Call of nature vs call of duty

Many books describe the 1962 debacle in which ‘human waves’ of Chinese soldiers literally crushed the ill-prepared Indian army under a humiliating defeat. A friend of mine quoted with disgust from a book as to how the ill-equipped jawans marched up the snowclad mountains without fur lined boots and faced Chinese automatic weapons while holding in their gloveless hands World War II era bolt action rifles.

To this, I added my unhappiness with the General who was rushed in to take charge. This guy had flown in with his western commode as a part of his personal equipment. Surprisingly, I found my friend sympathetic to him. He explained that the poor General’s prolonged stints in the cushy chairs at Delhi must have made it too painful for him to squat on the ground and use the trench latrines in the field area. My friend recounted his own personal discomfiture on an occasion while serving as a Company Commander in an infantry battalion deep inside the Rajasthan desert.

The army lays emphasis on maintaining hygienic conditions. It frowns upon open defecation even in most inhospitable and primitive living conditions. Of course, it doesn’t provide gleaming white porcelain with shiny chrome plated fittings but it does provide pits to avoid the pitfalls of open defecation.

The first thing that an army unit does before occupying a field area is to dig up trench latrines. Lime powder is liberally sprinkled to suppress stench and to deter flies from hovering around. Strict orders are issued that only trench latrines be used instead of corners in the lap of nature.

As a Company Commander in an infantry battalion, my friend accompanied his troops one night on a patrol along the western border in the desert. Unfortunately, he was intimidated by nature’s call while still an hour’s march away from the camp. Unable to delay the inevitable, he told his No 2 to take charge as he would hold back to reconnoitre thoroughly the sandy terrain with shrubs and bushes obstructing the view of the enemy area.

As his troops marched on, he located a bush large enough to hide behind and got on with the actual job that he had to do. Looking around as he squatted, he suddenly noticed some movement behind a bush just across the narrow no man’s land.

To his great embarrassment he found a Pakistani Captain hiding behind a bush squatting in a similar pose as himself. He held his breath and waited to avoid the embarrassment of being caught with his pants down by the enemy. But his counterpart too seemed to be in no hurry to finish the job. They both waited for what seemed eternity.

Finally, a voice came from behind the bush on the Pakistani side. “I think we are both getting unnecessarily delayed. Why don’t we stop pretending that we haven’t seen each other.” As my friend seconded the motion, the motions were wound up without commotion. They both got up, waved at each other and turned back towards their respective camps.                                                                   

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Call of nature vs call of duty

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