Noel Ellis's Official Blog

I wield the pen to explore the vastness of the human mind

Month: September 2017

RAKSHA MANTRI IN THE DESERT

It gives me a good feeling when my Raksha Mantri (RM) finds time to visit forward troops. I recently saw her in the desert sector atop a BMP modified like a chariot. The crew would have been, the Army Chief as the Commander, the Army Commander as the gunner and the Brigade Commander, no you guessed it wrong, poor fellow must be hanging on for dear life as the driver would surely be the senior most Havildar. Can’t take a chance with Brigadier saab’s driving and giving jhatka’s of a life time to the minister. (With no offences meant please)

 

Be that as it may, I am reminded of the good old days when I started my career from the deserts. Jaisalmer Sector was the place I joined. The then Army Commander was on an operational tour and I was made the official photographer with one pip on my shoulder. My location was in the navigation party led by open jongas of the Motorised Battalion. For me map of the desert meant nothing as I had just come from IMA Dehradun, where I could never make out the difference between a spur and its contours. We all just did “Bhed chal” to reach Bhadraj top behind Mussorie. There maps were green and shades of it. Here I had a khakhi blank sheet of paper with one odd marking of a toba, taal sar, khu, talai, tibba and an odd Dhani (hamlet) after two map sheets. This jonga was modified for carrying many tubes. One could mistake them for missiles. Actually they were stuffed with map sheets and tons of them. That was my abode for the next fortnight and I was off on my maiden desert safari thereafter.

 

These motorised guys taught me how to join maps in a sequence as every 10-15 odd kilometres the sheet used to change. My CO used to be in the gunner’s cupola and the Army Commander on a Tatra’s seat welded behind. A jeep’s seat was also welded in the rear for all and sundry. This was the Army Commander’s chariot (BMP). Our two waiter’s Gabbar Singh and Jagjit Singh were stuffed into the stick compartment in the rear of the BMP.

 

Hats off to the waiters, as moment there used to be a halt they used to stick their necks out from the gunner’s cupola in between CO’s legs with some beverage. Our CO had catered for thanda pani, garam pani, neebu pani, narial pani, meethi lassi, zeera lassi, garam chai, garam coffee, cold coffee, frooty, unit soda in three flavours and you name it. There was one officer detailed to keep fetching ice from wherever he could. Our ice supply never ran out. Administration was perfect.

 

Yours truly had no clue of Mechanised tactics. So I hung on to dear life on to that leading jonga with a “hot shot” camera and clicked away merrily. One of my photos of the BMP tracks on a virgin desert stretch was later used to design the Recce & Sp logo showing the track marks. Well, we did move bound to bound, the Pakistani rangers were following us, there were no border fences that time and we used to take the shortest cut between the border pillars. It used to be a pleasure to relieve oneself on the other side of the border. Somehow it gave a kind of sadistic pleasure and a feeling of satisfaction deep within that we watered Pakistan.

 

I learnt to read a map, I learnt to bear the heat, I learnt to face sand storms, I learnt to navigate a little, I learnt navigation by stars while moving cross country at night, I understood what a mirage is. I learnt to identify blind wells and how to avoid them. I learnt how to use a magnetic compass while on the move, I learnt to survive on limited water, I learnt to handle start a jonga, I learnt how to negotiate a vehicle in absolute lose sand, I learnt to recover a stuck vehicle, I learnt to enjoy cold meals, I learnt to enjoy the sandy crunch in the meals, I learnt the importance of a “patka” and sand goggles and this learning stood me in good stead later in life as more than half my service I did in the deserts and above all I learnt to use my seventh sense and instincts.

 

It took us lot of reconnaissance and practice to achieve the mastery of the desert. Yes I also learnt a lot of Rajasthani. I learnt what a KHOJI was. He is a person who tracks down animals in a village. Their expertise was such that they could tell by the footprints of the camel that was it laden or empty. They could identify number of camels in a group by hoof marks & foot prints. They could tell how long the animal was sitting in a particular place by the droppings and urine. They could make out that the animal is tired or fresh by the belly marks on the sand; they could even say whether a particular animal is injured or had a natural limp by the imprint on sand. They could indicate the direction of the move of the animal, was it running or walking. Basically they were the most sought after people. Later in life we used to take their help for navigation to reach our objectives.

 

Well I transformed from a desert novice to a desert fox many moons later. But it was nice to see our RM on the “Mechanised ship of the desert”. Madam I hope now you will try and understand how life is in the deserts especially while operating such equipment. I hope now you will change your opinion and understand that life in the sandy wilderness is tough too. Will you? I wonder!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

LECTURING PAKISTAN

Wow what a speech our Foreign Minister gave at the UNGA. Mesmerising to say the least! Standing ovations, desk thumping, leaving Paki’s puppy faced in front of the world audience. Madam I congratulate you on your oratory skills. I heard you many times over on as many channels where you were featuring. I heard almost every debate that rallied around your speech. I shall not get into the Indian politics of it and the comments made by various politicians. I want to get to the crux of it, that what you achieved at the end of it. I could not get hold of the Paki PMs speech but suffice to say except the usual rant there would be nothing much worth mentioning. I just want to understand that would your speech make any difference in Pakistan’s attitude towards India. Let’s begin here.

Lie and repeat the same lie again is the basic formula being followed by Pakistan. Deny and deny till cows come home about anything and everything is now in their blood for all allegations. So Madam how hard you try to win the hearts and minds of the world actually makes no difference to them. You were telling the world that what we do and how they reciprocate was only to gain some sympathy of the representatives. I can assure you Pakistan “ke kaan par juun tak nahi rengi” (it has had zero effect on Pakistan). I also fail to understand that whichever language you speak, it is the way the Paki’s want to assimilate and interpret it that matters. For the Pakistanis, you may tell them in Hindi, Punjabi, Urdu or Pashto; it makes no Goddamn difference to them. A terrorist for India will remain a jehadi for Pakistan. These incorrigible people are not willing to understand it or should I say, it is like “Bhains ke age been bajana” (playing a flute in front of a buffalo).

