The Soldier Undraped – Story of Late Col Satya Kumar Kohli, pen named Colls


FOREWORD, by Wg Cdr J Thomas, VM (veteran)


Colls was our Cadet Sergeant Major in our second term at NDA.  A  fine cadet and senior, he maintained discipline without  indulging in ragging or making our life miserable.  I do remember a few occasions when we lifted our cycles above our heads.  But that was good exercise.  The only regret is that we don’t have photos to record the event.

Reading Sultan’s  account, I find that Colls was the youngest of 13 children.  The youngest child in a large family tends to get pampered and spoiled.  To the credit of his parents, Colls was far from being a spoilt child.  Read this interesting account for more details.

(Joseph Thomas is from the XIX Course, Easy Sqn.  He passed out with the Silver Medal)


The Soldier Undraped

Story of (Late) Col Satya Kumar Kohli,  pen named ‘Colls’ 

By  Col (Dr) S S Malik

Col SK Kohli

     Col SK Kohli  at 82y.                                                                        Salute to the Soldier


Col Satya Kumar Kohli, family called him Kumar, hailed from the well known  Kohli clan of Dehradun,  where his father  Dr D N Kohli  was the known surgeon,  having his clinic near city clock tower. Dr Kohli was also the Chief Medical Officer to The Raja of Mandi (HP). 



 Gentleman Cadet JUO S K Kohli at IMA (1959)

Born on 12 Jul 1940, Kumar was the thirteenth (13th) and the last child of his parents.  He attended the famous St Thomas School, Dehradun next door. Once in senior class he was the school head boy that had his leadership traits polished and soon he found himself competing among the 15th NDA Course at Pune. On 13th Dec 1959, after his IMA training, Kohli was commissioned into Corps of Electronics and Mechanical Engineering (EME) of the Indian Army.  In army career every young officer looks forward to commanding an independent unit like a regiment or a battalion and motivated one works towards that.


Commanding Officer (CO)

It was in the spring of 1982, after the army’s young officers (YTO) course, I was reporting to my very first EME unit in the romantic green hills of J and K. I remember to have bumped into Lt Col S K Kohli (CO) in the evening party in Udhampur. He was of medium built and seemed to be a person meaning business and in a hurry.  Brief pleasantries were exchanged and was told to finish my unit Darshan (familiarisation) in next few days and then as Adjutant, report to Battalion HQ.

Since there was paucity of officers in the unit (under posting), most were expected to be discharging multi – responsibilities. After Darshan, I realised that Maj Rao Second –In-Command (2IC) was quite efficiently carrying out the dual job of 2IC/Adjt, but I was still put there, to get the unit overall view as quickly as possible. My two-week honeymoon in Unit HQ came to quick end, when the Officer Commanding (OC) of the VIP workshop company started vying for the young officer, telling the CO in a typical EME lingo, a YO should be in Dangri (mechanic overalls) all the times on the workshop floor and with a spanner in his hands should be under the vehicle!!!

Youth has its own intoxicating blend, soon I was joined by a gem of a man known as  Lt. P S Khatri, a stocky Gurkha from Nepal posted against the unit’s ordinance offr’s vacancy. We two complemented each other in sports, BPET, and other unit activities. Both were made Captains on the same day and were a well-known duo from this command EME unit. I enjoyed each bit of that phase as from time to time CO sahib will call me over to get first-hand info on unit’s happenings. His instructions were always loud and clear.

As a youngster, I was involved in every unit activity and was conscious of what was expected of me. Be it Army Commander’s vintage Dodge vehicle and other VIP Fleet vehicles (There were about 35 such cars/vehicles), Sub Area Cdr’s fleet, Arty guns, MH  medical equipment, or repair of private pressure cookers, watches, etc. There were duties of recovery operations of accidented or broken-down vehicles from Udhampur to Banihal pass including the Doda axis (250 Km stretch).  Then there were priority duties of inspections, visits, mess, and other unit functions.

