Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Indo Pak War 1965- Deputy PM's visit to captured Pak territory

Destroyed Patton Tank 1965 Indo Pak War

Dear Col,
An interesting episode, from far back, as told to me by Lt Col IM Chhabra.
Brig Lakshman Singh (Retd)

The Desi Ghee and the dilemma of the Tiffin Box
It was 1965 Punjab where we of XI Corps, having accomplished the task of relieving the Pakstani Army’s pressure in Jammu and Kashmir by inflicting heavy armour casualties in Khem Karan and occupying the Pakistan territory right up to the Ichhogil Canal on the Amritsar- Wagha border. The Corps then deployed in the Lahore sector, had become a busy host for VIP’s looking for photographs with the combat troops, that too in Pakistani territory. With no television those days, it were these photos that filled the news papers.

“Inder, said the Corps Commander, as he unexpectedly walked through the connecting door in my adjoining office ‘Shri Guzari Lal Nanda, the Deputy Prime Minister (Dy PM), is visiting us and arriving day after tomorrow by the Punjab Mail reaching Amritsar at 6 AM and plans to spend the day with the troops deployed in the occupied territory. Please get the visit organised.” He paused for a few seconds and continued- “and yes, another important task for you to oversee personally, he is a pure vegetarian, eats food prepared only by his personal cook, who will also be travelling with him, that too with pure Desi Ghee.”

I was required to organise the cooking of the food by his personal cook. I was informed that a Deputy Superintendent of Amritsar Police with a team of Constables had also been deputed by the Home Ministry to assist me. I was the DAMS to the Corps Commander and I passed detailed instructions all around, tying up loose details in connection with the visit.

Headquarters 7 Infantry Division, deployed in BARKI (Pakistan) where the Dy PM was to have his lunch after visiting the troops, was amply cautioned about the importance of Desi Ghee, and the VIP status of the accompanying personal cook of the Dy PM.

On the appointed day I along with rest of the welcoming party, which included the local congress workers were lined up on the station well before the arrival time. It was a tension filled atmosphere for me but a festive occasion for others.

The train arrived on schedule and as it slowed down the locals broke the line, there was a virtual stampede, flower petals, garlands and slogan shouting– “Gulzari Lal Nanda– Zindabad- Zindabad... Jab Tak Suraj Chand Rahega Tera Nam Yad Rahega...”

I was more worried to locate the Cook and despite the ensuing melee, somehow, with help from the accompanying policemen and our own two LO’s located them and escorted by the LO’s straight to the Divisional mess to get going with cooking the special meal with as much Desi Ghee as required.

I put on the PROs’ cap and got involved with the onerous task of briefing the American and other foreign correspondents who could not digest our having knocked out so many Patton (the invincible) tanks and forcefully negate their assertions that Pakastani troops had ever reached even the outskirts of Amritsar. Thereafter, I reached the officers mess to check on the lunch arrangements, I was horrified to notice Shri Nanda already partaking of the same Aloo-Puree-Chana that I had organised as a back- up menu with others joining him on the table.

I missed a couple of heart beats. To my chagrin, I found him, still in his soiled Kurta Pajama, nonchalantly smoking a Bidi under a nearby tree. Holding my temper as I was furious, I enquired in a brusque tone “Was there any problem with the Ghee and the vegetables for the Dy PM’s lunch?"

The cook could discern my discomfort and he informed me that there was no plan to cook the lunch in situ, as he was to bring the packed lunch from the Dy PM’s residence itself, but in a hurry left the food packet behind in Delhi. I did thank my lucky stars in that I did have a back up plan of Allo–Puree-Chana which ultimately came to rescue the situation.

Lt Col IM Chhabra (Retd)

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