Guest Column | The Miracle and the Clerical Error

How I brought Begum and Bindu back to life during my short stay in Bhanu

Sudhakar NatarajanSudhakar Natarajan

‘Sudhakar you lucky fellow, you have got Bhanu posting!’, a very happy Commandant Kalyan Singh Rawat exclaimed on reading the signal brought by the runner, in the midst of Holi celebrations on 31 March 1995 at the 3rd Battalion Leh Mess of Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), raising a foaming mug of beer. He had won many medals, including metal splinters still lodged above his left eye. Few days ago, he had told me to feel the splinters, and I could palpate two metal pieces gliding over each other. The surgeons had removed a dozen splinters three years ago, but had left the one above his eye, as removing them could have caused nerve damage.

As a youngster, I had been a happy victim of many practical jokes played by my seniors. I replied carefully, ‘Sir, if true it’s a miracle and if not, it’s a clerical error’.

Commandant Kalyan laughed and passed me the signal. I studied it intensely. It was from Directorate General, addressed to DIG J&K (Srinagar), BTC Bhanu, 3rd Battalion Leh and few other formations. I checked if I was being fooled. The Wireless Telecom detachment stamp looked genuine. It had the initials of Deputy Commandant Seva Singh that also seemed fine. The Main Office stamp was genuine. Hopefully, this was not one of the usual April Fool’s practice jokes on me. My name was at serial No. 3.

The tall, ramrod straight Deputy Commandant Seva Singh, few years short of his retirement and very rich in experience, advised me with a perpetual nodding head, ‘Daktar, get relieved and join the new location immediately, you never know orders can change’.

I was newly married and had completed my three years in Ladakh. I was 24 when I came to 3rd Battalion and now, was 27 years. I was expecting Joshimath or Merthi, but this posting was unexpected for a youngster, as I was the junior most veterinary officer of ITBP. It was more of a surprise since I neither had a godfather at HQ nor any uncle in the ministry to make that magic phone call. We wanted to take fate as it came. This posting was a Holi bonanza.

My wife and I reached Chandigarh by air and reported to Commandant M.S. Bhurji (retired inspector general) at Bhanu. The Commandant was kind enough to allot the brand-new type IV quarters to us. It was a thrill to move into a pucca house after staying in a Russian Hut in Leh.

My parents and in-laws were very happy to know that we were just four hours away from Delhi. They came and set up our house. New dressing table, double bed and dining table was gifted to us. But we had no sofa in the drawing room. We invited the strapping Deputy Commandant Devinder Singh (now IG) for lunch, and were ashamed to see that our guest could not sit on the diwan that was made of a steel trunk covered with a blanket. The trunk was so huge that even his long legs dangled without touching the floor. This made us decide to purchase a sofa. I broke my FD of Rs 17,000 (a huge sum in 1995) and went to the costliest showroom in Panchkula and brought home a royal carved wooden sofa with green upholstery that would not be out of place even in Buckingham Palace. The next time Inspector General Devinder Singh (then Deputy Commandant) visited us for tea, he was happy to see this change.

I also had a Yamaha RX100 by now, and went for dinners and movies with Sharmila, my wife, to Chandigarh.

We were leading a good life. My pay was Rs 5,000 and this was more than enough to visit all restaurants and theatres and still have enough money to pay the mess bill and fill petrol in the bike. I was the OC ATS&W and was happy with horses and dogs. I was having the time of my life at Bhanu.

But was this too good to be true?

One night at 2100 hrs the phone rang. Hav (Vet) Khan, in an agitated voice said, ‘Sahib, Begum and Bindu have stopped breathing’! Within no time, I rushed on my Yamaha RX 100 in my night T-shirt and shorts. I reached the dog kennel area. The mood was sombre, as if I was entering a morgue. Bindu and Begum were on a table, under a tree, near the 120-man barracks. It was the full moon night, and I saw two handsome German Shepherds, with their coat shining in the moonlight, lying dead. No movement.

Both their eyes were closed. Mouth open and their tongues were dangling out. I gingerly approached them. I felt depressed seeing their brilliant white teeth reflecting the lunar light, as if both were smiling at me. They were as immobile as a corpse. How did they die? Cardiac arrest? But how was it possible?

In the day they had detected all the explosive articles and had got 100 per cent marks in professional test. They were our best dogs, and future gold medal winners in AIPDM. I cursed myself. What rotten luck. I cursed God.

