Lost and found

Getting lost is worrisome, but getting found or reaching a known place is ecstatic.

I was serving on Bomdi La heights as a captain in a Sikh LI battalion, in the late 70’s; beautiful environment with verdant hills.

Stationed there for a few months; the yearly maintenance of defences testing and practicing operational plans.

God sent opportunity for me to enjoy clean weather and  vision of beautiful pine trees over the mountains.

 There were no roads inter-linking the company posts and the base, except mule and foot tracks. The posts were located at heights ranging from 9,000 ft to 11,000 feet.

We, uncomplaining foot soldiers walked the mountains for our routine activities. A subaltern was posted on a piquet located at 11,000 ft above sea level.

He wanted to join a captain friend, located at adjoining post for lunch.

The subaltern called up the captain and promised to be there by about 1 pm, to relish the chicken-roast.

Come 1 pm the subaltern did not turn up at the captain’s post.

The host kept waiting and the cook kept re-heating the food. By 3 pm the captain got anxious and called the subaltern’s post on landline and radio, only to realise that the subaltern had left the piquet alone and without wireless, long ago.

He immediately reported the matter to the adjutant at battalion head quarters informing of the situation.

The captain sent out a patrol on the route to the piquet and so did the JCO at subaltern’s piquet.

When the patrols from both the posts met, they realised, the officer was missing and it was night fall.

Officer missing is a serious matter in the army. Telegrams (signals, in army parlance) were flashed to army HQ at Delhi, with information to all intermediate HQs.

The parents of the officer were also informed.

The officer envisaged search parties will be sent to find him.

He left a trail of chits with his name on prominent trees along the route.  One patrol hit the trail of chits late next day and traced the youngster sitting under a tree, because all paper in his note book was finished and he gave up finding his own way.

The officer was brought back to the battalion HQs; fresh signals of lost and found were sent to the army HQs.

A battery of officers questioned the youngster; he gave his account. The officers analysed that the youngster had missed the route at a bifurcation - one foot track leading to company post and the other jungle track.

The track to the adjoining company post was moving up a bit.

The youngster was wrong to take the jungle track downward, as it is the human tendency that while going to lower height one takes the track leading down and not the one climbing up.

Then onwards men started referring to the officer as ‘ Gumm Saab’ who was later gum/ lost in studies to retire as a general officer.

Getting lost is worrisome, but getting found or reaching a known place is ecstatic.

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