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A Second Front

It has been quite a while since I wrote my last blog. For some reason, I had concluded that there wasn’t enough readership interest in my personal notes and critiques of the country’s system. But recently, a friend of mine who stumbled upon my earlier blogs urged me to continue. Moreover, I had promised in my last blog to write about my experiences as an artillery officer along India’s western border with Pakistan, but I hadn’t kept my word. So finally I made up my mind to venture into writing blogs once again.
My medical leave following the dynamite explosion in which I was injured while at Se La Pass was to last six weeks. I had returned home to Trivandrum sufficiently frost bitten to have my large ear lobes and nose turn dark, and skin pealing like a snake’s scales. It was a central topic in several hilarious conversations with guests when they visited our home, and I had a lot of stories to tell about my adventures in the snow-covered mountains of the Himalayas. Everyone wanted to know whether our army could repel another attack by the Chinese. Being a patriotic soldier, I was quick to assure them, but deep inside I was worried that with our inferior and outdated weapons, we might not be a match against a modern Chinese army.
As my vacation was nearing an end, I received orders to report to Pathankot, a military center in Punjab State, on the way to the Jammu-Kashmir sector. Similar to my earlier journey to Missamari, the last train station in the Eastern Sector, this was another long ride to one of India’s last stations in the West. In my absence, our regiment had already moved across the breadth of northern India and set up its camp on the outskirts of the dusty town of Pathankot – the meeting place of the three states of Himachal Pradesh, Punjab and Jammu & Kashmir.
I was hoping for a “peace posting,” but instead, we were once again put on field duty close to the Pakistan border. The historic town of Jammu was not too far away, but there was nothing much for a young man to look forward to there. As military officers, we didn’t get to socialize with civilians; there were no good eat-in places to hang-out, and no entertainment events to watch. This was an assignment that was to last the next two years.
Unlike my previous posting at NEFA where every day was an adventure, here it was all training and preparing for war against Pakistan if it was to break out (and it did a few years later). We would practice deploying at short notice along the flat terrain, sloppy fields, and short hills within the range of our medium guns to the border camps of the Pakistan military. It was in one of those field exercises that two of our officers got electrocuted when the tall antenna of their jeep hit an overhead high-voltage line. In another incident, a soldier who was psychologically disturbed shot an officer and fled from the camp. The entire regiment was deeply affected by these incidents, and the officers took special care to ensure that the morale of the soldiers did not remain low for too long.
Regardless of the setbacks, we couldn’t afford to be any less vigilant or prepared. Our commanding officer, Lt. Colonel S. L. Rege, often reminded us that we belonged to one of India’s oldest artillery units, carrying the brave traditions of the Marathas with their battle-cry, “Shivaji Maharaj Ke Jai.” He was an exceptional leader who commanded total loyalty with his decisiveness and forthright character.
With two field promotions in quick succession, I rose to the rank of Captain. Soon after, I was appointed as the Adjutant of the regiment – perhaps the youngest captain in the Indian army to hold that position. In the new role, my main responsibility was to ensure that the orders of the commanding officer were executed properly. I gave daily instructions for the regiment, and dealt with every major incident that took place within the units. I was now the custodian of top-secret documents such as “map of enemy territory” and “initial deployment plan,” and the first recipient of communication from Brigade HQ via the red telephone in my office in the event of a breakout of hostilities. 

Barely twenty years old and inexperienced, initially I was in awe at the critical responsibilities suddenly entrusted upon me. Over time, I got used to the work, careful to keep up the dignity of the office I held. Reporting directly to the commanding officer, I was to embrace the many valuable lessons of life -- loyalty, personal integrity, hard-work, commitment -- over the next year that would shape my own personality and prepare me for my future career as a businessman in America and as a social worker in India.
While we were busy with our own lives, hostile threats and news of troop movements across the border did not go unnoticed. But there was nothing we could do to prevent a conflict. None of the officers looked forward to fighting a war other than to defend in case the Pakistan army chose to attack. The chance to display bravery on the battlefield was not one of my ambitions.
I may get to write more in the future on my experience in the Western Sector during the two years I was posted there, culminating in my leaving the army for a life in America. Ever since, I had tried to leave behind all thoughts of my army life as I felt guilty for having escaped what my fellow comrades had met. But the memories of those who passed through my life – loyal soldiers and fellow officers – still remain etched in my mind that I, for reasons I do not fully understand, long to somehow connect with them. But I know that may never happen, and all I can do now is to pray that life is merciful and gentle for each one.

