LOVE THY NEIGHBOUR
This week end was out of the world as I became a proud owner of a new Royal Enfield bike. Bikes were my passion & my first bike stayed with me for 20 years plus. Secondly, the monsoon has started and the weather is lovely. The water falls have come alive with greenery everywhere. Old memories got rekindled. My eyes got moist, as to drive a bike after ages awakened the child in me.
The relation I shared with my first one called “Christine” was sublime. Though, I used to get posted out to field stations where she could not accompany me but on return she used to come to life moment I used to touch her. Half a kick and she used to purr. Even though her battery used to get drained out, her indicators used to be broken but never ever did it stop or trouble me.
In Staff College, Wellington, Christine took me and my wife to every nook and cranny of the Nilgiris. Not a single lake, not a single tea garden and not a single vineyard we missed. Ooty used to be like Kapurthala-Jalandhar. A bottle of chilled beer used to be always handy at home in Gorkha Hills. We used to pick up biryani from Conoor. The Pack-08 (Fauji jhola) was a standard fit on one side and used to be stuffed with a durrie, daru and roti. Piercing through the cloud and fog we used to explore the area like adventurers. Pykara Lake was our favourite haunt besides the famous chocolate shop at Charing Cross in Ooty.
This Friday, keys of the new Thunderbird were handed over to me. The first halt was at the Gas Station and the first command was Bhaiya tank full kar do. She was filled up to the brim. Now I tried locking the petrol tank back, the damn thing just won’t lock. My daughter got a little perturbed as the line behind was increasing and the irritation of the people was showing through the honking.
I pushed the bike to the side and tried to get my helmet off. That damn thing also got stuck as it had a new kind of locking system. Somehow, I was able to open the chin strap after some wrestling and at the last moment my dark glasses got stuck in the strap and flew off. Fauji instinct and reactions caught hold of it. We lumbered and toiled but the fuel tank just won’t close. I told my daughter baitho. She said papa how will we go, I said don’t worry as the duplicate key was also hanging with the main key. I left the fuel tank open and with the fuel cap hanging, shoved the duplicate key in the ignition and started the bike. The thunder and lightning was giving me the shivers lest rain water gets in but we drove on as the show room very was close by. Those people laughed at us as I didn’t know how to remove the key. He just press fitted the fuel tank cap and the damn key got ejected automatically. I looked at my daughter and she looked back at me. We smiled and moved on. I was a novice afterall.
Well we had to pick up the customary mithai. I bought Kaju Katli, Rasgoolas and my favourite “Palang Tor”. Daughter in the meanwhile picked up coupons for gol-gappas. I enjoyed them. I said to hell with it even if the pani of the poori gets stuck in my moustache, so be it.
We started on our home run from Alibaug to Salav. I suddenly realised that the speedometer is not working, now was the dilemma to turn back or continue. I decided the former. Showroom chap was shocked “not again”. They realised that they had disconnected the cable for RTO passing. Then the “Neutral” light won’t glow either. He told me sir, the gear lever needs to be kicked hard and I did and poof the green lamp of “N” showed up on the console. I told him “anymore surprises” tell me now or else I know how and where to kick you too jokingly.
We got back home, did a small photo op. Then for old times’ sake I took my actual girlfriend (my wife) on her first drive on the Thunderbird. It was fun because of the overcast sky. All old memories of our motorcycling adventures as newlyweds came rolling back. She held me tight and we drove off into the wilderness and relived those days. Nostalgia had set in and we shall revive the best days of our lives again.
On father’s day, papa and beti went for a long drive on the beast in heavy rain. I was the happiest as my daughter insisted on buying a helmet for herself. I as a habit wear it even for a 50 meter ride. Will our example be a motivation for the crowd over here to wear a helmet always? I wonder!!!!!!!!
© Noel Ellis
A DAY IN THE VALLEY
“Eidi hazam aur cease fire khatam” reminds me of my childhood when we used so sing, “Tamasha khatam-paisa hazam”. The holy month did not remain as holy as it ought to be. Encounters with death loomed large over the security forces and others too in the valley.
In J&K brushes with death are common. It need not be an encounter with militants only. If you come back safely after your posting, you can thank God. One has to be prepared for an encounter at any moment. Chances are moment you let down your guard a bullet comes looking for you. One has to be on his toes throughout his tenure. It is a high pressure job.
I remember when posted there I was once detailed to get pay for the sector. I had to move from Kangan to Sharifabad. We congregated at the sector HQ as the personnel were from various battalions. I briefed the party on various drills and contingencies and moved in a convoy of a gypsy, a 2.5 ton (dhai ton) and an LPT (10 tonner) with about 36 people as a special pay QRT (Quick Reaction Team). No waiting for any ROP-Sharopy. (Road Opening Party)
Sharifabad was connected to the main road by a serpentine raised narrow bundh. Suffice to say that the bundh was broad enough for a truck to pass. It was rice harvest season. People were working in the fields. I saw a lot of “Tongas” and horses standing on the side of this elevated road. We were feeling comparatively safe as Sharifabad was just a few kilometers away.
There would have been no cordon and search that night, a good dinner and a peaceful sleep was on my mind. I asked the operator can you see the vehicles behind. He said no. I stopped, got out with my AK-47 slung over my shoulder and waited. The seventh sense was telling me something is wrong.
I said a silent a prayer and told the driver to turn back. It was a long curved road and the rice fields were about 15-20 feet below and water logged. The moonlight was being reflected from the stagnant water. Lo and behold I found two headlights down in the rice fields. All of us quickly dismounted. We got on to the Divisional frequency and intimated them that we need help. The AAG responded and said the needful will be done.
I went down sliding. There were 12 people in the 2.5 ton. We pulled out the driver and co-driver; they were in a daze but OK. The tragedy had stuck in the rear. The dhai ton was lying on its side. Three guys were injured badly. On one the spare wheel had fallen, on the other the jack had hit his head probably and the third was under the dhai ton itself. All were breathing but the situation was grim.
I baby carried a chap with lot of difficulty up the steep slope. The badly injured were put in the LPT. Walking wounded were put in the gypsy. I left a guard of One JCO & 6 jawans as ammunition and weapons of the injured could not be accounted for. Once the critically wounded were in safe hands we rushed back to the site. It was cold but we traced out each and every magazine and weapon even in knee deep water as it was moon lit. Recovery of the dhai ton was left for the next day. Villagers has evaporated into thin air.
I spoke to the driver who told me that he had seen a few villagers next to the tongas, who shooed the horses away seeing our vehicles approach. To avoid hitting a horse I cut the steering and the result was in front of us. I left further investigation for the next day and rushed back to hospital. Three guys were very critical and rest were shaken up with minor cuts and bruises. No one had a wink of sleep that night for obvious reasons. Next morning two of the most critical were heli lifted to Udhampur, Sad news reached me that one jawan passed away in flight and the other after about two hours in hospital. I had a lump in my throat and still get it when I remember them. God bless their souls.
We the security forces suffer causalities in various administrative moves too. The risk of serving in J&K is compounded as on one side is the devil and the other is the deep sea. God forbid, had a Kashmiri been killed in the incident where not a single round was fired, I would have been answering the human rights courts.
Out of 36, 33 of us got back, two left for their celestial journey and one badly injured came back after a long time of rehab and sick leave. His both legs had multiple fractures as he was under the vehicle. I look back and think life was not easy in the valley. I moved to Manipur from the valley. It was like falling from the frying pan into the fire. Picture abhi baki hai mere dost.
What was the cost we paid to collect those 50 Lakh rupees as pay? I wonder!!!!!!!!!!!
© Noel Ellis
PAKISTAN MUKT BHARAT
Four brave hearts walk this earth no more due to the unprovoked firing by Pak on a bunker repair party. Four more will never walk straight as they have been injured & maimed. Living with a splinter or a gunshot wound is so bloody painful. I have seen people scream at the sight of an injection; imagine a shell splinter passing through your guts for no fault of yours. The trauma after the incident, the sleepless nights hoping to somehow ward away that memory of that moment when you were hit can never be understood by any politician or bureaucrat. The moment which takes away a chunk of your flesh and bone would never allow anyone to be his usual self.
I know many people who have lost some part of their body in action with the enemy. They all project a brave face. They may set examples for many to emulate and motivate them by their courage and determination but I know deep inside they burn. They burn to take revenge of that moment which became their life changing moment. The apathy of our government traumatises further & can never be factored in. That pains even more. To fight on paper is far more difficult than to fight in the battle field. These brave men never reveal their inner self. The hurt inside is like an etching on stone. That scar mark will only perish when the soldier finally bids adieu. How many more such marks are acceptable to our country and countrymen?
