It was Vth Term, June, 1978. The slip lying on the telephone table in C sqn read “Cdt RS Bhown to report to Adjt’s office in Drill Order, in Sudan Block at 1.30 PM today.” We were fatigued after the morning ‘End of Term’ drill+POP practice and were planning to hit bed when this bombshell exploded in my mind. YV, DPS Aujla, RK Yadav and many others came to express their sympathy. “But none of the Sahabs, Sergeants or ACA has caught me. My I slips, I card, Name Tabs were safe and intact” I moaned. Every one of us was straining our brains with great efforts to find the reason of such a dreadful call that too, in End of Term. Karsolia said “beta tu to gaya” any punishment would imply eating into the Term break. Some said such calls at this time of the term, generally are for relegation. My throat was getting drier and suddenly I swung into action to manage a pair of KDs and summoned Khandu, my orderly to fix a drill order for me. “Sab the boots and anklets are being waxed for the drill competition, should I polish Ammo boots?” He said with sincere concern. I got ready with OG anklets, Ammo Boots, stockings and guarder flashes as Hops tops were not worn in this combination. My friends saw me off with a long face and I left for Sudan Block with a lump in my throat.
In Sudan block I saw Crème’la 55 in shinning regulation-drill orders with torches flashing on their left breasts…Ajit Singh, Surender Singh Jhaj, Ajai Shukla, Karan Singh Rathore and many more (my memory ditching me). Most of them asked me same question ‘What are you doing here?” and I kept on repeating sheepishly Adjt wishes to see me. They brushed me aside and continued with their chat. I stood hiding in a corner and worried about what lies in store for me.
Then, came Guman Singh, our Drill Sub Maj with a cane tightly pressed in his arm pit and white hackle soaring like a rooster. He spotted me and said “Mharashtra State ki lottery hai kisi ki bhi nikal sakti hai!” I could not understand a thing and asked him clearly. He said “I have recommended your name for ACA” and simultaneously asked the Crème’ la 55 to stand in a single file as per the order in the list he was carrying. I told him “sab yeh kya kiya? You have no idea what you have done.”
He thought because my drill and word of command being good, I was an ACA material.
Soon, came in Maj Rupi Brar the offg Adjt as Maj Harjit Singh was out on lve. He checked antecedents and inspected the turnout of all of us (I had joined the Crème’ by then). He got stuck confronting the last man in the file, it was me. “What is your overall order of merit?” he frowned. “Sir, 144th” I fumbled. He gave those dirty looks to Guman Singh who straightened himself with a jerk and we knew the SM has done a big FU. But it was too late to rectify as the list lay already on DepCom’s table. “Now, you stay back for the interview” Maj Rupi Brar barked at me. As my turn came I marched into the DepCom’s office for the first and the last time in my life. Air Commodore Dogra was smiling in the chair and the Adjt stood on his left. Seeing me, Maj Brar stooped halfway to whisper in DepCom’s ear. “Sir, this boy has been called by mistake. We can send him back.” I could hear it distinctly despite its low pitch, and never felt so small and humiliated in my life till today. DepCom was generous to say “Don’t you worry; let me talk to him.” With great difficulty he pronounced my name and asked me two questions rather my views on A) manhandling of jrs by senior cadets and B) smoking to be allowed in 6th Term. I said yes to smoking and no to manhandling. He said “Thank you” and I, followed the word of command of Sub Maj shouting from outside the office. My perspiration was making the starched KDs stink by now but I was a relieved man; rather proud man to be mentioned in Despatches.
In C sqn by now a new star had born. I proudly, told all the mediocre course mates about me being in the run. Maj Satnam Singh ( Tahalka fame later), C sqn cdr thought of me at least worth a DCC as I was put up for ACA. My DivO, Capt Pramod Krishna, asked me to go to Goal Market and get myself photographed with the DCC’s tabs. I was already contemplating to take over 9th Div meanwhile.
Then fell another bombshell. I got Re-Test in English, as usual. This time my papers had gone well but Mr Raina was a cruel man. I was called up by the Sqn Cdr who said we do not want our appointments to be coming for a bloody Re-Test and set a bad example. I saluted, turned about and marched off. Joined the gang of OCs to the place I belonged.