The General Listens


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Towering mountains, ghostly forests, raging streams, high cliffs... Through terrain that is magical, difficult, 6 decades ago, India was building the strategically vital Nefa road as it was popularly called, along India’s North & Eastern Borders. The 2000 kilometres long stretch, was engineering marvel, attempting to match nature at its most challenging... For here it hangs by fingernails from cliffs, there in mountain goat fashion it leaps across torrents, and sometimes stymied it in fine ferret fashion burrows into mountains... It is in a sense an act of faith.

Before it was officially commissioned, the General who was instrumental in getting the road built, General Mani, was making a personal inspection of the entire length and breadth of it in an Army Jeep. He was accompanied by his daughter Colonel Mani {who related the story to us}, and their army driver. They were driving the entire 2000 km in an army jeep.

One day, in the evening, the General abruptly told the driver to stop for the day on a bleak stretch with peaks looming above, deep crevasses below. The driver urged The General to reconsider, for it was wilderness, just kilometres forward he suggested was a village and shelter. Unlike the driver, General Mani’s daughter could be more vociferous in her protests. “But we have only a tin of condensed milk for dinner”. But... “Well, it will have to do.”, wWas The General’s unmoving response. The driver and daughter were puzzled for the General had the constitution of a Bull Elephant, and there was at least 2 hours of driving left, before inky darkness fell. If they continued they could find warm beds, and hot meals, if not at an army post, at least at a village.

But The General refused to reconsider.

After setting camp, and a one course meal of condensed milk followed by condensed milk, they turned up their army jackets and prepared for a most uncomfortable night, curled up in their army jeep. No, no heating, and just a rough rexine cover, if that’s what you were wondering.

The darkness fell, and the stars were attempting to stare through dense clouds and a grim rain, sleep took the tired and grumpy travellers in its arms, when... they heard this sound. It was a cross between a giant bull having its legs crushed and a banshee with its throat cut. They rushed out of their jeep and looked out. Slowly the darkness gave up its secrets.

The road ahead, kilometres of it, had simply slipped down the mountain slopes. If they had continued the chance of their being caught in the landslide was overwhelming.

They abandoned the jeep, and descended down sheer slopes, slick with wet mud. Filthy, cold, bruised, legs shaky... But very much alive, thanks to a General who could command 2000 kilometres of road into being... but more importantly could listen... to the wispy voice called intuition...  


-- As told to Celia & Tarun Cherian, by Col Mani



Now it is not enough to receive an intuition. But to know the difference between fear, idle wishes, and intuition.

It is not enough to receive an intuition but to time it. too early, too late and one falls in.

Getting an intuition in a timely fashion is one thing, listening to it is another.

Getting an intuition. And in a timely fashion is one thing. And listening to it. And acting on it in face of opposition. Now that's wow.