Friday, 5 October 2012

A bit of self-indulgence... the way we were!



I will completely understand if people don't recognize the young officer in the photo! Major Ajai Shukla, getting his UN medal pinned on by his boss, Colonel Puentes, a Uruguayan paratrooper. 

I was the chief provost marshal of the 6500-strong UN peacekeeping operation in Mozambique. This was one of the few UN missions that succeeded in meeting its objectives --- one has only to look at Mozambique today. (Not claiming credit, but could this just be a coincidence?)

A great help in my functioning as the top cop in the mission was the fantastic Indian trader community in Mozambique, mostly Gujarati traders who had lived there for generations. They were not just wonderfully hospitable, with excellent Gujarati food always on offer, but were my eyes and ears on the streets of Maputo and elsewhere. They probably don't visit this blog, but here's a salute to all those bold Indians who are the backbone of small and medium business across most of Africa. 

34 comments:

Anonymous said...

Ummm.. wonderfully hospitable?

Anonymous said...

are you still in touch with any of those soldiers from foreign countries who served at UN mission?

Abid said...

Congrats sir. One question... Is that an Indian TATRA truck (painted UN) behind you?

Int64 said...

you look a tough gun in this pic Mr Shukla, dont let age take on you.

RS said...

Great Sir. A little bit of self indulgence did no body no harm.....

Anonymous said...

which year was this? Thanks for your service. Makes Indians look good abroad.

salubriousQ said...

Wow! You were a terrific soldier Ajai sir.Sorry if I am being the dumb, inquisitive one here but still I would like to know Why did you leave the army??

Anonymous said...

well i m a gujju who am thanking u on behalf of all others also who do not read this post

Broadsword said...

Thanks, everyone, for your kind comments.

I was, in fact, a tough, fit officer in those days... and I remained so until journalism ate into my workout time.

While in Mozambique, I was runner up in the national squash championships, which I must admit was contested mainly between the expatriate community, some of whom were pretty good. The winner, who beat me in the finals, was then India Number 2, Ravinder Malik, who served with me on the mission.

As to why I left the army! I served up to the time that I could be a combat solider, which finishes when you complete command of your unit. With desk jobs beckoning... I figured I could serve the country some other way.

Anonymous said...

Ajai-ji,

Everyone ages, no secret in there, but other than the age factor, you still look the same. As always, I am proud of everyone who serves their country, be it in India, or any other country in the world. I thank you and all other's who have and will in the future for their selfless service to their respective countries and the world.

Mr. RA said...

Good achievement.

Anonymous said...

Col. That must be a proud moment...how do you feel now when after shedding your blood for the country people call you names for writing truth, do you regret; do you miss that respect and trust and honour; do you believe that any other profession can bring you what Army has?? just query

Anonymous said...

Sure u must have done a lot of combat soldiering in the "mud cors".
Either u r deluding ur self or think readers are that dumb

Guru said...

Sometimes while reading and bashing your blog, i forgot you were a soldier at one time. Great reading.

Anonymous said...

Please change the first sentence to, "I will completely understand if people do not recognize the soldier in the pic ....", That will read well. Congrats Soldier! Please do not post this, thanks.

Cheers,

Anonymous said...

Hi ajai
Nice pic..... You all do a wonderful job....thanks for your service

Anonymous said...

Super like sir. You rock.

Anonymous said...

we are proud of you,you have made the nation proud.excellent job, not just with uniform but with keyboard as well(articles,i mean).

sents said...

Are you maintaining the same fitness in your body now:-)?

Anonymous said...

congrats ajai for your selfless service to the nation. In todays life we find very few individuals like you.

Anonymous said...

Oops. I thought it is a photo of Shah Rukh Khan from some film.
You are very fit in that photo. Only -ve is that your uniform is not so good.

Even after having a Fashion Institute run by Army in Bangalore, Indian Army is not having any dress sense. Colonel's uniform is okay.

Anonymous said...

Kudos Ajai ji.
Made us all proud.
You really super hero, top gun.

Keep going.
Jai Hind.

Cheers
Anantha

Broadsword said...

@ Anonymous 23:44
You ask: "how do you feel now when after shedding your blood for the country people call you names for writing truth, do you regret; do you miss that respect and trust and honour; do you believe that any other profession can bring you what Army has?"

Actually, I find that I get as much trust and respect now as I did when I was in service! And, no... I don't get fazed by when people call me names. It's my prerogative to write what I think is correct... and it's my readers' prerogative to form their judgements on my writing. I don't let it worry me because I am confident that I do the right thing.

@ Anonymous 04:59

You write: "Please change the first sentence to, "I will completely understand if people do not recognize the soldier in the pic ....", That will read well."

You're absolutely correct! Making the change now...

Anonymous said...

sir ,
u definitely look very tough..
well if i could , then will u let ur readers know what was ur workout like in those days ??
how much running , push ups pull ups u did..m sure this wud be interesting to know..
& u almost look like a young lt. just commissioned..far better than many fat young capt. & majors we have now.. :P
also for readers like me it wud be nice to know daily army PT routines to become fit like u were sir :)

thank you
P.S - i hope u reply sir :)

Anonymous said...

