It would not be often that a guy has a close brush with death. As an Army man in general and an Infantryman in particular one can increase the chances of such situations. In the Defence Services we often do not need any enemy to create high risks; we are quite capable of doing so ourselves. I had some close calls. As to how close these were, I will leave it to the reader. It would be extremely rare to get a close brush with death and be saved by the same guy twice. In my case it did happen. The guy who saved me twice is Sub Parmanand.
Who is Subedar Parmanand?
Parmanand is much elder to me in age. He was a Subedar when I joined 20 PUNJAB. He was a guy generally on the wrong side of authority. This was a common trait we shared. He was a slim guy with a twinkle in his eyes and loved risks.
Saved Me First Time
In 1984 20 PUNJAB was deployed in Kalsian in Nowshera Sector. Laying of minefields and their records since 1947-48 are far from ideal. Jungle fires and wild animals over the years have had an impact on the fencing and markings of the minefields. Soon after taking over the defences in Jul-Aug Capt Kaul, my senior, and I along with Sub Parmanand were surveying the LoC-a very regular and important exercise. While we were walking in the hilly terrain Capt Kaul asked us to halt and pointed 6 feet ahead for us to note. There was an M-16 mine with the distinct prong and may be just about one visible remaining trip wire which could trigger it off. The M-16 mine jumps up and explodes and can be a very painful killer or capable of causing serious injuries. We were inside a minefield. I experienced cold sweat. Dying in your own minefield is not a very soldierly way of dying, but possibility was there and imminent. We were frozen for a couple of minutes. There was the possibility of triggering of an M-16 Mine through a trip wire or of stepping on to an NM-14 mine. In difficult situations leaders emerge. Neither Kaul nor I emerged as a leader but Parmanand did. He said,
“Sahab, meri umar kafi ho gayi hai. Aap abhi bahut chote ho. Aap ki jaan ki keemat zyada hai. Main age chalta hun. Aap gap rakh kar mere kadmon par chalen.” We walked back to our Company post. The 30 odd minutes seemed rather long. Parmanand had brought us to safety. He never spoke about this incident ever again. Kaul and I have discussed it numerous times and saluted our saviour, Parmanand.
Second Time: Even Closer Call
Around the same time, near the same area, we had a suspected intrusion across the LoC. A team was designated to dismantle a construction suspected to be on our side of the LoC. I was a sort of head of the team and there were two JCOs and a few NCOs with me. Parmanand was a part of this team. The construction to be dismantled was so flushed with the undulating hilly terrain that we were unable to spot it. The night was very dark. So dark that our Night Vision Device which works on the principle of Image Intensification was of no use. We were walking around a small patch of about 15 m X 15 m. There was a strong continuous noise of a nala flowing nearby. In such dangerous situations nerves are difficult to control. Suddenly from 4 feet away I heard the distinct cocking of an SLR and a nervy voice covered with bravado,
“Thum, kaun hai!”. His rifle barrel was pointing at my chest and on the trigger was a nervous index finger. I could recognize the voice of my own JCO but he was nervous and could have shot me. I froze. I could not shout his name or mine. I could not alarm this nervous man. Then comes the savoiur, Parmanand, from nowhere. He took the best action possible in the situation. He gave a tight slap on the face of the JCO and said,
“Nehru Sahab ko nahin pahchanta!” He had saved me again. We did the job and came back.
26 PUNJAB was deployed in Sri Lanka for operations against LTTE. The deficiency in troops is made up by taking troops from other units. 20 PUNJAB sent a platoon under Sub Parmanand. The guys selected were some of the biggest rogues, who had been punished for various offences. Commanding them in operations would have been challenging. I am sure Sub Parmanand would have done a good job. He came back from there and joined us at Meerut. I had by then got posted to NDA. I did meet him during my leave at Meerut (being my home town). I could not catch up on the tales he would have gathered in Sri Lanka. He was no story teller. The important thing he told me was:
“Sahab, paisa kafi bachaya. Ek motorcycle kharidonga.” Those days (1988) it would be a rare Dogra JCO who would own a motor cycle. I do not remember meeting him again. Even in my last meeting, he had a twinkle in his eyes and I think he perpetually remained on the wrong side of authority. For me, he was a leader who had saved me twice!