Hindustan Times : Aug 30, 2019, 11:36 AM
One of the Indian Army’s senior-most generals will pedal his way to Jaipur to take over a prestigious military appointment this week, choosing not to fly in a service aircraft or drive down in a cavalcade of cars, both of which he is entitled to as an army commander.
Fully kitted out in his cycling gear, Lieutenant General Alok Kler will set out on the 270km trip from New Delhi to the Rajasthan capital on Saturday night to take charge of the army’s South Western Command the following day. He currently heads the army’s military training directorate.
“Cycling is a terrific workout and I am passionate about it. I believe fitness should be a personal mission and not imposed by the organisation. It sends a message of fitness to the men under my command and others too,” said the 58-year-old General, a third-generation cavalry officer.
Kler’s sons Aiman and Aarman, both in their 20s, will accompany him on the cycling trip that they hope to finish in less than 14 hours, stopping en route only for short tea breaks.
“I don’t know of any army commander who has travelled on a cycle to take charge of his command. The younger lot of officers should find it inspiring,” said a senior army officer, who did not wish to be named. Kler’s friends joked that had been he been appointed Southern Army commander, he would have happily cycled away from Delhi to Pune. The General’s passion for fitness and cycling is well known in army circles. When he was heading an elite strike corps in Ambala last year, Kler was known to cycle up to 300km a night to visit troops serving in various formations under him.
“Time and health permitting, I intend to follow the same drill as the South Western Army commander,” said Kler, who was a services squash and basketball champion as a young officer.
Born to an army officer who retired as a three-star general, Kler was commissioned into 68 Armoured Regiment in June 1982. An adventure buff, the officer is also passionate about skydiving, mountaineering and scuba diving “although my schedule leaves me with little time for these pursuits”. Kler was in the news last February when he flew from Ambala to Pune to acknowledge the spirit of a cadet who carried his unconscious buddy on his back for 2.5km to complete a cross-country run at the National Defence Academy.
Kler, a cross-country captain at his alma mater Mayo College, Ajmer, presented his Ray Ban aviator sunglasses to the cadet who was from the same Echo squadron that the General was in more than three decades ago. The 13.8km cross-country run is an important part of the curriculum at the academy and the performance of cadets in the activity contributes significantly to the overall standing of their squadrons.