Born in 1926, Jammu, (Jammu and Kashmir)
Brig Tejinder Singh or “Bapu” is my father’s eldest brother. He has been more of a grandparent to me than an uncle because he is almost 30 years elder to my father! His mother (my grandmother) was just 17 years old when Bapu was born. He was very close to his younger brother Satinder and sister Pushpjeet. They grew up happily in Srinagar where Papaji (his father) had settled down. Most winters were spent in Jammu with his cousins from his mother’s side of the family, while in summers they all came to Srinagar. Bapu jokingly recalls that all the cousins were so close that he didn’t know for a very long time how many brothers he had! Regarding his sister, he didn’t have any confusions as she was the only girl in a family of boys.
His younger brother passed away tragically in 1953 in an aircrash. He was returning home after being selected in the Indian army when the accident occurred. The family was shattered. Bapu believes that my father, who was born much later, is the reincarnation of the brother he lost. “your father’s mannerisms and wit are just like Satti’s” , he says with a far away look…
A major life event ….
Bapu always wanted to join the army. When he was around 17, he enrolled himself and got selected too. His mother however went and withdrew his application saying that no son of her’s would ever serve the British! In in 1947 when partition happened, Bapu was sent to Calcutta to live with his father’s younger brother. Here he led a carefree life helping his uncle with his already well established business. Bapu recalls that his uncle used to give him Rs 500 a month- a huge sum in those days. However, the desire to join the army never quite left him. What compounded this desire was the fact that his parents had to flee Srinagar as the Pakistanis had attacked during partition. Papaji (Bapu’s father) lost every single penny and Bapu thought that the responsibility of his parents was now on his shoulders. He and his younger brother both applied to join the army. He smiles and tells me that he used to hope, wish and pray that he got through. He was so nervous and anxious to join the army that on the day of his interview, he forgot his papers at home! He however got through and joined the Indian Army in 1950 at the age of 20. “It was my first choice and first love and secondly, I needed it too.”
(Video edited by Taruna Hooda)
Joyous moments in various stages of life…
Early childhood saw a lot of ill health but once he overcame these health issues, he had a very happy childhood. “I was a very outdoor child and loved hiking, swimming and all outdoor activities. School and college were great fun too. Those were very happy times”, recalls Bapu.
Bapu did extremely well as an Army Officer. He was one of the best Battalion Commanders and in 1971 his Battalion, The 65 Gorkhas stood first in every Divisional competition that occurred. His Battalion was chosen to lead the Divisional attack into Pakistan followed by other battalions. “I think that was a very great achievement for me. When everyone in the Division knew me and considered me a good officer. This was joyous for me- to serve the army well and to lead the Divisional attacks”. But just 10 days before he could lead the Division, Bapu was asked to lead an ad hoc brigade near Bikaner which was created to stall the Pakistanis . He regrets that he could not lead his battalion but on the other hand he also relishes the fact that he was called upon to do more service for the army and the country.
On the personal front, Bapu remembers meeting Taiji –his wife when he was stationed in Mau on a Training. They met through Bapu’s cousin who was also in the army. He was invited by Taiji’s father for a meal and after seeing Taiji, Bapu called up his parents to tell them that he had found the girl he would marry. The girl’s photograph was sent to Srinagar and everyone approved. They kept in touch for while and finally got married when Bapu was 28.
The most challenging time in life and how it was overcome….
The hardest time for him, Bapu says was when he was struggling to join the army. “Once I joined the Army, I felt my life was settled”. Also later in 1990, when the family had to flee Srinagar because of the militancy, he had a tough time, He recalls that he got to Delhi had had to fight a long and tedious legal battle to get possession of his house in Defence Colony. Also it was very difficult because his younger brother and his family were in Jammu and so were his parents. “I tried to shunt back and forth between Jammu and Delhi” . My entire focus was on how to keep the family afloat after losing everything in Srinagar. Bapu says that he was never afraid of hard work. He fought very hard for the family business to operate via Jammu. Somehow he says, the family overcame that trying period.
Something special that makes the heart beat with love, now……
Bapu says he believes in God and in the scriptures from the Granth Sahib. He knows most of them by heart. But it was around 10 -15 years back that he realised that reciting prayers and scriptures made no sense. “God does not want us to pray to him or perform rituals or to repeat verses from a book. He wants us to imbibe what read. He will reward us according to our karma not according to how often we pray.” Bapu goes on to say that now he doesn’t recite blindly, but he does pray to God every day. This makes him happy now.
The present desire….
“I desire peace and love in my family”, says bapu. After I am gone I want the family to live that our family has always lived- in harmony and love.
A message for all….
“I don’t have any particular message for this generation. I think our children know much more than us. But yes, I do feel that if children are successful the credit goes to their parents. So it is very important for young parents to instil good values in their children. And it is important to live by those values.”
On talents, individual qualities and sharing…
Bapu says he loved sport. He has played whatever games and sports that came his way. In his younger days he played a lot of tennis, squash and cricket. In the academy he was very good at horse riding. As a child he had access to the Maharajas stables, so he used to ride a lot. He was a good basketball player too. Later he picked up golf, which he continued to play till very recently. “Now, I am too old for any sport, I can just go for morning walks”, says Bapu. But he still plays Bridge the evenings with his friends.
Another thing he loves is reading. “I love reading autobiographies, political commentaries and non fiction. I cannot understand fiction. I think fiction just makes a fool out of you; it’s just spinning stories!”
He has always been a “family man”. For him family always comes first and he has tried to do what is best for his family. Be it his wife’s side of the family or his side, his house has always been open for any member.
Bapu is extremely patient and calm even in testing situation. His knack for detail and organizational skills are exceptional. I have lived with him and his family for 3 years when I was in college and he has looked after me with great love and affection.
– by Aanchal Broca Kumar