“The most dangerous thing in the world is a Second Lieutenant with a map and a compass.”
For 29 years I tried to live like a “civilian” in the Army, much to the chagrin of my bosses (sorry guys, if you’re reading this, that is ), funny thing is after retirement I am Colonel Sahib in civil trying to act like a Fauji. The roles have reversed, and I am confused whether to act like a Fauji or a civilian. It was in 1989 that I decided to join the military, much much before, we were termed as “Khalai Makhlooq”. A time when life was simple, in fact very simple. There was the greatest stress on physical training, in fact at PMA it was all physical. After PMA and off course upon getting commissioned in the Pak Army the real training started. This was the best time of my life, and I can vouch for any Second Lieutenant or Subaltern that they will trade anything to get those times back. It is always a period of adventure, fun and excitement, absolute carelessness, goofying around with no responsibilities. “Lieutenants” were to be seen only, not heard, was a common saying. I am sure its still holds true. A Subaltern, is the most unpredictable human being. He is simple, brave, loving, compassionate and above all silly. A subaltern’s life is never uneventful, he will generally know the choosiest of invectives, he will fall in love with almost anything feminine, regardless of age, shape, color or smell. He will lay down his life for his friends, unassuming in approach to most things in life, highly emotional, at times irrational/illogical/emotional separately or all of these combined together in any order. Foolishly simple or simply foolish, hardy, full of love, rarely insubordinate and above all highly dependable. Such traits normally come when you have either been through tough times together or are unbelievably stupid. And the subaltern dies either in action/accident/disease or after being promoted as a Captain. And so I went through all these stages, times and experiences of living life, and finally made it to a Captain’s rank. That is how this scribe transited from a subaltern to a thinking man.
It was during my service in the initial years that I started reading books. My foray in to the world of books was somewhat accidental. I liked to read, but the love of books was purely a due to a screw up by me, being a subaltern. Won’t go in to the details of it, but my CO was furious and decided to send me and another subaltern to the border area for three months in summers. The area was devoid of electricity and it was there that I learned to live and sleep in scorching heat of Punjab without the luxuries of life. As luck would have it, I found a box full of books belonging to my father and so started this love affair with books which to this day is going strong. There wasn’t much to do in that desolate area except read, and I made the best use of this time, reading Harold Robbins, Sidney Sheldon, Robin Moore, Wilbur Smith and Mario Puzo to name a few. The hobby then turned to passion and is still going strong.
Life in Military was simple, get up in the morning, go for PT, come back, shower, breakfast, office, tea break, after office lunch, the compulsory “siesta”, games, and then TV or lots of gup shup. I am talking of times when computers were ghosts, Internet was unheard of and words like TV, VCR or in the extreme case Satellite Receiver made sense. Most of the time was spent in frolicking, movies, sports and more sports. Telephones were still pretty much a luxury, I am talking circa 1991, so the pretty old medium of communications like letters, were in fashion. The best sort of recreation would be a get together of few course mates, and it still is even after 29 long years. An officer regardless of age and rank will be transformed in to a Gentleman Cadet on meeting his course mate/s. The conversation would be colorful, full of the choosiest expletives, and lots of laughter. If I were to look back at all these years, my biggest asset is the life long friends that I made while in military. Friends that would not hesitate to go any length at helping you.
As time passed I made it through various ranks, appointments and postings. It was all a big learning experience. In fact the best thing about Army is that it gives you a very very diverse experience. And after that if you’re put to any situation you will fare well out of it. Over the years the Army has progressed and prospered. In the years of yonder, there was more of simplicity, with time it became modern and facilities increased. I have no inhibition in saying that Army made me the man I am today. It is like one big family, having its own rules and procedures. The system is devised in a manner that one gets trained with time. I was mostly lucky at having good bosses, bosses who stood by me. I am not sure if they have similar feeling about me, but generally the going was good. Off course there are tough and difficult times, but that is the moment when a man’s mettle is tested. That is the way it works.
I am lucky to have served in all areas of Pakistan except GB, starting from Punjab, then Balochistan, KP, Sindh and AJK. The one problem which I always had in Army till the last part of my service was not having enough money, but a lot many shared my predicament and I wasn’t alone in this. But since life was simple, it was easy. Hey I don’t want to sound philosophical, and this is not my life story in the true sense, at best it is just a casual fire side chat kind of post when I look back at the times that have passed. I do not believe in reincarnation, but I can sure as hell say that is I am given another life I will definitely be walking through the gates of the Pakistan Military Academy (PMA) happily. I still get nostalgic abut it! And I have no qualms about saying that, “It has been one hell of a ride”. Proud to be a “Khalai Makhlooq”. Pakistan Zindabad, Pak Army Zindabad