TODAY -

In lighter vein- An army unit raising day party

Lt Col M Ranjit Singh (Retd) *



Any event or function organised by Army is done in great style. Normally everything will be perfectly synchronised and there will not be any major flows in the conduct of the event. We all remember the last Republic Day Parade of 2015 at Delhi where Barak Obama was the Chief Guest. The entire programme on that day was a dazzling show beautifully organised by the Army. Everything was done with elaborate military precision.

Nothing went wrong. I recollect such an event, but at a much reduced scale, of an Army Unit Raising Day party which happened many years ago. I think it will be quite interesting to know how the party was planned and executed by that Armoured Regiment. It was sometimes in June in the year of our Lord, Nineteen Seventy Six. I was then posted in my battalion somewhere near Chandigarh.

In those days, Army use to go to Rajasthan for annual training exercise. That year the training exercise was conducted some- where near Sardarshahar, a small town in Churu district of Rajasthan. It was a massive exercise involving many formations with large numbers of regiments from all arms and services taking part in the exercise. The whole exercise was done in a vast area of desert. Water is very scarce in desert area.

Towns in desert are located where water sources are available. The source of water for the Army in the exercise area was located some 60 kms away. There was restriction on water supply. Each unit was permitted to draw fix amount of water from the water point in a day.

The exercise concluded sometimes in June. The turn for our unit to revert back to permanent location was fixed for beginning of July. The Raising Day Party I was mentioning earlier was not that of our unit but that of an Armoured (Tank) Unit.

The Commanding Officer (CO) of the Armoured Unit tried his level best to change his regiment's schedule of move so as to celebrate his unit's Raising Day Party in their permanent location. But due to non availability of adequate railway rolling stocks for transportation of tanks, the unit was told to celebrate their Raising Day in the desert of Rajasthan. In those days Armoured Units does things more stylishly than other Regiments of Infantry, Artillery, Engineers etc.

Celebration of Raising Day for any Army Unit or Formation is a big event. Meticulous planning are undertaken to make the celebration a grand success. Like all planning done in the Army, CO immediately called for a conference of all Officers and JCOs of the regiment to give his views how the party was to be organised and also sought suggestions from those present in the conference. But it was more of him giving points to all rather than getting any suggestions from those present.

In his wisdom CO thought, for beautification of the general area, they must have a pond in the entrance of their Officers Mess with two to three ducks swimming in that pond. This onerous task was given to a young officer of the regiment who happens to be a course mate of mine. It is through him that I learnt this kahani.

He told me the story in bits and pieces and wherever something important episode was missing, I naturally made it up! Our messes were co-located. Therefore I had the advantage of seeing all the progresses made in preparation of the pond and arrival of ducks. In due course, a huge pond was dug just at the entrance of the Mess and it was covered by many tarpaulins of 90 feet by 90 feet size.

The Armoured Units are authorised many big size tarpaulins for covering the tanks. I have already mentioned that water is a scarce commodity in desert and the water source for the Army was located at a far off place. Surprisingly there was no dearth of water for filling up that pond. The civil chowkidar of that water source even came to the unit to inquire if there was any shortage of water supply.

The chowkidar must have got some sudden streak of patriotism to help the cause of Army. Or like the famous quote from The Godfather "My father made an offer he couldn't refuse", they must have done something for that chowkidar. In spite of many niggling from me, my course mate never clarified on this point. The most difficult portion of the task was to get live ducks for swimming in that pond.

The nearest area from where ducks could be procured in the desert area of Rajasthan was, I thought, from Bharatpur which was far away from exercise location. Anyway my course mate got four ducks, God knows from where, for the occasion. But he showed to his officers only 3 ducks and the remaining one he kept in his bathroom in a bucket. As the date of party comes closer there were lot of activities in their mess.

There was a final inspection done by the CO on the "Operation Pond and Ducks". It happened sometimes in the evening and luckily I happen to be there in their mess on that occasion. The CO was very happy to see that artificially created large pond filled up with water up to the brim with the three ducks swimming leisurely there.

But since CO must give some points for further improvement, he called my course mate and told him, "Good job but I wish you had brought four ducks instead of only three" That was the time when my course mate fired his Bramhastra and replied, "Sir in fact I brought four ducks but one of them is not keeping well. I, therefore, have kept the fourth one in my bathroom and I along with our Regimental Medical Officer (RMO) am regularly checking on that".

To concur on what my course mate had just said, RMO who came along with CO look towards CO and shook his head vigorously. Whether the RMO was consulted or not, we will never know. But CO being CO he thought he must give some points and went near the pond to touch the ducks. The ducks on being approached by a human being; got scared and swam away on the other side.

CO turned towards my course mate and asked,"What is this? You people do not go into details. What will happen if the VIP wants to touch these ducks and swam away like this? Please get it rectified". Saying this CO gave a nasty look generally to all assembled there and walked away.

On the day of the party, all officers of our Battalion were also invited to attend the party. The 'pond and ducks' was a smash hit. I found the pond focussed by a blue light with few water weeds floating on it. It looked beautiful. The ducks remained swimming in one place. Literally they didn't move an inch away. All those officers who came to the party appreciated it.

The VIP was very happy when he touched those ducks and not moving away from him. Seeing the VIP happy, the CO was also very happy. To sum up I should say the party was a grand success. Even the sand storm which was regular feature of desert night was missing on the party night. It was overall a win- win situation for the CO and all officers of that Armoured Regiment.

After few days, I met my course mate and ask him how he managed to keep those ducks immobile in one place. He had a hearty laugh and told me that he had tied the legs of all those ducks with small ropes and the ropes in turn were tied to few bricks underneath the pond. The famous quote of George S Patton "Never tells people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity" fits well here.


* Lt Col M Ranjit Singh (Retd) wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on January 09, 2016.


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