Noel Ellis's Official Blog

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

Category: FRIENDSHIP

FAREWELL MY FRIEND PROMOD

I read this heart wrenching news today that Promod is no more. A NDA Brigadier rose to be an actual Brigadier, hats off to you brother. Well for all those privileged people let me confess, we used to feel jay of all those who had one star* on their satchels. We used to admire those who had two of them and were called Generals**. In fact all of us still take a bow for those who had three stars and continued as Field Marshals***.

I and Promod were from the same battalion in NDA, he was in Alpha and I was in Charlie. Basically we clicked as we attended many French and English classes together. Promod was a happy go lucky person with dopey, sleepy, large but glistening eyes. He was fun loving, jovial and a spirited person who would win any ones heart. I am sure his nature was such that even if he would be angry he would not be able to show it. Well, what bonded us instantly was that we were smokers. Once I moved to India Squadron in V term, I met another Brigadier called G Prakash. Both these guys were class mates from Sainik School. My interactions with Promod increased as fags used to be available with me as a last resort. He only taught me where to hide them. He taught me how to smoke a Panama non filter till your finger tips and lips got burnt. In fact I got introduced to panama and got hooked on to it. My last empty pack of the luxurious Wills Gold went out of the window and saved me my budget imbalance.

This bugger was good at billiards, so one fine day I was introduced to the night billiards in India Squadron. But as luck would have it the DS of Air force caught us. We were given a stern warning and imagine an Alpha squadron chap went scot free in India Squadron as the DS was new. Then one fine day we all decided to have a nonstop billiards session. Sixth termers never gave us a chance during earthly hours, so we decided to do something at unearthly hours. So if I remember correctly, I, G Prakash (He is an Admiral now I suppose) Ajay another naval dope* and rest my memory fades decided to report sick. Reason we decided was conjunctivitis. Now how to ensure we look devastated with this communicable disease as one used to get 7 days SIQ (Sick in Quarters) for that. Promod suggested let us rub Colgate in our eyes and see the effect. I had never reported sick in NDA nor had been SIQ ever and it was close to end of term. I fell for it.

Dr Maj Mrs SK Singh looked at all of us sitting in the corridor of the MH and signed our SIQ slips without questions for a change. Knowing her reputation we were expecting to be told to attend all parades with closed eyes. With blood shot eyes all of us came to India Squadron smoked a fag each, slipped our SIQ slips under the door of the CSMs undie and off we rushed to the billiards room. The game started and to our utter surprise the DS body of India and Lima Squadrons landed up and shooed us away. Later we found the whole billiards room smelling of dettol and phenyl as we were told they got it disinfected seeing our condition. “Mokashi” the Batman used to wait with breakfast till almost 12. We used to quickly gobble bread, jam and eggs with a fresh plan, how and when to play the next game.

It was decided that we will now play night billiards; whole day we shall sleep and play at night. First task was managing blankets that we did with ease. Next was hanging them on the anteroom windows, with a little ingenuity we did that also. The game and fags began. We played and played billiards. The in offs and pots suddenly started falling in place. The long shots and flukes were perfected, the fouls and misses reduced drastically. We became experts in repairing tips of the cues ourselves. Game was top class. Company was top class. Time was ours. A jam session used to be on every day. We were the kings of billiards in NDA.

My room was on the first floor ante room flank, basically a safe haven for all the billiards playing stalwarts. So one fine day after being fed up having the same old cold bread, squished eggs, liquidy butter and jam in those huge tiffin’s we decided to “seko” our toasts in the morning. I had managed a heater from the helper on which he used to melt wax for our drill boots. Unfortunately the electricity went off. So another fag session and a decision of playing a twenty point game and be back to toast our slices. We peeled off the blankets and forgot to switch on the lights and the game begun. Suddenly there was shouting of AAG-AAG (fire), bloody hell my room was drenched as drenched could be. All of us were in pyjamas and shorts, nothing on top. DS body was lined up in my flank. My lock broken, as it is it used to be a piddly one? My heater with the squaddy and on the last day of our SIQ I got 14 restrictions for cooking in the room. We had left the toasts on the lid of the tiffin and forgot to switch it off while going for our World billiards Championship. The lights came on, we had left the toasts which were ready to be toasted but they got smoked and burnt down to cinders.

