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Gentleman in flannels and fatigues

Straight bat Former Test cricketers Hemu Adhikari (left) with Mushtaq Ali (right).

Straight bat Former Test cricketers Hemu Adhikari (left) with Mushtaq Ali (right).  

How colonel-cricketer Hemu Adhikari dealt with ‘indiscipline’ in his ranks

I learned my lesson on military discipline from a cricketer when I was a Gentleman Cadet (GC) in the Indian Military Academy, Dehradun, which I joined in January 1961.

GCs were granted “liberty” on certain days to leave the academy on condition of being properly dressed in the regulation “mufti”, not visiting out-of-bounds areas and reporting back in time. Most GCs, and this writer for sure, could only think of food, and there were prescribed city restaurants for us.

Mess food is tasty and nutritious, but everyone needs a change once in a while. I “discovered” a Konkani family living on the adjoining Forest Research Institute campus. I am a Konkani, and my initial foray in search of “home food” was met by their unstinted hospitality, and my visits became quite regular.

Over the months, the daughter of the family became an added attraction. She had passed her Senior Cambridge exam in December 1961, and had a six-month break before joining college. Our friendship grew, and we decided to go to the movies, followed by eating out. It was unconventional for those times, and even more unconventional that it was she who treated this ever-hungry GC! That outing sealed our bond — we married and we have just marked our 55th anniversary.

Custodian of discipline

One day, I was dressed in regulation “mufti”, and as we walked to a table in Kwality restaurant, we passed the table at which the Academy Adjutant was seated. I politely wished him, but the Adjutant, the custodian of discipline, glared at me. Unperturbed, we had a leisurely meal and cycled back.

The next morning, I was summoned to the Orderly Room for disciplinary action. With no clue why, I was marched up before my Company Commander, who was Major H.R. (Hemu) Adhikari, a world-famous cricketer.

The charge against me was that I had been out-of-bounds, as observed by the Adjutant. Asked what I had to say, I said that I had been to Kwality restaurant, which was not out-of-bounds. My Commander told me that the Academy Daily Orders had placed the city out-of-bounds for all ranks following a measles outbreak, and I was therefore guilty as charged. My plea was that I hadn’t seen the order, and that is when Major Adhikari gently gave me the lesson that in the Army, ignorance of orders was no excuse for breaking rules. He then asked who the girl with me was, probably fearing a complaint from her family. I explained and, ever the gentleman, he just harrumphed!

Having been found guilty, next came the sentence. He asked me why I should not be punished with relegation (loss of six months of service seniority). I don’t know how I blurted out that if it was out-of-bounds for me, it was out-of-bounds for others too. He was annoyed at my impertinent logic involving the Adjutant, and I was marched out!

I wasn’t relegated, thanks to the fair-mindedness of an icon of the gentleman’s game. Most important, I was fortunate and blessed to have learned a lesson in military discipline from an officer and gentleman.

sg9kere@live.com

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Printable version | Jul 11, 2020 7:05:30 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/gentleman-in-flannels-and-fatigues/article31819482.ece

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