My well wishers, friends and relatives have often asked me why I left the army. It is a very valid question. When I said good bye to army in the year 1969, I had already put in more than five years of service and held the rank of captain.
What surprised people most was that I had joined army straight from college and had no job to fall back on. From a gazette class one officer, I straight away became an unemployed youth. Most of my well-wishers felt that my action was rash, hasty, and impulsive.
Actually I had many valid reasons for leaving the army. Now when I look back, I often think that perhaps I was too sensitive for the army. Perhaps, my training period of six months was too short to roughen and toughen me for harsh life of army.
I had joined army with great enthusiasm. It was like a dream come true. I never joined army with an intention to leave it. Diversity, Inclusion and Equality are concepts that are gathering a lot of attention today. However, in the army, some officers take advantage of their position and spare no reason to bully juniors. I fell victim to one such officer. I decided that it would be in the best interest of every one that I leave army and settle down in the civil. I will narrate sequence of events to you. My training had started at Officers Training school Pune and I had been selected for school cricket team.
Our practice session was on, as we had an important match against the National Defense Academy, Kharag Wasla. I was giving my best at the nets, when one of our instructors, Major Rai, (name changed) approached the nets.
He padded up and came to bat. He said, well boys, I have played cricket all my life. I was captain of my college team. Let four best bowlers bowl their best at me. I would like to demonstrate the art of fine strokes to you. Unfortunately, I was one of four bowlers selected. Everything went on well. Then, all of a sudden, one of my vicious leg breaks turned sharply, jumped and to my bad luck, hit Major Rai in-between legs at his vital organ.
He fell on ground writhing with pain. I apologized profusely and ran towards the major, and offered him water. He refused water and started shouting and abusing me. Our cricket instructor defended me and called it an accident. Major Rai called it deliberate and mischievous. My cricket instructor was very surprised at Major Rai's aggressiveness. He said it is cricket and accidents like this are unavoidable.
Then he looked at Major Rai and asked, 'tell me why did not you put on protective gear like the abdomen guard?' Major Rai got angrier. Before he left the field, he warned me to be ready to pay the price for this mischief.
Major Rai made my life miserable during the training period. He spared no opportunity to harass me. Time passed by and my training was over. I was commissioned in the army on 3rd May, 1964. I received posting orders to 30 Light Regiment stationed in Sikkim. I felt happy and relieved that I will get rid of Major Rai who never missed an opportunity in OTS Pune to ridicule me.
I was so wrong. Bad luck chased me even to a far off place like Sikkim where I got my first posting. I was reminded of a famous couplet of Omar Khayyam at that time;
The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it.
With in six months of my first posting in Sikkim, we were told that we are getting a new commanding officer. My worst fears came true. Of all the people, Major Rai joined as our new
commanding officer. Gloom spread all over me. We were all lined up and introduced to him. He stopped before me, looked into my eyes and said with a wry smile, EC 8, meaning eighth course emergency commission. Yes sir, was my reply. Then he said sarcastically, You know, gentlemen, Segon is a very fine cricket player and he derives pleasure in hitting his seniors at wrong places. No sir, was my reply. It was just an accident.
Colonel Rai flared up and said, accident, my foot. It was deliberate. Without waiting, he moved on. My seniors later sympathized with me and said, sorry young man, you are starting your innings in the army on wrong foot. I could see that I was in for trouble and hard times. Another development that dampened my spirits was when colonel Rai declared four officers surplus in the regiment. as expected, I was one of them. To make matters worst, our names were displayed on regimental notice board .
Sometimes I wonder why such a trained senior army office had so much ego bestowed on him by virtue of his position. One evening, we were sitting in the regimental mess and our new commanding officer was telling us how fair he has been to his juniors and colleagues through out his service. It was an open secret in the regiment that second lieutenant Harish Segon could not hold more than one drink. Unfortunately I was on my second drink that day. I got up from my seat and addressed my commanding Officer, sir, if you permit, may I make a submission. Of course you can, young man, I am all ears.
I said, sir, I just want to know what criteria you followed to declare four of us as surplus officers. There was silence all around. Everyone knew Harish Segon is going to be in trouble. Our commanding Officer was red faced. My seniors tried to warn me but devil had taken possession of my mind.
I walked up to the commanding officer, placed one hand over his shoulder and touched his cheeks with other and blurted out, Sir, do not mind it please. I am making a submission only with your approval. I am feeling really bad. Now the whole regiment knows that I am not required in the regiment. The Commanding officer took control of situation and said, well, these names were just put up to me, but yes, you are right. Tomorrow morning, there will be a gunnery test and those who are last four in test will be declared surplus.
Test was held and Harish Segon stood second in the test. My name was removed from surplus list. It is another matter that I was posted out of regiment, along with two others within two months. Place of my new posting was battle field of Khem Karan during the 1965 Indo-Pakistan war. I was told by my senior officers that there was also talk of taking disciplinary action against me. But some how it did not materialize.
My sensitive nature and my lukewarm reports under Colonel Rai forced me to rethink about my future. Clearly, I was not very happy with my army career. I decided to give my self another chance since my five year term with army was ending. That is how my honeymoon with army ended .
I still sometimes wonder how could Colonel Rai carry a grudge so long and that too without any rhyme and reason. May be his ego was hurt as he was seen crying ,writhing in pain and rolling on ground before cadetS.
For me, I think, it proved to be a blessing in disguise. Yes I agree, leaving army was a big risk but I feel it was worth taking. The risk paid off and for the next 30 years, I was in the profession of my choice, radio journalism. Radio news provided me opportunity to travel in deferent parts of world and with in the country and write on various subjects.
As Rumi says, if you strongly desire some thing, entire universe conspires to help you.