IAF Pilots of 1971 War Recount their days in Pow Camps in Pakistan

Discussion in 'Indian Air Force' started by kseeker, Feb 3, 2014.

  1. kseeker

    kseeker Retired

    Jul 24, 2013
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    IAF Pilots of 1971 War Recount their days in Pow Camps in Pakistan [ Part -1 ] | idrw.org

    Among the 12 IAF pilots lodged in a PoW camp near Rawalpindi in 1971, Group Captain Dilip Parulkar and Wing Commander M S Grewal tried to escape, and were caught just four miles from border. They tell The Indian Express Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta, on NDTV 24X7’s Walk the Talk, about the camaraderie they felt in Pak custody and how their plan came about.

    Their story goes back more than four decades. Twelve Indian Air Force pilots, lodged in a Pakistani prisoner of war camp near Rawalpindi in 1971, hatched a great conspiracy. A conspiracy of escape. And three of them did escape, only to be caught four miles from the Afghanistan border. Now Canadian journalist Faith Johnston, an Air Force wife herself, has put together their story in a book called Four Miles to Freedom. Group Captain Dilip Parulkar and Wing Commander M S Grewal were the ringleaders and escapees of that group — the ‘bad boys’. Dilip sir, you were shot in 1965 and also 1971.

    Parulkar: That’s right. But I make a differentiation — in ’65, I was shot up, and in ’71, I was shot down.

    In ‘65, you were flying a Hunter, took a bullet in your shoulder, and decided not to eject.
    Parulkar: I disobeyed orders, so to say, and landed the aeroplane back in Halwara.

    Later it was found that the bullet had cut your parachute chord.
    Parulkar: Had I ejected, I would have hit the ground at about 400 miles an hour.

    So you’ve lived a charmed life. And then what happened in ‘71, you were flying a Sukhoi?
    Parulkar: The aeroplane did not give me any chance. When I got the bullets in my plane, it went out of control. It is my great fortune that it pitched upwards, because we do all our fighting at about 100 metres or so. Had it pitched downwards, there would have been no time.

    And it’s a big plane.

    Parulkar: Yes, and I had no choice but to eject. Our target was just east of Lahore. It was a radar station, we had to knock it out, which we did during this raid. But I was left behind by the formation.

    And Gary Sir — every Grewal in the IAF is Gary — you were flying a Sukhoi as well.

    Grewal: I was with 32 Squadron, operating out of Amritsar… I was flying with Air Marshal (V K) Bhatia, and (Flight Lieutenant) V V Tambay… And we were running towards an airfield at Shorkot Road — it’s named after their pilot called Rafiqui.

    The Pakistani fighter pilot Sarfaraz Ahmad Rafiqui, who was shot down in ‘65 at Halwara.

    Grewal: Yes. This was my second mission of the day. I was in the process of pitching up to get into a dive when I lost control because my hydraulics got hit. The Sukhoi seat, K-30, is marvellous.

    The ejection seat.

    Grewal: It worked absolutely flawlessly and I landed on the ground, no injuries, but thereafter beaten up by villagers.

    Dilip sir, that was your experience as well.

    Grewal: Villagers don’t spare you. They hit you, kick you, take away your items. They were looking for my revolver, my watch. But fortunately, I was very close to an airfield. The (Pakistani) air force people came, they rescued me from the villagers. They handcuffed me, blindfolded me, marched me to the airfield and there I was interrogated by, I think, the base commander. Within 10-15 minutes, I was put in a jeep and overnight driven to Rawalpindi, which was a long distance. It was a cold night, and we had this thin overall.

    That’s an insult, a fighter pilot being driven in a jeep!

    Parulkar: I was put in a sedan.

    Even worse.

    Grewal: Talking about how good or bad they are… My shoulders were paining, and one of the soldiers in the jeep who was my guard massaged my shoulders. And they held a cup of tea for me to drink. Early morning, I was dumped in a cell in Rawalpindi. This cell was absolutely unbelievable, it was so filthy. Had I been there another day, I probably would have given up. But next morning, I was taken to a press conference. Practically, all the leading newspapers were there.