The team of unit officers  was well motivated, as they  understood the demanding job of this EME Bn (Comd), and  also the nature of the CO.

 VIP cars (Army Cdr, MGEME, Sub Area Cdr etc.) before going out of workshop had to be finally checked by CO sahib. Alongwith my Havildar Major Tech (HMT),   I used to take the repaired car for CO’s final check.  Those used to be blood draining moments every time. With HMT driving he will sit behind, me on his right side in the rear and, Col Kohli will keep on throwing barrage of questions about condition of Engine, transmission, brakes, body and parts, spares, battery, sounds and vibrations etc. After coming back from about 2 Km drive he will get out and stand on the bumper and push-jump the car up-down to check springs/shock absorbers. To extract maximum benefit from repair and maintenance visit to EME workshop, even Cdr’s drivers were often very vocal about any small oversights by the mechanics.


Jolly Good Fellow being dined out 1983   

L to R : Late Khatri, Guron, Satish, SKK, Chhotu Malik, Pushkar Rao, Raja Puri.

Few months later my namesake, another S S Malik (Maj) my senior too joined the unit.  There was a lot confusion where senior Malik,  6’2” tall was often found covering my flaps.  Though at 5’11”, I am still fondly called Chhotu Malik till date.

Col Kohli as a typical CO, was a hard taskmaster, very involved in unit related activities, its all round performance, and its positive projection.

Mrs Veena Kohli, was the graceful, cool and soft spoken unit’s First lady, who was effectively in charge of the family welfare programs. There two teenage daughters were also sometimes seen on various functions.

On the whole it was pleasant tenure because four years later in 1985, I happen to marry Col Kohli’s elder daughter Sonu,. We were blessed with a daughter and  a son. Few years later his younger daughter Mona too got happily married and was blessed with a son and a daughter.


Colls an Author & a Numerologist

We all have our tryst with destiny. Col Kohli was a good commander material as he was sharp and an excellent communicator in both mediums and believed in calling a spade a spade. His inner self kept on egging him to do more. Notwithstanding any adverse fallout, brimming with self-belief he never held himself back in putting across his ideas, whether in main stream army or in a tenure with Border Roads Org (BRO).

Having been part of the Indian army as a young EME Major in 1971, fighting in earstwhile East Pakistan, in 1983 he could publish his first book ‘Operation Liberation’  a first hand account of  Bangladesh War, it is  a reference book in military training establishments.

I feel missing out on higher key promotions made him philosophical and he underwent a slow transformation into a believer of the effect of abstract forces on human life. He became very passionate on predicting future through numbers, his Colls Zodiac.  In 1990, wrote his 2nd book ‘Time is God’, where he justified effect of numerology on our life. Linking date and time of birth with one’s personality, growth, he made predictions about future.

He wrote much detailed description of his skill set in the 3rd book ‘Numerology and You’ in 2018. While numerology is quite a developed science of numbers, Colls gave new dimension to it, say the number 13. Number 13 has  lot of myths, mysticism attached to it in society, Colls justifies in his own way that 13 is just a number. He writes on page no. 188,

The Last Supper          

Jesus Christ during his own life time had twelve disciples. The only reason that comes to one’s mind is that he had a disciple according to the Zodiac signs. So during the last supper there were 13 men at the official dinner. It need not be taken as ominous as it was but a natural day- to- day attendance. Then a disciple would betray and cause Jesus Christ’s suffering just should be taken more incidental than ominous. I do hope the relative portion of humanity will see the day light in my observation.

 ‘Hence I exhort all humanity to not to be influenced by any evil attachments else we all will lose the thirteenth(13) free item in a dozen’



2nd book on numerology


As a numerologist, Colls created a modest fan following among large sections of his friends circle. 

As an English Poet

But it was Colls, skills as an english poet that brought him much happiness and humble worldwide recognition. With a vice-like grip on vocabulary, he covers the subjects of love, romance, sex, suffering, emotions on one side, to nature, science and technology on the other with flawless ease. ‘River Of Romance’-2015 was the first hundred poems of the ‘Colls Series’.