Once you are sent back home in a six feet by three feet by three feet box draped in the tri-colour, it doesn’t matter. You have done your time in hell. The wailing will die down and the tears will dry but life has to go on. Even the animal in the house is shattered as understands that something unusual has happened. People on the other side of the border do not. Someday we have to do a tit for tat. The scale of damage to the other side should be “tit cubed”. Three times more number of mothers should wail to understand the pain of an Indian soldier’s family. It sounds cruel, so be it.
Many of the injured will be boarded out unceremoniously and face a double whammy. “Arey bunker hi to bana rahe the”, would be the underlying statement. Moment you are found unfit; you would be shown the door. Had the enemy been shooting at you, you would have reacted according to “Seekha hua Tariqa”. When your own people start to shoot you down, you don’t know what to do. Now reality strikes you, when you can’t even give a thumb impression as your thumbs were left in the battle field.
For the bureaucrat you would be just a case study for a new policy. For a politician a vote less makes no difference. For them you are just another “shaheed” for a wreath to be laid on. The neta may promise something which in that moment your family may not be in a position to assimilate. The lady starts a new battle of survival. The Bureaucrat moves on posting, politician changes his party. Fresh soldiers are posted to face the wrath of the same enemy again as cannon fodder.
Shelling & casualties have become a daily routine. It is funny to see media chaps trying to reach places where firing is taking place. The “natak” of puffing and panting shown on TV is to safeguard his naukri. Smoke emanating from jungles and bunkers being destroyed is shown as a fiction movie. Once report is submitted, the focus changes to “man ki baat” far away from the action scene. One more breaking news story bites the dust. One more soldier turns to dust.
The policy of a cheek out every time, an olive branch and a white flag held in each hand will leave more people in trauma. Policy on how to collect taxes is well know but policy how to give a befitting reply to the enemy is yet to be drafted it seems. The world laughs at us for inaction while the Government makes a mockery of a soldier’s life as elections are an electoral “battle” which matter more to them. They use “Ran neeti” for war of a political kind not war to sort out the enemy. Ironic!
Why can’t the government start a campaign called Pakistan Mukt Bharat? No bloody Paki or his stooges dare to venture on our territory. Let us then obliterate these devils; consequences will be for many generations to see. Let us plaster them with an uninterrupted and uninterruptible shelling & fireworks display this Eid. Will our leaders unite for once and feel the pain of every soldier who has given his today for India’s tomorrow? I wonder!!!!!!!!!
© Noel Ellis
I was not aware of this thing called Netflix, except for a few advertisements I had seen on TV. My daughter came to me and said papa there are very good programmes and movies on it so please take a subscription. She said she will watch them on her mobile. I gave her the nod.
She told me Papa I would like to pay for my connection with my debt card, as recently I have activated it. Well, I was more than happy because of the confidence of this young girl and her enthusiasm to learn online payment. Honestly, I am so sceptic to use debit cards online and avoid transactions. I have a level of discomfort in doing so. Though, I had to download “Paytm” on my mobile. Modi ji had given us a scare of our lives to go cashless. Things have become easy these days and children are at ease with technological advancements. I must learn and keep abreast.
In the good old days In Kapurthala, Punjab, we were addicted to Pakistani and English serials on PTV as kids. Dhoop Kinare, Uncle Urfi, Buddha Ghar pe hai, CHIPS, Six Million Dollar Man, Here is Lucy, Mind Your Language, Nilaam Ghar, Walt Disney Cartoons, plus late Friday night English movies were never missed. Dad used to put an alarm and wake the whole house up for this Friday ritual. Thursday night, sofas used to be pushed to the sides and mattresses laid out on the floor. Chitrahaar and Hindi movies were banned. Anything in English would do, after all Dad was an English teacher.
My duty used to be to climb the roof with a half broken bamboo ladder to a banister from where one had to get hold of a pipe going up to the water tank on the roof. Antenna used to be balanced on a 25 feet high pole tied to the chimney of the kitchen. I had to twist it from direction of Jalandhar to Lahore. Younger brother used to stand outside the drawing room as a relay station, relaying my voice “aa gaya”, “Nahi aya” used to be relayed back and forth. It used to be such a relief to hear “aaaaaa gaya”. By the time I used to get down, half the serial would have gone. By then Dad would have turned the tuning knob 360 degrees many times and kicked the TV just to ensure it behaves.
I remember in Jaisalmer, one of our COs wanted CCTV installed. He wanted RAMAYAN serial beamed to every company dining hall including officer’s mess. Complete India used to come to a standstill for it. I distinctly remember “Satayam Electronics” located at Falna Rajasthan were the CCTV experts. Yours truly was made in charge. One 3 ton, a couple of chaps and an electronics expert along with my favourite Havildar Azad Singh (Now Honorary Captain Retd) were given the task to get this whole contraption and get it functional.
We proceeded with all documents and cheques and landed up in Falna. Our electronics expert learnt how to join the “dabbi”. Dabbi was the splitter from where the cable could be sent in three directions. Then there used to be a “dabba” which used to be the booster for the signal. So with dabba, dabbi and chattri (Dish) we got back to unit.
Three days of hectic driving in midst of summers from Jaisalmer to Falna and back was some drive. On arrival CO gave orders that tomorrow’s serial he shall see in unit lines being a Sunday. We were dead tired and stinky but “CO Saab ka hukum” cannot be turned down. I asked Azad, kya karen, he in his typical jatoo said “gaad denge saab” meaning we will do it. At 3 am my eyes started to close. I had not had dinner as the task at hand needed my presence for many small things. I dozed off sitting on a red velvet folding chair. I told Azad I am breaking off. He said “saab eeb to jhanda gaad ke hi chodenge”, “re chore, saab ne garam chai pila saath anda bujia banwa liya langar tai”. (Sir we will finish this job and in the same breadth told a chap to get some anda bhujia from the cook house with a hot cup of tea to keep me awake).
At first light we tested our signals from a VCR as DD used start at 7. Every one said, aa gaya, What a relief it was! Dot at five to nine CO arrived. Our eyes were red and bloodshot. He went to one of the cook houses and saw the signal. I don’t remember whether I got a pat on the back or a kick about one foot below but I missed my favourite serial and slept off that Sunday. How I wish we had Netflix in the good old days. What all new inventions are in store for us in future? I wonder!!!!!!!!!
© Noel Ellis
The innocent stone pelters of J&K are turning “innocenter” by the day. They are extra ordinary citizens who can be found praying all the time in this holy month of Ramzan. For what is a different issue? They don’t abuse, they are never violent. It happens so that when security force people appear in their area, stones, batons and bricks appear in their hands by a miracle. They are such naive people that anger is generated in them from somewhere, through some divine power that they start smashing and bashing anything related to the security forces.
It appears to me that their behaviour is akin to people who go into a “trance” when they get connected with that invisible force. Thereafter they don’t see or feel anything, they just throw anything and everything at the security forces in their stupor. The forces are actually there trying to assist them. Kashmiri’s need to understand that people are giving them false hopes of Azadi. This, the pelters are unwilling to understand.
Peace can never be one sided. Violence against the state and its forces will only increase the agony and time to attain peace. If forces withdraw, will all these people who attack the security forces guarantee peace & prosperity for their people? Will all those who are motivating these pelters guarantee that they will be able to look after their affairs. As I see it, these people do not except the elected government also. Can one Kashmiri be at peace with another Kashmiri? The answer is a straight and blunt no.
With limited resources, lack of education, jobless youth and over dependence on government funds, can these guys think of peace? Sarkari Naukri’s are limited. Tourism which became the backbone of Kashmir’s economy is touching rock bottom. Where is the famous apple of Kashmir? The fruit industry which can boost the economy is rotting. The blue revolution is below expectation, actually the fisheries are gasping for water. Animal husbandry needs a real husband to do the job. Timber industry which is so much in demand world over appears as if “ghun” (mites) are slowly gnawing through and turning it to dust.
I was staying in a walnut forest when I was in the anti-infiltration role in Kashmir. The logs which were being illegally “adjusted” in full view of the forest department for “deodar” & “akhrot” were unimaginable. “Janglat Vibhag” was the most “in demand” department. Timber smuggling was rampant. There is no penalty for a tree which has fallen due to natural reasons but how many were felled and reported as rotten? Villagers have been given permission to fell a few to construct or rebuild their houses. One tree becomes two and so on. The forest cover keeps dwindling. Funds for the forest keep evaporating.