Promod and rest of the gang evaporated into thin air. I think MK Sandeep* was also there. I was marched up and till end of term I must have done 28 more restrictions. Well my dear Promod, we may not play billiards anymore but I fondly remember you as a super soul with a heart of Gold. Rest in Peace my brother. We shall miss you. A small thank you from me and LXVI course for all the lives you touched and all the friends you made. Cheers Buddy, wish you better times wherever you are and we shall remain friends for ever.

KOI LAUTA DE MERE BEETAY HUE DIN

I remember as far as my memory goes mom used to take care of all small little things in life that one just took for granted. From waking me up, to bathing me, to dressing me up, making breakfast and tiffin, polishing the shoes, filling the water bottle, (though one drank from any tap or hand pump in those days), checking homework, tying the knot of the tie, ensuring the school badges are put correctly, check all the books were in the satchel, last minute peeling the pencil with “her” spare sharpener, knowing mine must be hiding in the mystic maze of my school bag. Let there be a button missing she could produce one and stitch it in a jiffy.  I used to dilly dally, refusing to dress up. I would hide my belt sometimes. I would lie on the floor and “faaat” used to come a tight slap. Simple words, behave or I call dad used to turn the tables. Drink your milk or else the dog is waiting and the milk used to go glug glug down the gullet. A neat little hanky used to be attached with a safety pin on the shirt with instructions to blow my nose, who cared. A small prayer at the door was the norm.  She never forgot to give a curt reminder to bring back my tiffin which I forgot yesterday. The list is endless and all this was done like clockwork and a whirlwind.

Moment you left the house your world was different, your school friends became the world. Maths teacher was the most dreaded one, the moral science teacher used to be the sweetest one; the best period in the day was games period, followed by arts and crafts. Pine cones used to be footballs during recess, every stray dog was a target for throwing stones. One odd fight a day used to be routine. How difficult it must be for mom in those days without washing machines, I can imagine now. Your tiffin was for friends and friend’s tiffin was for you. Lovely days they were!

How I got inspired to write this piece was that yesterday while on our weekly shopping trip to the market I observed a few kids.  After having had my hair cut I was waiting for my wife to join me and these kids in the street were ready to play night cricket under the street lights, five six of them, ranging from 5-8 years of age. I couldn’t help but laugh because I had been there for more than ten minutes and they could not decide how to toss. The toss winner was supposed to bat I assume, so one of them picked up a shiny packet of “gutka” with mangoes (AMBA) printed on it on one side. They agreed to throw it up in the air. “AMBA”, was the call by both teams and AMBA it was but then how can both win the toss. In the mean time one chap brought a thrown away carton to make the wickets, so they decided to call the toss once again after a heated discussion on who will call as I assume all were captains of their own kind. So one chap again called amba and he lost the toss. Well, he had the bat so he decided that sorry this is no way can a toss be held. So one sensible chap suggested yaar lets not waste time and finish with the toss as it might rain in another minute. It was no less than the national team so toss had to be done I suppose.

