The last game

Brig (Retd) V K Sharma

‘Religion of the troops is also the religion of the officer commanding them’ is the good old saying in the Army circles. One does pick up their thought process as also their culture. Its applicability is bit more pronounced in infantry units of a single class composition . I though born as a brahmin, having been commissioned in a Gorkha unit quickly developed carnivorous taste buds as almost all Gorkhas are non-vegetarians in their dietry preferences. Besides what is authorised scale(which is substantial) of meat and polutry, Gorkha boys donot hesitate to spend quite an amount on buying additional non veg food items. When ever any Gorkha unit moves in any inhabited area due to manifold increase in demand for non veg items, their prices aquire an upward trend. On Sunday,Administrative or holidays,Section/Platoon level cooking away from the cook house is quite a common. If the unit is deployed away from the inhabited area,the inborn skills of hunting and fishing come handy in supplementing the non veg diet. They are adept at the use of catapult,besides,explosives and training aids like grenade No 90.

When I was a Company Commander to ward off any accidents,our Commanding Officer(CO) had issued strict instructions against use of explosives and Grenade No 90 for fishing. To my utter shock, very next day when visiting a platoon outpost of my company I was served fried fish with tea. On investigating about fish,I was informed that the fish has been caught without use of any explosive, and without entering the water. I was shown the mountain stream in the vicinity, at a point where the stream had a sharp fall,the fish had the tendency to leap backwards. At this area my boys had tied a hessian cloth across the stream. The fish of its own kept on falling in the contraption put across. A sentry was detailed at the point to keep away the eagles and crows from pilfering the catch. This type of non violent fishing was not objected to even by our ever scowling CO.

Our boys were in for shock, when my company relieved a company of an other unit on the LOC . All ranks of the Company being relieved were dedicated to preservation of wild life. In the process of handing/taking over,we were shown about a dozen and half deer,which use to gather around the post at the lunch time. The troops would then feed them . The out going Company Commander short of making me sign on a document for these deer,insisted that the same number be returned to him,on their return to the post after about two months of their training. Accordingly,I ensured that no harm came to the deer herd. A head count was conducted every afternoon and reported to me by the senior Subedar.

One morning on a routine visit to one of the post, my orderly and I were walking on a foot track through a minefield,which had tall grass growing. All of a sudden there was loud rustling sound in the close proximity. Apprehending some enemy ambush, I immediately cocked my rifle. A near simultaneous leap of a full grown stag and a loud rapport of fire from my rifle materialised. I was never a ‘good shot’, in the instant case, as I had No time to aim, I literally fired from the hip. I told my orderly, it is good that I missed it. But my orderly insisted that the animal had been hit and was galloping in pain. We followed the poor animal. It ran towards the enemy post, and dropped on ground few metres our side of the LOC. I and my orderly were in open about 150 meters short of LOC. We saw an enemy solider emerge from a bunker,crossed the LOC to our side and dragged the wounded animal to his bunker. As we were in open with no cover, use of force was not an option. We resorted to shouting and pleaing with the enemy soldier. To my frustration, it had no effect on our not so friendly troops deployed on the other side of the LOC. The skin of the deer was returned to us by the enemy post commander at my request during the flag meeting.

While handing back the company location,it was a major effort on my part to convince the company commander of my innocence and unintentional killing of the deer. Even the donation of the skin of the poor deer to the temple at the post did not assuage the troops we had relieved. With this episode, I gave up hunting…


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