.. An evening in August..somewhere in an old cantonment town in Central India . You could feel the stillness in the air..not a leaf stirred..The PMC wiped the sweat from his glistening bald palate..he was tense.. This was to be a special evening in the Station Officers Mess..He had hired the best music group in the sleepy Cantonment town. He hoped they would liven things up ..and shake the Cantonment from its reverie.. Just to be doubly sure..he had a list of officers and ladies..who could carry a tune..After all it was the farewell of the GOC..an extremely lively personality. As the bell chimed from a distant Quarter Guard ..he took stock of the arrangements. Everything was in place.. the lawns were beautifully lit up..The Mess building, the erstwhile residence of the British Commissioner ..looked magnificent.. Across the street, he could see the silhouette of the imposing church in the moonlight..built in memory of those who had died defending the garrison in 1857..He looked around him as the stewards moved around purposefully.. immaculately turned out in their regimental best.. The officers and ladies started pouring in. The ladies in beautiful sarees and suits, the officers in crisp _muftis_.. At 20:28 a harried staff officer urgently requested the officers and ladies to gather together in regimental groups to be introduced to the General officer.. As is the way in the Army..the station had witnessed a complete turnover in the last two months..Three regiments had move out..and three new regiments had come in to replace them..the lone battalion which had spent a year in station..had witnessed a change in command.. individual officers had moved out on posting and on career courses.. the staff had changed…There were few in the crowd who had seen the General’s fifteen month tenure. Yet they were all there..to bid farewell to him.. The crowd rearranged itself..From a distance it looked like a choreographed move..A swirl of colour as the ladies chose their ground and the groups fell into place..the Armoured Corps, the proud Guardsmen and then the infantry.. At precisely 20:30 the GOC’s staff car rolled in..He stepped out..a tall rangy General..who moved with effortless grace..meeting the officers and ladies.. The evening commenced with a performance by the much acclaimed music group.. As in battle, the best laid plans often fall apart.. The music group..in their efforts to impress..were unnecessarily loud..Mistaking the polite applause after the first couple of numbers..as a sign that they had struck the right chord..they became even more jarring. The General who was a keen follower of music caught the discordant notes ..and mentioned it to the Commander.. The brief respite that followed after the performance saw the freshly arrived officers gather around the GOC.. On an occasion like this.. General officers generally like to reminisce about the days gone by…this General was no different. He had driven the division hard.. Together they had been through excercises, operational discussions, war games..they had faced challenges, remained on tenterhooks..planned mobilisation post the surgical strikes, performed superlatively in aid to civil authorities during a major train accident..won major sports competitions..but..that was with a different lot of people..There were very few who had seen the General’s fifteen months of glorious command..Yet..a dining out can never be complete without basking in the glory of battles hard fought.. and challenges faced together..The compere..determined to make the evening a success…blustered on..holding the mike too close..making desperate attempts to evoke nostalgia by recounting events gone by and by his effusive praise of the General Officer..ln time he asked the audience to be seated.. and screened a hurriedly put together collection of pictures of the General’ s previous visits to the Station..set to music… Speeches followed..the Commander drew focus on the General’s indefatigable energy..his intense involvement..and his ability to switch focus to the event of the day..how he went through operational issues..a game of volleyball or golf ..and a social evening.. with the same level of intensity and energy.. After the customary presentation of Momentos..it was finally time for the General to have his say.. And what followed..was in essence ..what made the evening memorable.. The General asked the Commanding officers and Company Commanders to gather around him and join him in song..The Officers.. caught a little off guard trundled forward hesitatingly picking up.cordless mikes. The General..put their minds to rest..He said..he would sing himself..all he wanted them to do..was to replace the word _shayar_ in the song..with their appointment.. The General could carry a tune..He started singing..and the song ..he sung brought home some truths about command…about power..about life…in a manner no speech ..no advise..no book ..ever could.. The song went like this…
_Main pal do pal ka *GOC* hoon_.. _pal do pal meri kahani hai_ …._ _pal do pal meri hasti hai pal do pal meri jawani hai_ … _main pal do pal ka *GOC* hoon_ .. _Mujhse pahele kitne *GOC* aaye aur aakar chaley gaye_ … _kuch anhein bharkar laut gaye kuch nagme gaa kar chaley gaye_ .. _woh bhi ek pal ka kissa thhey.. main bhi ek pal ka kissa hoon_ _kal tumse juda ho jaunga jo aaj tumhara hissa hoon_ _main pal do pal ka *GOC* hoon_ “Now listen to this Boys” he said.. .. _Kal aur ayenge nagmon ki khilti kaliyan chunnewale_ .. _*mujhese behetar kahenewale tumse behetar sunnewale*_ … _* kal koi mujhko yaad karey ..kyon koi mujhko yaad karey*_ .. _masroof zamana mere liye kyon waqt apna barbadh kare_.. … _main pal do pal ka *GOC* hoon_..
Words..lines sung in a lighter vein..evoked laughter initially..but the lyrics struck home..and left a deep impact.. The music in my heart l bore.. ..long after it was heard no more..