Tigress in Olive Green 

Sharing a true story that I read as a friend sent me……

Hats off to the tigresses in olive green!                            

This true anecdote written by Maj Gen Raj Mehta as a salute to our lady doctors who serve selflessly on the front will make your chest swell with pride.

The true life war zone incident involving a lady doctor of rare grit which follows – if it has humour – has black humour as well as the disciplining of a man about Hippocrates Oath that Doctors serve under.

It was past the witching hour in Baramula, where militancy in Kashmir began in 1988 and still goes on……

I must have dozed off in the first interlude of sleep in an active, 18 hour day when I got a call on the phone. The operator displayed his urgency by prefacing the call as Urgent. IED phata hai, Sahib, Capt Devika Gupta aap se baat karna chahti hain. MI Room se bol rahi hain.

People in Kashmir sleep with their weapons and I was no different. In two minutes, I was in uniform. The QRT was ready too and we were racing out of the GOC’s Bungalow nestling on the banks of the Jehlum, the ancient river on which Alexander the Great had written India’s destiny in 326 BC by defeating brave 6 foot 6 inch tall King Porus (A Katoch King from Kangra) on one dark, rainy, May night over 2300 years ago.

The MI Room was close by and when I arrived, there was subdued activity. The RR soldier was part of a Unit crossing Baramula for a night domination patrol when he had stepped on an IED disguised as a transistor. His intestines had spilt out and his team had rushed him to the MI Room, where the Medical Officer, Capt Devika Gupta her hands encased in bloodied white gloves right up to her shoulders started stitching him skillfully to stop his intense bleeding. It was touch and go. My staff had reacted fast and placed an Armoured Car – a South African made mine proof bullet proof Casiper- and a three vehicle duty Gurkha QRT to escort the lady doctor and patient to the Base Hospital at Srinagar 60 kms away if that was needed. All Standard Operating Procedure during my time as GOC.

Sir, Dipika told me on arrival. It is touch and go. Have put almost 150 stitches on him. He has to reach the ICU at Srinagar for immediate operating as his vitals are collapsing. I need to monitor him and hold a drip otherwise he will die on my hands. Need an open jeep, not this “tank” she called the narrow ceilinged Casiper that was meant for war, not casualty evacuation.

It was past 1 a.m. now and the Baramula – Pattan road was notorious for terrorist fire on our convoys because the road was cut through low hills and gullies near Pattan, a very trouble prone area. I was the GOC and was morally responsible for any orders I gave. In this case, I felt that she had to go in a Casiper if she was not to lose her and the patient’s life in an ambulance Gypsy and told her the same in no uncertain terms.

Generals are trained to anticipate trouble and the moment I said what I had to and my men started jumping to respond, a quiet, firm, authoratative voice intervened. Just a minute General Sir. That was Devika in a voice that wasn’t hers, so my mind registered. She was dressed in a blood spattered Green military Sari and had just got up from her stitching of the soldiers abdomen. She was actually just five feet tall, soft, petite, mannered, very good in her job but for some reason, when she pulled herself up and snapped her beret on over her short hair that dark night, with about 50 odd soldiers and officers watching, she seemed to me to be taller than I.

She was. She walked up to me close enough for I to see her angry, flashy, blazing eyes. Sir whose the GOC?
Have you any doubt? I asked her?
No, she said, I have no doubt. Now tell me, who is the doctor who’s treating the soldier?
I understood. GOC’s arent stupid. Anyone would understand and I certainly did.
Sir, the boy is my patient. Do not interfere. If you do, you will carry the responsibility for his death. I will carry him in the open Gypsy, NOT the Casiper. If I die, my husband will grieve for me. You need not bother (he was a Medical Specialist at the Base Hospital, a great lad whom I had met at the BH while looking up my wounded soldiers) and Sir, you can later court martial me if you wish but let me go now.

With all my men waiting for my reaction at being “dressed  down” by this chit of a girl with three years service to my 36 years, I did the only thing any officer and gentleman would have in a war zone.

I saluted her. Devika, I am sorry I interfered. Go. God is with you. There were at least two people hiding their tears that dark night and she was just one of them.

The drama had yet not unfolded. At Pattan, the area I was most worried about, one of her Gurkha escort vehicles broke down at about 2.30 a.m. The brave gutsy doctor asked her escort to catch up after repairing the broken down vehicle and proceeded the last 30 kilometers unescorted in her open Gypsy unescorted by other than her courage and God who was with her.

On the terror grid, no one is given special privileges, man or woman as everyone is committed to specific jobs so it was with enormous relief when Devika called me up at 4.30 a.m., Sir, the soldier has been operated upon and will make it. I joined in the operation.

It is Sunday. Can I have half a day off? You are aware I am 6 months pregnant and my hubby has arranged for my term tests.

That morning I called up the Corps Commander. The Army Commander was in station and was spoken to. So was the Chief. Three days later, she was awarded the Chief of Army Staff’s Commendation Card for her heroism and devotion to duty, a rare honour.

Months later this Tigress had delivered a baby. A child who would one day hear about a great, fiesty Mum, a woman who sorted out a protective General…and won.