I heard you saying that we are fighting “Gareebi” in India and Pakistan is fighting with us. My question is that are we really fighting gareebi? Today the common Indian doesn’t know how to run his household and enjoy two square meals. If Pakistan is fighting with us then why are we not fighting back and giving them back in the same coin. What are we waiting for? In this process we the citizens of India are getting more gareeb and Pakistan is getting more head strong. They have decided to bleed India with 10,000 cuts instead of 1000 now.

You talked about IIMs and IITs, yes madam we are producing the best of the products from these institutions. Do you think it makes any impact on Pakistan? Where are the jobs for products of such institutions? We should be bothered about our own economic system, banking system, industries and defence. Why is our growth rate slowing? Why are we continuously draining our economy to keep Pak at bay? Let us study and decide that are we to keep bleeding every day or get healed once for all. Now that the demonetising exercise is over and all money is accounted for why are we still delaying our decisions?  Pakistan will not let us live in peace should be clearly understood.

Madam, I suggest that firstly let’s sort out our western borders. In the bargain the army shall relax, Kashmir will return to peace, the jehadi factories will shut down and then only can we concentrate on Indian economy. Internally we have a lot to do. Everyday issues are compounding, from Rohingya’s, to Babas, to university students creating mayhem. List is too long to discuss.

Today I saw on a news channel the way people destroyed all facilities of a civil hospital in UP, from ambulances, to wards, to beds, to pharmacy, to anything and everything because the doctors demanded 1000 bucks for treatment of a child who unfortunately died. Do we realise that we do not need a Pakistan to destroy us. We ourselves are on a path of self destruction. One Baba can let lose his disciples who can create havoc as if a tsunami or a hurricane has passed by. Pakistan enjoys each live telecast and knows now how to rekindle such chaos whenever needed in India.

This is the state of a country which has the second largest population of the world. We are 125 crores, Pakistan is just 20 crores. We have world class educational institutions, they have international jehadi institutions, we have poverty, they don’t care about poverty, we care about world opinion, they care two hoots about world opinion and we react when they act rather than the other way around. We give moving speeches; they listen from one ear and let it pass through the other. We want peace, they have never heard of peace. Why do we have to keep gathering world opinion to isolate them still?

Well, Madam let me not steal your thunder. Talks and speeches are given to those who listen and care for humanity. If India is serious to tackle Pakistan then let us stop having debates on TV as those Paki clowns mock our Indian fabric. We now have to split that country to open four fronts that is Afghanistan, Baluchistan, Iran and India. Madam, we have world class institutions like NDA, IMA and OTAs also. All of us will definitely prove our mettle. Time has come to let the armed forces do some different kind talking with Pakistan to stop its nefarious designs to destabilise us. He scratches our face, he rubs salt in our wounds and we go around the world lecturing, doesn’t gel with me. Will someone explain this to the FM and PM? I wonder!!!!!!!!!!!!

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

BABA JIs LITTLE KNOWLEDGE

I just saw a video of our great Baba and yoga guru conducting a workshop for the BSF people where in he is all praises for them. What caught my attention was when he compared their services to that of the Army. Babaji, yes the Army engages in war once in a decade or two and the BSF does guard our borders throughout the year in varied terrain is absolutely the truth. I am not getting into all that but what I want to get into is that Babaji your little knowledge is very dangerous.

I can understand your expertise in yoga and your stomach churning mastery in it. I can also understand your knowledge in “Jari-booti’s” and things like that. I have no doubts about your business acumen. I shall not question your philanthropic mission that you have undertaken. I also shall not question your intentions of providing the purest, cheapest and quality products to us Indians. However, I definitely am going to question your knowledge and expertise with which you demean the Army who unflinchingly hold the integrity of this nation. By the way we also do your goddamn yoga at the highest & coldest battlefield of the world.

Babaji have you seen a militant. I know it is none of your business. Babaji do you know what is the LC. It is not a cosmetic which reduces the lines and controls wrinkles on someone’s face. LC is where the fight happens day in and day out with the countries enemy. The BSF definitely plays its part, I know it and I have seen it and experienced their life first hand. They are one of the best forces have no doubts. Issue with you is how have you underestimated the Army? From a child in the bore well, to a natural disaster, who does the job? From a riot in Haryana, to catching another baba from sirsa, who gets things under control dear sir, would you enlighten us please? From Dhoklam to Siachen, who is sorting issues out? Babaji it is not you or your yoga for sure!

Actually, I see no fault in your thoughts, many people who have never understood what is done by which force would never know the difference. So let me forgive you babaji. I suggest you keep entangled in your own knots of asanas and yoga. May your stomach churn till you forget to turn? May you get a chance to face the real enemy? May your intentions and thoughts remain pure and innocent without getting muddy in the name of pleasing someone? Let me assure you, you put your foot in the wrong place next time; I shall let you practice your yoga that summer on a BMP in the desert at mid day. I may be generous enough to send you to Dhoklam to teach the Chinese folks some yin and yan. If I am in a mood I may make you sit on a mat in the leech infested jungles of the north east and leave your there till all your blood is purified. I would like to send you on an encounter with the terrorists. I will allow you to make a “surakhsa kawach” of pure “sarson oil” around you and be part of the assault party. Please lay yourself in shav-asan next to a T-90 while firing. You will levitate two feet like a miracle has happened. Mind your dhoti as it will automatically shred itself exposing your jewels with effect of the blast. Please show your fitness to my artillery friends by loading a few 130mm rounds. Try doing Kapal Bharti at Bana top in the glacier. Please display your stillness and control of your mind & body while my engineer friends do mine clearance or live bomb disposal.