                                              river of romance

1st book on English poetry by Colls

He compares life journey to that of a River, saying it has been a long journey, albeit no one knows when the River will finally merge with the vast Ocean. ‘I have had a patient walk, along most of the Rivers of the world, the Ganges, Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, the Hudson, and with some in Canada, while others like Mississippi, Thames, the Nile… in my dreams. From the mountainous heights we fall at crashing speeds and then the sheer momentum pushes us through like the river that flows, but the kinetic energy once consumed has little potential left. Now, I am along the estuary’. In same flow he writes:

Soldiers Undraped

Soldiers when they don uniform

they marry a coffin.

Come home un-draped

so grieve not for them my friends

it’s the promise of country’s patriotism.

 Either they come home or are brought draped

 to fade away

into the oblivion of time  without a bell ring

they go with unsung grace.


The book was well received. Its sales boosted his morale and he donated all the modest proceedings to the local Employee’s Contributory Health Scheme (ECHS) center in the form of four split ACs.

Colls did not limit his benevolent nature, as once a young family friend inspired by him shared, that she too is writing an English poetry book, to which Colls  announced to reward her with INR 5000, when the book is finally published. He stood by his word.            

 Writing non-stop, he was well at home on all credible poetry websites. He wrote few thousands of poems from 2012 onwards till his last days in March 2023.

‘OCEANIC PASSIONS-2023 is the second hundred poems of the ‘Colls Series’.

oceanic passions

The last poetry book by Colls



Mom Smiles

I recall my mom’s last eyes no tears
Smiles as she passed by
tears did not then come into my eyes I too smiled
then it rained all day and night
Mom’s smiles went away
now I thirst for those looks till today
as she passed away.
it rains till today
nearly five decades away
she still smiles daily at me
my mom I can see
smiling with me.


This lyrical work of 113 poems, is a mix of few lines of discreet free verses to sensual rhymes showing glimpses of known poets, the likes of Shakespeare, Wordsworth, Keats, Shelley etc., on one end to shades of nationalistic Tagore on the other. His novel style developed over five decades is thought-provoking, making it a fascinating work fit for literary research. With this book ‘Colls’ firmly establishes himself in the annals of English poetry. The book is set to be released shortly. We wish, his fans will cherish this unique poetical contribution.

He acknowledges thatMy makers were (Late) General S.K. Sinha, the elderly fatherly figure and (Late) General Y.V. Radhakrishna, who lent me their heavy  weight shoulders to share my burden.

I will be failing in my admission, if I don’t mention Major General Surjit Singh, who still elevates me to the world’s best Sergeant Major, having broadly run alongside in the marathons at the National Defence Academy, Khadakvasla, Pune”.


 23 Mar 2023.

(He signed predating on 14 Mar 2023)I could not ask him the reason of doing so.

                                                                      kohli family and friends

Colls with family and friends at home on 30 Mar 2023



Life is a beautiful journey, and as we travel, we meet some co-passengers who become lifelong companions. It is a long list for Colls, but the mention of Col Ajit and (Late) Mrs Lotus Kohli and family, Col (Dr) Anoop and Sherry Arora is unavoidable, who remained with him till his very last moments cherishing the association of almost 50 years.

Col S K Kohli lived a complete life. Contributing every moment. Meticulous and doing things on their priority. After a brief lung illness, he passed away in peace on   14 Apr 2023.  RIP Sir.

Tum na jaane kis jahan mien kho gaye…



The Tailpiece by Surjit

A Glimpse of the Leadership Style of CSM SK Kohli


Jan 1958. Kohli was a fifth termer and was appointed Sergeant in the ‘Easy’ Squadron.  A first termer was late on the first parade. Kohli admonished him but did not punish him. The hapless defaulter was late the next day, too. This time the latecomer received a mouthful, but still no extra drill. On the third occasion, the three-striper surprised everyone by giving a dirty look, without saying anything. And the next morning, Kohli showed the stuff he was made of. When the reveille was announced, he stormed into the cabin of the habitual offender. He was sleeping. He asked him why he had not got up. The Greenhorn cadet said that his alarm clock had failed, and he had not heard the announcement. Kohli called his nearest course mate who was always punctual and told him to wake the stupid fool, and told him, “Wake this silly idiot every morning…and if he is late on parade, I will punish both of you!”

