The soldier scholar …..
By Vivek Hande
My father served in the Indian Army for 34 long years. All who served with him regarded him a “soldier down to his boots”. He was an Ammunitions expert and had participated in the military operations in 1962, 1965 and 1971. He joined the Indian Military Academy as a teenager and having virtually spent a life in the Olive Greens, he knew no life other than the Army.
Well, Dad has always been a very impressive figure; in many ways larger than life. One grew up on his anecdotes for every possible occasion, and it did not matter that very often they were a repeat. Somehow, each time, they did sound different and entertaining. He has always been the life and soul of every party. He has had the amazing ability to make friends. His friends have included the watchman in my school, a watch –repairer and corporate head -honchos. The men who have served under him have been loyal to him long after his retirement. He was a competent tennis player in his younger days and a pretty bad golfer- but he was willing to try out everything. He has always spoken his mind, and stood his ground on his convictions and has often paid the price for the same. There are many things I have admired him for over the years. He has always been a soldier and he has always plunged into everything headlong and faced everything head on.
I respect and admire the way he has reinvented himself. From a hard-core soldier to a German language Professor, it has been a long journey. From the rudimentary seeds of interest in the language, sown in him by way of an official “interpreter ship course”, way back in the late Sixties, he has come a very long way. After retirement, he decided to pursue the language whole-heartedly. He took all the courses in the Max Mueller Bhawan at Bangalore, and was by far the senior most student of a class with an average age of thirty!
Some might have sniggered behind his back but that did not deter him. He came through with flying colours. His fluency in the language and command over the vocabulary amazed everyone. His memory was razor sharp and he soaked in the language like a sponge. His command of the language drew the admiration of the locals, during a visit he made to Germany. He was certain; he was born in the wrong country! He teaches German today, six days a week and would take on students on Sundays too, if my mother went along. Amongst his students have been corporate executives, Germany-bound nurses and air-hostesses, as also Germans and Austrians residing in Bangalore, who have all enjoyed and gained from his teaching skills and proficiency in the language, over the last decade and more. He is pleased as punch when he gets letters and e-mails addressed as “Professor”.
Salutations to the scholar soldier or is it the soldier scholar? Life does begin at sixty perhaps!!