My list is endless Babaji. Do you even know anything about this four letter word called ARMY? Do you know what the army does, how it functions? Let me assure you we are no yoga experts but we know the basics of what you teach and preach. So get rid of this ranting anything you want depending upon the target audience. I hope when you visit an army camp you don’t say the same things about the other forces. I can assure you the commander there will tell you to pack your mat and send you rolling out of his campus, “Boria Bistra Gol” in army parlance

As I said in the beginning that little knowledge is dangerous, this little knowledge when used out of context and out of place becomes treacherous. Your knowledge may please the people who do not wear uniform but please remember you are not talking about trans-fats and minerals like in advertisements of your products. Babaji please take pride in us. Even if we fight at the frequency you mention doesn’t matter. You must understand that when we fight then either we unfurl the tricolour on the objective or come back draped in it. Unlike you we don’t change into ladies salwars and scoot away. Babaji please be man enough to apologise to the Army stating that you knew not what you were saying. In any case the army has a big enough heart to forgive you for what you said out of ignorance. Will Babaji leave at least the Army alone, I wonder!!!!!!!!!!!!

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

TEACHER TEACHER EVERYWHERE

Who is the best teacher? Is it the one in your kindergarten school where your foundations were laid? Were the teachers of your school till XII the best? Were the college teachers the best? All those like me who had a college life of a different kind as we joined the NDA, should we consider our academic teachers there the best or the Directing Staff, or our drill and PT ustads?  After graduation we moved for further studies to the IMA, do I take those instructors who guided me to get my commission as the best? As my career progressed I did many professional courses were they my best teachers? On retirement I had the privilege to study at one of the prestigious management institutes of India called IIM Ahmadabad; did I find my best teachers there?

I got married so I taught my wife a few things and now after 28 years she teaches me more. Most of us married folks will vouch for such strict teachers. As life progressed a child came in our lives and suddenly one found everyone else becoming a teacher. Everyone became a doctor, nurse, nanny, as if we were dopes. As you grow with your child does your child also become your teacher?

In school and college you make tons of friends, are they also your teachers? In your profession you meet people and go through lots of pleasant and unpleasant experiences from people. Are they your teachers? You are a member of a society in which you live, you go and live in different lands, you see and meet people of various castes, creeds, religions, regions, speaking different languages, following so many customs, do they teach you anything? Then comes your religious teacher he could be a padre, a monk, a guru, a baba, a molvi or a pandit; are they your teachers?

Births and deaths in the family teach you many things in life, so do I consider such experiences as teachers. You meet genuine people and frauds they both teach you something, so do they from part of the teachers. I faced the enemy on various fronts both conventional and unconventional operations like the insurgency in J&K and Manipur. Did they teach me something? I braved the deserts of Rajasthan and also the icy deserts of Ladakh did they teach me something? I para-jumped from aircrafts, drove and fired from ICVs; I handled logistics of a Brigade as an aftermath of the attack on our parliament from induction to de-induction. Those were lessons for a lifetime for me.

I think the answer to all the above questions is yes. Life is a learning process, everyday is learning and everyday is a lesson. Every experience is a lesson. I would rather say that I am my own biggest teacher. If I want to learn, I definitely will, if I decide not to learn there is no force on earth which can make me learn. The quality of the teacher is immaterial; the environment in which you study is not the issue. The number of laptops you use is also irrelevant; it is just your will to learn. Your teacher can be anyone. If the mind is open and receptive a shoemaker can also teach you a lesson of your life.

My Brigade Commander got wild with me one day when I had sought his permission to attach a newly released gypsy from a regiment to the brigade. He said son never snatch a chocolate from a child, either don’t give it and if you have given it don’t snatch it back. You will be the worst person for that child. It was a huge lesson for me for life as it touched me deep inside. You all may draw your own lessons from this. This commander was a different kind of teacher. He could show his displeasure by just lowering his spectacles on his nose. Cheers Brig Grewal, I owe this to you sir.

If you have animals in your home, I consider them to be teachers too. I was lucky to see cats and dogs as best friends, bitches feeding kittens, chicken cuddling up with cats, parrots riding a dog on its head, dogs taking dogs for walks, cat and dog team killing a cobra in the house. Their unconditional love and affection, their seventh sense that something is wrong, their joy to tell you how much they missed you when you came back on annual leave. One really needs to learn from them.

Patience and perseverance I learnt watching my father while angling. Therefore, I humbly request everyone to pursue a hobby. I picked up gardening as one and I lost many plants, some due to over watering due to my enthusiasm and some due to lack of knowledge of protection from sun and shade. I drew my lessons from incorrect potting, over manuring, wrong season to sow, too much of insecticide becoming a disaster. I am learning.

I also picked up writing also as a hobby like I am writing this piece. I learnt to handle criticism. I learnt to see the positive in the negative comments. I learnt to take appreciation in its own stride. I know the difference between a genuine comment and thumbs up on face book.  I can’t be always right is the biggest learning for me. The best part of all is I learnt how to type myself.

To draw a line who was the best teacher and what was the best lesson it is getting difficult for me say. I dedicate this article to my parents, teachers, wife, daughter, coaches, instructors, gurus, ustads, Indian Army, colleagues, relatives, friends, class mates, course mates, hobbies and pets that touched my life somewhere to give some lessons in life which I shall cherish throughout. Thank you every one, keep guiding me. I also want to thank internet too which helps me research my topics. This one I did not research at all, I just kept penning my thoughts. I want to keep picking up life’s lessons as I go. My learning will not end till I die. Will it, I wonder!!!!!!!!!

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

MY CREDIT CARD

At times I wonder I should have taken more interest in Maths in school. Today when I listen to the FM as he quotes figures left right and centre I just nod my head. My course mates have been talking since morning of figures of commutation of pension, gratuity, NFU for non functional people like me or whatever it means. I do try my best to understand them but I can’t make head or tail of it. I think it is a mental block and I feel let the block stay this way. There will be some “Good Samaritan” who will work out the calculations for many of us. I am being honest so am confessing my phobia of such calculations as they are a nightmare for me.

