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Lipstick on your collar: A case of mistaken identity

Updated: Sep 21, 2022

Here is a story that may make you smile. The year was 1964.

I was on a temporary army duty at Gangtok (Sikkim) those days. I had joined my first regiment, 30 Light regiment, an artillery unit just two months ago.

One day, my battalion commander called me and asked me to go to Gangtok to oversee the winding up of a transport company. I protested that I had no such experience. I was told firmly that the orders were from the higher headquarters, and I had to go.

My battery commander dropped me in his jeep at the location of Transport company. He wished me best of luck and left. I was on my own.

I got the shock of my life when I found out that there used to be a transport company in this area, but it was wound up about a month ago. I think by the time order reached my regiment; transport company had already been winded up.

However, I had to file my detailed report. I had my orders to stay at Officer’s transit camp at Gangtok. Captain Rajiv Bakshi was in-charge of the camp. I developed good relations with him. Soon, we became good friends.

Both of us, often went to main bazaar of Gangtok and had a good time. Once we went to see a movie at the local cinema hall and Bakshi asked for two tickets. A local girl who was managing the tickets counter, started giggling and handed over Bakshi a slip of paper, along with the cinema tickets.

There were lipstick marks over the piece of paper with the following words: lipstick on your collar, soldier.

Bakshi said, what should I do Harish. She is flirting with you, I said. But Bakshi felt no harm in taking a chance. I wished him best of luck. After about a week, I asked him what happened to your lipstick on your collar story. He said, yaar, she made a fool of me.

She never came out of the ticket counter and never accepted my invitation for tea or coffee. Unnecessarily, I made a fool of myself.

Next day, I was in market when someone said hello from behind. She said, you recognise me, I’m the girl behind cinema hall ticket counter. She gave me a smile, and said, as a matter of fact, that slip of paper was for you. It went in wrong hands. I was shocked!

My reply was, sorry, I am not posted in Gangtok. My regiment is near Nathulal pass and I am leaving for my regiment tomorrow morning. I came back and told Bakshi about it and we had a hearty laugh.

The next day was my regimental day celebrations at Burdang. I left Gangtok well in time to reach my regiment much before lunch time. My adjutant received me at regiment gate and mistook me for a guest. I corrected him saying sir you have not placed me. I am from your regiment sir, Harish Segon. We both laughed and he said go inside and meet others. I went and met seniors first, my commanding officer, colonel Lal, second in command, major Janardanan, battery commanders and others.

Everyone was curious about the story of a non-existent company and higher authorities asking for report with facts and figures. I asked my commanding officer whether I could come back since there was nothing more to be done. He said sorry boy, you are attached to headquarters now and need their permission to come back.

He promised to speak to someone at the headquarters. I got few more days to explore Gangtok. In the meantime, major Janardanan came to transit camp and said you are coming back with me. Colonel Lal has spoken to authorities at headquarters. That is how story of winding up a transport company ended.

Modern Sikkim is a multi-ethnic and multi-lingual state. The official languages of state are English, Sikkimese, Nepali and Lepcha. Sikkim accounts for the largest share of cardamom production in is second largest producer of spice after Guatemala in the world. Sikkim also has the distinction of converting its agriculture to fully organic between 2003 and 2016.

Sikkim has an altitude ranging from 300 meters to 8,586 meters above sea level. You could call it wonderland blessed with natural abundance. Right from the icy cold deserts, flowering alpine meadows, to lush green forests and emerald mountain lakes, Sikkim has them all. The crowning glory of this wonderland is undoubtedly the magnificent Mt. Kanchenjunga (8,586m), the third highest mountain of the world. The mountain is not merely a physical entity but it is considered the abode of guardian deity whose benign watchfulness ensures peace and prosperity of the land.

I was born and brought up in the plans of northern India. Himalayas nearby fascinated me but always eluded me. I could never visit hill stations like Shimla, Nainital, Mussoorie and others. I belonged to the lower middle class and it was drilled into our mind that only rich were privileged to visit hill stations during holidays.

It was not before I was twenty that I had first glimpse of the Himalayas. And it was not in the north nearer home but far away in the eastern Himalayas. You could call it my destiny or luck. I was just nineteen years and few months old. I was in final year of my graduation. Lady Luck smiled at me and said your time has come. Go and have a blast in the hills.

The year was 1963. I got selected in the army and within six months, I was a commissioned officer. Time for my rendezvous with mountains had come. My first unit, 30 Light regiment, was located in the state of Sikkim in eastern Himalayas, known for its scenic beauty and diverse culture. My love affair with mountains started in Sikkim and continues to this day.

A visit to hills once a year is a must but sometimes, it could be two to three times. And my favourite hill station continues to be Fagu in Shimla district. I have visited this place every year for last thirteen years except covid period. Mountains are second home to me. I get a feeling that my soul is soaring free and I am closer to God. Nature, after all, is part of Almighty only.

Believe me, if you are Chasing angels or fleeing demons, go to the mountains. Always Keep close to Nature’s heart . Break away once in a while and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. It would Wash your spirit clean.

Here's the original 'Lipstick on the Collar' song that you may like:

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