In the way of whiplash

humour

In the way of whiplash

Even after the Bangladesh War, the Indian Navy did not have any facility to train intelligence officers. The director of Naval Intelligence relied on the RAW, the Intelligence Bureau and the Naval Attaches in our embassies for secret information.

Thankfully, the army extended a helping hand and offered a seat to the navy in the Intelligence Staff Officers Course at the army school for spooks in Pune.

To my luck, in 1972, I was picked for the course. Two weeks in the spy school, I had a feeling I was in the wrong place. Day after day, all that 66 of us in the course did was to stand around sand models showing the battleground complete with rivers, mountains, forests, toy tanks, howitzers and helmeted soldiers. Some of us — the handpicked future battle commanders — holding long cues either commanded the ‘Narak Force’ (read Pakistanis), or the ‘Chandal Force’ (the Devilish Chinese) engaged in an eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation with the goody-goody ‘Swarg Force’ (India being ‘swarg’, heaven), indulging in a fierce tactical battle based on intelligence reports handed to both sides written on small pieces of paper.

With no naval role to play in these skirmishes, I got bored and one day was caught yawning during a lecture on ‘Locks & Keys’. Ticked off, I explained that while at sea we guys were virtually under lock and key for weeks with the odd chance of drowning, and the army locks were too burly for the navy. “Poppycock,” said the lecturer.

The most exciting day was the visit to the torture tools museum in the school. The Captain-in-charge gave us a spooky rundown on the grand display of nail-pullers, garrotes, vise, and the whips. I liked the kurbash from Turkey. Its lusty thongs were made from the hippopotamus’s hide.

More scary torture devices included the pendulum. The victim was tied firmly to a bench and placed under a giant half-moon blade dangling from a pulley, positioned a few feet above his naked torso. The victim was given a “trailer” of its capability — a fat manila rope was chopped like a cucumber with the blade, and the victim was warned that his torso would meet the same fate if... Immediately the guy lying on the bench started singing the tune the torturer wanted to hear.

All of us admired the water torture for its simplicity and deadly effect.   The victim was tightly secured to a long back chair with his forehead raised to the ceiling. And above his head hung a water pot with a tiny hole at the bottom. As the water drops fell on the victim’s head, he laughed inwardly at the stupidity of the torture. But after an hour or so, the drops hitting the head every second felt like a hammer banging him. He screamed for mercy and admitted the crimes he had not even committed.
The Captain then showed us the women-only Chinese torture device known as tean zu. It used six wooden sticks, all linked by a string. The sticks were placed around and between the lady’s fingers, and as the strings were pulled, it had a crushing effect on the fingers.

We mumbled and the Captain quickly stated, “We do not use torture in any form. What you are looking at here is what the Brits left behind in 1947. They are for educating you people, just in case you fall into the enemy’s hands.”

As he led the class to other exhibits, I walked to the table where the kurbash was displayed. When no one was looking, I tried the whip on the back of a sofa and imagined myself whiplashing the posteriors which, in my opinion, deserved the whiplashing. Just then the Captain walked past me. Bemused at my Marquis de Sade pose with the kurbash, he said, “Sorry Lieutenant, we can’t lend it to you.”

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