What ultimately matters is that sweet sound of “Ting” which rings on the mobile indicating there is a sms and you find your account 3232xxxxxx4343 has been credited by X amount. What else do you want man. My agenda thereafter is to see how to spend that amount at the earliest and be done with it. Why should I bother the bank to take the pain of keeping it for me? The bankers have better things to do I suppose. Good that they have given me and my wife a debit card; I have recently started to use it also. I only had known to use it at the ATM machine to draw cash. Don’t ask me about a credit card. I will die with tension when I will be told the same amount you spent today will be have to be paid in 45 days. Why not pay now and sleep well, after all you can’t avoid paying. My story starts here.

Moment you default on credit card payments all hell breaks loose, I believe. Someone told me that the interest rate is about 35% or something. A person like me will be a permanent defaulter, reason being if I keep seeing money in my bank I shall keep spending it. Further, if I have to keep reminding myself that I have to pay back means I have taken “udhaar”, which is against my principals. If a toaster has to be bought, buy it and finish off with it, why delay paying for it. Why do we have to keep adding award points for future purchases or for that matter get a gift voucher at an eatery for a paltry discount of 500 bucks? My goodness, can’t we un-complicate life.

Well in our pay brackets people generally can afford credit cards. It means you are already well off, if not very well off. In most of our cases less mine children are generally settled and working. Many spouses are working too. Most of us are on re-employment or second employment. Still if we have to think buying things on credit, it doesn’t gel with me. If one is buying a car say, then a loan is the best option. Simple! One can keep arguing that when it will be a rainy day and when you may not have money to pay then the credit card will come in handy. Banks will lure you with zero charges in the first year and thereafter charge you a hefty amount as an annual fee. If you can afford annual fees you might as well clear your debits. Yes, the card may come with free insurance of ‘n’ lakhs. One feels happy chalo at least insurance is there. Then they will offer you one complimentary free ticket for a movie which you can’t go to watch within that stipulated time. You end up opting for a useless air bag instead, convincing yourself that you will use it during air travel possibly twice a year.

I have a few friends who play with money. Let me explain, pay one company with a credit card today, wait for 45 days or whatever is the maximum free limit of time and pay this credit card bill with another credit card. Such people have at least 4-5 cards and they rotate their money. They will give a cheque to someone and then online put in a request for stop cheque and then play with that money again. I wonder how they keep a track of how much to pay, to whom and when. I would definitely get all mixed up. Not my cup of tea at all.

Let me confess to you truthfully folks that I one day had decided to get a credit card. So I called up the help line and with all formalities completed they told me after a month that sorry sir, the courier company has refused to deliver it in the place where you stay. I gave them an option that can I give my friends address in Bombay; they said no, your address needs to be verified. I said ok, I can collect it from your nearest branch which is about 20 kms away, I offered. They said sir but you don’t have an account there. I got fed up and told them that you are ready to give me a credit card on my  account which is in New Delhi and can’t deliver it to a place convenient to you and me, so keep the damn card with you, thank you very much. I decided to hell with credit cards since that day.

I know my “giani” (know all) friends will come down heavily on me all guns blazing. I am also expecting a call from at least ten banker friends who shall read this and promise my new card home delivered free of cost tomorrow. But what will I do with it, my bai doesn’t accept them, my machhi wali refuses to entertain me with it, my kiryana wala doesn’t know about it, my coconuts are home grown and free, basic gadgetry for my home I have already, my wife is not a shopping enthusiast, the village liquor chap gives beer only on cash, my ATM is happy with my debit card, so should I still go in for a credit card to complicate my simple life. I wonder!!!!!!!!!!!

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

A TRIBUTE TO MARSHAL OF THE AIR FORCE ARJAN SINGH, DFC, PADMA VIBUSHAN

I salute the grand old man of the Indian Air Force for dedicating his life to this country tirelessly since 18 years of age. 80 years in uniform is some time to have served the nation. Our one and only Marshal of the Air Force, Arjan Singh took his flight to heaven yesterday. Folks do you know why was his journey delayed by a few hours where he went in to the R&R hospital. Even God needs time for preparation to welcome such legends to his folds. Sir, I am sure you will now take rest and time off as you unite with your wife and many of your colleagues who made their journeys earlier. God Bless them all.

Now that the Indian Government has finally retired you, please keep blessing us all to at least try and emulate you. At your age the way you showed respect to our leaders must go down in history. The way you showed respect to our Prime Minister even when you were wheel chair bound, your brisk march to the President to receive your Padama Vibhushan, careless and mindless of your walking stick speaks volumes sir. We need to take a lesson or two from that.

Well sir, I wish you could continue your journey on earth much longer but the plans have changed. You have been called upon to fly in for you new assignment. Time now has come for you to take your much deserved rest. We shall keep your spirit and life alive and celebrate it whenever we can. We thank you for what you did for this nation, we thank you for what you did for the Air Force, and we also thank you for what you did for humanity.

Fare well Sir and Jai Hind

© Noel Ellis

CHOTA BHEEM AND DOREMON BECOME FRIENDS

Abe-O-Shinzo, kitne admi the? This is how “Gabbar” would welcome the Japanese PM. To add to the flavour he will ensure many Helen’s dance on the song Mehbooba-O-Mehbooba all along his way. The way my Amdavadi friends are sending pictures of the welcome of PM of Japan Mr Shinzo Abe by our very own Thakur Modi Saab, it appears that Atithi devo bhava would melt Japan to give one bullet train free. Before Mr Abe leaves for Japan a bullet train might be standing at Sabarmati Railway station I reckon. As a citizen I feel proud and floored by the preparations and gestures. Keep it up sir, I am with you. We must take lessons from them as Japan transformed “do bigha zameen” to what Hiroshima and Nagasaki look like today. We can do it too.

