Recalling partition days whilst hunting for a job
I am talking of 1947, when we lived in a village near present-day Islamabad. We were attacked by Pathans. I was witness to the entire village being set on fire; Hindus and Sikhs being murdered ruthlessly. Our saviour was a Muslim army officer, then a Captain in the Royal Indian Army from our village, who was posted at Rawalpindi. He could not withstand the senseless killings and destruction of homes of his good old classmates, sisters and elders with whom he had grown up. Indian government provided a goods train to transport the remaining Hindus to refugee camps in Indian side of the Punjab. I recall distinctly that we partitioned the goods bogey by sarees to give privacy to the women. The respect and dignity of women was very dear to us, the Hindus.
I was then 14 years old and travelled with my father, younger sister and brother. We had lost our elder brother in the village. To continue to remain in the refugee camp, it was hurting our pride to stand in long queues for ration and do our routine in open, so we moved to Agra. My father started a small business. I moved to Tarn Taran (now a district in Punjab) for my Matric. After school I went to Jalandhar, where lived an Army Major from our village, whose son was my class fellow in our village.
Major uncle asked if I wanted to enrol for Navy as the recruitment was going on. Since I wanted money and a job, I volunteered without looking left and right and got selected. In no time I landed in Vishakhapatnam. We travelled by train, two days to Calcutta and two days to Vizag. I landed at Naval base, INS Circars, new entry camp. I was happy as there was good food, new uniforms, good accommodation, and what not.
The three-other man who were known to our family from Pakistan, had also joined Navy. It was Commodore Om Prakash, who retired as Naval Provost Marshal, inspired me to join navy. He was class fellow of my elder brother. Then we had Commodore SS Kumar, who was my neighbour in the village. Then Commodore BN Thapar, who was my relative. It is a coincidence that all four of us took part in 1971 Indo-Pak war and were decorated with gallantry awards. I was then a Lieutenant on board INS Vikrant, which was operating off Chittagong in Bay of Bengal. I received Nau Sena Medal for successfully boarding and taming the hostile crew of enemy merchant ships as Officer in-charge.
Commander Darshan Lal Oberoi, NM, VSM, born 1933