    You were almost the first PoW. On December 3 was the PAF (Pakistani Air Force) attack, and the IAF responded on 4th morning.

    Grewal: On 3rd evening, in Amritsar, three Pakistani Mirages bombed our runway… Air Marshal Bhatia and I were the only two pilots there. Next morning, our squadron flew in from Ambala, and thereafter we operated on the 4th. One mission on the 4th, and on 4th evening, I was shot down. After the press conference.. I said now they won’t kill me, the world knows I’m alive.

    Dilip sir, when you came down, who received you?

    Parulkar: Almost the same thing (as Grewal). One minute you’re bombing them, and the next minute they find you coming down in a parachute. So your welcome is assured (laughing)… They started thrashing me, there were a lot of cries, ‘kill him’ and all that. Luckily, there was a policeman there who had some authority. He said ‘No, no, this fellow is much more useful to us alive than dead’. ‘He is going to be a fund of information for us’.

    Were you that fund of information? I believe you drew the wrong map and were caught.

    Parulkar: They wanted a sketch of the Adampur airfield.
    The airfield near Jalandhar, one of our major forward air bases. Parulkar: The PAF was very keen to know the defences of Adampur so that they could bomb it, and I was not the person who was going to give it to them. So when they insisted on a sketch, I drew a sketch of the Santacruz airport.

    Trust a Punekar to draw a sketch of Santacruz airport and set the bombers on Bombay!

    Parulkar: They told me to draw all the gun positions and the ground-to-air missile positions. So I just drew blobs and crosses all over that airfield. This interrogator took that sketch and disappeared for about 10-15 minutes. When he came back, he was more livid… ‘You are fooling with us! We’ll slaughter you. Isn’t Adampur on the Hoshiarpur-Jalandhar main road?’ he said. I said, ‘Of course it is.’ He said, ‘Give me that map.’ He punished me like a child, ‘Go face the corner’ and said ‘No food for you tonight’. While leaving, he told the armed guard, ‘If he moves, shoot him’. Thoughts like — something I had read somewhere — that you don’t hear the bullet which hits you, were going through my head when I stood facing a corner. After a few minutes of standing like that, my legs got tired. So I tried to squat down. The armed guard loaded the rifle. So I sprang up again, and stood wondering what was going to happen. After a few more minutes, that same guard said, ‘Sa’ab aapki taangein dard kar rahi hongi na (Sir, your legs must be hurting, no)?’ I said yes. ‘Aisa kijiye sa’ab, baith jaiye. Koi aayega to main khansoonga, uth jaana (Sit down then. When someone comes, I will cough. Stand up then)’.

    Just as there is honour among thieves, there is honour and chivalry among soldiers.

    Parulkar: There were many, many examples of it.

    Grewal: This gentleman, he made me stand in a corner. It must have been past midnight, and the guard wanted a smoke. In the Army, with the cap on and in uniform, you don’t smoke. So he wanted to smoke and he asked me, ‘Sa’ab main beedi pi loon? Aap bhi baith jao (‘Sir, may I smoke? You too sit down)’. So you sit down on your haunches, take a break, and he smokes his beedi.

    After he finishes smoking, he says ‘Aap khade ho jao (You get up now)’.

    Parulkar: Because, to that jawan, we were still officers.

    And you find that camaraderie.

    Grewal: Same language, same people.

    You talked about G-Force in ejecting, let me tell you a story. Remember Denzil Keelor, the fighter pilot who became an Air Marshal? I was at a dinner at the US Ambassador’s house for an American air force general, General Merill McPeak. General McPeak was sort of boasting, ‘Now we have new simulators that you can pull so much G’ — 13-15, some phenomenal number like that, he gave. After he held forth, he asked Air Marshal Keelor, ‘Do you also have such simulators?’ Keelor said, ‘I don’t think so, but I am quite sure we don’t need them… All our boys have driven around quite a bit in Delhi’s autorickshaws’. (All laugh). So, when you were taken to the PoW camp, did you think you would be tortured? Treated badly?