Why is peace eluding J&K? I have heard many politicians deflecting this topic by saying; it’s a very complicated subject. Definitely it is! That doesn’t mean it cannot be tackled. Who are the main players? It is the people of Kashmir and their representatives. Then why can’t a solution be worked out? Cessation of fire has been imposed on the security forces, what about the same on the not so innocent militants, they don’t accept it. Is it a political gimmick? Should it be one sided?
Is Pakistan the culprit? In my mind I have no doubts. They can be tackled externally. But, who will sort out these mites who are drilling holes in our healthy wood? I would rather say they have done the termite effect on Kashmir. If the militants are the mites, then the people who support, fund, shelter, encourage militancy and are in touch with Pakistan, sitting inside Indian territory are termites. They are eating Kashmir from within.
By spraying insecticide the disease & decay won’t go. We need to eliminate the queen. Who will identify the queen? I think it has been done already. When a termite hill is attacked, the workers and soldiers are bound to be agitated. They fight and try to plug in holes so that the queen remains safe. The forces have been doing the ant eaters job. Eating and eliminating what is visible and leaving the rest of the nest to recoup, rebuild and keep feeding the queen which keeps reproducing more white ants. The expanding graveyards are witness to it. Government of India has got the wherewithal to just focus on the queen. Distractions and deflections have to be guarded against.
The “innocent” worker ants are pelting stones, the “soldier ants” are attacking as militants. Where has the queen gone and hidden herself? We got to locate & eradicate her. The sooner we get our act right, whole Kashmir will be in peace, India will be in peace, Kashmiriat will return, Insaniyat will resurface and Pakistan will rest in peace. Have I got it right? I wonder!!!!!!!!!!
© Noel Ellis
By Noel Ellis
In 17 MECH, ADAPTABILITY, ARMED FORCES, ARMY, ARMY CHIEF, ARMY LIFE, BUDDY, CITIZEN, CIVIL LIFE, CIVILIANS, CONSERVATION, DESERT, DISCIPLINE, FAUJ, FAUJI, HIGH ALTITUDE, HINDUSTAN, HUMOR, INDIA, JAISALMER, JODHPUR, JONGA, LADAKH, LEH, MEDIA, MEMORIES, RATIONING, SATIRE, TALES, WAR, WATER, WIFE
I was watching a programme on water scarcity where I saw long queues of residents waiting to fill water in Simla. India may see a water crisis soon. Does this strike a chord somewhere? War for oil is passé, the next World War is going to be for water, I reckon.
Hills do have a peculiar problem where water freezes in pipes in winters. In summers tourists flock the area and consume water in bucket loads, in rainy season every drop gets washed away. So how to sustain is the question. My place has an average rainfall of 2500 mm plus per annum and all goes to the sea. Villages around are crying hoarse for drinking water but nothing is being done to harvest a single drop or address their perennial problem.
Be that as it may. I remember in the deserts I was lucky to have served in a battalion which had no dearth of vehicles and had many bowsers of 1000/3000 litres capacity. We were also fortunate enough to have our Engineer Regiment friends who used to go in advance to establish water points for us in midst of nowhere. I must also thank the Indian Government and their vision to construct the Indira Gandhi canal from Harike barrage in Ferozpur to deep inside Rajasthan, teeming with fish and delivering pure water from the confluence of Beas & Sutlej Rivers to the parched deserts. Fresh canal fish, fried to perfection with rum and “thanda pani” was ultimate during exercises.
I remember a place called “Dharmi Khu”. It was a deep well very close to the boundary of India and Pakistan. Shepherds of both countries used to water their cattle from this common well. I for the first time saw two camels pulling a huge leather bucket (MASHAK) made of one piece camel skin out of the well from a depth of about 1000 feet for water to reach the surface. The communication between the camel operator and the man at the well used the typical one finger whistle. It used to be fun to see the irritated camels come back in reverse gear grunting and blabbering their frothy tongues. I have tasted that water, it was very brackish. Normal people will spit it out like a shower but man and beast in those far off lands had to drink it. I hope “Sagarmal Gopa Canal” water has reached there by now.
The chaggal (water canvas small) and the pakhal (mule tank) were the ultimate Army water carriers. As a Mech Officer I never carried a water bottle but had chaggals tied all around my open jonga. The thin crust of ice in the chilly desert winter on canvas buckets was common. How can one forget, beer bottles were chilled in deep pits left overnight, sprinkled with water in the golden sands of Jaisalmer.
In Ladakh fetching water was fun. Though we had an engineer detachment but they were left to run the boat in Pangong Tso with a modified one tonne engine. The water point was between Lukung and Phobrang village. My “Pinja” buddy in a 3 Ton with my wife and our post dog Rambo used to hop on with a small working party to fetch water every second day. Wife, I & Rambo used to get down at the fishing point to catch Brown Trout. Rest of the party used to go to fetch water. I used to wonder why they didn’t carry water tanks. They used bring back frozen blocks of nice clean transparent ice. This also solved the mystery of why these guys carried crow bars instead of rubber hoses. Later I found this a common site in Ladakhi villages where ladies used to carry ice in baskets.
Water both in High altitude and the deserts was rationed. Our unit water bowser used to pump water in our over head tanks once a day in married accommodation at Jodhpur. Jaisalmer was equally bad where we lived off pakhals. While one was deployed in the deserts for exercises and operations one had the privilege of having an exclusive bucket of water as an officer. Men generally took a dip in the canal in case it was in the near vicinity. In my whole army life it was rarely I would have taken a shower. Today, in Jodhpur one has to store water in underground tanks and it is 1000 rupees for a tanker these days. All our lives we lived with water timings and never complained.
Most of us would never have witnessed dry cleaning of utensils. Let me tell you about a typical desert village where the utensils are rubbed clean with sand and we too did it in various exercises to conserve water for the days ahead. I haven’t seen “BARTANs” cleaner and glistening like gold after dry cleaning with sand. They will beat Vim bar any day.
A man can live without food for weeks but maximum three days without water. If water is so important, then what are my countrymen doing to preserve it? I think fauji’s can manage with rationed water can the rest of India too? I wonder!!!!!!!!!!!
© Noel Ellis
By Noel Ellis
In ARMED FORCES, ARMY, ARMY CHIEF, ARMY LIFE, ATM, BANK, BEHAVIOUR, birds, CANTT, CHARACTER, CITIZEN, CIVIL LIFE, CIVILIANS, COBBLER, CULTURE, DASTOOR, Defence Minister, ETHOS, FAUJ, FAUJI, FLOWERS, HUMOR, INDIA, NEWS, PM, PRIME MINISTER, ROAD, SATIRE, SCHOOL, VETERAN AND WAR WIDOWS, WIFE
MY HOME IS OPEN FOR YOU
“HANS KE BOLA KARO BULAYA KARO
AAP KA GHAR HAI AYA JAYA KARO”
-Gazal sung by Jagjit Singh
Will opening cantt roads improve civil-military relations? If the answer is yes, then balle-balle but I have an issue with people who do not belong to the Armed Forces fraternity; I dare say “civilians”. It appears to me they take it as an insult if not an abuse. How should we address them as? Let us think.
I find “non-military people” carry many myths, that because I am a “fauji” I must be drinking daily. The second myth is that in cold areas we keep drinking alcohol to stay warm. Third myth is that liquor in the fauj is free, if not free then “bahut sasti” as they put it. Non-fauji’s are more aware of your quota of rum and would always request for a “case” or two on a regular basis. Some even have the audacity to offer extra cash for a bottle because “Purity ki sureity” hoti hai fauji liquor main & Chadti bhi jaldi hai. Also, CSD is the cheapest bazaar on this side of Suez.
I stay in a colony of my company. It has been maintained like a cantonment. People from the nearby villages make it a point to come inside, just to feel good & show their authority. The gardens, flora, fauna, lawns, fountains and a kind of discipline in the layout lures them inside. To keep them out is not possible as facilities like banks, ATM, School and relatives reside inside. If you stop them, they feel offended. If you let them go without a check then the company management gets angry. Catch 22.
We maintain parking in designated areas, however the village folk fail to understand that parking in the middle of the road can cause accidents, they just won’t listen. Speed means as fast as the accelerator can take you. Speed limits don’t matter. We put speed breakers, they started bypassing them. Helmets are an absolute no, they get a headache. Seat belt, what are seat belts they say. Plucking leaves from hedges is a big time pass for them.
