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Lt. Col. S.M.Singh
by Dr Elsa Lycias Joel
2015-08-16 08:00:35
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Just a week after I enrolled myself in NCC, I thought I was foolish enough to get into such arduous trainings that would do no good than help me miss some of the important laboratory sessions and make me go tanned. In spite of trying my best to leave NCC, all I was capable of doing was to enroll few of my other classmates just in case to make sure I wasn’t the only one who missed classes, exams and laboratory sessions that’s very important to a biotechnology/biochemistry student. And before I was finding and learning ways to cope up with the academics in addition to every other extracurricular activity, I was in my fifth NCC camp trying to do my best much to the commanding officer’s unrealistic expectations, dissatisfaction and displeasure towards an average, happy-go-lucky cadet, that’s me.

sea01_400_01Bad turned to worse when a script on V.O. Chidambaranar went missing leaving me at the mercy of Lt. Col. S.M.Singh and my memory. Independence Day celebrations at New Delhi were only a few days away and nobody seemed to have a copy of the script with which we practiced. Rehearsed gestures of repeated apologies and a sad face just didn’t help. He turned down all my ideas including my suggestion to get some senior under officer write a less improvised version of the original script we had. When attempts to remind him of our other alternatives failed, it was evident that he was keen on some punishment that is characteristic of his very nature and expression. He simply said “You write it, now”. As I hastily finished half a page, he quipped “The art of script writing can’t be taught. It’s a spontaneous act, like the blossoming of a tree”. It was a struggle through words and sentences as no member of the VOC play was supposed to help me out.

Then I began to doubt if he was the one who called himself my ‘local daddy’ when he found me hostel sick during my first NCC camp, who asked me to wink at him so that I’ll turn good enough at rifle shooting and shared a snack or two many a time whole- heartedly out of some good feelings towards me and not because I looked malnourished. Or did I not perform well as a cadet! Wasn’t I taking my responsibilities seriously enough that I didn’t care to take copies of the script that was bound to be misplaced, stolen or lost! Am I the only one destined to make a royal mess of the VOC play, were the other few scary questions that ran through my mind. Over my shoulders I heard him say, “Talent can’t be learned, show me the script tomorrow”. Overnight, paragraphs for each character turned to a quatrain, then a couplet and finally a one liner that sounded like a dialogue. With a lot of mental preparation to dodge, ignore and tackle a plethora of sarcasms, I decided to hand over the script. There were a few minutes of silence as he read it. Then he gave away a look that was just as rewarding and did I hear Lt.Col.Shyam Murari Singh tell me,”You should have signed this”! At that very moment, it was futile to try to analyze how and why he liked or approved of that assignment or if his compliments came at the expense of sound judgement. Whatever, it went further and farther to culminate in a cultural show at New Delhi much to my happiness and his honor.

The undisputed critic to my first letter to the Editor, the Indian Express, Coimbatore was none other than Lt. Col. S.M.Singh even though I had my biological father to review and appreciate my small effort as simply a genetic or intellectual predisposition if any. To me, writing became an erratic pastime activity. All said and done, for any individual tagged with an average or below average IQ , it is too much to aspire to be anything in life, forget being read by a handful of friends.

Debating and discussing small pieces of my contributions with likeminded people especially this special person prepared me for my climb to the next rung of the ladder. Today I’m too happy that I’m read by intellectuals who subscribe to Woman’s Era, Perfect woman, infinithoughts and many more. How I thrust my childhood fascinations into children through a whole lot of children’s magazines is a different story altogether. Also, in the long run this CO seemed to realize that it was actually easier to make me write and do things over and over than it was to make me understand ‘everything has a place and everything in its place’. Today, though I could argue otherwise, I feel this was one area where I had scrupulously followed the unscrupulous example set by my maternal grandma who is still browsing her entire house for her pension certificate for obvious reasons.

I still fall in love with the very idea of being recognized as someone capable enough by a person, a total stranger in the garb of a Commanding Officer who voluntarily acted as my local daddy. Unfortunately I lost touch with him only to look out for him through all possible ways, means and people, soon after my father’s death because I wanted to make sure he stopped smoking. If  I am to equate my happiness and gratitude with the joy and excitement on hearing him say he had quit smoking, then I’m assured he meant those two words ‘Local daddy’ because his decision to quit is an outcome of willfulness, self –will and of course a little voice that replayed “Sir, why don’t you try?”.  A customary thanks to Harry Sheridon, my bestie who helped me find Lt. Col.S.M.Singh will not justify anything at all. It’s no small wonder that a bestie would always offer the best things in life.

I cannot but marvel at the capacity of this person who moulded me and taught me the fine art of expressing the beauty of life in words. Today if at all I’m writing anything it’s influenced by lives and defining experiences and definitely not by anything else.

I got caught and taught, not because I was immensely talented but one gentleman decided to put me on the right track that would take me far enough, may be miles and miles before I sleep.


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Emanuel Paparella2015-08-16 09:52:27
This is a wonderful and humble acknowledgment that one does not become great all by oneself and then describing the operation by confessional writing, but by seeking others' help and guidance and then acknowledging it and remaining gratefu. Ayn Rand had it all wrong...Well done Ms. Singh.

suryakant2018-05-27 09:42:52
beautiful writing

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