It was 1993. March or April. I was looking through the postal mails of the day at my office – the State Bank of India’s Ramgarh Cantonment branch in Jharkhand (then Bihar). The chief manager was on leave and I was officiating.
“Sir, Brigadier sahab is coming to see you.”
I looked up and saw this uniformed sepoy standing in front of me.
Soon entered a fully uniformed bulk of a man, authority dripping from the tip of his headgear to toe. It was apparent that the Man in Olive Green was in a foul mood.
I offered him a chair. Then, my eyes fell on his name tag, and I bristled. The name was K S Chandpuri!
JP Dutta’s Border came four years later, but 1971 was still fresh in my memory and I had read and heard a lot about the Longewala battle hero.
Brigadier Kuldip Singh Chandpuri was then the station commander of twin regiments, the Punjab Regimental Centre and the Sikh Regimental Centre, at Ramgarh Cantt.
Looking at him standing in front of me, I was stunned, awestruck, and speechless.
But he didn’t bother about this star-struck manager as he thundered, demanding to know why his cheque was not being cleared by the bank.
Apparently, his personal aide had been visiting the branch with his cheque for a couple of days but was unable to encash it. Having had to visit personally to look into the matter, he was evidently furious.
Unfortunately, I had no idea about the cheque as I was not handling the department. It was an outstation cheque, and I detected the specific glitch that was hindering the clearance.
Luckily, I could promptly find a solution too. After some formalities, the amount was in front of him.
His mood changed at once. And for the next half an hour or so, Brig Chandpuri had a hearty chat with me over a cold drink and snacks.
He asked me where I was from. I can’t forget his reaction hearing my reply. I told him I was from Jhumri Telaiya, and he wouldn’t believe. “Arey yaar, is it really there? I don’t believe!” Brig Chandpuri asked incredulously.
I had to show him the STD code and PIN, besides other ‘proofs’, to convince him about my humble truth. I succeeded eventually and he stopped probing. And I heard him laugh heartily and loudly.
By that time, he was an embodiment of generosity as he invited me to see him in his office. I wanted to know about the Longewala episode. He gave me an account, but in a way as if it was nothing that important.
We met a few times more during my posting in Ramgarh. He would look for me every time he visited the branch.
Brig Chandpuri retired soon after his Ramgarh stint. I retired too, after 13 more years of service. We hadn’t stayed in touch, but I always remembered that encounter as a high point of my otherwise regular life in a government job. I reminisce the glint of pride when I watched Border in 1997. The film played out the story I had heard from the horse’s mouth.
A wave of nostalgia swept over me as I heard the news of his death today. It seems like a personal loss. Long live the legend.
(The writer is a retired State Bank of India officer)