Let’s now go inside a military cantonment. You will find very well laid out lanes, parking slots, parks, geru-chuna on trees and pavements. Without helmet you just cannot move, even the pillion rider has to wear one. No one litters as a habit. Outside, people litter as a habit. Spitting is rare in cantts, outside, gutka along with saliva is spat in every corner. On a roundabout, non military people get a licence to take short cuts. Suffice to say the basic civic sense is lacking. Why?
Keeping the cantonment neat, clean and green is a matter of pride for us. Units are given designated areas of responsibility to keep cantts spic and span. As a corporate we did a “Swach Bharat” campaign and picked up every tiny bit of filth around a famous temple close by. Within one week it is back to square one, dirty as dirty could be. “Koora” as they call it is piled a mile high again.
Well, let us welcome the non military crowd to our folds but with a caveat that friends when you come kindly maintain discipline, don’t break traffic rules, understand that someone else also has the right of way, don’t over speed, don’t litter and assist us to assist you to feel free and safe. All faujis know that they won’t stay more than two years in any station but maintain them to the best of their ability.
Please stand with our families who are separated from their husbands fighting on the borders for you. That lady is a father, brother and sister to her children. She doesn’t let the absence of the father be felt. She also knows that bad news can come anytime. She is the doctor, nurse, washerwoman, teacher, tutor, coach, driver, maid and banker for the house hold. She is used to living in a protected environment so please do not let her feel threatened is a request.
The Services are now kind of used to dictates’ of kinds, cease fire with militants, Yes sir, go for flood relief, Right sir, react in natural calamity Wilco sir, open cantt roads, yes ma’m, remove AFSPA, roger sir, civil administration has failed, control riots, no problem sir, fight militants, my bread and butter sir, fight enemy within and without, aye-aye sir. Ask for modern equipment, no budget, ask for ammunition, manage in what you have, Rations need to be restored, we shall think about it, implement OROP, we have given you enough, sort out pay commission anomalies, court will decide, give us at least our Izzat, what the hell does this word mean.
Be that as it may, we the cantt people do not want to unnecessarily inconvenience you guys at all. “Aap ka ghar hai aya jaya karo”. From our experience we know that once we let you in, you will take it as a birthright. Friends we in the forces live by certain ethos and Dastoor. We swear to protect our constitution and the integrity of India. Do the “non-military people” also do so? I wonder!!!!!!!!!!
© Noel Ellis
By Noel Ellis
In ADAPTABILITY, AIR FORCE, ARMED FORCES, ARMY, ARMY CHIEF, ARMY LIFE, BATTLE TANK, BEHAVIOUR, CANTT, CHARACTER, CITIZEN, CIVIL LIFE, CIVILIANS, Defence Minister, FAUJ, FAUJI, HUMOR, INDIA, INDIAN, JAISALMER, JEEP, NEWS, PAKISTAN, POLITICS, PRIME MINISTER, RAKSHA MANTRI, ROAD, ROAD CONDITIONS, TERRORISM, VETERAN AND WAR WIDOWS, VIP
CANTTS ARE FREE FOR ALL
A weird kind of feeling sets in when one hears that the cantonments have been made free for all. When I was posted in Jaisalmer in 1985, reaching the railway station from my unit used to take 30 minutes. At times the station bus driver was briefed not to let the station master turn the signal green till officer’s vehicle was in site. I remember I missed the train once and caught it at the next station called Thaiyat-Hamira, as my jeep had got stuck in sand. One always cursed why the cantts are so remotely located. I think we didn’t want spies sneaking into military locations.
We used to dislike going to the distant Air force station in Jaisalmer but could not help it as all VIP movement used to take place from there. Hell used to break lose if one found one item missing which meant more than an hour’s delay to fetch it from the unit. The station was fenced with various check posts. Security SOPs were strictly followed. By the way on the lighter side, I always used to wonder why the Air Force Police chap carries a compass as part of his accoutrements’. Did he use it to guess the direction from which I came from or that he set a new bearing every time he moved from the gate?
Be that as it may. Suffice to say cantts used to be far from towns to avoid being a hindrance to any civil traffic or people. As time went by people started to slowly creep closer to the boundaries and encroach prime land. I remember Nabha, a small little place in Punjab, where, from ones backyard one could get milk through the barbed wire fence. One could choose the buffalo to be milched. If that black beauty did not look at you and say moo you could tell the person to skip to the next one. “Saron da saag” used to be exchanged in “dolu’s” full across the fence. It could have been bombs too. People wanted the road through the cantt open but they also understood the security concerns.
Nabha had Bouran gate, Alhoran gate, Patiala gate, Dulladi gate & Mehsi gate, which used to be manned and used to be the first check point for people trying to enter Nabha fort. Those gates did signify that the fort was protected from all directions. Military stations & cantonments too are protected areas. Exposing those places to the public gives an opportunity to anti national elements to have a free run. Leaving our doors open does attract thieves I suppose.
Inside Nabha cantt we had a “Ghora khana” and “Hathi khana” (Horse & Elephant stables). It was like having your Armoured Regiment and the Mechanised Infantry Battalion. These locations were closely guarded as the animals needed protection against sabotage and subversion. Someone could steal the animals or poison the animals and their fodder or could pollute the ponds in which they bathed. Fit animals could be replaced with lame ones. All these were security concerns of the King who had many enemies. In modern times if someone can get in and sabotage our tanks and BMPs costing crores, we might be unfit for war. Well, time will tell its repercussions.
I was talking to a friend of mine and she totally turned me off by saying that you army men think too much of yourselves by calling us “civilians”. She further went to say that I must remember that the forces are under the civilian rule so don’t think you guys are superior kinds. If this is how our fellow countrymen think about people who live and die for the tri-colour, then there is something wrong with someone’s mentality. I dare not say the “civilian mentality” lest my friend feels offended again.
Doesn’t a security guard of your society ask you at the entrances that whom you want to meet? Doesn’t he register your mobile number, name and address before letting you in. Then what is the issue if they check you at an Army check post. By the way, the Armed forces adapt fast to changing situations. Our families are also now mentally prepared in case of emergencies like Pathankot. We know how to look after ourselves and we are flexible enough to cope with any challenging situations. That’s how we are bred. Opening of roads do irritate us but don’t bog us down.
In case an Armed forces man is on duty in Kashmir and gets a message that his house has been burgled, his car has been damaged, his little child and parents have been hurt and manhandled badly while he was in an operation putting his life at stake for the sake of the people who don’t know and understand what an encounter with a terrorist is. Can those people assure him the safety of his family when he is risking his life for citizens of India?
I also know of people who are best friends till the time they can lay hands on a couple of bottles of liquor from the canteen. If such people feel hassled to show their identity and get equally inconvenienced like every other soldier, before entering any restricted area, then God help us! If opening the cantt road is for ego or vote bank, then it’s a shame. Why have security and protection for ministers then? I was sent out to rot in the desert for one year because our parliament was attacked. Had one odd MP been shot dead, then would the forces been given a free hand & told to eliminate Pakistan? I wonder!!!!!!!!!!!
© Noel Ellis
By Noel Ellis
In 66, ARMED FORCES, ARMY, ARMY CHIEF, ARMY LIFE, BEHAVIOUR, COMMON MAN, CONGRESS, DISCIPLINE, FAUJ, FAUJI, FITNESS, HUMOR, INDIA, LEADER, MEDIA, MINISTER, NDA, NETA, NEWS, OPPOSITION, PM, POLITICIAN, POLITICS, PT, PUNCTUALITY, SATIRE, SOCIAL MEDIA, SPORTS MINISTER, USTAD
FIT FITTER FITTEST
It was amazing to see “Chilly” do those demo type push ups which we used to do in NDA. Media jumped in pushing only words out of their vocal chords on a futile debate. The discussions became so hot that people were sweating in air conditioned studios as if they had done 100 push ups non-stop. I wish all those overweight panelists and anchors had hit the floor to prove their fitness instead.
I have one “dili-tamanna” Chilly. You being a fauji will understand it. Please get every “Saansad” to Rajpath at 5.30 am every morning (Rain or no Rain). Road walk and run should be the first day’s agenda. Area between North and South block maybe used for the PT fall in. North Block for the ruling party and South Block area for the opposition and others. Sick report people to stand near the gates of Rashtrapati Bhawan and should be checked by the Rashtrapati himself. All “shammers” to be sent back with Att “A” (Attend all parades).
You can be the Adjutant and give the report to the Commanding officer whose name I need not mention. As it is the opposition parties have united so Raga can give it to Mummy ji, as the neighbouring battalion adjutant. You can call them Blue land and Red land reports.
