The wit of yore

The young lady was looking forward to seeing her husband don his uniform.

Recently, One Rank, One Pension (OROP) has been the toast of many TV channels and newspapers. After the announcement of the implementation of OROP by the government, a veteran officer was asked by his acquaintances during his morning walk, “How much money did you get?” With a sparkle in his eyes and without breaking his step, he responded, “Rs 10 lakh,” although reality discounted it to almost one-tenth of the amount! Thereafter, every time he encountered the same group, he was greeted with a vociferous “Good morning!”

Narrating the incident one fine evening, he said, “After all, money matters; truth be damned!” This was the trigger which made his better half of more than four-and-a-half decades go down memory lane and regale the gathering with her reminiscences of their early days of togetherness. Laughingly she said, “He seems to have forgotten when I almost dumped him for truth!”

He had joined the Indian Army as a Short Service (SS) Commissioned Officer, prior to the 1971 war. This was the era when the value of defence officers in the marriage market was relatively high. The clouds of war had made the bulls run for cover and the bears ruled the roost, albeit temporarily.

With the fog of war blowing away; conflict and love, the estranged bedfellows, swapped places. He got married to the pretty lady and the winds of fragrance filled their lives. As the days passed, the heady brew of love got mixed with the realities of life. The young lady was looking forward to seeing her husband in his uniform. It was over two months and he was yet to don his olives. The needle of suspicion began to trouble her.

The perfect fodder for the suspicious mind was the ubiquitous pay slip from the Controller of Defence Accounts Officers (CDA-O) which every officer looks forward to. The pay slip reflected it was the last pay drawn and the officer stands retired on culmination of his SS Commission. The young captain tried to explain to his lady love that there was some goof up by the CDA (O) and he was posted at Four Twenty Field Hospital. She wasn’t convinced. To her overworked mind, the number 420 was an indicator that he was not serving as an army officer and was, hence, an imposter!

The sword of Damocles hanging over the captain’s head was removed with the arrival of a serving army officer from the lady’s family. He explained that the young captain was on 90 days leave instead of the usual 60 days on account of war. He was serving under 20 Mountain Division. The norm was to add the digit ‘4’ to the division for the Field Hospital’s number. Hence, the ‘420’ Field Hospital. The CDA (O)’s inadvertent delay in acknowledging the officer’s upgradation from SS to Regular Commission made him a virtual imposter.

The revelation replaced the ominous clouds of conflict with love which continues to nourish their lives. The value of Rs 1 lakh turned to Rs 10 lakh in his eyes owing to the years of contentment and joy.

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