This time they decided to throw that gutka wrapper higher and they did. The wrapper got caught in a gust of wind and landed up in a wet mud pile standing straight. The road is under construction that’s how they were playing on the main road. So another controversy started. Heated debate and parleys, so ultimately they decided to flip a coin. Issue was none of them had a coin. Now how do they toss without a coin? Again discussions and debate to change the mode of toss and they found a piece of mirror with a deep orange colour on one side. Up it went in the air and down it came and got shattered, shattering the toss again. Now things were getting out of hand. Standing and watching the chaos and commotion took me back to my days. Then one of them approached me “uncle ek rupya cha nane hai kaye” (Uncle do you have a one rupee coin). I being the only vela and the only spectator was the person they approached. I peeped in my purse, unfortunately there was not a single coin inside, I meekly said “naye” (No) and sheepishly grinned at them. Just then I heard my wife say good haircut, I said thank God you came to my rescue and both of us scooted from there. Those kids must be thinking what a “fokatia” chap this guy is. Only thing he has is a big mush.

Well, nostalgia set in the way we used to write numbers under the bat and draw straight lines outside keeping the bat face down to decide the order to bat in the good old days. “Koi lauta de mere beetay hue din”. Well, I relived them seeing those kids yesterday. Would you like to relive them too? I wonder!!!!!!!!!!!

BEATING THE HEAT

 

Temperatures are heating up all over. The political ones are boiling for the post of President; the Pakistani posts are being pounded and roasting. The heated valley is being Gogoied. Congress and AAP are evaporating from minds due to heat of their inefficiency. Naxals are adding fuel to the fire. Here, the mangoes are falling off the trees and watermelons ripening fast due to the sweltering heat. The heated news debates are cooking only bitter venom. The retired Generals have gone “grey” in the heat of arc lights at the studios trying to drill in their two pennies worth. The bheja of the common man is being fried as he doesn’t see “ache din”. The farmer is waiting for rains after the summer heat. My wife too has decided to start heated arguments moment I refuse to get ice cream. Worst is all the colony bitches are in heat too. “Udi Baba” hot is getting as hot can be.

I remember as a child summer holidays used to be a time to beat the heat. In one of our windows dad used hang lots of “KHUS” bound together in wire mesh. On top of it used to be a perforated tube made out of old ghee tins rolled up into a pipe with lots of holes for water to drip down evenly across the “CHIC”. The pipe was drawn from the tap used for watering the garden. Inside the room used to be a “KESSELs” table fan running full speed. Mattresses were put on the floor. Mangoes were chilled in the buckets and watermelons were cooled by covering it with a wet cloth. Hand churned ice cream in those wooden churners was ultimate. Everyone wanted to eat but no one wanted to churn. Getting ice from the ice factory for the ice box on a cycle used to be my duty when I grew up. Empty rum bottles were used to chill water. The expertise to use the ice pick came with age and experience. We had no fridge, TV or scooter then. I remember as a child sitting on the carrier of my dad’s cycle, with 5 Kgs of ice, covered with four to five gunny bags. My bums used to be chilled by the time we got back home but the ice remained intact. In case there would be a party at home additional ice was put in a pit dug behind the house covered with saw dust. Good old days they were.

Summer holidays was a time to play, we never felt the heat, never got dehydrated, never bothered to cover our heads. We drank water from the first available tap. We actually never knew what temperature was. We sat on hot swings without hesitation. After that initial burn, the metal plate used to cool down automatically after a brisk rub on the bum. Cycles were put on road and additional valves purchased as they were the first ones to leak. Competitions used to be climbing the highest on any given tree chosen at random. At mid day, time used to be to run to the tube well for a bath. Odd time was preferred because the operator used to go for his lunch break, imagine having a chilled bath at 12 noon. Clothes used to be smeared with purple stains of jamuns. Half of us had only one eye to function with as the other used to be invariably swollen due to a wasp or a honey bee bite. Knees were always raw with bruises and cuts, elbows black and dirty; hair didn’t matter till they were on your head. Mine used to be short so used to be the saving grace during fights.

