I have been avoiding writing about China and its recent mis-adventures purposely. Let me confess, I am no expert on China. Though we used to have an army pamphlet about China but I could never remember even one organisation chart of their units or formations. Reason was that moment I used to visualise them, all faces used to look alike. So to differentiate HU from HUI and JING from PING became a nightmare for me and I decided in case a question lands up in my exams, I shall just write “Ni-Hao” and leave it at that.

Their script always fascinated me. Their architecture fascinated me too. The “SHAOLIN” movies were my favourites. Jackie Chang was too good but the exaggeration of the drunken monk kind of movies made that fascination fade away. Their aerial tricks and their flying mid air fights were definitely a wow factor but were a bit too much to swallow. I could not watch those Kung-fu kinds of movies as everyone kept picking up fights for no reason. They could fight with a tea cup, a broom, or even a spoon. What I disliked the most was the sounds they made while fighting. I was more comfortable with dishoom-bhishoom stuff.

I used to wonder while playing cricket about a term called “China Man”. Well it was a left arm leg spinner bowling an off break to a right handed batsman. I am sure you would be confused like I was for many years. That’s the aim of this ball, to surprise the batsman. I remember Navjot Sidhu, “Sherry” was in the slips when YPS Patiala was playing with my team from Sainik School Kapurthala many-many moons back. They had this left arm spinner and Sidhu kept shouting to him from second slip, China maar China isko. I laughed as I knew what he was talking about. This boy bowled a china man a bit too short of a length; I went on the back foot and gave it a solid whack. Off it went for a four towards square leg. I winked at sherry. I never got a china man bowled at me in that match.

Yes, Chinese food still fascinates me. I was introduced to it while in IMA Dehradun in a small eatery on Rajpur road called YETI, if I recollect the name correctly. Slowly we weaned off to the basic Momo-Thuppa kind of stuff near Ghanta Ghar due to financial constraints as a GC (Gentleman Cadet). One always thought those people were Chinese. Later when I served with them did I realise that how real Chinese noodles were made. Lovely people they were and Tashi Deleg to all of them. We Indians now are hooked on to the Tibetan cuisine for sure.

Another incident of how far I could dig my soul into the Chinese military was when I was made the CO of a Signal Regiment in a war-game of a mountain division against China in Staff College. Firstly, I had no idea about the terrain in the East of India where this Dhoklam thing is happening. Secondly, my phobia of learning anything about Chinese Army petrified me like hell. Thirdly, I was a Mech officer, commanding a Signal Regiment almost killed me. The only Radio sets I handled were the ones fitted in my BMP or the ANPRC with a ten foot telescopic antenna. I knew if the instructor asks me even one question, leave alone Chinese tactics I will forget how to spell “signal”. Well, the great moment arrived and I had to brief a truck load of Directing Staff (DS) on a map about my role as a Commanding Officer of a Mountain Division Signal Regiment. One of the Brigadiers asked who amongst you is CO Signals. I stepped forward, sir yours truly. He said Noel we don’t have time; we give you five minutes for your briefing. I said sir trust me I will take only two because of enemy jamming. The DS burst out laughing and moved on to CO ASC battalion without even listening to me. I thanked my stars and must have smoked a pack of cigarettes after that, as I was feeling so goddamned relieved. You may lose a war if you read the “signals” wrong, isn’t it? I had won mine.

The recent intrusion in Chushul took me down memory lane when I was posted there. I had the privilege to climb the heights around Chushul to experience firsthand how conditions of 1962 would have been for our soldiers. While counting bunkers, I remember the doors used to be jammed due to frozen ice. The bunkers had to be aired for a couple of days to open up. Imagine how they would have dug those bunkers. Standing atop Pankha heights, the Pongang Tso staring at you like a vast ocean and the air strip appeared to be a highway of some kind. My head bows in respect to every soldier who participated in whatever capacity in that battle. It was indeed a humbling experience, an experience of a life time. The Trishul heights, the Spangur area etc were the most beautiful places I ever saw. My brothers who bore the brunt of 62 war fought with minimum strength, underrated equipment; clothing not fit for that altitude and weather but their morale was high, their spirits were dauntless; their courage was rock solid even when the enemy kept chanting Hindi-Chini Bhai-Bhai. Today one finds the saying painted on many stones, “In the land of Lamas, don’t be gammas”, is absolutely true.

Be that as it may, China is huge, China is tough and of course China is strong in every way. That should not deter us from keeping that country at bay. These incidents which are happening are not really what their actual intentions might be as I reckon. There is something more sinister to it.  We got to be prepared to take China on. Are we ready? I wonder!!!!!!!!!

JAI HIND