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Tuesday, 7 January 2020

Rest in Peace, dear Duleep! All your course mates mourn your death , this day the Second of January, Two thousand and 20

A Mem’oir by:  Gurmeet Sethi
The Course has decided to take up 02 January of each year as “Remembrance day”. A noble idea indeed in memory of our late course mates. I in my own way decided to pen down a few lines about one of Indian Army’s  first casualty, as part of the IPKF in Sri Lanka. Maj GHD Duleep Singh, Madras Sapper, ex-Charlie Sqn of our course. I do admit I do not have all the facts with me, but would try to pen down the Duleep that we all fondly knew!
GHD Duleep Singh was assumed to be a Sardar, till he appeared before you in flesh and blood. Till date I do not know what does GHD stand  for. Duleep Singh is what we knew him as!
A Jaffna born, Tamilian to the core.  Amravathi Nagar Sainik School educated. He was black , no black is not the word. Shining jet black as coal, with sparkling white teeth.Once we spotted him using “Fair and Lovely”. We would joke, as to why was he bent upon proving the product a failure! His dancing eyes and ever smiling face could disarm his strongest opponent. So soft spoken was he, that you had to guess what he spoke. A person with a heart  of gold and compassion , who could not hurt a fly. Yet he was tough as steel, had one of those perfectly chiseled bodies. A gymnast par excellence, He could bend his body like a hair pin. Could do standing back flips. He was a marvel to watch. He fitted the definition of “ Tall dark and handsome” to a glove.
Duleep was a cadet, for whom the pace of NDA did not matter. He moved as per  his own timings. Woke, when he felt it was day; ate when he felt he was hungry ; could stay fresh the whole night!  Half the term Duleep would sleep through his classes. Even  his orderlie would know that behind locked cabin doors, slept a cadet called Duleep Singh, for whom nothing mattered. Even when the Deputy strode down the corridors of Charlie squadron, Duleep could sleep oblivion of the world outside. An ardent smoker, despite the strict rules, could not deter Duleep from his smoke. Even a borrowed bidi would do! Drill ustaads could not understand Duleep, neither as a person nor his origin. Restrictions and Singhads were thus earned aplenty and Duleep would often be seen on his Sunday outings. PT ustaads loved him , as Duleep was good at the high horse, mat work or the ropes. Did he earn a PT Blue, I am not sure, but he certainly deserved it !
Did not happen to see much of Duleep at IMA. Duleep was commissioned to the Madras Sappers and was perfectly at home with the Tambiis. We met again on Engineer YOs and Degree Engineering at CME..
Degree at CME was fun and Duleep thoroughly enjoyed his three years as a bachelor. He gave sleep less nights to our course senior , a gentleman from a senior SS course .He was new to understand Capt Duleep Singh , on whom nothing would work. He ultimately, gave up accounting for Duleep.  With more and more course mates gradually  getting married and moving out with their families, Duleep could be seen missing out on his friends . A few die hard bachelors remained like Gautam Mauzumdar, Subodh Bhatt, Sanjeev Rattan  and a few others. Duleep could be spotted moving gracefully on his bicycle. He was a rare  sight but could be seen once in a while. He would often borrow bikes from whomsoever, for his Pune trips.  Duleep was becoming a loner .Love for the peg and smoke had engulfed him. It worried us a great deal. Duleep, however was extremely sharp and could clear all his exams over last minute studies.
Duleep moved to his unit 8 ER, after his degree at CME. He was immensely popular with his troops. The Regt moved to Jaffna,Sri Lanka as part of IPKF . Duleep was thrilled and perfectly at home at his birth place. Duleep moved about in a ‘bindaas’ manner mingling with locals and establishing rapport gathering valuable inputs. The built up areas in the region had been declared out of bounds. But, nothing could stop the brave local lad from striding out. Duleep had not known such strictures, he had learnt to live life on his own terms. Duleep with another JCO strode to check a booby trapped house, as part of a routine mission. He did not suspect his own people to trap him . These after all were friendly Jaffna Tamilians who had been trained in laying IEDs and Booby traps by MEG, Bangalore.
Duleep was blown to tithers , the moment he opened the door of the booby trapped house. Another JCO killed and yet another JCO and an OR injured.
IPKF bought its first casualty. It became news. We read it with grief and sorrow . We had lost an admirable course mate who knew no boundaries, knew no rules, lived and died at his own terms .
Duleep was survived by his long widowed mother, a brother –whom we had met at CME ;was a budding dialogue writer and was looking for a break in Tamil films.
Rest in Peace, dear Duleep! All your course mates mourn your death , this day the Second of January, Two thousand and Nineteen !

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