Story of Gen Verma

Amalendu Upadhyaya
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Satyam Bruyat

This story was told to me by an old Indian gentleman, Gen Verma, who had been in the British Indian Army during British rule, and retired as a Major General.

He had been a graduate of the prestigious Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst in England. Almost all Sandhurst graduates in the Indian army retired at least as Major Generals.

His home town was Allahabad, my own home town. In his youth he had applied for entrance to Sandhurst, which in those days was extremely difficult, as there were a huge number of applicants.  He was called for an interview in Delhi.

At Delhi he put up with a friend of his father’s, and appeared for the interview in an office before a British army colonel. Several other applicants were also there, and they were interviewed separately. Verma’s turn came almost at the end.

When he entered the office, the British Colonel was very polite, and asked him to have a seat. Then he started asking questions which to Verma sounded strange, and totally unrelated to the purpose of the interview.

He asked ”Mr Verma, I see from your application that you are from Allahabad. Are you staying in Delhi with a relative or a friend  ?“. Verma replied he was staying with his father’s friend.

Then the Colonel asked where was this house located where he was staying in Delhi. Verma told him.

Next the Colonel asked a series of seemingly totally irrelevant questions, e.g. whether Verma had been given a room for himself,  on which floor was this room, how many windows did it have, whether it had a separate toilet, what were the dimensions of this room, etc etc. Verma replied to all this, but wondered why such questions were being asked.

Then the Colonel suddenly asked ”Mr Verma, suppose in the middle of the night while you were sleeping in the room, you found a big person with a long knife sitting on top of your body, what would you do ? “

Verma replied ”Sir, what else can I do except fold my hands, and ask him to take whatever I have, my money, watch, etc, but spare my life”.

On hearing this answer, the British Colonel jumped up in delight, and said, ”At last a truthful and honest answer. Till now all the other applicants told me lies. One said he would scream and try to frighten the assailant away. Another said he would use a judo technique he had learnt to throw down the man. Others also gave  fantastic replies to my question. Only you have given the correct answer.“

Verma was the only one among the interviewees who was selected.


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