When some of my peers say or write that women are not suited for the Uniform, I react very strongly in their favour because the women I have seen and interacted with were Tigresses in the main.

Jai Hind.


Be a Parent not a Superhuman

Really nice article …..Every Parent Must read

A few weeks ago, I had attended a birthday party of my daughter’s friend. There they played a game, the age old ‘Passing the parcel’, however, what was different was the way it was played. The child who was caught with the parcel when the music stopped was asked to leave the circle, but with that parcel as the gift, and then a new parcel was introduced. The game continued till every child got a gift. I asked the mother what was wrong with the earlier version, the version we had all grown up with.

She said – “I do not like kids to be disappointed. See, here every child is happy as he or she gets to take a gift home.”

In another instance, I was in the park with my daughter. She was playing lock and key with her friends. Now, one of her friends fell down. Her mother, who was on the other side of the park ran to his son, all confused and upset. She scooped her son in her lap and started inquiring – “Are you hurt? Let me see! Do no cry! Shush, mama is here.”

The child, had a scraped knee, who was perfectly OK till then, started crying earnestly.

I was at a friend’s home for lunch. Her 5-year old daughter refused to eat what was cooked for lunch. My friends felt so guilty that her daughter would go hungry, that she cooked up her favourite pasta immediately. According to her, it was not the first time this had happened.

At the School Sports Day, there are no races, no competition. No first, second or runner ups. Because, everyone is equal, there should be no competition between the kids.

Kids today have a room full of toys and games. Some they ask, some they do not. But, they still get them. Everything in excess is the new mantra of life.

Our parents taught us self-reliance, while we hover around our children and want to protect them at all costs. We like to hold our babies closer to the protection of the nest. We go out of our way and rustle up something when they don’t eat what’s cooked at home for everyone else, because we don’t want them to sleep hungry. Instead of letting them play outside, we organize indoor  activities for them. We do their homework and their assignments. We even resolve their conflicts for them.

It makes me wonder, what will happen to these kids when they grow up?

Will they get a gift everytime they fail? Will they be able to handle disappointment? A child who has never been denied anything, how will he cope with rejections? There are a growing number of cases when kids run away from home or commit suicide because they are not able to deal with low marks in examinations or when they fail to secure an admission in an institution of their choice.

Will their parents keep them hidden in their bosom all their life? Our mothers never ran after us, a scraped knee was just that. She would ask us to wash it with some water and then forget about it or apply a few drops of Dettol but, there was no drama that followed. Falling and hurting was a part of daily life for us. We cycled, climbed up trees and jumped from the stairs. Today, kids travel in elevators and escalators (because they might fall down the stairs and get themselves hurt). Earlier, kids walked and cycled. I hardly see kids walking nowadays, unless it’s for a kids’ marathon and they are required to pose for selfies with their cool mommies. I never see kids climbing up the monkey bars, do you? Do they have parks with Jungle Jims, see saws, monkey bars, slides and swings anymore? Do local governing bodies take any initiative in the healthy childhood of the future generations?

Will the kids shy away from competition or be able to survive it? OK, so we can accompany our kids till the college gate and sit in the waiting area while they appear for a job interview. In one-child China, parents have been known to put up tents outside their college kids’ dorms. This is an invisible umbilical cord we are just not ready to cut. And, what happens after that? A child who is never used to losing – how will he survive in the big bad world?

We are raising our kids to be adult babies.

So what should we do?

Stop telling our children that they are special all the time. They are not, at least not always. So reserve the praises for the times when they actually deserve.

Stop going out of the way to create happiness in their life. Life is a mix of joys and sorrows, and it is for a reason. We have no right to interfere with  nature. So let’s stop pretending that everything is all right when it’s not. Let the kids have their fair share of disappointments at an early age.

It’s better to fall at 10, than at 40.
Stop giving them things when they don’t require it. We had fewer toys, but did we ever complain? Were we unhappy because of that? No, right?  So why are we teaching our kids to be materialistic? Why should they find happiness in toys and games, and not people? We give them iPads, iPhones…we are teaching them it’s all right to speak to the technology, rather than people. Today’s kids have more virtual friends than actual friends.

Stop hovering around them. Let them take action and be responsible for it. If they have done a wrong deed, they should take the punishment or the consequences for it. Do not protect them unnecessarily.

Let them fall. And, do not cushion their fall. Also, let them get up on their own. Only when they fall, will they get up. Let them learn things on their own.
Stop feeling guilty. For things we can’t provide them. We are the parents, not superhumans or Gods. Make kids understand our limitations.

It’s not the kids who are at fault, but us, the parents. Let’s sit with our parents and understand how they raised us – independent and fearless. We can take a leaf or two from  their parenting book. It wouldn’t do us any harm, but might save our kids!

