Salman Rashid

Travel writer, Fellow of Royal Geographical Society

Humour in Uniform

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My dear friend Ejaz Haider, like me ex-army, loved this story. He said my line to Capt Mirza was my finest ever

Back in Kharian in the year of the Lord 1975, when I was a newly demoted lieutenant, I lived in this building in room 1. On the far side, in room 20 (I think) lived Capt Mohtaram Mirza of 28 Cavalry which was our divisional reconnaissance regiment at 6 Armoured Division.

He of 42nd PMA (or was it 40th?) was a typical Karachi ka bhaiya and way too senior to me. His mates called him Mohtaram or Capt Mohtaram depending on whether they were senior or junior to him. On his door he had this nice wooden nameplate with the brazen lettering Capt A A H H B B Mohtaram Mirza. When I walked from my room to Artillery Mess or to my unit for games, his room lay on my route down the veranda. He knew me as serving in the same division and from the various TEWTs (Tactical Exercise Without Troops) and MDs (Sand Model Discussions) that we attended together. We were on quite cordial terms and in passing I would greet him.

His nameplate aroused this great mischief in me. Abdul Ahad Hasnain Haider Baidar Bakht Mohtaram Mirza is way more than a mouthful. It’s a bloody truckload of a name. Even in initials. And so one fateful afternoon as Capt Mohtaram sat there sunning himself and I was on my way to play baseball with the men, I just could not keep myself from doing it. ‘Hello, sir,’ said I. ‘Sir, when you die, people seeing your gravestone will think yours is a mass grave.’ Even as I was delivering this line that had been growing inside me like the Alien monster’s baby, I wanted to shut myself up. But I just could not. ‘Kya buktay ho?’ bawled the good captain. ‘You come to attention, you bloody cunt.’ And then he gave me the worst ever bollocking of my life. It was worse than PMA.

I stood at attention in my games kit and took it all in. I was too freaking junior to respond. But that day I resolved that once when an arrow leaves my bow and hits the bull’s eye, I’ll see to it that I hammer it in all the way. I’ve kept my resolve.

FF to 2005 in Mangla where Tumble (Lt Gen Javed Alam Khan) was the Corps Commander. One quiet evening with him, I told him the story. If you know Tumble, you’ll know his explosive laughter. Tumble laughed so hard that he nearly fell off the chair. But he did get his drink down his shirt. Incidentally, Tumble was then a captain in 24 Cavalry. Capt Mirza’s regiment was commanded by his older brother Shamim Alam (later Gen Shamim Alam Khan) while yet another brother, the eldest, Zahir Alam (known as ZA in the army), was a brigadier commanding a brigade of our division.

PS. I would really like to meet Mohtaram Mirza and ask if he remembers this incident from nearly forty years ago. I am certain for him it is the long-forgotten foolishness of an impetuous idiot of a subaltern with lip.

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posted by Salman Rashid @ 12:05,


At 18 October 2013 at 12:51, Blogger Syed Jaffer said...

Reading this I recall similar incident minus the Khaki uniform. 1955 I lived in PIB colony and was 10 years of age. being extremely thin could easily go where a cat can make passage. With this ability was handy for the gang we had for activities and hangout. On my way to school daily used to cross a quarter where some government official lived.

Good name of the gentle man was Subhan Chaudhry, he was fond of putting very fancy name plate on his door. Our hobby was to damage his name plate which he would promptly replace with a new and more fancy one. We damaged 8 to 10 name plates when were caught by a senior of the locality and taken to task.

Our activity was just to hide or replace two letter from his name from either of the sides. After taking out 'Su' from beginning and 'ry' from the end what remand was 'bhan choudh'.

At 18 October 2013 at 15:52, Anonymous Salman Rashid said...

Pretty good for ten year-olds!

At 18 October 2013 at 16:31, Anonymous Masood Mustangs said...

Yes sir...though I never served with him but grew up in my childhood ... seeing him progressing leaps and bound...

When he joined the unit... I came to know from my father that his first CO called him and told him that ur name might be MOHTARRAM but don't expect from me to be like that for u in a lighter tine...

Then I remember it with pride when he invited me as a.cadet to his place in PMA...because I have always heard very high about my father H/Capt Muhammad Afzal Khan from him and other senior offr of 28 C...

My last hello hi with him was at.karachi when he was comd survey...
Such a humble and nice person he is...

In fact 28c owes everything to these calibre of offrs from raising to 71 war and onward.....though I joined 26c but part of my heart and soul always beat with 28c.....long live 26c

At 18 October 2013 at 16:37, Anonymous Salman Rashid said...

Well done, sir. If you ever meet him, ask if he remembers this crazy prank. Did you serve with Lt Col Waqar Haider in 26 Cav? He is a dear friend.

At 18 October 2013 at 18:35, Blogger Nayyar Julian said...

Hilarious! You were this witty all the way from start?

At 18 October 2013 at 20:02, Anonymous Ishrat Ansari said...

Its been nice to hear some good names through you...Salman (being a coursemate) has been a very close associate since childhood while Brig. Mohattram (NOT Mohtaram, if I correctly understand) from 28-Cav has again been a very good friend though we have not met for a long time...we did TO's together and I still remember his witticism and gags...he was from 44th PMA(?) but surely not from, if I am talking about the same person you are interested in...then let me also tell you his tel. no. which is 0321-2282828...his contact no. also exemplifies his associations with may not be able to contact him at the moment 'cos he is abroad...Cheers!

At 18 October 2013 at 22:18, Anonymous Archad Awan said...

In addition to so many other things, Fujis are basically witty. This brought smile to me. Thanks.

At 18 October 2013 at 23:32, Anonymous Anonymous said...

sir Salman , salam. nice to hear about you and see you through your picture. It took me back to skardu of 1990 when you were staying in K2 motel and we met at Satpara lake. Always stay blessed.
Lt Col ( R) Bashir then a young captain

At 19 October 2013 at 02:43, Blogger mansoor azam said...

Hilarious and craftily penned, couldn't stop laughing. btw Which year you passed out from PMA?

At 19 October 2013 at 12:53, Anonymous Rashid Zia Cheema said...

I attended Field Engineering Course with then Capt MOHATAREM (We called him Moti Ram) in Oct 1974 at Risalpur. He is surely from 46 Long Course.

At 19 October 2013 at 12:54, Anonymous Salman Rashid said...

Mansoor, I passed out Apr 1972. Quit Sept 1978.
Ishrat, you may be right about the name. He lived at the end of our bldg; where you and I lived behind Log Area Mess.
Thank you everyone for the laughter.

At 19 October 2013 at 12:56, Anonymous Salman Rashid said...

Rashid, I attended a FE course that same time! With K. S. Wynne. Were we together? Mohtaram wasn't there, though.


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Deosai: Land of the Gaint - New

The Apricot Road to Yarkand

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Sea Monsters and the Sun God: Travels in Pakistan

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