Humour in Uniform
On page 58 of his war memoir “Himalayan Blunder” (The Curtain Raiser to the Sino-Indian War of 1962) Brigadier John Parashuram Dalvi narrates an amusing story.
This anecdote pertains to the ill-fated “forward policy” which happened in NEFA (Arunachal Pradesh) sometime in 1960.
Indian Army Troops were being hastily rushed up into the Himalayan Mountains towards the China Border without any administrative or logistic arrangements.
A Commanding Officer of an Infantry Battalion, a Lieutenant Colonel famous for his pungent wit and sense of humour, got so fed up with the absence of any sort of supply system that he decided to use some heavy sarcasm and act in a facetious manner.
He is reported to have sent one of his monthly routine reports on a chappati.
Yes, believe it or not, the Commanding Officer sent his report to a higher formation "written" on a CHAPATTI.
This caused some consternation in Army Head Quarters and the officer was asked to forward his “explanation”.
In reply, the Commanding Officer sent the now classic retort:
“I regret the unorthodox nature of my stationery, but atta (wheat flour) is the only commodity available for fighting, for feeding and for futile correspondence”.
I remember someone once telling us that the commanding officer who sent this hilarious reply was none other than Eric Vas [Lt Gen EA Vas (15 May 1923-18 Aug 2009)].
A retired army officer who was serving there in NEFA at that time (1960-61) also confirmed this anecdote.
The officer also told me that as a punishment for his “sense of humour” Lt Col Eric Vas was removed from command of the infantry battalion and was posted to a Girls NCC Battalion in Mumbai (Bombay).
But after the 1962 debacle, the new Defence Minister YB Chavan who was impressed by Lt Col Eric Vas, brought him back into the mainstream army, and resurrected his career.
General Vas had a distinguished army career and retired as the Eastern Army Commander in the rank of Lieutenant General.
I wonder whether we have such Generals today, who display such great wit to put their point across and who have such a delightful great sense of humour.
The Moral of the Story is that: “HUMOUR PREVAILS”
Yes, more importantly: “HUMOUR IN AND OUT OF UNIFORM PREVAILS”