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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Gun Drill in Snow !!!

Sarpass - HimalayasImage via Wikipedia
Just after my marriage I posted to Nefa now called Arunachal Pradesh. My unit was stationed at Sela Pass at a height of 4250 m. approx. You can understand my feelings if you have ever been in a situation like this.

We had to report for duty at 'unearthly' hour of 7 am. We were located in a bowl like depression surrounded by high mountains. The sun used to rise well after 10 am and that too only for a brief spell. After  light warming up exercises we practiced gun drill with our howitzers. After about two hours we used to break off for tea.

Sela PassImage by BOMBMAN via Flickr It was the middle of June but the weather here was extremely chilly. As usual, we had been practicing the gun drill with our howitzers in the morning, in the knee deep snow. 

At about 11 a.m. the weather suddenly turned from bad to worse. Soon it started snowing heavily. We sprinted back to our bunkers. We were as happy as the children who suddenly are told by the teacher that there shall be no classes today.

Enroute Tawang, Sela PassImage by freebird (bobinson|ബോബിന്‍സണ്) via FlickrIn an effort to warm ourselves we struggled to light our  'samovars' to warm up the bunker but the wood was not sufficiently dry.A colleague suggested that we pour 'rum' over the twigs to help them burn, but all in vain.  We were unable to make ourselves even a cup of tea.

Thus disappointed and teeth chattering  we decided to get into our beds and play cards. Maj. Ravi warned us not to do so since it was still the duty hours. He warned us it was  against the rules.

Ravi was a 'pakka fauji' who never tolerated any deviation from the discipline for which  we often jeered at him as 'an OG mind' an acronym for  'Olive green' the colour of our Army uniform.  

Thus frustrated we put on some extra blankets and started singing loudly our favourite Hindi film song 'aa ja sanam madhur chandni mein hum tum miley to veerane mein bhi aa jayegi bahar' to wash away our blues. We were waiting for the skies to open up.

Soon it was dark and the snow was falling intermittantly. There was no let up in the snow storm. To make it worse we had also exhausted our  weekly quota of rum. Thoroughly frustrated we curled up in our beds and tried to go to sleep but in vain.

We were suddenly startled by strange noises in the middle of  the night. The sounds were coming faintly right beyond the corrugated sheets which served as the gate of our bunker. It seemed someone was digging and trying to remove the snow. We tried to leave our beds in order to find out the matters. Our blankets and 'rajais' were thoroughly wet and heavy. There was a furious storm and snowflakes had blown in from the chinks almost burying us under the snow. There had been a severe avalanche in the evening burying our bunker partially with snow.

Our colleagues who were lucky to have escaped were furiously digging the snow with shovels and pickaxes. All of us heaved a sigh of relief on being rescued. We thanked our stars for being alive and hugged friends in gratitude.
(Copyright of photos belongs to the respective owners)

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