We used to know every tree, every shrub and every bush in the vicinity. We knew every fruit which was in common areas, we also knew all the pits where the litter of our favourite dogs used to be and play with them. We knew where parrots were nursing their little ones. Putting on socks on our hands, climbing on each other’s shoulders to get to the nest, getting bit by mom parrot, falling down like a pack of cards as red ants would have bitten the friend on the ground, then changing tactics to climb again used to be favourite pass times. We did not have even landlines in those days. Parents never bothered nor came looking for us. In case one got hurt, one knew the infirmary and Mr Succha Singh used to keep cursing under his breath but apply tincture or that bluish liquidy medicine for all cuts and bruises. That one neck less T shirt used to last whole summer till all the alphabets used to blur and mom used to decide to use it as a “poncha”.

Morning sleep used to be till 6 am, and if dad used to be in a good mood it used to extend till 6.15. Dogs used to be waiting for us to give that slight inkling of life and jump up and wash your face with licks. The excitement to go for a morning walk with us without any leash used to get them scratching the mesh door till there was no mesh left. Running and coming back just to see that you are still coming used to excite the dogs like anything. Your one call and all of them at your heels were the ultimate playoffs of that time. Cricket used to be next in agenda. The eucalyptus tree was the wickets with three parallel straight lines dug into the bark as stumps. To add authenticity, one perpendicular line used to signify as the bails. Evenings used to be pittho or satoliya. Play till the streetlights came on. Get home where dad used to be waiting watering his pots before he shouted for you. We were bathed and cleaned and pressure washed with the same pipe from the grime outside the house itself, even if you didn’t feel like having a bath. Dogs used to frolic along side and enjoy the artificial rain.

We never bothered for food. Wherever we were, in whom so ever’s house and whatever we got to eat was gobbled without any questions. Mom used to be shocked that we ate “lauki ki tari wali sabzi” at so and so auntie’s house. At home, there was no way anything of the gourd family would be touched, even by dad. Well, today things have changed, we have Maggie and lays. Everyone has a big smart phone, there are no playgrounds left. Outdoors has changed to online. Your status on whatsapp matters more than the real state of affairs I suppose. Tolerance levels have come down, patience levels have drastically reduced, broad mindedness has narrowed, open mindedness is nowhere to be seen. Social security of the child has been shaken for reasons best known to us Indians and our society.

The camaraderie has evaporated the number of friends and their love and affection is now limited to social media. The wrapping your hand around your friends neck and keeping it that way the whole day has long gone into oblivion. We are now living in an artificial world, where the heat generated in our thoughts is generating only hatred. In my hearts of hearts I am finding it difficult to balance between the past and present times. I think I need to chill more. Will I? I wonder!!!!!!!!!!!

 

LEARNING AS YOU GO

I was a happy go lucky chap in school interested in everything co curricular. I had no particular aim in life as such. Then one fine day my “brainwashing” started. I was in a school which wore a uniform, had a kind of military discipline; it also had strict teachers as also officers of the Armed Forces such as Colonels, Squadron Leaders, Flight Lieutenants, Captains of the Indian Navy and Army above all my dad was more OG (Olive Green) than OG can be. I was made to focus on only one thing and that was NDA. So I actually got used to this indoctrination technique, where everyone you met did not ask you how were you, but how well your preparation for NDA was. I did not disappoint anyone as I joined the illustrious institution.

My second makeover was done in NDA. Whatever shades of the civil life was left in me got converted into becoming a cadet? My morning prayers used to start with I love my country and continues as such. This cadet could manage a cup of cold coffee to a bicycle valve, a KD (Khaki Dress) to a raincoat out of thin air. I could roll in my sleep and crawl while resting, eat doing a head stand. I could dance without music and enjoy my supper in empty plates. I could produce a pen and paper even while wearing an under wear, though we hardly wore any. I fought daily battles with bedbugs which is a torture technique I mastered. I could let a bee or a fly sit on my nose without scratching or swatting at it. I could blow hot & blow cold in the bathroom sessions; I could roll up hill and up a staircase. I could jump in blind wells of the “Charlie” kind. I could navigate with no map in all out of bound areas. My nose was so sensitive that I could detect a fag three squadrons away. I did “Savdhan Chal” to every scooter, car, horse and dog on a leash. I could watch movies with my back towards the screen. I could run fifteen miles between dinner and lights out. I could beat Shivaji in climbing Singharh fort. I could sham, I could pill, and I could feign the biggest limp. I could improvise conjunctivitis with paste rubbed in my eyes. I could sleep 25 hours in a day if I had the choice. I could only keep awake if a lady teacher took my class. Overall, I was brain washed in such a manner that I forgot who I was. It was surprising they conferred on me a graduate’s degree at the end of it. After all I was on a journey to be in the noblest profession.

