Tuesday, January 04, 2011

A Gallant Knight in the New Year

The New Year was celebrated by us in a small family gathering with few relatives. Apparently everyone wanted to bid farewell to a year which was not too pleasant in many ways. The world at large was still under the tentacles of recession. In India we were witnessing some of the most blatant instances of corruption in public life. Inside Kerala the paradoxes were on the rise with the highly literate state getting ashamed over police excesses, systematic destruction of administration and rising prices. To top it all, the housewives were seriously concerned over the unheard price rise of onions.

Raj, younger son of legendary musician LPR Varma was on a vacation from the Middle East and his house by the side of Tripunithura backwaters was the venue for our get-together. A perennial entertainer that he is, he along with his gracious wife Thulsi took the initiative. His sister Beena, brother Prem with his family, turned up along with Jamuna Varma their aunt-Cheriyamma-with whom my wife Sindhu shares the same relationship. Raj’s niece Priya with husband Sivan –a builder of good standing-who belongs to the Cochin Royal family too was there.

The New Year Eve

I met Laksman Varma there after 30 years. He is a nephew of the late G.RavindraVarma, former Union Minister of Labour and a Gandhian who was a personal confidante of Morarji Desai. In the late seventies when I was a probationer with a bank in Delhi, he used to be staying in the minister’s bungalow and we used to meet very frequently. He then went abroad for a career and is presently in Kochi running his advertisement firm.

All eyes and ears on Jeetu (L to R : Jeetu,Prem, Lakshman, Sivan and Murali)

Laksman told us that Jeetu –Prajit Varma- who is his nephew and who is a Major in the army with the elite special group of the Para regiment and stationed in Himachal Pradesh was on a short vacation and he soon joined us. The lad, who is the son of late Pratapa Varma of Kilimanoor Palace- one of the most jovial and gentle personalities I have had occasion to befriend-and Lakshmi Varma of Mavelikkara Palace is the recipient of the coveted Sena Medal (Gallantry) of the Indian Army awarded during the Republic Day of 2006.An alumni of the Sainik School, Kazhakkoottam and the National Defence Academy, he was commissioned to the 1st Para of the Indian Army. Prajith and his father in law, Dr.Raja Raja Varma, eminent paediatric surgeon and Professor – whom we call Kunjunniyannan- who was in town paid us a visit on the New Year day. We have been closely known since my posting in Trivandrum 25 years back.

The Sena Medal

The Sena Medal (SM) is awarded to all members of the Indian Army, for such individual acts of exceptional devotion to duty or courage as have special significance for the Army. Awards may be made posthumously and these are awarded both for distinguished service and for gallantry. Obviously, these gallantry medals are awarded for exceptionally courageous action in the face of the enemy. The Sena Medal is preceded by the Vir Chakras and in turn it precedes the Vishisht Seva Medal. . The Sena Medal of the Indian Army is the equivalent of the US Bronze Star and carries a monthly allowance of Rs 500. Normally, the Sena Medal carries a citation mentioning the specific heroic act of the recipient for which the medal is awarded.

Prajith told us that his action was against Pakistani infiltrators in J&K in the year 2005 when he as a Captain commanded his company in facing and driving out five armed militants who had taken shelter in civilian houses. The combing operations in the houses were dangerous, painstaking, emotional and warranting much discipline in the face of extreme risk to one’s life. On questions from Raj and others if he was driven by fierce patriotism, Jeetu in all humility said that he simply felt of doing the assigned duty. I was frankly amazed at the ease with which the young and brave soldier approaches the tasks.

Field Marshal Hugh Gough 1st Viscount Gough(1779-1869)

Mithun, my son and a teenager in his class XI, seemed quite impressed by Jeetu, his physique and his career and the élan with which he carried himself. Later he confessed to me that probably he may have to rethink about his career plans. After all, the life of a commando seems exciting enough! I have often been pulling the legs of the 16 year old boy, by telling him the inspirational story of Field Marshal Sir Hugh Gough who was commissioned into the army of the East India Company at the tender age of 14. This gallant and much loved Irish campaigner who always led from the front was the commander in chief of British forces in India and commanded in more general actions than any other British officer of the 19th century except the Duke of Wellington. Lord Gough defeated the Sikhs in the battle of Gujarat in 1849 thus annexing the Sikh empire of Ranjeet Singh paving way for the complete occupation of the Indian subcontinent. Lord Gough never lost a single battle and won four colonial wars. He died, at the age of 90, a field marshal and a viscount.

Despite many dark clouds in the national horizon, we certainly have many silver linings too. India’s greatest asset seem to be that of well intentioned youngsters like Sandeep Unnikrishnan, Prajith and hundreds of scores like them who inspire the young generations to emulate them and take this country well into the 21st century with every Indian holding his head high with pride, happiness and fulfilment.

Fort, Tripunithura
2nd January 2011

Notre Dame Cathedral and my visit of 2006

It was with much agony that I read about the devastating fire at the famed Notre Dame cathedral and the damages thereof. To me, the Notre...