I am convinced Abe saab will start playing dandiya at every drop of the hat during his visit. Last time our PM played the drums this time he shall definitely teach them garba. I won’t be surprised if soon in Japan “Sushi” will be replaced by “Khichoo”, “oden” by “handvo”, “yakiniku” by yakhani. Apno Gujju Bhai can do anything for Bijiness. Time is not far when we shall find Ohayō being replaced by “Kem Cho” and sayonara by Aawajo. I just hope judo doesn’t replace ludo on the Sabarmati front. It appears that soon Doremon and Chota Bheem will join hands and sort the world out. Well, let me not let my imagination fly too wild before I start find Japanese speaking gujjus and gujarati speaking Japanese all over.

Be that as it may, I have a suggestion regarding hosting any of these foreign PMs. Why only Ahmadabad? Why can’t it be one town of each state? The town need not be the one earmarked as part of the smart cities which the government has planned. If I see the figures on the MEA website, various PMs who visited in the previous years, the figure roughly works out to 10-12. Therefore in one year as many smaller towns and cities can be cleaned up and brought to the standards of Ahmadabad. Delhi is always available in case nothing works out. Let the states suggest the venue & menu and let the PM approve of it. Let the infrastructure and amenities be brought up to the mark. We will have minimum a dozen cities face lifted every year. Thereafter maintaining those assets should be left to the state.

Can someone tell me the effectiveness of various government schemes? We already have JNNURM, AMRUT, HRIDAY, UDAY, NHUM, ICDS and many others. Many of you would be aware of them and many of you will have to look up Google like I did. These are not the end all schemes of development but merely the tip of an iceberg. On ground what are they translating into is ambiguous. State of roads, infrastructure, schools, civic amenities, health care, garbage disposal, town cleanliness and power cuts etc should be the benchmark to assess all these. Let me give food for thought to the media to carry out audits of small cities on the parameters I mention. Then let us see.

Alibaug should be the next host city, which is about 20 kms from the place where I stay. It should take not more than 20 minutes to reach. I can assure you if you reach there in 60 minutes you will break all speed records. It is another issue that someone shall be picking up your car parts which will fall off as you go. You will have at least two shock absorbers broken, front or rear bumper in your hand, a free treatment of spondylitis and a free lesson in the dance form called “shake”. One should drive on the left of the road and not on what is left of the road. The pot holes are so deep that you may miss a small car if parked in it. Most dangerous are the bikers, which side will they swing is directly proportional to which side is the “Ghadda”.

Let me get serious for a change. I learnt that the PMs have laid the foundation stone for the bullet train. Well, I live in a place where bullock carts still ply, there is no rail connectivity, sea connectivity is in fair weather only and I have to travel 3 to 4 hours to reach Bombay. There are no AC busses which ply to Bombay. God forbid if one gets a heart attack; it is Jai Hind in most of the cases. May I request you to come here from Mumbai by road in a State Transport bus? If not then let us make Alibaug the destination for the next visiting PM. Can it be done? I wonder!!!!!!!!!

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

IS INDIA ON THE RIGHT TRACK

Bechare Modiji is in a catch 22 situation. Where to start and where to finish? What to do and what to leave? I applaud his efforts of making a beginning but his efforts need an equal thrust down the chain. Unless the states and center sit together on one national agenda, one national priority then only it will be possible to chalk out a path. All citizens have to chip in and be on the same grid.

With all that I see, read and hear, it appears to me that our industries are in a mess, trade is in a soup, railways are derailing, women and child care no one cares, farmers are left in wilderness, defence of the country is short of manpower and equipment, terrorism and militancy are never ending. On the surface things look calm but the undercurrents are giving a different signal. Why is my perception like this? Why do my senses infer everything is not right? Why am I uncomfortable with the way things are? The common man is perturbed. He is unsure of his future.

Unemployment and job creation are mismatched as on date. What can a youngster do even if he is educated? The political game plan of dividing the people of this country is leading us nowhere. Plus our religious fundamentalism and intolerance is adding fuel to the fire. We are becoming our own enemies; appears to be path of self destruction.

Be that as it may, if the PM says that he is satisfied with his efforts, definitely he will have the overall picture. I am sure he will reveal it in one of his “man ki baat”.  Money is not the issue I suppose for the government but money cannot work on its own. People who are responsible to distribute the resources and money have to show accountability.

The underlying factor is the sincerity in effort, good governance, close monitoring, no corruption and no shortcuts by one and all. If we could stand in queue for our turn to get money from the ATM after demonetisation, we need to be prepared to stand in line for everything else. We need to have patience in this world of internet and twitter. We need to have the will to sacrifice our luxuries for the sake of this nation and its future. We have to think India first.

I can give this moral lecture because of two reasons, firstly because of my background and training in the army I know what discomforts are and how to overcome them. Secondly, I am financially ok even if I have to live on simple dal-roti. The rich will never feel the pinch but what about the poor, middleclass, unemployed people who are running from pillar to post for their living? Petrol and diesel prices add to their woes. The farmer who provides us food is dying a slow death due to lack of support. The Defence is facing an external enemy on multiple fronts is also involved in the internal aggression needs full government backing. Our education system is cockeyed with multiple types of education, multiple fees structures and barriers due to the federal system in this country. Our huge orchestra is playing in a concert with many instruments out of sync and out of tune thus producing only noise which is clearly visible in parliament and news debates.

Red tapeism still exists. There are multiple rules and regulations for the same thing. There are laws but getting justice is difficult. Justice gets delayed that it is almost kind of denied. Corruption in government departments is still rampant. A common man has to grease someone somewhere up the ladder in cash or kind or through a third party. Bribes are camouflaged when they change into Diwali or New Year gifts; people stay on the house with family in resorts maintained by companies, provision of chauffeur driven vehicles on holidays, booking of air tickets etc at the corporate level have become the new normal to oblige and get things done.

Basic health care doesn’t find a place in our national priorities. People die, children die, makes no heads roll. The pathetic condition of the stinky, dirty, filthy government hospitals makes you wonder whether you have come here to be treated or come here to fall sick. Conditions of public toilets & toilets in schools are no better. Policing is under pressure too. They don’t know whether to listen to their political bosses or face the consequences of disobedience. Women are unsafe, schools are unsafe, hiring domestic help is unsafe, filing an FIR is a task in itself besides harassment of the common public never ends. Thus faith in system is reducing.