The problem was solved forever. The name of the ‘late Latif’ is Surjit and the buddy who dragged him out each morning was Balram Yadav, who later became a CSM himself and retired as a Brigadier.    


  1. Col SS Malik says:

    Thanks Col Jauhari for the good words.

    After observing the cyclic or periodic or two mode of everything in Nature such as spining or revolving of earth, seasons, Galaxies, atoms, water cycle, etc, the energy mass are interconnected and change of forms,

    ..I am convinced that If one does not Live forever then One doesn’t Die also for ever.

  2. Col mB Jauhari says:

    Thank you very much Col Malik for sharing your thoughts and memories…and thank you Gen Surjit for making them reach us,


  3. Prabal Sen says:

    Well written eulogy of an Officer.
    1940 to 2023 – more than 82 years !
    From being Head Boy of his School to being CO of a Unit, and then continuing to be creative. Comes out to be Multitalented and so Humane.

  4. Lt Gen Raj Kadyan says:

    I remember Col Kohli as our first CSM
    Thanks for sharing

  5. Maj Gen Deepak Varma says:

    Thanks for the recall.

  6. Brig NK Sapra says:

    Nk Sapra
    12:52 PM (56 minutes ago)
    to me

    In Col S K Kohli, we have lost one of the finest officers and a most decent human being..
    Having worked with him closely in the Border Roads, the more I interacted with him, the more profound respect he commanded.
    Om Santi
    Brig N K sapra

  7. Brig S S Jaswal says:

    Wonderful reading – pray for his eternal peace – Om Shanti !!!

  8. WAZIR 90 KUMAR says:

    Dear general

    Very lucid description of the EME officer
    We have many unsung heroes in our corps who leave for heavenly abode silently through their contribution to army and humanity has been very significant

    Col r m bedi

  9. Vivek Bopiah says:

    Dear General,

    Thank you for the sad information.
    May his soul Rest in Eternal Peace.
    Warm regards


  10. PK says:

    Dear General Surjit,

    I wanted to thank you for your write ups on the world that you have seen during your illustrious career. I am an alumnus (’74) of Lawrence School, Lovedale, and some of my input made it on your blog. You can find more about my interests on LinkedIn.

    Do you have any recollections of service with Col. K.M. Sankunni (EME, Retd.), my brother, that you can share?

    As I get older, I am drawn to historical perspectives for a better understanding of where we are today. Both archaeological and anthropological researchers are connecting us with our past, using molecular level perspectives. You may have already looked at the articles on

    As the Lakota people say, mitakuye oyas’n, we are all related.

    Be Well, and keep writing.


  11. Raj Mehta says:

    Thanks for sharing. It was very interesting reading about the multi talented Col SK Kohli.


  12. Surendra Rishi says:

    Very well written account of Colls.
    Kudos to Col Malik.

  13. Thomas Manimala says:


    Pleasure abundance in reading about the real Root of Army.


    0237 hrs.


  14. Krishna Menon says:

    Dear Surjit,

    Thank you very much for sharing this inspiring obituary of Col Kohli. He was among the rarest of humans who have etched memories which will be treasured forever. Om Shanti to his soul, and condolences to his near and dear Ones.


  15. Samresh Kumar Sinha says:

    Om shanti om

  16. Zal Kabraji says:

    Very apt obituary written for a brother officer—–RIP sir Colls.

    Zal Kabraji.