    Grewal: The first impression of a camp is that you will be tortured there. That’s expected. How much it is and how good or bad they are, comes with time.

    It wasn’t that bad.

    Grewal: No. See, there was no physical beating, or making you bend down or physically abuse you or something. It was just questioning, standing in a corner. In the morning, the interrogator would come at, like, 8 o’ clock and ask, ‘Gary, would you like to have a cup of tea?’. ‘Yes sir, I would love to have it.’ That cup of tea would never come.

    Psychological torture.

    Grewal: And then keep questioning you again and again, same question, in the hope that you will trip, give a wrong answer.

    Parulkar: The typical interrogation techniques… The good cop used to try to get under your skin and say, ‘That fellow is a terrible chap, be very careful. He doesn’t take prisoners. You tell me whatever you like, I’ll keep it to myself’.

    But it was not unsavoury, or disrespectful?

    Grewal: Not at all. They kept asking about the Adampur airfield… They wanted to know (about) a safe corridor so that they could go in and bombard.

    But this is the thing about the Indian and Pakistani armed forces. There is a certain degree of camaraderie and fellow feeling.

    Parulkar: Well, two of my course mates trained in the US on Sabres. This was immediately after the ’62 operations.

    When the Americans offered Sabres to us…

    Parulkar: That time, China was enemy No. 1… They ran to our help and many of my friends and colleagues went to the States to train on Sabres. They had a common training academy. So Pakistanis, Yemenis, Algerians, our IAF pilots, all youngsters in their early 20s, and the base was not far from Las Vegas, the Edwards Air Force base.

    They would go and gamble.

    Parulkar: That’s right. And they used to share cars, go together, party together. They were buddies, they were youngsters.

    Flight Lieutenant Vikram Pethia, one of those captured by the Pakistanis, faced rough treatment.

    Grewal: Pethia was a little weak physically also and got beaten up very badly. They put cigarette butts on him. Plus, when you end up with civilians, how much beating you take, who does what to you, for how long, there is no control.

    Parulkar: It’s my great fortune that in the force of (my ejection), a gun I had put in the lowest pocket of the overall, tore the pocket and fell out. It was not found by the people, otherwise… Getting shot with your own revolver is injury on insult.

    When did you think of escaping and why? You knew there was going to be an exchange…

    Parulkar: If you’re asking me personally, I had told my commanding officer in 1969 that if I become a prisoner of war — a fighter pilot has the highest chance of becoming a PoW because we are the only guys fighting deep into enemy territory — I told him, ‘Sir, there’s always a chance of us getting shot in Pakistan. I assure you if I become a prisoner of war, I am going to escape’.

    And Gary sir, you?

    Grewal: Part of our duty is to escape, so it was a part of my duty. It is Dilip who started this thing, about April, May, that ‘Gary, let’s try and get out’. I said, ‘What’s the hurry? Why take a chance?’. This went on two-three times. To add to that, our exuberance was because of us being bachelors. We had no one to cry over us…

    Parulkar: All the three who escaped were not married (Harish Sinhji being the third). From the second day of my capture, this bug was in my mind, ‘Escape, escape, escape’. So when we started meeting, it was almost like requesting Gary whether he’ll come along with me.

    Grewal: Harish Sinhji, he was one person who was of no help to us during the digging. But he was so persistent ke jaana hai (that he has to go). He was a little guy…

    And much younger.

    Grewal: Of course, he always boasted of his ancestry, being Jhala Rajput, and he said, ‘You must take me’. So we had him in that group. But I told him we may have to wade or swim across a river. He didn’t even know how to swim. He could not handle a man of his own size, if it came to that.