Kindly request the Army to please spare PT ustads in those red stockings for the event. If army can help laying yoga mats and building bridges on Yamuna this won’t be a big ask I suppose. Thereafter, all “dhotiwalas” should be handed over to the ustads in manageable squads. I find there will be an issue here as there would be very few parliamentarians under 40 years. Therefore, the grouping should be 40-50 years, 50-60, 60-65 and above 65 years. I know that most of them will fall in the last bracket. You may have to design a special PT Exercise Table for them (No table 13 please).
Kindly ensure about 30-40 ambulances are placed for Medical cover for the event. Hospitals need to be kept on standby as there would be lot of ligament injuries and sprain cases. I would love to hear the ustads say, “India Gate ko dahine chor ke ayega”. “Pahila teen rakhega baki dobara”. Go and suddenly say wapaaaas. You don’t know whether you have to go or come back. I would also like to see how these people react to” idhar fall in-udhar fall in”. Remember, ustads used to shake us up from slumber by showing his hand where to fall in. A Kenyan NDA cadet just gave up. The Ustad asked him what happened, he said Ustad you first decide where I have to fall in and I will go there.
Their X, Y, Z security personnel to be lined up for crowd management. I am sure when the Desh will hear that our “desh chalane wale” are doing PT to stay fit, it would be an event of sorts. At least for the first few days people may come in large numbers to show their solidarity as they definitely follow their leaders, even though blindly.
I remember the famous “nimbu pani” of NDA Khadakwasla after Josh Runs. Here we would be dealing with many diabetics so give them “karela” and “lauki” juice to refresh them. If that is not possible then” neem-ras” in lieu of aam-ras would do. All “kitanoos” in the tummy and brain will get destroyed. O My, how can I forget “Sulabh”? You will have to place mobile toilets as some “Mahanubhav” would like to stay inside to escape the wrath of ustads. The doors must have timers, after five minutes they should automatically open to expose the reality.
I know our politicians walk a lot (padyatra) and are fit guys. They talk a lot too especially when they are on TV. Some of them can sit for 18 hours on their chairs and work. I must appreciate their stamina.
One more thing, if we can do all this then let us stick to timings and punctuality. If you leave timings of PT Parade to be discussed in parliament as to what time is the best time to exercise, I am sure they would never be able to come to a consensus. If you say morning the opposition will say evening, the speaker can keep requesting them to “baith jaiye”. I would say, moment they clog the well of the house, PT Ustads should appear and take them for a run around the parliament building. Make them climb up and down the stairs 40 times, desh fit apne aap ho jayega.
I am not asking for any cartwheels, handsprings and back flips which politicians keep doing in political life by jumping from party to party and doing politics of convenience. They ride high horses because we elevate them to that pedestal. They do push the common man into blind wells.
Be that as it may, I congratulate you Minister Saab to have started the fit India initiative. I shall not take your challenge as I am best at doing “Shavasan”. India can only be fit, if their leaders are fit. Leaders need to be physically fit, mentally strong and morally straight. I must thank my Alma Mater for making me fit in all respects. I also want to thank & salute all my PT & Drill ustads for their service to the nation. Will fitness I mention ever be on the politician’s agenda? I wonder!!!!!!!!!
© Noel Ellis
MY LADAKH DIARIES
My climate (acclimatisation) at Leh went off well and I was ready to take on the mountains. For a Mech officer to get posted to high altitude meant one more medal. To earn it, I had to spend 180 days excluding breaks which I thought would be a cake walk. The reality was way off and I shall share how tough life is subsequently.
Early morning we started in a 1ton for Tangtse. It could take 6-8 hours, I was told. All was going well till we passed by a canal. I saw huge layered ice slabs neatly piled like files in a rack. A thought passed my mind, that why they want ice slabs in such weather. I looked at the Indus which was smoothly flowing, shimmering and meandering in the valley below but got no answers. Then I thought they must be transporting ice to Leh. Such weird thoughts get sorted out very fast. I got to know later that the canal had frozen in winter, ice was still melting and water goes to the Stakna hydel project. How stupid I must have felt. Bloody mechie come down to mother earth, I told myself.
As we were crossing a causeway near Karu, my excitement knew no bounds when I saw a BMP near the Indus river bed. My imagination started running wild as the valley was broad enough to take a Combat Group. I had also heard that a Mech Battalion and an Armoured Squadron were located there. I was on home turf kinds and without even reaching Tangtse, I was already making plans to take on the Chinese with anti-tank missiles.
Karu onwards the climb started getting steep. I, who had driven a 1 Ton up every sand dune of Jaisalmer District, now started to feel the presence of the mighty mountains. The scene was barren but sublime. The drive was bumpy and kept getting bumpier. Soon the road disappeared and converted into a track. Our vehicle started skidding. The sound of the engine in constant low gear was telling me something. Sitting behind, I was not able to see the valley below but when suddenly our driver braked and we started to slide backwards and the damn thing turned away from the mountain wall. My instinct to jump out was at its peak. Luckily the tailboard hit the vehicle following us & we came to a halt. All of us jumped doing a kind of obstacle course as the vehicles were kissing each other.
My heart skipped a beat when I peeped over the side into the valley. There were more than 10 odd vehicle chassis crumpled and crushed half buried in a graveyard of sorts. My goodness Lord I said, today we would have been minced. Our driver quickly got out, put a rock under the tyre and opened the tool box. He pulled out some chains. They were very funny looking things and I assumed that they would be for towing but to my surprise I found them to be anti-skid chains. Water had frozen and made a thick slate of ice on the track. Every year I was told that one odd vehicle goes down this slope. Frankly, I got the shivers down my spine. Whatever parts can be recovered from the vehicle is recovered and rest is destroyed in-situ. I shuddered but put up a brave face. The cold now started to grip me; I wore my coat Parka thereon.
I was shocked to see two drivers trying to burn their vehicles by lighting cotton waste under fuel tanks of their 3 Tons parked on one side. I almost shouted at them but I was told that the diesel has frozen in the pipes, as they must not have put anti-freeze in their tanks. I would have arrested them for destroying government property.
We reached Changla, it is 17,586 feet above mean sea level. It is the second highest mountain pass after Khardungla. The GREF teams keep it open but in the thick of winters it closes for weeks together. People told me that kindly pray before you leave or else Changla Baba will keep calling you back. The driver knew that I was a novice; he opened the glove box and handed over a pack of Parle-G and an aggarbatti to me. I thanked him as my “batti” was really band for obvious reasons.
The toughest part was yet to come which was down hill to Zingral. I could see the TCP but the road was multiple Zs, a zig-zag kind of landscape. On the first hairpin bend I saw a 3 ton in its grave. The officer sitting next to me narrated the story that it was a 3 Ton carrying CSD stores of a regiment which went down. He was part of the rescue mission. They told me that day every local Ladakhi they met was drunk. The reason was this vehicle was carrying about 150 cases of the most precious liquid on the other side of Changla. All bottles broke on impact and the liquid froze. The local fellows, after rescuing the men got busy sucking on ice and carried chunks of frozen liquor home. The drink was definitely on the rocks. In Jaisalmer one craved for ice, here one just needed rum and a glass.
It was close to dusk when we rolled into our battalion. The welcome board said “Second to None” with Snow Lions painted on its sides. I looked up and thanked the Lord and also said Changla Baba ki Jai in my mind.
I was cold, fatigued, disoriented and dizzy with a slight headache. I just wanted to have a hot cup of tea and I wasn’t disappointed as a jawan said “TASHI DELEG” & poured piping hot tea from a Chinese thermos in steel glasses. I rolled the glass vigorously in my hands. With one sip, I was already feeling better.
How many such trips would be needed to please Changla Baba? I wondered!!!!!!!!!!
© Noel Ellis
CHOICE OF ARMS
Choice of Arms (COA) used to be announced close to passing out in IMA. One could see three types of faces on hearing what has been allotted to you. Happy, sad and faces with no expression. Some people who opted for Ordinance landed up in Rajput Regiment, some could not opt for ASC because of their instructor’s pressure to join Gorkha Rifles. Thambis got Sikh Regiment and Sikh gentlemen were allotted Madras Regiment. UP people got Naga regiment and J&K types were allotted Marathas. Most of us became “casualties” except for the super block kinds. (First twenty in the order of merit)
The Batty (Battalion Commander) used to announce the COA. GC 19964 you have been allotted Infantry, I almost swooned, with tears in my eyes that I have become causality. I was about to about turn when he announced Mechanised after a pause, I said what! I just could not believe my ears, as it was my first choice. The watery eyes changed to eyes glistening with pride eyes and then he added Recce and Support, 17th battalion. My expression turned to a frown that ye Recce and Support kaun sa keera hai. This was in June 1985.
