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Posted at: Jul 14, 2019, 7:11 AM; last updated: Jul 14, 2019, 7:11 AM (IST)

The spirited JCO

Maj Gen AK Shori (retd)
MILITARY MATTERS
Maj Gen AK Shori (retd)

Maj Gen AK Shori (retd)

My first posting in Army Postal Service after the initial training at Kamptee was at Kalimpong, a small town slightly away from the Siliguri-Gangtok route. My predecessor briefed me about the staff, location of Field Post Offices in high-altitude areas as well as contingency mail arrangements during adverse weather conditions and exercises. However, there was a special briefing about my Assistant Postal Officer, Subedar Manickam. I was told that though he was very dedicated, a pucca fauji, had a good rapport with local units, was an enthusiastic sportsman, always gave sound professional advice, but when the sun came down, his spirits would go up. Subedar Manickam had a special bonding with the JCO bar. He came to receive me at the New Jalpaiguri railway station and during our four-hour journey to Kalimpong, I found him to be a well-mannered, knowledgeable and polished soldier. The other feedback about him was also proved right when in the evening, a Sahayak, a smile writ large, told me that Subedar Sahib would be available only in the morning.

Sub Manickam never missed the morning PT and evening game with the jawans. He was very particular about the daily briefing. His planning too was perfect. He would frequently suggest carrying out mock drills and then come up with minute details. His man management was par excellence. The mail vehicles from all locations used to come back by late evening at Kalimpong, and he would never leave office till all the vehicles had reported in. But once they had, the spirits would take over.

He remained with me for about two years and two incidents stand out. The GNLF agitation had already started and a number of restrictions were put on the movement of vehicles. Indian Postal Service probationers were attached with my unit for Army exposure and I made Sub Manickam the Liaison Officer to escort them to forward field locations. One day, they were sent to Jalapahar near Darjeeling. Though they were supposed to be back by evening, there was no sign of them. Military Police check-posts were alerted and we were informed that the vehicle had left Tiesta bridge, which meant another 30-minute journey. I passed on the message that all officers be told to come to my residence so I could offer them food as well as enquire about the reasons for the delay. The team returned, but Sub Manickam was missing. One of the probationers informed me that they got late because of the halt for a cup of tea. Subedar Sahib vanished and returned after an hour. Since he did not wish to face me, he decided to go straight to his room. Sub Manickam’s spirited disposition had me under a lot of stress.

Then there was the time the Subedar’s family visited Kalimpong and he asked me whether he could take them for a day’s trip to Darjeeling. I gave permission though I was very apprehensive. Sub Manickam again did not report back on time. It was around 9 when I got a call from Sub Manickam and he was crying. What he was trying to say I could not understand but he told me that everything was alright and he would report in the morning. I had a restless night and reached 15 minutes early at the PT ground.

Sub Manickam was already there, as usual. Very hesitatingly, he informed that while returning, there was a grenade attack on his vehicle by the GNLF activists, but it thankfully missed the target. Lucky to be safe and sound, he had his quota and then once his spirits were high, he decided to call me up to say that everything was fine. 

Sub Manickam is no more but I still remember him often. Later on, as Additional DG, I visited 27 Mountain Division and the fond memories of Sub Manickam came back. Soldiers like him have nourished the Army with their hard work, commitment and dedication. And, of course, a spirited performance.

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