus minutes of a stinky drain but saved a few restrictions or route marches (punishment). And yes, he surely won in the escape and evasion action.
The Instructor faculty can proudly say, we trained him well. Feeling proud even after a personal loss; maybe that’s the essence of being a Guru!?
PS: I am intentionally not mentioning his name, because I am not sure whether he married the same girl😉.
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