    Grewal: So we finally ended up, three of us in one room, and of course (V S) Chati helped us out.

    He was covering up for you?

    Garewal: Yes.

    Parulkar: And that was very effective. He held out till almost 11 o’ clock.

    Garewal: Had we gone across the border, probably they wouldn’t have known till the evening that people are gone from the camp. It was a holiday, August 14, everybody was fast asleep.

    None of your seniors, Commander B A Coelho, D S Jafa, tried to dissuade you? Nobody ordered you not to do it?

    Garewal: No, nobody can order us not to do our duty.

    But didn’t they say that exchange was going to take place? The Simla Agreement would happen?

    Parulkar: We had had enough false alarms like that… everytime something diplomatic took place… By that time, things had relaxed, we had a radio to listen to, we had newspapers coming to us. Every week there was something. This news used to come out in Pakistan because they wanted their 95,000 prisoners back… After a few times, Gary lost heart and said, ‘Yaar Dilip, enough. We have waited enough’.

    Grewal: We had already started work on the wall. We had started removing the bricks.

    Parulkar: (Indira Gandhi’s special envoy) D P Dhar was to come, and we thought he would take us back in his aeroplane. Those were our hopes (laughs)… And it’s a shame that nobody thought of us at all. We were not even part of the negotiations.

    Tell us about the Sukhois a little bit. It is a very large plane to be used for ground attack, carried a lot of ordnance.

    Grewal: For that era it did.

    We lost 18 Sukhois in that war. It formed the bulk of our losses.

    Grewal: Maximum Sukhois yes, but don’t forget that the maximum number of missions were also done by Sukhois.

    So the criticism that the aircraft was bad or too vulnerable…

    Grewal: No, not at all. But it could be a little too big for that role.

    Although it could escape at supersonic speed.

    Grewal: Yes… Any other airplane with that kind of tail would have crashed or gone out of control. This thing kept flying. And with lot of other cases like that: bullets through the engine, through the fuselage… There are a few shortcomings, but otherwise you can’t blame it, it did its job.

    That’s why I think more Indian pilots were able to eject than Pakistan pilots.

    Parulkar: Definitely, they had miserable ejection seats.


    Part-2 in next post.
    Sridhar and jmj_overlord like this.
  3. kseeker

    kseeker Retired

    Jul 24, 2013
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    IAF Pilots of 1971 War Recount their days in Pow Camps in Pakistan [ Part -2 ] | idrw.org

    In the second part of this Walk the Talk on NDTV 24X7, Wing Commander M S Grewal and Group Captain Dilip Parulkar tell The Indian Express Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta how they executed their escape from the PoW camp near Rawalpindi in 1971, and how they were caught.

    When you started planning the escape, what was the first thing you did? I believe Dilip sir here wanted to kidnap a Pakistani soldier.

    Parulkar: That was the first thought that came to me. Whenever we went to the toilet at night (while in custody), one very sleepy corporal with a side holster and revolver would come with us. I remember his name, Corporal Mahfuz Khan. He was a Pathan from the NWFP (North-West Frontier Province), very dopey. I thought I could easily capture him. I was in my early 20s, I thought I could hold his revolver against his head, holding him hostage. This romantic idea came to me because of one aeroplane that had been commandeered by an Italian lover in the US. He had got the pilot to fly back all the way to Europe. But those are American values and Italian values.

    Moreover, you were trading a poor corporal for a flight lieutenant!

    Parulkar: In fact, when I thought over it calmly, I thought that in our country, they would shoot him before they shoot me for allowing this to happen (laughs). So I gave up that idea.

    When did you start on the wall?

    Grewal: See, we knew from our observations, from the bathroom where you could pull yourself up into a little ventilator, that there was an unprotected area behind our room. It was a biggish room and there was a little corridor used by the Pakistanis to move from a building to our area. That particular building was a recruiting and information centre for the Pakistan Air Force and it was completely unprotected at evening and night, with one chowkidar sleeping outside. We knew that if we could go through the wall, we would be in that building. It was Dilip’s room to start with.