Victorian Dignity and Grace 

No, I will not eat. I don’t want this stuff. You call this food? Who’s the cook? Bring the person to me and I’ll teach him or her to cook. Take me to the kitchen and I’ll show you how to cook food that’s palatable. A shrill but feeble voice was piercing into my ears, as I tried to concentrate on reading a book I’ve been carrying around for quite some time now. Mama, that’s alright. Please try to eat something. Look how weak you have become. Shall I ask them to cook something else for you? What would you like to eat? A soft voice inquired of the first and fuming person.
Unable to steady my mind and read further I sauntered out of my room in the direction of the voices. The room adjacent to mine was where these voices were coming from. Through the door left ajar I caught a glimpse of an elderly lady and another lady who was comparatively younger, seemingly a relative of the elderly lady. Seeing me the younger of the two invited me into their room. Rather sheepishly I walked in wondering if they felt that I was eavesdropping. The elderly lady wore a big frown on her face and sat cross like a small child.

Not knowing what to say, I introduced myself and asked the elderly lady what brought her here and what her ailment was. She sat there cross saying that she was fine but her children thought she needed some extra care and brought her here. She did not like the food served here and was hungry but unable to eat anything. Observing her while she talked to me I noticed that she was a very fair dignified looking lady with a Victorian look who would have easily been the heart throb of many during her hay days.

Coaxing her to talk to me, she gradually opened up taking a liking to me.  At the ripe old age of eighty eight she prided in describing at length her lineage, mentioning that she was the daughter of a well known and upright person who stood for righteousness. Married at the tender age of fourteen and a half she took up the responsibility of her home looking after her parents in law and the siblings of her husband. During those times she learnt to cook and keep a house in order and tend to the needs of others. Along life’s journey she added children to her family and lost her parents, parents in law, husband and many others.
Her own children were in different parts of the country but she was happiest to stay out of the country with her son, having acquired citizenship in an alien land. Being a person having grown up and lived in style during the British rule in India, she had a liking for their ways. Immaculate cleanliness, crockery laid out in style, food appealing to the eyes and tongue, a breed of attendants at her beck and call was the least she expected. Cooked food had nearly stopped going down to her stomach as she loved surviving on fruits and nuts of all kinds and gulping down bottles of milk in one sitting as she told me with a wide grin on her face. Today she was grumpy about being restricted from eating  the fruits and nuts she loved and drinking bottles of milk which had become her staple diet over the time and now restricted by doctors. Her daughter accompanying her thanked me profusely for having managed to talk her into eating at least something that was given to her while we were talking, which she did unknowingly. Food intake was vital as she had to have her medicines. 

After spending a good hour hearing the lady’s story and talking to the two of them I took leave of them saying that we’d meet later on. In my room I thought about the different types of people I came across during my stay in this hospital these few days. The lady holding her head high in dignity, unrelenting to even her daughter made me wonder how some people adapt to changes whereas others cannot budge from their lifestyles. Having lived a life on her own terms she could not accept terms being doled out to her. Strange are the ways of the Creator. 

Let my kite soar 

Every now and then a huge wave rose up far in the horizon and rushed towards us lashing at our feet and retreating as if playing hide and seek only to come back with renewed gusto to drench us further as we sat on the sandy beach by the seaside. A little boy lost his balance and fell down as the sand drifted from under his feet which was culled away by the wave which caught him unawares. The spool of thread fastened to his kite got caught in a nearby tree and he had to release his treasured kite heavy heartedly lest it would tear, which he did not want at any cost. What a pathetic look he wore, clothes all wet, feet fully  covered with the sand which refused to drop off even as he tried to brush it away and his prized possession soaring higher and higher up in the sky moving further away from him gradually, totally cutting itself away from him far into the unknown skies out of his sight as he looked on helplessly. 

My hand felt a sudden squeeze as my friend with whom I was out for a stroll tightened her grip. “Did you notice that? Could you fathom the boy’s emotions?” she asked me. I did just that with my life, she said. When I felt that the  relationship I treasured more than anything in my life was being tied down forcibly by me, I gave him the liberty to let go as there was nothing greater for me than his happiness. Why should I be so mean to hold him back while he was fluttering to break free? The look on her face spoke volumes more than her words. 

His days used to run short of time when he wanted to hear me every minute of the day whether what I said made sense or not, my problems were his own and he too shared some of his worries though not all, she kept blabbering as if in a trance. The good times spent together will live beyond my grave, the happiness he gifted me deserved a greater reward than tying him to my apron strings.Slowly it kept waning to just the customary stuff. No, I never felt that he loved me any less coz he vehemently emphasised so at the drop of a hat. Her gaze steady on the lashing waves at dusk, she continued that it was not a day or two, not a week, nor ten days since she heard from him which broke her heart but she didn’t want to show it. It could turn to weeks, weeks to months, months to years and years to eternity.”I’ll go mad if I’m not able to talk to you”, she remembered him say but actions didn’t match words. Determined not to pester him as he may have his own reasons, his family, his preoccupations, his busy schedule and other such things unknown to her, she feigned happiness. 

There’s nothing greater than sacrifice everything for one’s love, she slowly muttered. I’ve set him free akin to that little boy’s kite, he’s free to soar to his destination. Yes, I did see a tiny drop glistening in the corner of her eye which she tried to hide even from me her best friend, with a sheepish smile on her face. Her happiness had caved in and there she lay devastated with a smile on her face. I wonder how she could do it! How do I console her? Didn’t I hear the thud with which her soul fell? 

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