I kind of feel upset about the whole scene in the country. The beggar on the railway platform, the leper on the red light, the small child selling national flags on the footpath would never know that he too is a hero in his own way. Though they shall live and die in anonymity. This person will have a large enough heart to feed two street dogs. Push your car without charging if you are stuck, eat the left overs which you throw away in dustbins and still proudly salute the national flag because he considers himself an equal citizen of India. He too hopes for achhe din. It is another matter how we treat them.

We have now got to shift focus to nation building. A road map needs to be laid out and we the people have to get involved to implement it. I suppose the vision is there but the will to implement it with all sincerity is lacking. Am I the only one feeling this way? I wonder!!!!!!!!!

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

A BUS CLEANERS DAY AT WORK

In India quality of life is nowhere to be found for the common man. The reason why I make this statement is in view of the brutal murder of this little child in Gurgaon. It could have been any school for that matter. Many schools will wake up and do a self audit to plug any loop holes. Many schools will continue the way they were, taking chances till something drastic like this happens again. My issue is not with the schools, my sympathies are with the parents of this child, how heart wrenching it would have been to bid farewell to this small soul who had yet to begin his life’s journey.

I am just supposing that after his education in such a prestigious school a child would have got admission to a good college. I assume that the child would have got close to 90 % marks and could have been refused admission to Delhi University. The parents would put in their efforts to even pay capitation fee which exists in various forms and got him admission. Maybe his life would be much better off thereafter as career prospects would be multiple. Say this child would have got close to 80% marks; I can assure you except for a private college the child would have nowhere to go. Two things would happen then; either the child would pursue his studies in all sincerity or become a vagabond and be part of the educated unemployed people of India. My story starts here.

Say he becomes a conductor of a school bus. What is his life? Start early in the morning on a fixed route, meet the same people and children every day. Reach the school by the stipulated time and then do what! While away time, waiting for the 2’o’clock bell to ring and same routine in reverse order to leave the children. How much will he be paid for this duty? Peanuts are an understatement. Those hours spent inside or outside the school premises wasted playing cards with other conductors or listening to stories of other drivers and cleaners, just waiting. Curse the traffic, the government and anything on earth. Smoke a few biri’s or cigarettes sitting on haunches, abusing and picking up a fight with the other driver if that bus is parked wrongly or has taken his permanent space. People intervene, a compromise struck, a black eye and life moves on.

With the mobile era a few of them would be busy with them. I have yet to understand that such people get so many calls from all over especially while driving the kids around. The prime minister will also feel that they are busier than him. What content from the internet they would be watching I should not comment on that. What they discuss about the children and especially the bai’s/moms who come to leave the kids to the bus stop, kindly let your imagination run.

Let me now imagine the place where this person might be staying, or the colony in which probably he would find a shelter. Any guesses? The same fights for dominance of space and no place for ablution. Can we imagine his issues, no latrines, no water supply, no PDS kerosene for stoves, one small KHOLI, and probably he too will have a family. If God has been kind he would have two children, no system of health care, landlord mafia pressurising for payments, wife in family way expecting her third, pressure on him not to be late for duty, children playing next to the dirty muddy, murky Nala near the railway tracks, life goes on for him. He won’t even have enough money to buy a detergent for his uniform if he has one. Will he stink of sweat or of the firewood he burnt to keep himself warm on a winter’s night? One can keep conjecturing.

Where is his quality of life? What is his mistake to walk this earth even if he is educated but could not find a job matching his qualification? Why can’t he be given the same dignity of life as anyone else? Why is he insecure of his job? Why has he no access to boarding, lodging, healthcare, basic civic amenities? Why has he to survive every day? His children don’t go to school, his wife is dealing with her own problems, he comes back home with provisions then only she cooks, he now has got into a habit of drinking so besides the load of the household this lady has now to deal with abuse. The area stinks, the neighbours are no better, he lives life and that’s it.

Well folks I am not taking sides of this brutal killer but I am trying to imagine his psyche. Though he might be educated, might have a family but his thinking and mentality cannot go beyond the company he keeps. Governments and NGOs must be doing a herculean job in trying to give him his due but overall he doesn’t care. For him every day is survival, just survival to make two ends meet.

What came into is mind at that particular moment, needs through psychiatric investigation. Drivers and cleaners using toilets used by children need to be thought through by the schools. Definitely all schools need to pull up their socks. To expect total integrity from the lowest paid employee in the school chain is asking for too much. Lots need to be done, lots need to be introspected; quality of life needs to be improved for him, you and me. Who will do it? I wonder!!!!!!!!!!!

 

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

TAMING BIG BOSS

Today, as I was having breakfast I decided to put on news. The juicy and masala news generally comes on Hindi channels which air programmes like 100 items fata-fat. As I was flicking, a channel was covering this BRRSI of Sirsa fame. I got a shock to see that in 2009 he had replicated a Big Boss house in his dera and isolated himself from the world for about 20 days. The house was occupied by both male and female participants and was covered by cameras as done on the real BB show. I am now starting to fathom the limit of perversion of this man. His daughter I believe was a participant and he used to act as Big Boss himself. Imagine the announcement “Big Boss chahte hain……..” used to shake up the actual participants. Baba kya chata hoga….. Is no use conjecturing.

The amount of infrastructure constructed at his camp leaves me to wonder the amount of money this man must be receiving. The sources need to be investigated for sure. Involvement of politicians and their blessings were the route cause for this man to flourish. The more I hear about him, the suspense how many others of his kind might be conducting their businesses keeps growing. Some of them might be genuine Baba’s but I can no more trust any of them however genuine they might sound.

I heard stories of parents bringing their children under this deceitful baba’s wings. Why were they attracted in the first place has been made amply clear? Why do they show their unflinching loyalties to this man is also understandable but why have the children of the modern generation prostrated themselves in front of him needs to be thoroughly looked into. What mind games he used to play? What pressure he used to put? What brainwashing he used to do? What threats did he gave the parents or children needs detailed elucidation?

