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Ran Bare Feet

About ColNarinder Singh Malhan

Colonel Narinder Singh Malhan was commissioned from Indian Military Academy (IMA), Dehradun. On having served for almost four decades in Indian Army, he loves to share his experiences through his writings. In his opinion, every life has a lot to unfold. Each life is unique and is an historical document with its own identity. He strongly feels, real discovery is through introspection by looking back in own time. He believes, sharing own experiences are like revisiting life's milestones with more intensity. He thoroughly enjoyed his journey in uniform.

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In the blistering heat at the peak of those summers, temperature rose almost to 47*Celsius and sand kept boiling hot beneath our bare feet. Shadow of a wall on the side was a great relief and kept sand under its shadow comparatively cool. It was a great relief, however momentary. Affordability of shoes was a big deal, except only for some of us.

Days spent in the village school have been a life levelling experience. Shadow of a ‘Kikar’ or ‘Seesam’ tree was an ideal place to work as a class room under open and infinite sky. Coir matting was a luxury. When I look around retrospectively fifty years down the memory lane, I find things more or less the same when I still visit the village. That reminds me of my childhood days. School fee of one or two paisa per month will look like a fantasy story to children of the day.

Most played games were hockey or ‘kabbadi’. Tree branches worked as hockey sticks. Round shape given by stone and wrapped with a cloth and tight strings of a thin thread over it worked as an effective hockey ball. ‘Kabbadi’, in any case, was a zero cost game, which most of us could afford without any innovation.

Dinner was over by 1900 hours. During winters it was much early, may be around 1800 hours. This was because of many reasons. Conservation of kerosene, which was used in a lamp to provide light, was probably one of the main reasons for early dinner. Fetching kerosene from nearby city was a monthly ritual by our grandfather. This monthly ritual involved dedication of one full day. Mode of his journey was cycle. Camel cart was another mode of transport. Cycles could only move with a paid token within the city municipal limits.
Some of the night hours were dedicated to studies. Four bricks on two tiers provided height, and there we kept our kerosene lamp. This arrangement allowed better spread of light all around and made reading comparatively easy. Jute bags spread around the lamp were used for sitting around the lamp.

Village pond was the main source of water. It met multiple needs of the villagers. Buffaloes enjoyed bathing inside it. For children, it provided the right place to enhance their swimming skills. Pulses were better cooked in pond’s water. This is what our grandmother used to say.
While sleeping in the open, my one to one contact with stars in the sky was the most interesting and daily experience. Most of the times it was a puzzle among us to decipher what held them in fixed positions. Shooting stars aroused curiosity. I could feel nature from much close proximity through our simple living.

First journey by train was a great excitement. One could only board a train from a neighboring village, which is about five Kilometers from our village. Walking up to that village through a sandy, dusty and mystical track was quite an effort. Excitement to ride a train for the first time was very empowering.

This journey was so essential to make me connect with Indian soldiers at large. The best way to know the soldiers one commands is by establishing connection with his roots. Template of my journey, so dear to me, brought me closer to the Indian soldiers with great ease. This was the template which defines the roots of Indian soldiers so precisely.

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