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Total Recall by a Legend

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It was the term-break approach phase at the NDA and we were excitedly counting the DLTGH (Days Left To Go Home!). The May POP was just a week away and we, the North India bound cadets were expecting a gruesome summer. Well, heat or shine, the very fact of having vacations from the Academy coupled with an upgraded term badge and more privileges was a welcome change.

Suddenly, one afternoon after the POP practice, I heard some names being announced to the Squadron Commander's Office. My name figured too and I wondered if I was being interviewed for the esteemed Sergeant's stripes! The muster at the lobby was of only Naval Cadets and my goose pimples disappeared fast as they originated. With a baited breath, we heard the order that we were on a term - end hike to Sikkim's forward Army locations near the World famous Nathu-la Pass. The joy of achieving the record time of snoring at home lay shattered and the brasso, blanko, blanket and walking outs accompanied the starched Levi's.

An eventful journey from Mumbai to Kolkata in a snatched First Class Compartment was followed by a more eventful journey in the Malda Express to New Jalpaiguri. We sweated and cursed our luck and wished we were 'Pongos'. This feeling was further strengthened by the warm welcome extended by the Army units along the picturesque way to Gangtok and an ever-staunch Naval Officer leading the expedition.

The host Army unit's Officers accorded us a grand welcome and the post bottoms -up formalities were accorded to us by our Officer-in-Charge. The hike carried on and we reached Nathu-la amidst threats of relegation at each milestone. The exciting visit took us to a Jat Regiment whose 'Tambi' CO's hilarious Haryanvi jokes kept us in splits. This was the place where we came across the Legend of Baba Harbhajan Singh.

The Jat Regiment CO narrated the epic tale of the Baba. The Baba was a foot soldier posted on the volatile Sikkim-China border in the 1960's. On a routine patrol, young Harbhajan sought permission from his troop commander to read the sacred 'Gutkha'. The young troop commander was averse to the demand fearing a skirmish with Chinese patrol. Harbhajan stood his ground and the patrol moved on. No one saw Harbhajan after that and as per the Army regulations he was declared missing and the discharge formalities were completed.

The skirmishes with the Chinese escalated into a full-fledged war and one eventful night Harbhajan came into the GOC's dream. He explained that he was still active and safeguarding the border. The Chinese also started reporting about a Sikh who would torment their soldiers. The Army enlisted Harbhajan into its active duty rolls and a temple was constructed in his honour. He became a 'Baba' to the entire soldiers guarding Sikkim

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