When you come out of Batty’s office, you find GCs eagerly waiting, not bothered what they got but are more concerned on what the others have got. Quite a few of them gheroaed me asking Kya mila? Kya mila? I said Mech Inf. People almost fainted. Is sale ko Mechanised kaise mil gayi. The NRS (Nearest Railway Station) given to me was Jaisalmer. I did not even care to register it at that moment as the excitement was too much. The next thing was to have a beer, gum main ya khushi main.
I reached my room picked up an inland and wrote to Dad. All this while dreaming of the APCs (Armoured Personal Carriers) BTRs and the SCOTs, I had seen in Kapurthala cantonment. My motivation was Mech Units which used to come for equipment display to our school. I used to be awe struck when they told us these APCs float on water and used to show us a propeller at its rear end. I could never have asked for more from God.
Now to find someone from Recce and Support in IMA was like finding a needle in the haystack. I was lucky to find a Kote NCO of 17 Mech looking after my Karen Company Kote. I asked him ustad 17 Mech kahan hai, he said he cannot tell because of “sekorti” and equipment cannot be divulged as it is Top Secret. I asked a few Mech officers posted there, none could tell me what this recce and support battalion was all about.
Rumors were hot during that time. Posting locations, names of COs, characteristics of Brigade Commanders etc started floating around. There were certain fauji brats who knew various stations and hardships of those areas. So even if people were happy to get their choice, they were a little apprehensive of the areas they were going to serve. Well, in IMA who is bothered except taking the ANTIM PAG (final Step) which is the culmination of the POP (Passing out parade).
I was told that you are the luckiest person joining an elite battalion. One company is always on training in France. One started dreaming of the Eiffel Tower straight away. One company is equipped with helicopters for reconnaissance. Ones imagination ran wild that you are the next Rocky & Rambo combined. Pakistan you better watch out. Flying choppers whole night in my dreams used to leave me exhausted. The third company they said remains in India for training. I thought to myself as the unit is hush-hush, I will become a secret operative. I wanted to leave for Paris immediately but why have they told me to report to Jaisalmer. The excitement was too much to digest. Now, that once in a month beer became a weekly affair and that one fag a day became five. From Panama I graduated to Wills Kings. After all we were Mech People.
Be that as it may, COA got us busy drafting DO letters to the Commanding Officer as the first piece of military writing we were practicing. Life took a different turn that day when parents blessed their children and piped us. At least the civilian crowd like my parents had no idea what the difference was between Infantry and Ordinance. For them we were Officers of the Indian Army. We had made them proud beyond words.
All of us from different regiments took oath to abide by the Constitution of India and to go by land, sea or air to defend our motherland even at the peril of our lives. We had no choice left except to be an Officer and a Gentleman.
Our minds were blank as we did not know what was in store for us. Our thoughts were just conjectures. We didn’t know what a battalion looks like and what really happens in one. We all were happy folks, bubbling with josh and eager to join our outfits. All the training was in your heads, we were raw, unpolished and unaware of what lies ahead. We had joined one of the finest professions to be in service of our nation.
© Noel Ellis
FIRE TO CEASEFIRE
Ceasefire has been ordered in J&K. I don’t know will it be applicable to both sides as some forces are hell bent to destroy Kashmir and in turn India. Why a cease fire in the holy month of Ramadan only? Why not every month? Kashmir thus will stop suffering and so will the security forces.
I say why anyone should fire at all and then call for a cease fire. Every Kashmiri has a right to live in peace and so does every man and woman in uniform deployed there. Why pick up a gun or a stone in the first place? If every village decides to cease hostilities, where is the question of anyone dying? I hope militants will be sincere in not violating it for the sake of people of Kashmir. If this time is going to be used to trouble villagers to condescend to their demands to garner support and brain wash Kashmiri youth against India, then time is not ripe to give this leverage of ceasefire. In case they are going to cross the dotted line, then God help them.
Who doesn’t want peace? The security guy will be the first one to grab anything which will help to create a peaceful atmosphere. He is fed up of roaming day in and day out in unknown territory, checking unknown people, whose intentions behind those fake smiles are not known. He also wants to sit and enjoy a kahwah and wazwan. He also wants a “Sunday” to rest. They fire at him and stone pelt him. Then only the soldier retaliates. Who actually needs to cease fire then?
If our own convoys cannot pass safely in our own territory then it should be a matter of shame for the Kashmiri people. It looks pathetic that security forces have to place guns on top of our vehicles to kind of intimidate the militants warning them to dare attack us. The common citizen has to pay the price by getting inconvenienced, delayed, diverted and threatened of dire consequences if a convoy is harmed. The militant comes, does his job and melts away, Common man bears the brunt.
Let us then ceasefire like this on mutually agreed terms. No firing or militancy related activity in the months of January as it is the first month of the year. February, we have Valentine’s Day so everyone to give and take love. March is Holi and time for spring. So let us enjoy the fruits of nature. May and June are too hot and June also being the month of Ramadan, so let us forget our animosity. July is monsoon, time for a break. August is when India attained independence & Id time, so why fire then. September and October are months of Dussera-Diwali. November is my birthday, so please don’t fire. December again is time for Christmas so let peace prevail. Let this cycle repeat.
If peace is the requirement of the valley people, then it is they who need to create an atmosphere for peace. The security forces will take nine steps but you take one. Security forces cannot be only on the receiving end always. The forces will continue to keep their vigil and stick to their word. People of “jannat”, when will you understand this? I wonder!!!!!!!!!!!
© Noel Ellis
NATAK NATAK EVERYWHERE
India it seems is engrossed in the natak of Karnatak. Of course for the people of that state it matters as they choose their new mai-baaps. For me sitting in a remote and isolated place where if you run out of bread you run out of bread, it makes no difference.
Has any political party made any difference in my life? Yes, they only have strengthened my resolve to hate politics and politicians. Country may have progressed and that is evident as I am holding a cell phone. Roads and railway is improving but the people who govern this country are not. Scams and red tape have taken their toll. Now “modi-fication” is getting on my nerves.
The parliament must decide the following things. No cow will be killed, khatam baat. The only way a cow can die, if she dies in a road accident. In case she survives she will not be put to sleep but left to die on the road side. Then, the cow can die eating plastic. Of course it is ridiculous but we will not stop throwing plastic in the open, the poor mata will not stop munching on it. Change of taste after all. Further, the cow can die of old age. Yes, once she has lived her milk productivity age she will be left on the streets to fend for herself. In a few years time she will automatically die. A new brigade called the gau rakshak brigade will be used to replace the veterinary corps of the Indian Army.
The next item on the parliamentary agenda should be the dress to be worn by men and women. Sari and kurta pyjama is absolutely fine. The colour of the dress has to be “orange”. It is simple, sober, in fashion colour and I love it. Parachute cloth for the Army will be made of Khadi and dyed in vegetable green ink. Ladies can apply bindi only with pooja ashes. Vermillion may be adorned on ceremonial occasions only. In case you like to wear western dresses please go to the nearest country in the west.
Patanjali products will be consumed should be an act of the parliament. No bombastic names like Glaxo Smithkline or Procter and Gamble. Only desi items that are swad aur sehat se bharpoor, milawat se dur, will be allowed on our tables.
Once these guys have decided as to what we are going to eat. There would be no non-veg. All the bakra’s and the broilers will be left free. Hatya is out of question chahe vo gau ki ho ya bakariya ki. No egg trays for faujis even in lieu of meat. Fish too shall be banned as the smell of all machhi markets raises a stink. For Army jungle survival only patanjali noodles and vegetation can be eaten.
All gyms will have to be shut being a western concept. No pumping iron & no treadmills. Only yoga, on a handmade durrie extracted out of jute from farms made in small scale industries.
Then the parliamentarians should fix the petrol and diesel prices as anticipated in 2025. Why keep everyone in suspense. This will entail two things, the common man will not be able to run his bike and he will run or walk and stay fit. Free healthcare for all, isn’t it?
Jobs will not be an issue as we require thousands of masons and plumbers. After all we require 130 billion toilets and counting. Pakora makers would be India entrepreneurs’ and make case studies for Hayward business school like the dabbawalas.
Cooking gas is not an issue as pradhan mantri ujwala yojna has already burnt a hole in the gareeb ka pocket. They are using the gas cylinders to keep tokris of lassun because no one can afford a cylinder costing close to 900 bucks. They have got back to collecting firewood under sway-rozgar jungle kaato yojana. Mom is already used to smoke in her eyes since long and she finds food made on gas tasteless.