    Were you able to scrape out the window?

    Grewal: No, the window idea was before that. He (Dilip) was trying the window by himself. The window was also in the same room, looking on to the same corridor.

    Parulkar: The window was located such a way that it could be seen only from a very specific, small, zone. Also, it was very old.

    Grewal: It was half-gone, the frame was shaking.

    Parulkar: So that is what gave me the idea. I did work on it up to the point where one push would have sent it out. And that required the cover of bad weather.

    Grewal: Thereafter, we got down to the other plan, where we finally made it.

    Parulkar: That was after Gary (Grewal) joined us.

    Grewal: We had the wall worked out, we had the bed placed there, the bed covered with blankets, manoeuvred from here and there.

    How did you dig the hole into the wall?

    Grewal: It was an 18-inch-thick wall, you know, how they put bricks one after another, and mortar on the sides. We knew we had to scrape off the mortar inside. The mortar outside, we did not know about. But in between the bricks — what we call masala — it was not very strong.

    What did you use to scrape it?

    Grewal: We had a knife, a fork. And, in there, we were allowed to call a little boy to get us soft drinks like Coke or Pepsi. They would not remove the lid because it spilled. Have you seen an automobile engine valve? They had sharpened it and they would put the valve on top (of the bottle), bang it in and put a straw in. I took this valve from him.

    Parulkar: We also had scissors, we had all grown a beard and we used it for trimming.

    Grewal: With these three-four things, we could scrape the mortar in between the bricks. We would get down to work at night, Dilip and I. I would do it for half an hour, then I would get out, then he would spend an hour there, then I would get back. We went on till 12.30 or 1 at night, while (V S ) Chati and Hari Sinhji (the third person to escape with Grewal and Parulkar) kept watch.

    Nobody heard anything suspicious?

    Grewal: No, the guards were far away, and they were patrolling. And scraping was a slow process. The mortar that came out, we would put it in Red Cross boxes and stack them up right in front of them during the day. They could see them, but nobody opened to see what was inside the boxes. And we would clean the (cleared hole) and put the bricks back, and then again start. This process went on for more than a month.

    What was the inspiration? I believe The Great Escape, Steve McQueen?

    Grewal: Oh yes, we had seen all those movies, read all those books.


    Parulkar: I had read Papillon just prior to…

    Grewal: Have you heard about The One That Got Away, by (Franz) von Werra?

    Yes. So what happened when you three got out? Chati stayed back.

    Grewal: Once the hole was ready, the three of us were prepared. We told everybody we will be going. Before that, two of our attempts had failed.

    Parulkar: Gary, because of his father’s experience with criminals in Amritsar, had this idea that we can go through this all in one night. That is what burglars used to do in Amritsar. But we found this plaster to be a very huge obstacle. What we had to do is make a groove right along the periphery of that hole. We had made a size through which we could crawl easily. And we were making a groove right around the boundary of it. Gary was the last person to work on that. When he finally broke pieces of it, he said, ‘Dilip, ye to biscuit ki tarah toot raha hai (this is breaking like a biscuit)’ (laughs).

    And then you smelled freedom.

    Grewal: It had just started raining, drizzling.

    Parulkar: The bad weather that we were hoping for all along happened at that very time. Providence was on our side.

    I believe you walked out when a movie show had ended, there was a lot of crowd.

    Grewal: Yes, we presumed a movie show had ended because there were rickshaws, tongas, shouting, the typical Indian scene. We were like anybody else on the road.

    And then what happens?

    Grewal: We come to a place where Peshawar University is on our right. At this university, there are a lot of people, and we don’t know whether to proceed or stop. Dilip suggests, let’s hide under a culvert. There’s a railway line on the left.

