Wednesday, July 17, 2019
When Unfulfilled Dreams Are Fulfilled By Col NN Bhatia (Retd)
During my school days, I used to dream joining the Army as a commissioned officer in ‘The Kumaon Regiment’. Nothing thrilled me more in the mid 1963 when I got posting orders to join 13 Kumaon, the first pure Ahir Battalion of the Regiment before passing out from the Indian Military academy (IMA). I joined the Battalion then located in Darbuk roughly half way between Leh and Chushul after fighting the ferocious Battle of Rezang La on 18 Nov 1962. I was the only regular officer commissioned then and with in short interval many emergency commissioned officers also joined the Battalion.

The then senior subaltern, Lieutenant PM Wakhle was responsible for our initiation in the Battalion and he would ‘brief and bullshit’ too many young babies in the Battalion. During one of our familiarization rounds in our Battalion, we were taken around ‘Q’ or Quartermaster Office that is responsible for provisioning from a needle to big guns, ammunition, rations and tentage. Everything other than mechanical transport and fuel and lubricants popularly called the POL or the petroleum, one could not name a thing that ‘Q’ Office did not procure for the troops to sustain them during both peace and war.

Lieutenant Pahalwan Singh who looked true to his name, intelligence and built was a Special List or SL officer from the ranks holding the Quartermaster appointment of the Battalion. He took us around ‘Q’ Office established in the two EPIP tents defined as the European Privates Indian Pattern (military tent) explaining the role of his branch along with job content of each clerk and individual of his outfit. There, we for the first time met one not so smartly dressed non-descript Lance Naik (Clerk) Govind Ram Latta. Latta Babu, as the clerical staff traditionally in the units are addressed, I soon felt very proud to learn that notwithstanding with the first false impression, was meticulous in his work with no audit objections on the subjects he dealt with. Being from Gurgaon, I soon got well adjusted with our troops as I was well conversant with their dialects, ragnis, kadhi- choorma dishes and villages around Rewari, Kosli, Narnaul, Kanina or Mahindergarh.

Latta Babu rose to the rank of Naib Subedar (Clerk) and retired. He was a Brahmin by caste and belonged to remote village Jhagroli in Mahindergarh district where his parents were modest farmer with limited agricultural land. He along with our tall and smart Intelligence Section non commissioned officer NCO) Naik Chandu Lal Yadav tried for the SL commission but was not lucky enough like Chandu Lal to get the SL commission who later rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel with all his three sons getting regular commission in the Army.

Latta Babu was totally devoted to two things- his ‘Q’ Branch duties and his family. He would ensure enough rations, tentage and stores were stocked in the Battalion at all the times. He had four sons and a daughter who studied in the local schools and were married. His younger son Narender Kaushik was good in studies and Latta Babu wanted him to do well in his life. Since in those in the villages there was limited exposure and Latta serving with the Battalion in the remote field locations, could not devote much time to guide him, yet the worthy son on his own managed to compete for the Haryana Public Service Commission and became a Provincial Services Officer (PCS) who presently is holding the appointment of the Deputy Excise & Taxation Commissioner, Government of Haryana. Narender Kaushik’s son and Latta’s grandson Pratham Kaushik was a brilliant student in the remote Hindi medium school at Mahindergarh the Yaduvanshi Shiksha Niketan where he studied from class 1 to 12th standard. He has been the school topper in his school in each class and both his father and retired grandfather had BIG dreams and hopes on him. Unfortunately Naib Subedar (Clerk) Latta died a few years back while his grandson Pratham was doing his B Tech from the Punjab Engineering College, Chandigarh. But Pratham after his engineering degree had bigger dreams nurtured by his father and grandfather. He went underground for a year preparing for the All India Civil Services Examination. It is a matter of GREAT pride that Pratham from a remote and backward village in Haryana, having studied in a rural Hindi medium school and not so conducive environment for studies, was the topper in the Indian Administrative Service Examination held in 2017 and stood 5 th in the overall order of merit. When asked being topper in the written examination, how he came 5th in the overall merit, musingly Pratham replied that the reserved category candidates came in between! Nevertheless, it has been a tremendous achievement for this rustic boy from the remote backward village of Mahindergarh district.

Pratham left for the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration in Mussorie for his training to be an IAS Officer a few days back. He was given a tremendous reception in Mahindergarh on 12 Aug 2018, where he was felicitated by the Divisional Commissioner and the Inspector General of Police (IG) besides, the Deputy Commissioner (DC), the Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP), retired military fraternity, the school friends, teachers, family and the village elders in a well organised function. It appeared as if entire Mahindergarh came to congratulate and bless him for his achievements. When asked what he dreams doing after becoming the IAS officer, Pratham said seriously ‘serve the marginalized and less fortunate people in the remote areas’.

Prior to their departure for the training at Mussorie, on 15 August, our Independence Day, the President of India Shri Ram Nath Kovind welcomed all the IAS aspirants ‘at home reception’ in the Rashtrapati Bhawan that was attended by the bigwigs of the Central Government Ministries, bureaucracy, the Chief of the Army Staff, Gen Bipin Rawat and the politicians of the likes of Shri LK Advani. Since the President of the India is the Supreme Commander of the armed forces, its time the central government accords similar reception to all those candidates selected for the commission through National Defence Academy/ Indian Military Academy and the Air Force and the Naval academies!

No wonder his grandfather late Naib Subedar (Clerk) who had a very humble beginning and nurtured Pratham’s dreams, if alive would have been very proud of his grandson’s achievements. Up in the heaven, he is always blessing his grandson for his GREATER achievements and distinctions. He indeed nurtured good ‘Sanskars’ or upbringing values in his family, particularly his grandson Pratham. We all, who knew Naib Subedar GR Latta, shares his unfulfilled dreams getting fulfilled in bits by his son Narender and in bounty by his grandson Pratham. I earnestly hope likes of Pratham will motivate youth all over the country.

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