Thursday, July 4, 2013

The Brand of Brothers

Wars, battles and disasters, have created the fallacious notion that our soldiers are gun toting toy heroes born to die for their country. The underlying assumption here is that the army man is an emotionless, pre-programmed, remote-controlled robot built for the sole purpose of self-sacrifice. Nothing could be further from the truth.

For he’s a jolly good fellow, very unlike the zombies, one got to see in ‘Border’ and ‘Lakshya’. In reality, the jawan is as fun-loving, quirky and goofy as boys can be. May be that’s why the most ribald jokes and limericks get minted in military dorms.

The sense of humour of the infantryman is best reflected in the nicknames conjured up for their regiments. Members of The Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire Light Infantry (TRGBWLI), for example, rechristened their loftily ludicrous name into the mildly amusing ‘Alphabety Spaghetti’. Even more ingenious were the battalions under 101st Airborne Division. They called themselves ‘One o’ Worst’ - a clever play on their official moniker.

The Canadians in Princess Louis Fusiliers were one notch higher. Inspired by their insignia of a grenade with flames, they hit upon the explosive nick ‘Flaming Testicle’. Likewise the Lake Superior Scottish Regiment’s abbreviation (LSSR) served as the cue word for creation of the ‘Losers’ tag.

Wordplay with abbreviations is a crowd favourite with armies across nations. If the Royal Canadian Regiment were ‘Run Chicken Run’, the Governor General’s Foot Guards became ‘God’s Gift to Fat Girls’! Not to be outdone, the caustic Brits re-labelled Queen’s Lancashire Regiment as ‘Quick Let’s Run’, the Royal Logistic Corps as ‘Retard’s Lone Choice’ and Royal Electrical & Mechanical Engineers as ‘Ruin Every Maiden Eventually’.

One can be sure that the relatively staid Indian Army has its fair share of earthy nicknames. Among the ones in the public domain, the charming story of Madras Goondas shimmers like a pettai rowdy’s freshly sharpened aruval.

It seems that the Second Battalion of the Madras Regiment is named so because of a tale that goes back to 1951 when some soldiers played Robin Hood to ensure timely supply of food grains for the famine-stricken people of Rajasthan. Thank god for the uniformed goondas!