    Parulkar: Which we had studied on the map, that there is a railway line which goes on the left. That was part of the plan, to follow the railway line. And that would go past Landi Kotal up to Landi Khana. According to the map, Landi Khana was the last halt in that district. That was a gap in our intelligence, it was a major gap. It was there in the British days, but no more.

    Grewal: You see, Landi Khana had vanished. So finally when we reached there, after one bus ride and then another bus ride…

    You were searching for a place that didn’t exist anymore.

    Grewal: Right.

    It was a train station in British times.

    Grewal: We could have told a taxi fellow that we want to go to Torkham. But we thought if we tell him Torkham, he’ll say, ‘Oh, they want to cross the border’. So we said we want to go to see Landi Khana, and we’re going back from there. But there was no Landi Khana.

    Then you got caught. The tehsildar’s clerk, or someone, got suspicious.

    Grewal: Steno or clerk, someone. We are standing there, the three of us. There’s a tea shop, and we’re talking to the taxi guys, and we are negotiating just for the sake of negotiating, to bring down the price.

    So it doesn’t look like you are throwing money.

    Parulkar: That’s right.

    Grewal: We are just being natural. But this guy is standing there, the road is not very wide. He comes across and says, ‘Kaun ho, kahan jana hai (Who are you, where are you going)?’ We said we’ve come from Lahore, we are going to Landi Khana. He said there is no Landi Khana. In the meantime, Dilip had gone and bought caps, we had put the caps on our heads and we had finished the tea. People started gathering.

    Parulkar: We had decided money was no issue, let’s go. Because we had money.

    You were getting your PoW allowance, Rs 57 a month, a princely figure then, in addition to your salary in India.

    Parulkar: Which I saved very carefully and, on the last two days of the month, the group used to get after me, ‘Dilip, tu is mahine to nahin jaa raha yaar (you are not going this month, no), let’s buy khubani, apricots’.

    Grewal: We had apricots, we had chocolates, we had condensed milk tins.

    Parulkar: And that was part of our escape kit.

    So then you were caught.

    Grewal: The tehsildar called some people, they took us to a so-called prison and locked us up. They searched us. We had PoW ID cards. They were in English. The people there, none of them could read English. So, one of them takes these three cards, he goes to the tehsildar. The tehsildar comes back with these cards, and he’s probably figured out what they are. Now, we are locked inside this cell, and he’s shouting at us, ‘Tum Hindu ho, tum ye ho, tum wo ho’. In the meantime, he’s told the political agent, Mr Burki. Mr Burki says, bring them over. So they handcuff us and walk us through the village. People are looking at us, following us, to Mr Burki’s office. Poor chap, it was a holiday, he came from home to meet us. First thing he did was to have our handcuffs removed, made us sit down, made us comfortable, tea came, and then, of course…

    I believe Dilip sir, you planned one more escape trick. How did that happen?

    Parulkar: I was the prime mover in this whole process. I felt a sense of responsibility, because this was also something which I was accused of by the people who didn’t want us to go.

    That you were overdoing it.

    Parulkar: Yes, so much so that at one point, they said, ‘Look here, if anything happens to either of these two guys, you are responsible, Dilip. Be careful’. So, my take on that was, ‘I am not responsible for that. Anybody who doesn’t want to come is at liberty — it’s a free country — to say no. But I am going. Anybody who wants to, can come with me’. Now, because of that, they were with me. Something I learned only at the National Defence Academy, it’s there in golden letters in the library — first comes the safety, welfare and honour of your country, second comes the safety, honour and welfare of the men you command, and your own safety comes last. So, although I was not their commander, I was their leader. So it was up to me. They were in this soup because of me. So I had to get them out of it also.

    Invent something.

    Parulkar: We already knew that Usman Hamid had relinquished charge of the PoW camp and had gone as ADC to the chief.

    That’s very funny because one of your PoW colleagues, D S Jafa, had been ADC to our air chief, Air Marshal P C Lal.

