A Simpleton Soldier: Late Col (retd.) Hukam Singh Yadav

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As my father, then a Sepoy in Indian Army, ran in field uniform to clear his Basic Physical Test, he realized one of his leather shoes gave him trouble. A nail seemed to prick him in the heel time and again. But race was in full swing and any flinching could fail him in the test. So, he kept running full steam, dodging the irritating nail in whatsoever manner possible and passed the test in flying colors. Inspection of shoes and feet was a mandatory exercise at the end of the race. When it came to my father, one of his shoes was found full of caked blood.

There are instances galore that testify to my father's never-say-die spirit. This one stands out as most typical of him. He was delighted when he crossed 80 years in July this year and hoped he would survive for another 5 or 6 years more, down from 100 he hoped to live some 2 years back. But the terminal 2 years were hard on him. Botched up cataract operation, head injury he sustained in a road side accident, 3 ribs he fractured upon falling from scooter despite persistent advice to remain away from 2 wheeler, dogging diabetes and history of heart attack right since 1994, finally took their toll. He breathed his last in after noon of 15th August'2012.

My father was a fitness freak albeit with rustic life style. Milk and ghee were central to his diet. He would discuss subject of health with me in great details. He would often criticize me for my weakness for tea. I disliked his lackadaisical attitude towards food and made no secret of it. In spite of our differences, we shared a passion for health and wellness.

A great runner himself, my father had seen the veteran Milkha Singh in action. MilKha singh, he reminisced, ran wildly thumping full foot on ground and rotating his right hand bent-at- elbow in the manner of a wheel. My father was friend to Capt. Shaitan Singh Yadav who received Paramvir Chakra posthumously. Recalling a light conversation with him, my father narrated: I asked him, Sir you are a perfect gentleman, but how come your name is Shaitan Singh? To this his friend reacted with a beaming smile. Time though proved the veracity of his name. In China aggression of 1962, Capt Shaitan Singh didn't leave his post even in face of positive defeat and orders to retreat. For the enemy, he indeed proved to be a Shaitan.

My father was a farmer at heart. As a child I saw him ploughing with Tractor in our agricultural land at our native village, Dolcha. Milking cows and buffaloes was his calling right since childhood as he assisted his father, my grandfather, in running a commercial dairy farm in Delhi. When posted in Meerut as Major in Indian Army, he kept a buffalo and our household remained flush with milk and ghee.

My father was always there for help and advice whenever any of us 3 brothers and one sister were in trouble of any kind. When Keshav, my younger brother couldn't make it to merit list in selection to Indian Army he encouraged him patting his back: Don't worry, I need a son like you at home, to look after me when I am old and infirm. Keshav made it to merit list the very next year. When I started my career as a Vety. Doctor, he would express his concern for my health thus: You are a doctor, I ask you, how can you put on weight, please tell me. At times he would compare us three brothers, something that I never liked. Out of you 3 brothers, he once said, Birender is the best, but you are the one whom I love most of all. I indeed felt flattered that day. Our sister once remarked:  I owe it all to my father , whatsoever I have been able to achieve in my life.

As I collected last remains of my father from funeral spot, I saw his well formed thigh bones spread in full formation. Attending Priest was surprised to see them so intact. I said my father was an athlete. As I picked his bones into a collecting bag, thigh bones wouldn't go in. I tried to break them with gentle pressure, but couldn't. So I inserted them into the bag in standing position.

Well done father. You lived well, you died gracefully. May your soul rest in peace.

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