One more thing I am unable to understand is the amount of deployment required to carry out a raid on his campus. Are we going to war with another nation? I think the only thing left to deploy around is tanks and artillery. SWAT teams will be deployed, vow! Sitting here I do not know the internal dynamics of the place and the psyche of the people who will react to such raids. I also have no business to comment on the same but my eye brows do go up in suspicion. In rest of India people are throwing out girls from trains, snatching purses from ladies on scooters, killing journalists, lynching, murdering, throwing acid and raping in broad daylight. Such citizens have no protection. This baba, who already is cooling his heels in jail needs a force of a jumbo size to check what is there in his premises, sounds ironical.

Why are the religious institutes not paying taxes is my next question? If the political parties are coming into the ambit of taxes then why religious institution should be excused from paying taxes. Ultimately it would be the government which would benefit. Money generated would be clean. Transactions will be transparent and the politicians who think of hiding behind the veil of a religious institution or person will also come under the scanner. Basically the political patronage to any of these babas and gurus should be delinked from any political party or affiliation. How such institutions generate and utilize their money should be known. If it is for service to humanity, yes the government may excuse taxes but if the money is being used for wasteful expenditure then it better be in the country’s exchequer. If police is turning a blind eye due to political patronage then both the policewala and the Neta should be up a gum tree.

I know, moment Modi ji utters the word “Mitron” the whole country shakes up as if it is the big bosses call. Which currency will become illegal tender or which tax would now be effective from midnight? What is going to be the next surprise for the nation that Modi Boss or God only knows? When he says “mere pyare desh wasion”, it gives an eerie feeling as if we all are now inmates of the big boss’s house and we are going to be on the beck and call of the political masters. It appears as if Modiji and his team have put CCTV cameras all over and every move of ours is being monitored closely. Who is not filing his IT return, who has not filed in for GST will be guillotined. At least a common citizen who obeys the laws, pays his taxes and does a job finds himself choked. He has to toil hard to survive in the mumbo-jumbo of rules and regulations.  India, which way are you heading?

BRRSI had taken this country for a ride. What about the political babas? I fear them more. Can we turn the focus from the common man being the target to the government officials on the cross wire? Can they be punished like Big Boss does for every rule broken and the participant penalised. Any such baba cropping up anywhere in the country should obtain a licence under oath. Anything illegal found in his possession should amount to cancellation of his licence and jail for life.

Somehow this jhootha baba gives me a strange feeling. From a driver to a guru is quite a transformation. How did he keep all his activity under wraps is a mystery which needs to be solved? Skeletons are tumbling out one by one, more skeletons shall follow suit as the investigation progresses. We the common people have to understand that losing faith in God will mislead us to become victims of such characters who exploit us to the hilt. The “Biggest Boss” will evict such frauds one by one but will the bosses who govern India understand? I wonder!!!!!!!!!

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

MY NEW DEFENCE MINISTER

Wallah! At last India has a permanent Defence Minister after a long wait and amidst so much of speculations. Congratulations ma’am and welcome to a different world. Things are different here and things are done very differently in the Armed forces. I am not using the words defence on purpose because you will get a first hand feel of its enormity once you get on the chair proper. You will have the three services Chiefs at your command to give you the correct picture of things on ground and national security. They will also tell you how things are on paper. If you will have a heart to heart talk with them they will reveal to you how they are actually functioning with all that they have. Madam, trust them and listen to them. I wish you all the best.

Well let me not get into the 3Cs of criticizing, comparing and complaining mode from the very beginning. I am sure all your predecessors would have contributed their bit in nation building and with special reference to defence. You have got a fresh slate and a fresh charter. You also have come in here in the third year of the government so the ball must have been set rolling in any case by now. I am sure budget will not be a constraint even if you have to walk in into the FMs or the PMs Office or is this asking for too much on the second day in your office. So let me assume that you will take that liberty as and when the need arises but on the other hand I would request you to change the way the defence ministry works and that its rigid protocol. You will find it on every file, the seniority in which people will put their remarks on each noting sheet. Ma’am I want you to go to the three service Chief’s offices rather than them coming to you.

Imagine what commotion you will create in the corridors of South block if you walk up to the Army Chief’s office. Let me tell you ma’am the sandwiches served there are too good. They will be served with so much of love and affection that you may ask for more. Madam you will see people running to hide all maps with those huge curtains in the Military Operations room, later realising that you will be the one giving directions soon as to which part of the map to obliterate or pound and with what intensity. Suddenly, you may find pink napkins in the corridors of South Block. Madam jokes apart, you have yourself to feel the warmth that the men & women in olive greens, sky blue and white will shower on you. They are looking for a fresh face as they have had too many stain marks from spilled goan curry, Chai from Jaitley’s ketley and rancid coconut oil on their documents.

Madam Minister, another thing I request you to change is the perception of an iron wall between the MoD per se and the people from the services. If a gun has to be used by the Army man, an Aircraft by the fly boy or a submarine by a mariner then who should have the last word in its procurement. Please involve the user in every phase ma’am because to tell the difference between a smooth bore gun and a rifled gun your technocrats will give you but for a man to survive on the battlefield and hit the target in varied terrain and weather will only be revealed by the user, I hope you will agree. Please let there be a change where the well walks up to the thirsty rather than the other way around. If anyone in uniform does hanky-panky or misappropriation of money please skin him alive. He doesn’t deserve to be in uniform but if the same is done by someone in white collars, you may decide appropriate punishment.

The biggest thing I ask of you madam is the restoration of our IZZAT. I do not want to get into the naam, namak and nishan part of it. But our prestige, our honour, our self esteem needs a definite boost. Why do we in the forces get a feeling that we are children of a lesser God? Madam our ex-servicemen are sitting on Jantar mantar peacefully till date. They are old, many infirm and not in their best of health but are conveying their feelings to this nation that for what fault of theirs they still have to bear the heat, rain and cold after doing their time in hell. Madam do go and just say a hello to them. Probably your predecessors never had the time or inclination to meet the veterans and the veer naris.