The parliament also needs to decide as to who will speak what, in what tone and tenor and who will publish what. Social media will only be used for forwarding godly and good morning messages. Chatting will be banned as the sarakri karamcharis now utilize offices to chat on their cell phones in air-conditioned environment. Earlier they used to do the same in parks after spreading the morning news papers after having read even the tender notices.
Only two channels will be allowed on air, LSTV and RSTV, rest all will be booked for sedition. No news debates, no barking & no shouting. Yes food channels if they are going to distribute food they make for the desh ke dalit-shoshit-vanchit-peerit would be made tax free channels.
All those who pay GST would be given a chance to visit a country of their choice except Bangkok, provided they convince twenty NRIs to vote for the PMs Party and send a few thousand dollars as chanda for party funds. All those who want to go to Italy will be given one way tickets.
Defence will be the only exception. All faujis will have to pay double the income tax in case they want free rations. If they want OROP then they will have to sacrifice the last basic pay drawn. ECHS will only be contributory, for health they will need to take health insurance from a private company and get treated in government hospitals only. Ex servicemen cannot write any columns or articles and all those who do it will be reinstated in service without salary in field till they attain nirvana.
Parliament also has to pledge that once elected they will only disrupt parliament. Bills passed would be at the peril of the common man. Ministers will move from ministry to ministry every session. This will ensure that all parliamentarians are fully trained to run any ministry irrespective whether the MP is capable to read or write or not. In case he has a criminal case he will be the law minister by default.
Be that as it may, I am looking forward to the next elections. Hope all this natak will be implemented when the new government is formed? Possible! I wonder!!!!!!!!!!!!!
© Noel Ellis
Yesterday I was looking at the plight of helicopter passengers. It was a lovely looking blue and white bird with skids. I was told the passengers were 70 + alighting to attend a wedding. It meant a few things that these people were VVIPs, super rich, super influential, overall, banda pahuncha hua hai. This was confirmed by the class of vehicles which had come to pick them up. However, when it came to getting down from the chopper I pitied them. Both of them were too short.
The gentleman was the first one to get down but struggled to find the ground, the lady’s plight was even worse. The pilot and an assistant tried to hold her hand and finally she had to be baby carried. Haath main purse bhi tha bhai. They needed a step in between.
This reminded me of the good old days of the army when the ladies could never sit in the front seat of Jeeps & Jongas. I think that still continues. Getting inside a Jeep after folding the front seat was an obstacle course in itself. Sitting on the mudguards with cramped feet ensured that in case you were wearing a sari for a party, it would be crushed beyond the lady’s liking. We had to keep the pink room of the mess ready for them to re-arrange their costumes.
Jonga’s could carry four ladies comfortably but six damsels had to be stuffed in due to fauji constraints like non-availability of light vehicles, COs fleet, CMP restrictions, Dry day chits et al. Then Gypsy’s came in. The biggest challenge for ladies used to be to get in from the rear of the vehicle in a sari without exposing their lovely legs. Sometimes the petticoats used to get caught in the towing hook. Someone in the Army decided to go in for a “step”, which used to be welded to the frame in the rear. I wish the aviation people also get their choppers modified. Just send the helicopter to any Army workshop; modification would be a two minutes job.
This reminds me that my mom too was very short. Mom and Dad’s height difference was more than one and a half feet. One day she had gone to the market walking. I had just been presented with a new cycle which meant that after games in the evening and before the study period one went around the town to show off. Mom caught me in the market and told me to take her home. Well it would have saved her close to Rs 3.50/- depending on the ability to bargain with the rickshaw-wala.
I tried several times but to no avail as there was too much of rush for mom to mount the bike. So we walked almost half way on the “Thandi Sarak” as it used to be known in Kapurthala, till we reached the LIC office. The foot path had been newly cemented, so there was a berm about 6-8 inches high. I was confident mom will be able to climb on the carrier. Well I sat on the seat with the right foot on the pedal to get the initial momentum. Mom climbed on the sixth attempt. The sabzi jhola was hung on the handle. Then something happened. I just couldn’t balance my cycle. The handle got stuck due to the vegetable bag and we were spread on all fours on the road.
Both of us looked left and right, thank God people were far away. I asked mom, you hold the Thaila and sit. She said she couldn’t do both. Now what to do was the question. Well I made a valiant attempt once again but failed. One of our uncles was watching all this tamasha and came to our rescue. He held the carrier of the bike while I got ready to take off. Mom sat behind, she was handed over the bag and then uncle gave a shove to the cycle. Off we went.
It was dusk and now we were approaching home. We turned in from Puri uncle’s house. I asked mom how will you get down, she said good question, now I didn’t know what to do. I needed help from someone to hold the bike. Mom said mujhe mat girana and I knew without help, girana hi parega. Well, I did what the pilots do. I went on a circuit. Went around all the row of houses & hostels and came back for landing again, all this while preparing mom for impact. Mom threw the sabzi-bag close to our house. What all rolled out from that? Dad collected the remnants next morning.
Now on my final approach, luckily Dad had seen us going past so he came and stood on the side of the road. I shouted to dad please hold the bike, I slowed down as much as I could and dad with his legs stretched was going to get hold of the bikes handle. Bang, I pushed dad. Dad went into the hedge and I went on paddling. One more “chakker” and this time dad was well prepared. Younger brother had brought a stool. Dad was a strong man & instead holding us from the front he caught hold of the bike carrier from the rear. Brother placed the stool for mom to alight as I jumped and kept both feet on the ground. Our Maharani of Kapurthala alighted from her stage carriage; chauffeured by yours truly on a blue and white Phillips bicycle.
Can Chopper pilots also carry a stool with them for short people? I wonder!!!!!!!!!!
© Noel Ellis
THE ART OF READING
There was a time when a novel in my hand was compulsory. Be it travel, Military exercises or deployment on the borders. Summer holidays or Christmas time, a book had always been my partner. The only time my wife could get a window seat on a train used to be when I used to dig into my book. Then there was no looking back till I finished it. Ballet of a belle did exactly that to me.
In school, on each library card one could borrow two books. I remember the rule, we had to return them in 14 days and there after fine used to be 10 paise per day. I could never afford to be late. My librarian auntie used to be generous enough to issue me books from the new editions, a rare privilege.
Every day without fail, dot at 3pm before Inderjeet our library assistant used to open the door of the Durbar hall of the Jagjit Palace of the Maharaja of Kapurthala, which used to house our library, yours truly used to waiting for him. Half a novel used to be finished in that one hour of library time. In winters, tucked into your Rajai (quilt) with your head covered due to the freezing cold in Punjab the “silsila” of reading continued. Started with Enid Blyton, Nick Carter, James Hadley Chase, graduated to Harold Robbins, Ayn Rand, Ludlum and the works.
This practice continued till I joined my unit. While returning from leave at Jalandhar railway station there was one AH wheeler book stall which was my favourite haunt. Choice there was limited in terms of authors. The next long halt used to be at Ambala Cantt and then at Old Delhi to surf book stalls. Over the years the stall owners used to recognise me and recommend books keeping my taste of reading in mind.
My unit had a great tradition to build a library. One had to get one book on return from annual leave. Our staff college reference library also grew leaps and bounds as every year we were sending one officer. Five officers from one unit, in one go was a record of sorts. I too followed suit later.
Be that as it may, once I started studying for Staff College this art of reading novels slowly shifted focus to reading subjects related to the military. I loved reading but I hated reading Military history. Part B, I cleared in four attempts and Part D in five. Every two years the Military Campaign and personality changed you can imagine from Von Rundstedt to Gaip, Burma campaign to Falkland War, to Rommel to the Yom Kippur war, form Sun Tzu to Campaign in Malaya, to Montgomery, to the North African campaign, I read them all as I had no choice.
Now, after ages I picked up a novel written by my course mate and jiggery Rahul Tushar, “The Ballet of a Belle”. First thing that came to mind, Rahul writing a novel is not possible. Rahul and I did staff college together. Knowing him and his flair for gazals it was difficult to fathom that he is a fiction writer.
I must thank Rahul for rekindling the passion of good old days of yore. I still prefer to read a book rather than on the computer screen. It got delivered form Amazon but I didn’t pick it up for three days. Till the weekend there was a dilemma should I or shouldn’t. Finally, I picked it up and read the preface and I saw “to my mereee”. I knew her too. Then I could not resist starting it. The fear within me was will I be able to finish it, I was a little uncertain, as it has been almost two decades since I picked up any novel.
