He was to get married on October 20, 1962. But he was unaware that the shower of flowers would be replaced by a volley of bomb shells. Days before the operation of ‘throwing the Chinese out’ began, Col (Retd) Tallury Krishnamohan, 80, then a captain, received the orders of joining 2nd Rajput, one of the battalions under Brig John Dalvi’s 7 Infantry Brigade, as RMO. Marriage now meant passing a survival test through a debacle the nation remembers as the Himalayan Blunder.
Standing at Dhola post alongside Namka-Chu river, the Thang La ridge looked like touching the sky. Ten days before the Chinese attack happened, operation of ‘throwing the Chinese out’ began with a platoon of 9 Punjab being sent on the ridge. I was standing with Gen B M Kaul — wearing goggles and looking like a film actor — and Brig Dalvi — looking at the ridge through binoculars. We saw Chinese bee-lining the ridge. I remember Dalvi saying: ‘This is madness’,” recalls Krishnamohan.
Gradually, the increasing number of donkey-bells on the other side of the ridge kept indicating the increasing Chinese activity. “On the (October) 20th, heavy firing started at the first light of the day. A JCO came running saying: ‘Saab Chinese’. I could see three-four Chinese leapfrogging. Havildar Uttam Singh, who was to fly to Tezpur for his daughter’s wedding, died while operating a gun in the same position. Amid flames, smoke and dead bodies of fellow soldiers, I suddenly got hit in the left leg,” Krishnamohan recollects.
The entire day, he lay unattended without water and food. “By the end of the day, the Chinese brought an improvised stretcher and made our soldiers carry me. While crossing the river, they decided to throw me into the river, when somebody who could understand their plans opposed. Even after reaching there, I was not asked for water. I don’t drink alcohol, but the irony is that I was offered rum, the glass of which I threw back at the Chinese soldier. Angry, he went back, but still got me a glass of water. I was taken to a monastery where PoWs were kept,” he says.
Over the next three months, Krishnamohan’s leg swelled. The plaster got tighter. And diet remained unchanged — radish and rice. “The Chinese would ask us about India and try to seek information from us. It was painful and frustrating. Three months later, we were released and the Chinese who I had earlier fought with waved at me saying goodbye. On the last day, they served us rice and dal that they had seized from our camps, instead of radish. On our way back, an officer offered me laddoos — the best ones I have ever had in my life. Next morning, I was at Tezpur where they removed a bucketful of pus and then on at MH Delhi for 18 months, where my leg was operated. Yes, I came back alive, and married my lady love, and kept the marriage date the same — 20th — though, of January 1964,” he smiles.