This well articulated piece by Brig IS Gakhal is a rare tribute with a personal touch to a legend - a gentleman - soldier - sportsman - Col Haripal Kaushik, VrC, Arjuna Award winner of 1 Sikh. As GC in IMA, I was fortunate to see him as Adjt IMA in flesh and blood during 1969- 71. Thereafter it was only in 1983/84 that I personally interacted with Col Kaushik during Services hockey champioship when he was based at Jalandhar and Army Rep of Jury & Selection Committee. Later as Manager of Services hockey team I received valuable tips and guidance from him that helped and enabled Services team to be Runners up in 1984 and Winners in 1985 National Championship for Rangaswamy cup. My last meeting with him was in May 2000 at Jalandhar Officers Club along with another hockey legend Col Balbir Singh, ASC, with whom Iam still in touch.
The Second-in-command of 1 Sikh when I joined the Battalion in 1973 was Maj Haripal Kaushik, VrC. Tall, with a fine soldierly bearing, slim of waist with powerful forearms, supple wrists and strong legs.
A warm smiling face, compassionate eyes, thick well groomed hair that were showing signs of receding. He was by now showing a slight expansion of the waist. His advice was simple, “Be truthful to yourself, live within your means and maintain a professional standard commensurate with your capabilities”.
Herein after till the very end I was 'Inderjit' to him. A month and a half back, I was with him for a couple of hours. In 2015 Alzheimer’s had begun to set in and one saw his ability to recollect fade gradually.
After quite some time Col Haripal recognized me, 'Inderjit', he said with a warm smile, his eyes lighting up on recognition; "Did you become a General?”
I shook my head.
“Who fixed you”? I merely looked skyward and saw sadness creep into his eyes. That was barely a month and half before 26 Jan 18, when he was no more.
The world knows his unmatchable record as a sportsman and as a man of valour. Olympics, 1956 (Melbourne- Gold), 1960 (Rome-Silver), 1964 (Tokyo-Gold), Asian Games 1966 (Bangkok- Gold) and an Arjuna award. A Vir Chakra, as Company Commander of Delta Company 1 Sikh of which Sub Joginder Singh Sahab was awarded a Param Vir Chakra during 1962.
A rare combination of excellence in sports and profession. All this is known to the world, but ,little known are his sterling qualities of compassion, humility, contentment, caring nature, humour and dedication. I have seen all that from close quarters and that is what I wish to dwell on.
In 1955 the Sikh Regimental Hockey team (SRC) was scheduled to play in the semi finals of the All India Dhyan Chand Hockey tournament, at National Stadium, Delhi, against Hockey Club, Bhawalpur (Pakistan), the other semi-finals was between Punjab Police and Aryan Club, Lahore. At that time Punjab Police boasted of eight Olympians in their playing ranks. Prestige was at stake, all round.
The SRC, left forward was injured, as replacement the Sikh Regiment was able to coax young Haripal, then a student in DAV College, Jalandhar, to play for them.
His cool demeanor, skillful artistry in building an attack to make the team successful, came to the fore, as the Sikh Regiment won the finals, defeating Aryan Club Lahore 2-0.
Haripal Kaushik’s performance was outstanding and he was selected for the Melbourne Olympics. Since the his name appeared on the selection list from the Services, the SRC had no other option but to take young Haripal on its rolls.
Thus, Haripal Kaushik joined 2 SIKH Regiment for a while. That is how Col Haripal was inducted into the Army, unintentional but without looking back. A selfless inside forward, who never sought personal goal scoring glory, allowing others that credit. Invariably, moves initiated by him resulted in goals.
In 1960, as a commissioned officer of 1 Sikh, he deliberately chose Hav Shankar Laxman, the legendary goal keeper, as his tour roommate. His humility helped foster team cohesion so essential to victory. During my service in 1 Sikh six-aside hockey was a daily event, that was a decade after Col Haripal stopped competitive hockey.
However, his deft touches, his ability to grasp the goal scoring angles quickly and assay a pass there were still sharp. If character was built on the sports fields of Eaton, it happened in equal measure at Cantonment Board School Jalandhar and at Khusropur.
In Oct 1962, once orders for withdrawal were issued by the higher headquarters, Lt Haripal Kaushik had no option but to vacate a potentially strong position. What followed was 14 days of trial and tribulation, without food, clothing, water, medicine and with a lurking enemy. Lt Haripal, led his small group, evading enemy ambushes till they emerged on to the plains, physically battered, but their spirits intact. The motivational skills of Lt Col Karnail Sidhu, the CO of 1 Sikh forced Capt Haripal, to pick up the gauntlet and participate in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. If that was not resilience and mental strength, than what is?
A bachelor for better part of his life, Maj Haripal married rather late in service. The couple was issue less for many years after which Veronica was born, shortly after which Mrs Kaushik expired. It was due to Col Haripal’s dedication and devotion that Veronica Kaushik stands tall through her achievements. Single parenting is no easy job, especially during Army Service. When the Army did not seem to see the plight of a single parent, Col Haripal resigned and devoted his time to bringing up his infant daughter. A life that thereafter was dedicated to Vinnie Kaushik. Father and daughter lived in #13 The Mall, in Jalandhar Cantt, a home one always visited during leave. His welcoming smile, warm pat on the back, asking about our wellbeing, was always comforting. The Colonel was always well informed about the Paltan, the Regiment and the Army. Every, Corps Commander would invariably schedule an interaction with Col Haripal, soon after assuming command.
His qualities of head and heart were endearing. He rarely raised his voice, was forgiving, hated to punish defaulters, but did enforce discipline through personal conduct. Simple of habit, I remember him saying; “I was the Vice Captain of the Indian team without a Vice!” A gentleman to the core, his personal conduct was immaculate. As Adjutant of the Indian Military Academy (1970-1972), the first from the SIKH Regiment, he left an indelible mark, immaculate astride the grey charger! It was during this tenure that all his life's toil in terms of Gold and Silver medals were stolen from his residence when he was at the midnight Piping Ceremony. He took that in his stride, as he did the Government ignoring his rightful claim to an 'Arjuna award’, which was finely corrected in 1999. Lesser mortals pander their little achievements from roof tops, one with three Olympic Gold’s and a Silver medal to his credit, merely smiled. That is what Col Haripal Kaushik, VrC was all about, 'do your duty and seek no reward'. The Lord God has dismantled the Haripal Kaushik prototype after sending him to the earth. They no longer make men like Col Haripal Kaushik, VrC, Arjuna award. Men may come and men will go but their deeds live on, as shall those of Col Haripal Kaushik, VrC. Those of us whose lives Col Haripal touched are truly blessed. May the noble soul rest in eternal peace because he deserves no less!
Brig IS Gakhal was commissioned into 1 Sikh. He served as Comdt Sikh Regt Centre, commanded a Battalion in Op Rakshak, raised & operationalised a RR sector in J&K where he was wounded.
(Views expressed are the author's own and do not reflect the editorial stance of Mission Victory India)
For more defence related content, follow us on Twitter: @MVictoryIndia and Facebook: @MissionVictoryIndia