THE BATTLE OF CHAMBB, 1971

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Episode – 9

[This is the ninth episode of a blog series we are featuring on the famous battle of Chambb of the 1971 War, as narrated by veterans of the 5th Battalion, the Sikh Regiment, one of the participant units in the battle. Continuing with the narrative of Lieutenant Y S Rana.]

Baldev, The Vegetarian Don Quixote

I must say Baldev was the model of a concerned and protective batman. He had announced to me a few days ago. “Saabji main twaada sevadar laggan ga – Sir I will be your batman.” I asked him, “Why?”

“Saabji tussi anda, meat, cigrat, daru nhi peendey – Sir you are a teetotaller. You have no vices, that’s why it will give me happiness to assist you.” He was a religious guy. Then the war started on 3rd December. How very kind of him to have thought of getting me a dead man’s helmet still warm from the previous owner? I could still feel the leather headband of the helmet warm from the Pakistani’s body heat.

“There are more helmets here if you want.” Baldev said indicating helpfully at the helmets of the other two Pakistanis who had been dispatched to Valhalla. “Mainey kya dukaan kholni hai? – You think I am going to open a shop of those?” I shunned his offer.

I looked at the two Pakistanis. How dead they looked? Two of the enemy had rifles and one of them had a sten carbine, somewhat different than ours. There was no point sticking around outside for too long. They lay across the path and I turned back for my section, tip-toeing to avoid stepping on the bodies. Baldev behind, watching me, said, “Saabji tussi kyu eiddan eiddan da karr rahey. Saalyan de chaati tey pair rakh ke challo – Sir why are you walking so tenderly? Put your foot on the buggers’ chests and trample across.”

Baldev planted his foot on the chest of one of them. All of a sudden, there was a ‘phutt’ sound like a balloon-burst and Baldev came flying to fall on to my shoulders from behind. I must say I was also jolted. “What’s the matter with you Baldev?” I asked dismayed. “Saab me tey chatti de uttey pair rakhya – Sir I put my foot on his chest. Eh to saala haaley bhi kaddakey maar rahya – Bugger is still making noise; looks like he is alive.”
“Tain keeta kee? – What did you do?” I asked him. He went back and stooped to have a good look at the corpse. Staring at it, he said, “Lagda tey saala marya hi ha – He appears dead to me.”

“Ay keeta see – This is what I did.” He said, stamping his foot on the dead man’s chest once again. No sooner had he done that, the body gave out a ‘thupp’ noise. Baldev sprang back again and almost fell upon me. Recovering, he unslung his rifle and cocked it in a fit of anger. “Main is dee maa noo, huney thikk karda haan – I will put this bugger away right now.”

“Baldev, put your rifle away; he is dead and harmless.” I restrained him.

“Parr saab ji, eh tehh kaadakey maar rahya – But Sir, this man is still sputtering.”

“Come on let’s get back.” I prompted him to move on.

He looked at me, then at his rifle and then at the dead man on the ground, as if he thought that any moment the man might jump up and lunge at his throat. “Tussi mainu fire da hukam do – Sir give me permission to shoot him.”

“Oi Baldev mainu pata aa, tu bhot bahadur haa – O Baldev, I know you are a brave man; but the fellow is clearly dead. It was the trapped air inside his lungs gushing out when you put your one-quintal boot upon him that made the noise.”

“Aiddan saab ji? – Is it like that sir?”

“Yes, it’s like that only”. He followed me; disbelief written all over his face.

[To be continued]

Lt Col Ashok Ahlawat
Lt Col Ashok Ahlawat is a serving officer of the Indian Army, who has extensively researched the role of 5 Sikh in the Battle of Chambb, interviewing many of the veterans, and created a minute-to-minute account of the action, as narrated by the veterans themselves in first person. He can be reached at ashahlawat@gmail.com
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