    Parulkar: So, Usman Hamid had gone from being our camp commander to Zafar Chaudhry’s staff. We knew this because after taking over as his ADC, he brought Zafar Chaudhry to the camp, and he visited us. We met him. He was a gentleman, he never threw his weight around. He never made us look small, which was a big change when the new camp commander took over. So, anyway, with this knowledge, the tehsildar was questioning us as to who we were. He had not yet found those identity cards, which we had hidden in our waistband pockets. So I told the tehsildar we are airmen from the Pakistan Air Force station in Lahore, and that I wanted to talk to the ADC to the chief of air staff. We told him we are on 10 days’ casual leave and we are going up to Landi Khana as tourists, just trekking, sightseeing. He said no, we are going to lock you up. And after 10 days, when they start looking for you, we’ll release you, and then you can go back… I knew in 10 days there would only be corpses going back. So I was not going to take that chance.

    After haggling with him for a while, I even made a show and a sham of firing him. By that time, we had learnt enough of their language to talk to them. I said, ‘Janaab, main aapko bata raha hoon main Air Force Station, Lahore, ka airman hoon, parachute section mein kaam karta hoon main, aur is watan ke liye main khoon bahata hoon. Aap mujhse aise, is tareeqe se, bartaav kar rahe hain! Main aap se kisi chhote-mote aadmi se baat karane ke liye nahin keh raha hoon. ADC to chief of staff se baat karna chah raha hoon. Aur aap nahin bol rahe hain. Aap ki khairiyat nahin hai (Mister, I’m telling you I’m an airman of Air Force Station, Lahore, I work in the parachute section, and I spill my blood for this country. And you are treating me like this! I’m not telling you to put me through to some lowly official. I want to talk to the ADC to the chief of staff. And you’re saying no. You’ve had it).

    So he put you through.

    Parulkar: Yes, immediately. Peshawar is not very far from where we were.

    The PAF Headquarters is in Peshawar.

    Parulkar: And it was their independence day. He got through in minutes. And this conversation started, ‘Sir, Philip Peters is here, with Ali Ameer (Grewal)’.

    Those were your assumed names.

    Parulkar: Philip Peters was chosen by me because it rhymes with Dilip.

    Pretending to be an Anglo-Pakistani.

    Grewal: Plus, we had to remember our assumed names. I had a course mate named Ali Ameer.

    Parulkar: I had a classmate called Philp Peters.

    So you spoke with Usman Hamid. What did you say?

    Parulkar: I said, ‘Sir, Philip Peters here. Do you know Dilip from the camp?’.

    So, you first said Philip, then slipped in Dilip.

    Parulkar: ‘We had taken some leave from the camp, sir’, I said. ‘And besides me, Ali Ameer and John Doe are both here. We were on our way to Landi Khana, sir, as tourists, and they’ve suddenly stopped us for no reason’.

    Grewal: ‘And they are not letting us go’ (laughs).

    Parulkar: I told him, ‘Sir, you know me, they cannot hold us’.

    Grewal: He caught on.

    How did he respond to you?

    Parulkar: He was aghast. He said, ‘Dilip, Dilip, what are you doing there in Landi Kotal?’. I said ‘Sir, we just took a little casual leave, and that’s how we are here, and look at this…’. He said, ‘Give the phone to the tehsildar’. I gave him the phone. He very calmly told him, ‘Ye hamare aadmi hain (These are our men)’.

    Grewal: He immediately caught on. Till then, they had no information from their sources. This was the first time he was hearing this. But he was clever enough to know that something had happened.

    Parulkar: There was no way the three of us should be in Landi Kotal.

    So actually he saved your lives.

    Parulkar: That was the plan. I put the jurisdiction at such a high level that the local fellow has no jurisdiction.

    It also tells you that wars take place, but there are also decent people on both sides, and that decent people also go to war. That’s the reason I feel blessed we’ve had this conversation, of friendship, and mutual soldier chivalry.

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