  17. Gurkirpal Virk says:


    Gurkirpal Virk

  18. Lt Col Naresh Malhan says:

    A straight from the heart depiction of the life of Colls- beautifully articulated making his persona come alive…

    Interestingly absorbing ,making those places,people and times come alive.

    Reading this one seems to get a lot more closer to Col Kohli …

    May God grant eternal peace to his noble soul and Bless his near and dear ones…

  19. Ashwani says:

    His verses painted life’s vivid hues,
    A patriot’s soul, a poet’s muse.
    In words he wove, our spirits soar,
    Colonel S.K. Kohli, forevermore.

    Rest in eternal peace, dear Colls

  20. Sqn Ldr DS Suri, nicknamed Surkhan says:

    Colls,was a gifted epitome of virtue and a close buddy since 1956 in the (not so) ‘Easy’ Squadron, of the National Defence Academy. He has left a legacy of “Beyond Vision” poems and fond memories of his inimitable personality.
    His sense of care and love kept us intimately integrated till the very end of his life.
    May God grant eternity to his poetic creations of unfathomable depth.
    With fond regards for his family, I pray to the Lord for ‘ Mehr’ for his Soul and the well-being of his very affectionate Parivar.
    Waheguruji, please grant a very special place to him in Your Kingdom

  21. Sqn Ldr Davinder Singh IAF says:

    Colls, a pensive epitome of virtue & close buddy since 1956 of ‘Easy’ (not so) Squadron, National Defence Academy has left us leaving behind a legacy of “Beyond Vision” poems & fond memories of his somber traits.

    His sense of care & love kept us in link till the end.
    May God grant eternity to his creations of unfathomable depths.
    Wth fond recollections I pray for his Soul to Rest in Peace & and give strength to his Noble Parivar to bear this loss.

  22. Lt Gen Kapil Aggarwal (Retd) says:

    A delightfully compiled remembrance of Col SK Kohli, written from the heart. I can decipher that Colls Sir was a unique personality, an EAGLE turned Numerologist and poet of great sensitivity. Alas, I did not have the good fortune of meeting him in service or thereafter.
    Sadgati Bhav to the departed soul

  23. Dhiraj Mullick says:

    Though I was not fortunate to have a personal interaction with Col Kohli, I thoroughly enjoyed reading his poems on this blog site.

    So many of them posted as comments, poetic if you please, would cause one to reflect and read the piece one more time. He was so quick and spontaneous in his poetry and his choice of words were absolutely relevant to the context. He will surely be missed here.

    Tailpiece… I loved the tailpiece too!!

  24. Dave Sood says:

    A life well lived. His contribution is muuch more than other officers. May God grant him Moksha. Peace and comfort to the family. His books will be read for many years to come.

  25. Era Sahai Jasra says:

    I came to know Col.Kohli, (Kohli uncle for me), when my maternal uncle,Col.Malik, decided to get married to his elder daughter, my ‘mami’. Kohli uncle was always smiling, kept the environment around him very warm and cordial, great conversationist and always had interesting facts to reveal. He will be missed no doubt. Rest in peace uncle ❤️❤️

  26. Maj Gen KP Deswal says:

    Col Kohli and myself attended the same Degree Course (16EME Degree) at CME and MCEME.
    Though senior to me he never threw his weight around. It was a wonderful association and after that we never served together.
    Life changes a man. Never imagined that he would turn about to be a numerologist and a renowned poet.
    Will always cherish his memories.

  27. Col S S Malik says:

    Hi Sir, People like Colls are wired in such a way that they are bound to influence and leave an impact on the environment in variety of ways. A multi talented person i.e., as a cadet, as an officer, as a scientist and as an english poet/author. May his soul RIP.

  28. I met Late Col Kohli a few times in service socially and what attracted me was his knowledge of numerology. .He was a great reservoir of energy and a good conversationalist . I pray to the Almighty for ” Shanti ” to the departed ” Atman”.

  29. J Thomas says:

    The tailpiece by the “Silly Idiot” sums up the biography.

    Rest in peace sir. We will join you soon.

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