JUST IN JEST-II (Dog As a Status Symbol)

Date: 08- 05- 24

Lt. Gen (retd.) Budh Prakash Singh Mander joined the school in 1960 as J-38. He was in the second senior most batch to pass out in December,1964 after completing his ISC. He belongs to the batch tutored in English by Mr. Michael Vodden a teacher on deputation from the British Council. This was the first batch seen through by Senior Master and Head of English, Mr. Michael Vodden before he left, to establish ISC in School. (Mr. Vodden is best known and remembered among other praiseworthy qualities for writing the ‘School Song’).

Budh or BIPS, as he is known in his close peer group, was the wit of his class and is fondly remembered by friends for his incomparable sense of humour and ready wit.

He was in the second batch from School to join the NDA. After having served with distinction in the Army Service Corps, Lt Gen. Mander hung up his sword in 2007.

He is happily married to Harmeet and is proud father of two brilliant daughters. He dabbles in writing humorous pieces under his byline “Just in Jest”. He has shared three of such pieces with me, which I share with my fellow Old Nabhaites for their delight.

He is a keen and gifted golfer who can be seen regularly in the company of fellow Nabhaites in Chandigarh Golf Courses.

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Just in Jest

(The articles titled ‘Just in Jest’ are written just in jest. Cynics to keep away)

 DOG AS A STATUS SYMBOL

An article by Lt Gen BPS Mander

When we were in school, we looked at Army Officers with great reverence and respect. The picture of a retired Colonel (and there were few in those days) out for a walk is clear and vivid in my memory. One never saw a Colonel out for a walk with his wife. He was out with his handlebar moustache, a cane and an Alsatian dog, now for some reason called a German Shepherd. The truth however is that the breed is actually German Shepherd, but the Brits were loath to using the name, as Germans were their arch enemies and they did not wish to  even symbolically associate with anything German. So, the Colonel went with his Alsatian: the moustache and cane gave him authority and the Alsatian gave him the position, class, style and status.

Having acquired this from the Brits as a legacy, the dog as a status symbol survives till today, though the hues have changed.

While some times it is a dog’s life in the Army; but the dog cannot be faulted, for it has always been a constant companion of many an Army family, providing unconditional love. But there have been times when this wonderful animal has exhibited its dogmatic doggie traits, leaving many an officer embarrassed.

A case I witnessed as a young officer when I was posted in the East is as fresh as the day it happened. An officer came to us on posting, arriving with great fanfare, wearing a red shirt and driving a red ‘Standard Herald’, in which, among other things he had a dog called ‘Daisy’. His happiness and style however lasted for precisely the period of joining time, at the end of which he was assigned to Bravo Company. Eager to call on the Company Commander at the earliest, he checked out the details of the company commander and discovered to his chagrin that the company commander’s wife also went by the name of ‘Daisy’.

After great deliberation and a marathon discussion with his wife, a collective decision was taken to change the name of the dog to ‘Whiskey’, but the playful cocker spaniel would have none of it, and refused to respond to the new name, giving the family night mares. So, the idea of change of name of the dog was hesitatingly dropped.

The other option now was to ask the company commander to change the name of his wife, which the officer understood would give him the same result as jumping off the Teesta Bridge without a parachute.

So he did the next best thing; he leashed the cocker and sent it to his village through a courier.

A few days later the Company Commander, who owned a Beagle, met him and asked, ‘I see you are a dog lover; I saw a cocker spaniel at your place. What is he called?

‘Sir’, he responded with his pre rehearsed lines, ‘we just got a pick of the litter- have yet to Christian him.’

The company commander, who did not pull along too well with the Commanding Officer(CO), Colonel Smart, responded, ‘I see, may I suggest a name, you could call him ‘Smarty’.

The officer realizing that such a move could be the final nail in his professional coffin, quickly excused himself saying he had left the naming to his father who would now have the dog for next two years.

Even more intriguing was the case of an  officer who after having failed in his last attempt at staff college, decided to stay relevant and took up playing bridge and golf as support systems, and acquired a Lhasa Apso for style, oblivious of the fact that  smaller breeds are the more  pungent and ferocious variants.

The house hold having forgotten the slight of the triple failure at Staff College was now content to follow a new direction. Few days of indulging with the Apso had put them at ease and it was time to call the CO for dinner, a calculated move in the right direction. The officer had made a head start the previous day at the golf course after an agonizing game with the CO, who had no idea of the game, and yet the officer had never cringed from appreciating every single shot. Time to showcase the dog, which had been carefully chosen to be of the same breed as the CO’s dog.

Having requested the OC Dog Unit for help the officer had managed to get the dog to obey basic commands, and was eager to show the CO his prowess and ability of having trained the dog within a short span of time. So come the day of the dinner, he steered the discussion with such dexterity that it could not have ended in any other manner than to his new acquisition- the Aspo. The CO (who having dyed his hair blond, incidentally looked like a golden retriever) was pre occupied with other pressing thoughts and did not seem to be too interested in doggie stuff. So, the officer abandoned the attention of the CO and turned to his wife, to demonstrate his skills.

But it was not the officers’ day. The Apso, a temperamental breed, refused to even look in his direction, and his attempts to draw attention only gave way to disillusionment and despair.

He was back in the dog house. He cursed the OC Dog Unit, whom he now confirmed to be inefficient and irresponsible.

In the meantime the CO having come out of his pre occupation was now sniggering, adding insult to injury.

Having reconciled to the failure of the first part of the display, the officer now decided to abandon the attempt, and proceeded to show how well the dog responded at feeding time, waiting patiently till he was given the command of ‘Take’. The CO was given a biscuit in his hand and assured that the dog would sit still till he was told to ‘take’ it.

Not this day. As they say, every dog has his day, this was the Apso’s. He lunged at the biscuit, not only taking it, but also taking a portion of the CO’s forefinger with it. That ended the night that was supposed to put the officer at the top end of the professional ladder.

No wonder that the CO who now was in the process of receiving his seventh subcutaneous injection in the belly gave a ‘bulldoggish’ look to the officer and claimed, ‘I warned you, never trust a dog- basically it is a son of a bitch’