Yeh shukla hai? Kaa baat kar rahe ho...! Agar filmo main gaye hote to aaj Bipasha aur Priyanka ke saath hote aur bechara Ajai Devgan Ratlam station ke bahar katora lekar baitha hota! Action hero bante baba...





Mayur M Manapure said...

Sir, we are proud that our country is at forefront in peace keeping and to have a 'son of a gun' like you who served his country and force with valour and pride. But one question arises...Itna kar ke bhi ab tak hamey UN me Permanent seat kyo nahi mili...? Any answers.....

Shikhar said...

Cant help looking at the zari-bordered silver and blue bordered rank insignia (courtesy Malerkotla)...

to the genius questioning the Col's combat, (6 October 2012 01:05) - 'Mud Corps' officers, incl. probably the Col - have volunteered on their own for Siachen and NE, along with CI in Punjab /Kashmir - so pardon me, but your ignorance is showing.

Broadsword said...

@ Anonymous 17:24

Interesting question about fitness levels, and I'll reply to that. What was my workout like in those days? Incidentally, I was 35 years old when that photo was taken.

In the army of that time, there was no "gym culture". Exercise was all about playing games, running and body-weight loaded exercises like push-ups, crunches (which we called sit-ups), beam pull-ups, and rope climbing.

My workout routine, most days, would be a 5-km run in about 22 minutes, followed by 30 push-ups, 50 sit-ups, 8 over-arm pull ups on a beam, and a couple of second-class rope climbs... i.e. using my arms only, not my feet or legs.

And, as I posted in an earlier comment, I would also play 5-7 games of squash in the evenings in Maputo with Ravinder Malik, India No.2 at that time, who was also posted with me on that UN mission. That was competitive squash, which might have given an average citizen a heart attack.

When I commanded my regiment, aged 42, I could still run at a scary level, and do the other exercises that I mention above... but my squash had certainly slowed somewhat.

Without being immodest, let me clarify that such levels of physical proficiency were unusual amongst commanding officers in those days (I don't know what it is today). Infantry officers, sadly, given their difficult postings in high-altitude and CI areas where it was impossible to run and play games, became quickly unfit. And once you lose fitness, it becomes increasingly difficult to get it back.

Unknown said...

What I cant get over despite it all whether its the article on prorata or mozambique..infantry gets the bayonet... dear pal we remain fit by tarolling the LC & HAA not by BPETS & offr games in Babina & Hissar... glance towards Bhopal to see who is fit!! A veneer, a mere patina of wisdom ...what monsters of inadequacy , envy & malice writhe underneath !! Get a life , my Armkoh friend.

Broadsword said...

@ Unknown

I'm merely stating facts. Through the entire length of my service, up to the time when I quit as a 42-year-old colonel, I never met an infantry officer who was fitter than I was.

Today, as a 53-year-old civilian, I dare say I can outrun and physically outperform anyone of my age in the infantry. Since you're some johnny-come-lately into the fauj, go and ask your GOC about me. He'll verify what I say.

I said, even before you did, that the reason why armoured corps officers are (in general and with notable exceptions) fitter than their infantry counterparts is because they spend more time in peace stations and can actually train.

Don't try to make a virtue out of what is actually a mere circumstance. Sure, you patrol the LoC and serve in High Altitude Areas. But that makes you unfit, not fit. And then too many of you hit the bottle... and then can never recover from that fatal combination of a paunch and a thirst!

Anonymous said...

sir , i am ano @17:24 pm..thank you for ur reply..that was interesting to know..sorry to read uncalled remarks from UNKNOWN..though it was strange to know that infantry officers are unfit..generally wha t i have see is inf. , armoured(inc. mech inf) & engrr officers dont have paunch..
& services officers are heavy..what i feel is physically fit culture of the army is taking a hit..how ca a major or a capt. command or lead troops effectively in combat..a paunch looks unprofessional & u cud be a liability to ur troops instead of an asset that an officer should be..i hope somebody high up is working to fine tune this..
thank u for ur ans sir :)

Anonymous said...

Arre Shukla ek baat batao... you would've made more money becoming a fitness instructor, then why journalism? This is *not* a reputed profession. Strange choice Colonel...


Anonymous said...

Shukla Ji,

Infantry bashing se baaj nahin aaoge. I hope the reason you left fauj was not infantry !!

Even if it was, just leave it now and concentrate on your journalism unless the aim of your journalism is Infantry bashing, the subconscious desire you have exhibited a number of times...

What a fall from ....

gopinathannair said...

Hi Ajai you were real soldierly.Keep doing good work.I retired in 1992 as a Col from Gunners.Gen Vijai Oberoi's case presented very objectively and lucidly.They must staff this welfare set up consisting of All arms and serving/ retied servicemen.