You can make anything by writing – CS Lewis
How it must be like for a family to serve in Indian Army for five generations? Meet General DS Sidhu who is the last man standing of this illustrious family, sharing his thoughts and experience with Society.
Like his glorious family history, the four walls of the room of his house in Lodhi Estate in Delhi are also covered with pictures. Wondering does one remembers all the stories behind every photo? Some of them are so old that with all possible ways it has been preserved. Then there comes Lieutenant General Dalbir Singh Sidhu all dressed up in army uniform with his better half Mrs. Jaspreet Kaur Sidhu elegantly in pale yellow sari. If looks can be deceptive, he is totally different then what he looks like, all smiles and soft spoken not at all like an army man. As they settle down in the sofa, we are ready to glance into the past.
Did he join the army by his choice or to keep the family tradition alive? After all that’s the first thing that comes into the mind. “It was my choice. In fact I never thought about any other profession or job. I was inspired by my father, grand father and by all the people before them.” Suddenly there is a change in his tone, “But I must share that as a young child my first impression was to become a nuclear physicist. I don’t know why? But very soon I realize that I was not cut out for that. After that there was nothing else in my mind other then army,” says the General. “From the day one, when I joined the army it was like home coming. My grand father and one of my uncles were in the same regiment where I was going to join,” he continues.
But the sad part of the story is that after five generation this lineage is going to end here. As his son Karan (29) is into documentary film making and daughter Nimrata (25) is a lawyer with a private firm. “Well to be honest, when they were born I wanted them to be in the army. But as they grew up and have their own aspiration, I realize it’s their life. And I supported them in whatever career they choose. We are going to take a temporary break after five generation. But I can’t say about the future generation,” says the 59 years old father. He has two younger brothers who are settled in America, one is Merchant Navy and other one is working with a shipment company.
Going back to his glorious past, “On my maternal side, my grand father Tara Singh Bal was commissioned in 1929 and he joined 7th Calvary. After Second World War he went to Poona Regiment. He commanded 19th Infantry Brigade and went on to command One Armor Brigade, he was the first Indian to do so. Then came as GOC Delhi area and was Theatre Commander J&K with local rank of Lt Gen from 1949 to 1953.” In between he stops to check the dates with his wife, after all it’s not an easy task to remember them all. “Then he represented India in International Control Commission in China. He was ambassador in Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay. His ancestors were also in Calvary from Central India Horse who was decorated by Order of British India second class. Both my maternal uncles, elder one Late Major MS Bal lost his life just thirty minutes before the ceasefire in 1965 war. And the younger late Brig. AS Bal won his Mahavir Chakra in 1971. He was in the same tank with Col. Tarapur where he (Tarapur) won his Paramvir Chakra in 1965,” say the solider with a pride.
If you think that’s over, it’s just half of the family and the history. Getting a bit relaxed in his seat he continues. “On my parental side, my father was the first to join the army. He was a doctor and during Second World War he was decorated with military cross for gallantry and retired 1972 as Commandant, Army Hospital. And my uncle, Lt. Gen. KS Randhawa was the DGMF from 1986 to 1989. Large number of my uncles has done well in the army.” After all the above, he comes in the line. He is Director General Mechanized Forces. He has been decorated with the Vishist Seva Medal (VSM) for his distinguished service while commanding and Ati Vishisht Seva Medal (AVSM) for his distinguished service while commanding 33 Corps.
Just give a thought how it must be when all the family members come down together? “It is very interesting and some times very intense. There is good old banter and exchange of information and how the things have been. And sometimes get intense when each one talks about his unit. How his regiment has performed and which one is better.” Seriously it must be more like an army gathering. “So it is a great fun at the same time a lot of competition sprit is displayed even between us,” says candidly the army man.
Till now as a good wife she was quietly listening and smiling to the conversation. According to the Mrs. Sidhu, “the best part of being an army man’s wife is that you got to meet lot of different people of different backgrounds. And you get to see many beautiful places which one ever heard of like Tanga in Arunachal Pradesh.” And there comes out secrets about him, “Being in the army he is not fussy at all about the foods and also he never enters the kitchen,” sharing a glance with him. “And we have to remind him that when he is at home and not wearing uniform, he can act normal. But he is an army man at home also.” In a way what can one expect from a person whose family is in army for generations? That’s how he is!
(Published in Society, Jan ’12 Page No.82)