One more thing ma’am, please do not change your ministry like my wife changes her dresses. By the time you get the hang of it your tenure will be over. Do a good job and help me to vote for you in 2019 again to see you at the helm of affairs in the same Ministry. You will see many Chiefs change during your tenure but the ethos and dastoor of the services won’t change. Let them hold their head high and give you all their support. Visit doklam next week end, I would say visit every theater of operation, ask the commanders there what are their typical issues and resolve them then and there. Issues could be operational or administrative like infrastructure, health care, accommodation, equipment, morale anything under the sun. Madam another thing I am skeptic of is the DRDO, reason I don’t know but the perception says there is something amiss. We still wait for our Main Battle Tank, a state of art rifle to say the least. We want Israel and Russia to use equipment made in India is what I ask you.

At the outset let me again welcome you to the uniformed part of it. The non-uniformed you have to take care of. I can’t say I wish you were Ex-NDA but madam I expect you to be one. You need to be a flier, a commando, a paratrooper, a deep sea diver, a tank man, a sailor, a Commander of men and women in all varied terrain and weather. Madam above all you will have to have a heart of gold which beats in sync and tune with the armed forces. I wish we sort out Pak in the next three years to start with. Good Luck and God Speed to you. Have I asked for too much? I wonder!!!!!!!!!

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

FEELING NOSTALGIC

I am working in an organisation which has quite a few ex-servicemen working under me. It feels so good when one receives salutes with the same josh as one used to get when I was in uniform. The loud shout of Jai-Hind still gives me goose bumps.  Sometimes it feels that one never left the army. It makes me emotional as one had never imagined the same izzat will continue. I am definitely lucky.

In my office I miss my dak “in-out” tray. How can I forget the “pending” tray, it actually used to give nightmares as to why something was pending? The wall clock and calendar are still displayed, I still have a bell on the side of my desk to call the runner; the only difference is that I have to ring it more than ten times for half a minute each to catch somebody’s attention, unlike the reaction in the unit. Here we have one person looking after one floor and he has more than ten offices to look after. Sometimes this man does the disappearing trick also.

I also miss my fly swat which used to be my secondary weapon during peace time. I had mastered killing a fly with a flying shot. The glass of water still remains, the coasters are still there but the blazer cloth on my table has gone missing. I still love to have that important information under the glass of my table as a ready reckoner. The nominal rolls are still posted on the notice board along with the training programmes. I still have an operations board with maps and enlargements to show the general area, its major assets, routes of “ingress and egress”.  I love that arrow which prominently shows “YOU ARE HERE” or else I will be lost. I display an arrow which shows north prominently, by the way I will fail if you ask me the difference between true north, magnetic north and grid north.

I also have another board which gives me a feel of my good old days is the parade state board. The only thing is that now there are no companies and platoons but contractors and vehicles. From a black board we have moved to white board, from the chalk we have graduated to temporary markers but the feeling of knowing where each person is gives you a satisfaction that all must be well.

I used to have a white “Sunmica” writing board with lots of china graph pencils and some “chindi” to wipe things off, basically the progress of things and my follow up points which I miss. I also miss the draft pad, a light green shade of paper with a prominent green line about two inches from the left side if I remember correctly. Our clerks were always short of paper and this draft pad used to be the saving grace. The good old glass paper weights, the golden pen stand with a blue and red ballpens called pen Wilson. I used to feel a little jay when the Second in Command’s pen stand used to have slots to keep paper pins and we had a magnet to which anything metallic used to be stick.

I also miss the red and green bulbs denoting busy and free lights. The parallel set of lights in the Adjutant’s office which used to become a waiting hall of kinds for the umpteen cups of tea, waiting for your turn to be fired by the CO. The worst used to be at 2’o’clock. The COs jonga used to be ready to take off, the 2IC inside, red light on, you are hungry and waiting for that one signature and suddenly there is commotion. The adjutant springing out of his chair, both the lights switched off together and off went the boss. 2IC comes and tells you that brother prepare for op area tomorrow. You say sir my leave starts tomorrow, he says which leave, you say sir let me speak to the CO, he says CO has left for Div HQ and there were no mobiles. The only thing one could do was Peechay Mur daur ke chal.

Well another thing typically fauji I have in my office still are those chairs with white covers on their back rests.  I miss my small note pad with your appointment written on top. The Int Section used to nicely cover it, put a talc cover and then fire an “imprinta gun” on a tape. Out used to pop your name and stuck in the centre of your note pad. For lesser mortals they used to stencil the name. So to make up for my love for my name I display the same in form of a metal name plate on my office door with pride. It reminds me that old chap you better maintain the fauji decorum here as people call you Colonel saab and look up to you.

Today we had a kind of orderly room to reprimand a chap for dereliction of duty. I felt so sad for this retired Army clerk who has now become a discipline case beyond any ones control. I have been with him for five years. How I covered him up at the peril of my job is only known to me. How I went out of the way to help him, counsel him, counsel his family, wife too was involved like a unit lady, got him treated for alcohol dependency, motivated him to go through a rehab, sat with him in his hospitalisation, adjusted his leave and pay when he did not have any left and all those things that you do in fauj but to no avail. Today, I had to take his resignation. One could give a pitthoo in the unit or an extra guard check but here I just can’t do any such thing. There is a limit to give “lift” and tolerate nonsense. Incorrigible people are everywhere. I never give up but fauji methods don’t work in civil.

My heart is heavy, my mind is not reconciling with the fact that I as an ex serviceman had to take such a drastic step against another ex serviceman. My conscience did not allow army’s image to be tarnished anymore. If this man has decided not to listen to logic, so be it. He better be relieved from duty and left free to live his life the way he likes. Have I done the right thing? I wonder!!!!!!!!!

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

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