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The posting in the wild

Twenty-one-year-old Lt Punita arrived in Fatehgarh after doing an internship in Ambala. Till then she had lived in reasonably big cities and found herself in what was the badland of that time.

"In 1968, Fatehgarh was infested with dacoits. I'd never seen a place like that before. Everybody roamed with a lathi or a gun."

At the hospital, people mistook her mother who was comparatively young, as the doctorsahib and thought of her as the daughter accompanying her.

In hindsight, Lt Gen Arora feels it could not have had a better beginning. The area did not have many hospitals, no specialists and the nearest big hospital was in Kanpur or Lucknow, four to six hours away. The only train in that direction left at midnight.

"If the patient missed the train you'd have to look after him/her yourself. So that gave me lots of confidence. It was a good tenure."

The 1971 war

When the war with Pakistan broke out, she was still posted in Fatehgarh and had married her doctor husband who was at the base hospital in Srinagar. She had come to the scenic city to deliver her son -- currently a squadron leader in the Indian Air Force -- and left a month before the war began.

Her husband who used to be on airport duty witnessed the bombardment, and Punita saw the war preparations in Jammu & Kashmir, where the situation was completely different from her base in UP.

"Fatehgarh never saw any war. People hardly knew what was happening. Like sitting over here, I'm sure you can't even imagine what's happening up there [in J&K]. If you go and spend even 15 days over there, you'll come back with a totally different feeling."

Also See: The Other face of the Army

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