Thursday, April 16, 2009

An officer and a gentleman

There are numerous officers, serving and retired, who epitome the title given above. But no one matches the senior-most officer on the active list, Marshal of the Indian Air Force Arjan Singh. Till he was alive, Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw definitely gave the Marshal a run for his money when it came to wit and charm, but after his unfortunate demise, Arjan Singh defintely has the entire field left to him. And the Marshal was certainly on a "witty offensive" when he came to a function to mark the release of a book written on him. The presence of all three service chiefs and several senior and retired officers of the three services was a sign of the esteem in which the veteran fighter pilot is held by the men in unifrom. It is always fascinating to hear the Marshal talk about the days when he was flying biplanes and when he commanded a squadron in the Second World War in Burma. Days gone by, an era...which can only be relieved through the words of such legends. As he himself pointed out, the war in Burma produced three highest ranking officers in the Indian defence forces. Field Marshal KM Carriapa and Field Marshal Sam Maneckshaw from the Army and he, himself, from the IAF. Not used to the hurly-burly world of electronic media demanding sound bytes, Arjan Singh still held his fort against them after the function. His wit intact despite the hour long function, which must have been draining for a 90-year-old person, he responded in character to the barrage of Happy Birthdays from Correspondents. Thank you very much, he said, "but it makes me feel old and I don't like it".

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