An Interview with Brigadier Sukhjit Singh (retd.)

It was that long holiday leading onto the 70th Independence Day. We found ourselves engulfed in the misty, emerald embrace of our gracious host in Mussourie. He was not just humble, but humility itself. And while he shared with us some of his views on the country, history and the Army at this important juncture..in this case at least, it seemed that the wealth of the era of royalty was not their splendor and trappings of opulence; but their warmth and inclusiveness, values– which they publicly espoused.
We hoped to capture the Brigadier’s unique perspective and character in a brief chat over elevenses at his summer residence. Did we succeed!? Well, you tell us:
Soulbowl: I would like to take you back to the context of your growing up years, when you were a teenager during partition, your years as a distinguished soldier in an Independent nation, and now as you ponder over life spent, in your retirement. Are we heading in the direction our founding fathers set out to go on? Give me your rambling thoughts and the perspective of a man whose individual views are very valuable:

HH Brig Sukhjit in uniform
HHBrig. Sukhjit Singh: Very kind of you to put it that way, I think I am neither qualified nor competent to speak in authoritative terms. I can confirm that I have traversed very different vistas. I was brought up around pomp and circumstances.My generation was brought up in a circumstance of strife post world war 2.There were certain stages that marked the development of our nation my transition..pomp and circumstances.intangibles being given shape. Honour,loyalty, integrity, meant a great deal to nations, to society in general. Nothing in nature is static. When change is brought about abruptly and suddenly is when we run into trouble. Luckily India went through structured change more by default than by design.
The changes that came about were significant. We were fortunate to have leaders of the stature of Mahatma Gandhi, Nehru and Patel, who were genuine patriots who had a vision in front of them to which they worked. The vision they left us, somehow to my way of thinking we have fallen short.
For example when we we set store in human terms to values such as capability or kabliat has now given way to pelf. It is unfortunate when tangibles give way to intangibles which are variable and not fixed and dont provide you a yardstick by which to measure your achievement. That is where we have faulted, taken the wrong turn.
Soulbowl: Do you think that this turning point was sudden or gradual——the erosion of values has been ongoing; the integrity of the founding fathers was good, not political parties, but the state, human nature..?
Brig: In our case it is an accelerated process of late, what is done under duress or compulsion under pressure tends to derail..It should have been gradual, natural.evolutionary, not revolutionary.
Soulbowl: What do you think of the army being celebrated as it has never been done before: is that good?
Brig: I am of the old school, and I think that it is not being projected properly, as it should. Under the constitution the army has been mandated to protect. It is the greatness of the Indian constitution that it has a protector.its for the protector to live up to its defining role.to my mind and way of thinking, the Indian army has not only lived up to its role, but surpassed it. It is the last repository of all that a nation stands for and hopes to achieve. The army has been exemplary, as it has always upheld the constitution. The constitution provides that the military can set up a government and hand it over to the authorities to administer.
You seal your contract with life. You have to be worthy of it and not fall short.no other service demands that. There has to be an idealism behind every person in uniform.that is not being given its due importance.
What is sad is the constant effort to down grade the importance of the uniform services.
The sledge hammer role is not what is required. Jingoism
In any form is not acceptable, it is repugnant to civilization.
Soulbowl: Governance, as you saw it as a child—the personal touch has gone, the integrity, the belongingness is not there. We are just aadhaar card numbers?
Brig: Governance was a kind of sacred role or dharma. The scale of judgment had to be held in a closed fist. It is adharam now. Justice is not only to be done, but seen to be done and accepted to be so. Tolerance meant what you did not do, or react to, despite the provocation. This is what my grandfather taught me. You did not respond.
I governed because you expected me to..and I was expected to be a cut above everyone else. The arrogance of power today has become the norm. We talk of new norms, why have we forgotten the past norms? I tend to believe that, what really makes me very apprehensive is that everything is only become for show, a display!
Soulbowl: What advice would you give the young people of today?
Brig: I have spoken in schools and colleges about the armed forces. We looked at life when we were young through the starry eyes of idealism. Please do not lose that idealism. Keep that before you at all times. Temper it with practical application, dont get carried away. Idealism has a very impelling force behind it.but it has to be dovetailed into action. You are facing times today that are changing so rapidly, that to keep pace with them; you have to run to stay in place.
That having been saidthere is one indomitable spirit that human nature has given us, and that is to never give upwhatever goals you set for yourself—-set them, but then dont give up. Keep at it, the world is yours for the picking. But you have to work at it. Nothing comes easily.

The greatness of India has always rested in the fact that it is like a spongeit has absorbed the good, bad and indifferent of everythingand yet it has survivedWhy? Because of its breath of vision. Never forget that. Dont be confined to religion or beliefs that have rigid dimensions, it will in time cease to exist. Name another civilization that has imbibed so much.
Soulbowl: What has been your inspiration over the years?
Brig: Can you think of a better definition of life;
1. NAAM: does not mean your name, but what you are seeking to represent in your life. It could be your izzat.
2. NAMAK: Your fidelity to your thoughts and yourself. Are you loyal to yourself? If so you will be loyal to everyone else.
3. NISHAAN: Is that impelling force from within that will help you set targets and achieve them, without any external push or compulsion.

  • Hi, I am a postgraduate in English Literature from Punjab University. I went to School in Shimla to Bishop Cotton School and St. Edwards School. I am currently involved in managing a retail business in the city and initiated the soulbowl blog,as its editor- in - chief. This is a communty based effort driven by enthusiastic young people and anybody who would like to make our city into a beauteful soul bowl. It is linked to the online e-commerce site called SoulBowl.in

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