Srinagar, May 12 : He fought during World War II in Burma, became the 13th chief of army staff, was Punjab's governor during militancy and also India's ambassador in Indonesia. And Saturday, 90-year-old Gen. (retd.) Om Prakash Malhotra returned to the place he was born and brought up.
"It was my desire to come to Kashmir and visit the place where I was born, grew up and was educated," said Malhotra, former president of the National Association for the Blind and founder of the Equestrian Federation of India.
To mark the visit, his alma mater, S.P. College, honoured the old student whose father was seven decades ago the college's principal.
Malhotra was born in the Abi Guzar locality adjacent to Lal Chowk on Aug 6, 1922, and grew up with his elder brother and sister in the city.
"When I became the chief of the Indian Army in 1978, the first place I visited was Kashmir -- the place of my birth. Late Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah (then Jammu and Kashmir chief minister) and his wife were happy to receive somebody who had become the country's army chief and had his roots in Kashmir," he said.
Malhotra said the role of the army had now changed.
"The army is now trained more efficiently to act with heart and compassion. I met the local corps commander who informed me about their public welfare programmes," he said.
On the current army chief Gen. V.K Singh getting embroiled in an age row, Malhotra said: "Authority has to be respected without question even when there is confusion in the records. That is what the Indian Army is trained to do."
He also expressed happiness over the large number of tourists visiting the Valley.
"These people come from Kerala, Gujarat, Bengal and other places. They help the local economy. This will definitely bring prosperity to the lives of my Kashmiri brothers," he said.
Recalling his days as the governor of Punjab, he said: "My primary role was to ensure that elections could be held there so that the people were convinced about the intentions of the central government and the state administration."
"However, me and my wife had a narrow escape when militants targeted the vehicle of the then state DGP which was moving ahead of our car. Well, those are now just memories of the days gone by," he said.
Malhotra also interacted with the students, telling them: "It is my advice to the youth of the Valley to pursue their education and grow to serve the people of Kashmir who have suffered a lot during the last 20 years. The local students are very talented and all that is needed is to properly channelise their immense potential."