Just as I was examining the bodies of the dogs, Deputy Commandant Kripa Ram (retired Inspector General) arrived in a Gypsy that screeched to a halt, with dust flying and the smell of burnt rubber in the air as the tyres tried to stop by gaining traction on the dry earth of Bhanu. He was a slim built officer who was calm and composed. He put his hands on my shoulders and said, ‘Sudhakar, don’t worry, parampita parmeshwar will help us’. I didn’t know which of the 36 million gods he was referring to, but his words sounded kind.

His hand on my shoulder gave me a new burst of energy. I snapped out of my defeatist attitude. I once again examined the dogs. My ears could not hear any lub-dub sounds through a stethoscope. Lung sounds were absent. Both dogs were clinically dead. Then I shone a torch into their eyes. I could see a slight pupillary response. Was I imagining that there was a pupillary response? Was I hallucinating? This was like the proverbial straw floating in a whirlpool to save a drowning man. I clutched at the straw.

I shouted, ‘Khan, run. Bring me Adrenaline!’

I now had nothing to lose. The dogs were anyway dead or dying. No heartbeat. No respiration.

Two syringes were quickly loaded with Adrenaline. I searched for the intercostal space just above the heart. Quickly a long needle was plunged and a huge dose was injected directly into the hearts of both Bindu and Begum.

Seconds ticked by. Hav (DH) Hari Singh (now SI) and Hav (DH) Saran (now SI) both seemed hopeless. They had tears in their eyes. Before I came, they had already got the post mortem kit ready for the dogs. The pit had been dug.

The Adjutant, BTC, Deputy Commandant Kripa Ram kept repeating, ‘Don’t worry’.

I started CPR on Bindu and Khan did it on Begum.

The adrenaline pumped directly into the ventricle of the heart caused initial vasoconstriction and fought a battle to jump start the static electrical conduction in the myocardium.

ITBP personnel with a dog near Rashtrapati Bhavan

Suddenly, just like magic, both dogs showed a feeble pulse. Then the lub-dub got louder. Chest started moving. I could not believe my eyes. Two dead dogs were now not dead. They came back from Lord Yama’s gate. Probably their GD entry was not accepted due to error in movement order (M/O).

They got up and jumped off the table as if nothing had happened. Drank water and started wagging their tails.

In my career, I have never seen Deputy Commandant Kripa Ram jumping with joy; he was always controlled and sober. But this time he was laughing, he thumped my back with his fist, out of sheer joy. He said with a toothy smile on that fateful full moon night at Bhanu, ‘Sudhakar, this is a miracle. Parampita parmeshwar has helped the dogs’. He hugged me. I hugged Khan. Both Saran and Hari shouted looking up at the sky, ‘Jai Bajrang Bali!’

Both Bindu and Begum, who came back from the dead, went on to detect numerous explosives in Srinagar Valley and Bindu won many medal in AIPDM. They lived a happy disease free life till a ripe old age.

Till today nobody knows how their heartbeat and respiration stopped. But all is well that ends well.

The next day I was in very high spirits. Seldom in a vet’s life have such miracles happened. I had my office in one of the ground floor rooms in Barracks. As I sat in my office, exactly at 0930 there was a call from the internal landline. Deputy Commandant Kripa Ram said in his typical soft voice, ‘Partner, your posting order is in front of me. I am sorry to state that they have posted you to 10th Battalion.’

‘Sir, where is 10th Battalion?’, I enquired, shocked. I had just finished 80 days at Bhanu.

‘Sudhakar, it is in Merthi, on the Kumaon Border’, he replied in a sympathetic voice.

I rushed home. Sharmila was in the kitchen, making tomato rasam for lunch. When I told her the news, she was dazed and came to the drawing room and sat on the Rs 17,000 royal sofa.

‘But we have hardly completed three months here. How is it possible? What is the tenure policy in this force?

I said, ‘It should be a minimum of at least two years, if not three. I can’t understand’.

The ever helpful Commandant BTC M.S. Bhurji (later IG) met me in the evening and said, ‘I will talk to DG Joginder Singh. You have not completed your tenure. I will forward your representation’.

Within seven days there was a reply that the request of the officer was sympathetically considered but turned down.

I moved out of Bhanu with all my goods, including my Buckingham Sofa, to Merthi after spending a happy 90 days. Short and sweet. But a tad bit too short.

I then went on to spend five happy years at Merthi with my ponies and mules in tough border terrain, thinking of Bindu and Begum.

There were greater powers at play. Probably this ultra-short Bhanu posting was just for Bindu and Begum.

(The writer is a veterinary deputy inspected general of Indo-Tibetan Border Police)


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