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Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Jaswant Singh – An exemplary cadet, excellent horseman & writer

Singh, who had resigned from the Army at the rank of Major to join politics in 1966, later went on to serve as the Finance, Defence and External Affairs minister at various times in the government led by former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Written by Sushant Kulkarni | Pune | September 27, 2020 9:51:42 pm
Singh passed away in Delhi. (Express Photo by Dilip Kagda)

Former Union minister and Army veteran Jaswant Singh was during his days at the National Defence Academy (NDA), not only an exemplary cadet but also an excellent horse rider and writer, recalls retired NDA professor Dr Kishori Lal. Singh passed away on Sunday morning in Delhi.

Singh, who had resigned from the Army at the rank of Major to join politics in 1966, later went on to serve as the Finance, Defence and External Affairs minister at various times in the government led by former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Dr Lal, a retired professor of English at the academy, who has also served as the editor of the NDA Journal for over 10 years, has done extensive research about the history of the premier tri-services academy for his books.

Speaking to The Indian Express, he said, “Jaswant Singh joined the Joint Services Wing (JSW) located at Clement Town, Dehradun as Army Cadet with the 11th Course in January 1954. The Wing moved to Khadakwasla, Pune, in December 1954 in its new avatar as National Defence Academy. Training at Khadakwasla started in January 1955. Cadet Jaswant Singh was allotted to India Squadron (I Sqn). After passing out from the NDA on December 1, 1956, he moved back to Indian Military Academy, Dehradun for specialised training and was commissioned into the Central India Horse in 1957. He resigned his commission at the rank of Major to join politics.”

Dr Lal added, “As a cadet, he distinguished himself as a rider. At NDA, he rose to be an excellent rider who won for his Squadron several prizes in the jumping events. On the basis of his excellent equestrian abilities, he rose to be the academy riding club captain and also cycle polo captain. There is a photo of him receiving a prize for an equestrian event.”

Two humorous articles written by Jaswant Singh during his NDA days have been included in the coffee table book ‘Humour in Uniform: A Potpourri from National Defence Academy (1949 – 2018)’ by Dr Lal. “He was one of those rare cadets who could wield the pen with the same felicity as the sword. He had a very healthy sense of wit and humour. He wrote several short stories and hilarious articles for the Academy publications including ‘Sweet Memories’ in 1955 – recalling the far-off Mussoorie lights and the Shivalik range and another short story titled Revenge,” said Dr Lal. In the book ‘Humour in Uniform…’ by Dr Lal, two short articles by Singh written during his NDA days have been incorporated. One of them ‘The First Term Feeling’ describes the days of cadet during first term in the academy while the second article ‘The Harder Way’ humorously describes an anecdote where he had chosen ‘the harder wrong over easier right’.

Describing the nights during first term in the academy, the then Cadet Jaswant Singh wrote in The First Term Feeling, “The worst comes after Lights Out when the junior lies awake in bed brooding over the happenings of the day. He feels a pang as he thinks of home. If the Cadet Quartermaster has been kind enough and luxury of a fire in the cabin does exist, then he watches the fire making eerie shapes. The flames leap up, a burnt-up coal tumbles down and accentuates the silence. The thought of home becomes unbearable, a tear trickles down on the pillow, to be wiped off hastily with an ashamed conscience.”

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