Comments

prasanna sundar said…
Watched Daughters of Destiny. You are an inspiration to serve the community whenever possible. Thanks for your service

Last saturday I found the documentary "Daughters of destiny", really touching and inspiring. I could not watch only an episode, I had to go through all of the 4 episodes the same evening. Now it's my dream to be able to do something similar in mi country, but first, I have to find my own place and get tons of money!

Please, don't stop writing and thanks to give me hope.
Priya Ryan said…
It's always been a dream of mine to do something for people who are not previlleged. Mainly kids who didn't do anything wrong but just by being born in poor families, are deprived of opportunities and exposures that are taken for granted by many of us. Just praying that one day God will place me in a position in life , where by I can do or form something that can be of some use to others in this world.
You Sir , are a great inspiration to all of us. Please continue your wonderful contribution to humanity. Hats off.
Your work is an inspiration, got us talking about what we can do. Your perseverance and dedication is unbelievable. Thanks to the Netflix documentary, we got to know about your work. Best wishes to you and your family, lucky to have a compassionate son as Ajit,the staff and students of Shanti Bhavan. God Bless.
Following the Netflix film "Daughters of Destiny," several well wishers wrote to thank me. I am humbled by your comments, and touched by them. I am unable to reply each one individually, and hence this general note. Thank you for your kind words. Abraham
Yolanda Velasco said…
Hello Abraham, I just saw the last chapter of "Daughters of destiny " and I'm impressed of it. You are an example of courage for all humanity. Your work and your dedication in India is the best thing that could to that country, you have revolutionized the minds of children, you have planted seed of freedom in children who have grown in equality and who will spread that seed so that others in his surroundings will follow. You had a brilliant idea and you were able to carry it out. I can not imagine the feeling of pride and satisfaction of seeing your dream fulfilled. Not only you are a reference in India but for everybody. I will try to follow your steps from Spain. My sincerely congratulations.
Anonymous said…
Wow... I too had to watch the entire series of Daughters of destiny" I was simply speechless and moved by your generosity and will and determination to help these families. What an inspirational story! kudos to your son as well. May he continue with your most beautiful and selfless gesture. and thanks to your wife for supporting you on this journey. Well Done.
Shiva Kumar said…
Hats off to you, Dr. George! Watched the Netflix series and what you and your team has set in motion will definitely be a catalyst to alleviate poverty in India. If only someone had started such an initiative immediately after Independence, the country would have been different now. It is not late though. I hope more businesses, organizations and individuals support your foundation to not just start the next school but many more like this.

I will do my part through the North Dallas Indo Centennial Lions Club I belong to and will get word out about the noble service you are doing.

May god bless you, your family and all who are involved in Shanti Bhavan's success!

~ Siva
Dear Dr. George,
I watched Daughters of Destiny and truly loved the series. I salute your thinking and creativity. I hope more people will support your organization to not only support your current school but many more to come in future. Thanks for making the cause more visible by bringing to Netflix. I have sent money to your New Jersey address and will get word out to others. God bless you, your family, all the kids, teachers and volunteers.
Sudha
Thanks you for your kind words and support. Best wishes, abraham
Anonymous said…
Dear Dr. George,
I am proud of your contributions to give back to India. Please keep up the good work. The Netflix series spent too much time on caste instead of poverty. I would urge you to keep it focused on "poverty". Currently quite a few of the "Brahmins" are at the reverse discrimination state in many places like Tamil Nadu. I would urge Shanti Bhavan should take some very poor and disadvantaged brahmins and set an example to show that it cares for all poor people.


Raman Kumar said…
Dear Dr. George,

My heartfelt namaskaram,

We as a family watched daughters of destiny. You are one in a million who not only chased your dream/vision but also follow through with action. Most of us who are so entangled in our own selfish life, you are a selfless shining light and a great inspiration for all of us. I bow and salute you and all the staff of shanti bhavan for what your team is doing and I wish you all the very best.


-Raman Kumar
Niti said…
Dear Dr. George, I am glad to have come across your work in a number of ways. While I am sure there is great success in what you are doing, I am curious to know if you have any "less-successful," situations and how have you dealt with that?
Niti said…
By the way please continue blogging!
Vinitha said…
I happened to watch daughters of destiny on netflix just bt chance.. seeing the ttitle i was curious to find out what it was about. Few minutes into it and i just couldnt stop watching it!
I am just in awe of the amazing work you are doing. Educating these children and the chain reaction of change its bringing about in the society. I am sure all these children will take this torch forward.
Salute to u sir!
Anonymous said…
I just finished watching 'Daughters of destiny' and I am so moved and in awe of your work. You are such a great inspiration. It was so encouraging to see how your selflessness has empowered these children. You are one of the finest examples of effective leadership. Thank you so much for contributing to the world the way you have! Much much respect!

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