Yesterday being a holiday I started to read. Within minutes I was guzzling page after page. My daughter was quite surprised that I hadn’t touched the mobiles at all. My speed of reading was not the way I used be. It picked up gradually as the plot thickened. I skipped my afternoon siesta. I retired early after dinner to continue reading. At 1030 pm daughter came to check whether papa was asleep, papa was not. She was astonished that I had read past midway by then. In the morning instead of reading the news paper on my thrown it was this book. I read it in the lunch break as it stuck to me like glue. Now it’s the climax chapter which is left and I shall finish it with my evening cup of tea.
Rahul my friend it is not easy to write and it is definitely difficult to get into such minute details of places, names and things. The ease with which you describe villages in the valley and places in Jammu was as if you have visited them yourself. The cocktails you talk about even Shirley won’t know. The businesses you speak of are not simple ones; the corporate life you touch upon must have touched you personally somewhere. I can see the research; the hard work the toil to bring this girl Arti to life. The flow and language is so smooth that her transition from a village belle to a corporate honcho seems as if the years in between never existed. The way you have gone about weaving each bead and connecting the dots as if you are related to this girl. Marvellous my friend, simply kept me spellbound. I don’t know if I batted an eyelid while reading.
Rahul, keep enthralling us, keep us mesmerised, keep enchanting us and keep us captivated. Your charming ways of writing has bloomed. The bait you cast has hooked us all. God Bless you & thank you for re-igniting within me the passion to read once again. Dasvidaniya (till we read again). How soon will it be? I wonder!!!!!!!!
© Noel Ellis
PS : The book is available on Amazon for 350/-.
I wish I had a job like these guys who come on a programme “Highway on my plate”. Some appetite those guys have. 30 years back I could have beaten them hands down. I like the one who is a non-vegetarian. Ghass-Phoos is not my cup of tea to be frank but due to dietary restrictions and age catching up, perforce I have to munch on my veggies and sprout salads. Nevertheless, I want to understand how they control their weight. For me even when I drink water, it goes and gets stuck on my waist like the after effects of Desi Ghee.
Imagine one gets paid for eating. This is some naukri I must say. Their crew must be dying salivating. The beauty is that they publically announce whether they liked or disliked the food. I wish they have a NDA second termers “square meal” as a daily ritual for their diet. In case they ran away from learning table manners I would send all the Drill and PT ustads hunting for them till the time they not only have a “flat foot” but a flat belly too.
Be that as it may, how can one eat so much and not have acidity. I am sure ENO salt people would have them on their cross wires. I think better would be “agar pet safa, har rog dafa” kinds. Kayam Chooran can claim to reduce the emissions of their obnoxious gases for free. By the way, these guys must be farting and farting non-stop. The only way to make way for the next morsel must be to release some gas. I pity the crew who accompany them as their car would be no less than the Nazi gas chamber of sorts.
When these guys must be reaching homes they must be insisting on their wives to make that “patli peeli wali khichiri”. People don’t get to eat two square meals and here we have two chaps who polish of meals for twenty chaps without even belching. I am sure they believe in the adage “pet bhar gaya par neeyat nahi bahri”.
In NDA, I and my cousin used to go to a tamarind jungle near Kondwa gate? We used to target the ripest pods, get them down with a fagot and squeeze the sweet, sour and tangy pulp on the slices of bread. Call it a “Tamrindwich”. We used to sometimes pick up “mixture” (namkeen) from gole market, mash a few “boondi ladoos” in it and stuff the “thing” in buns and wash it down with water, as going to get tea room on a movie day for a second termer meant trouble.
Many moons back my wife once asked me yaar we have been married so many years and you have never told me that what you would like to eat. You just eat what I make. So please tell me. I said OK make Chicken Mayonnaise. All hell broke loose that day. “Don’t you know there is no chicken”. “First get chicken and then demand such a thing”. “We also don’t have mayonnaise”. “You do it on purpose”. Well I said you asked for it, what’s my fault. “No, you don’t love me and just want to embarrass me”. I learnt my lesson to keep shut and eat what you get ever after.
A few years later, when love overflowed again she said. “Yaar you never tell me how I cook”. “You never find any faults with my dishes”. “You just say “theek hai” never say “achha hai ya kuch kam-ziada hai”. One fine day I said “Namak kam hai” and all hell broke loose again. “How many times have I told you salt is not good for health”. “Don’t you find the salt and pepper shaker in front of you”? “This Tata chap is not making good quality salt”. “If I have forgotten to put it once why do you have to highlight it?” I said my dear, if I don’t say anything you have an issue. You coaxed me to say something, now there is an issue. Just tell me will I get dinner today or not. Believe you me there was double the salt in the dinner and I ate quietly. She sat with a grumpy face and decided to eat quite late. Then meekly came and said sorry and asked me how I ate with so much of extra salt. I told her I am Ex-NDA from 66 course. I can eat anything which moves or doesn’t move. We are Lakkar Hazzam and Pathhar Hazzam. (We can digest wood and stones)
Since that day I have been saved the agony of commenting on any food. By the way she is a terrific cook. My paunch reveals everything. Nevertheless, when will I get a chance to just taste food and be paid for it? I wonder!!!!!!!!!!
185 odd kilometres, one week, 35,000 + farmers, blistered and battered walked all the way to ask the State Government to grant them a right to live with dignity. Crops got destroyed, mounting interest on loans, drought like conditions and still farmers not being looked after by their elected representatives. The irony is that there is a ministry dedicated to the agricultural sector in every state. Issue is not lack of funds but ensuring that those funds reach the last man tilling the farm.
It was terrific to see the spirit of Mumbai, irrespective of the religion, caste or creed; groups came out in great numbers to provide water and food to these men and women. I was shaken to see the condition of their feet. No slipper can last 180 kms in this heat. These people could walk this far without causalities and dehydration because they are the sons of the soil. They toil day in and day out in their parched farms. These guys put in their heart and soul to grow food but due to unfortunate circumstances and nature’s fury are forced to come on the roads. The man must have prayed to his God to stop the hail at one place and ask for water at another. What else could he have done?
The ladies too accompanying them were brave hearts of kinds. It was very sad to hear that when asked by a reporter one of them said if I have to die, it must be for the cause of farmers. Death is as it is written all over when there will be famine and nothing to eat. I salute that lady, may her physical and mental wounds heal fast and may she have respite from the torture she has gone through.
I remember my Commando training, where blisters on blisters on blisters on feet were a common thing. To reduce the pain we used to puncture them so that blood and water accumulated in them could ooze out and give us that temporary relief. I was just about 21 when I did that course. All these people were well past 50. If I had to walk it today, I would probably walk a maximum one day that too with Reebok shoes, nice t-shirt with a slogan written, a cap to shade me from the heat, my ray-bans which I can never part with and a water point every five kilometres, sun tan cream, energy bars for strength, ambulances in tow and medics on call et al.
Ask the marathoners, they go through a physical & medical check before participating. Companies sponsor the event. Doctors, paramedics, ambulances are standby. Police are deployed for traffic bandobast throughout. Cheering parties, celebrities and ministers present in large numbers at the venue. Security is tight lest any untoward incident takes place. Photo ops, flags being waved and news headlines made, media standing at every nook and corner. Medals and money is given to the participants for a 32 odd kilometres event.
Were any of these farmers a known face? Were they looking for publicity? Where were all the “VIPs” during this time? Many stars claim that they order from big basket that moves food straight from the farm to your kitchen. Well, production of food doesn’t matter to them, eating it is what matters.
Did you find any of these people breaking any rules or cause indiscipline? Did you hear any loud speakers and see huge shamiyanas? They were told that children have exams the next day so they moved late at night to their destination, so that a common mumbaikar may not be inconvenienced. That’s the spirit of our Kisaan. What they got in return after so much of struggle is only a hope and a promise. Just imagine in circumstances prevailing he has agreed to still stay hungry and in debt for six more months for his mai-baap the sarkar has promised to look into his issues.
As per reports about 4500 agitations were done by the farmers across India in the last one year. How many were covered by the media? I have seen agriculture specialists coming on channels and giving out nuts and bolts of what is right and what is wrong with the agricultural sector. They also lay down solutions for the short term, medium term and long term. Does any Government bother to listen?
It is not that only the farmers of Maharashtra who are suffering, this calamity is across India. We eat but we don’t care for the real producer of food. We pray to God to keep our plates full. Will we the people ever understand what it really takes to produce that one roti ka atta. Had our “ann data” not been working in the heat, rain and dust, what would we be feeding on? Will just saying JAI KISAAN suffice? I wonder!!!!!!!!!!!!
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