My brain washing continued in IMA. Well, I was promoted from Cadet to Gentleman Cadet. You learnt the honour code, you learnt military law. One mastered the art of disguise, not to camouflage for battle but from the Drill Ustad to go to Dehradun to meet some girls. I was drilled hard to keep the integrity of my motherland till the peril of my life. I promised to go where my duty needed me by land, sea or air. I pledged my life to the nation and the tri colour, to keep it safe from all external aggression and internal disorders. I was put through my paces of everything what I needed to lead men to battle. I was conditioned to keep the safety welfare and honour of my men foremost always and every time, the honour of my country  came next and my own safety and comfort came last always and every time. I was now transformed into becoming an Indian Army officer, young, full of josh, rearing to go.

I joined my unit in the deserts and was conditioned to become a desert fox. I was trained to not only fire weapons but to strip a vehicle apart and put it back together again. I was accustomed to learn to change oils, open a BMP track, taste petrol or diesel depending on the flavour of the day. I could munch on sand with food, and live on limited water. Above all, I was hardened to be happy in all circumstances. I was skilled to be a jack of all trades. I was supposed to know what a pink Gin was as also a Molotov cocktail; I memorised names and numbers of everyone in my Unit. I could fill a 3008 or a 958 as if writing letters to my “would be”. I learnt to ride a camel and drive a BMP as a second profession. I could communicate with hand, flag, radio, eyes, bird calls, and you name it. I was taught to remain silent and avoid even the rustle of my clothes. I was tempered to walk in the sands survive in the heat, snow and jungles. I was determined to eliminate the enemy before they get into our side of the border. I was at ease to look after the ladies as well as children, I was told to be compassionate and kind. I was taught how to live and work with the men; overall I was made into a unique fighting machine, tough, resolute, upright, caring, honest, dedicated, and professional, a man proud to adorn the uniform, a man proud to lead his men.

As I led my life’s journey I learnt cultures from the north to south, east to west of this country. I learnt to ski with the same ease as I could jump with parachutes from all sorts of aircrafts. I mastered the art of being a champion rock climber. I mastered many languages including three of foreign origin. I soon became a professional logistician during near war situations and moved everything by rail, land and air including the dogs we befriended at our posts. I learnt to balance between private and professional life. I learnt how I could live without my family especially my child whom I could never see taking her first steps or when she started to talk.  I was sent to the Capital where I saw the highest offices of the government of India function. Overall, my indoctrination continued unabated.

I one day brainwashed myself to revert back to the civvies streets. I let myself to be trained again at India’s finest management institute in Ahmedabad. I prepared myself that hence forth no lunch is free. Privilege to get a gypsy at the railway station with a glass of tea won’t be there anymore. I will have to stand in queue if I want to pay my bills. I must re-learn to ride a scooter, buy milk and vegetables. I brainwashed myself to iron my clothes and go to the market for a haircut. I prepared myself to wash my own car, polish my own shoes and shine them better than while in service. I just transformed myself to now live with and live for my family. I geared up that now my priorities in life are different from what they used to be but I shall continue with India first and a veteran for life.

In a life span of 54 odd years, I would have adapted myself to 54 types of places, circumstances, living conditions, bosses, situations, state of mind and state of affairs; basically I learnt to remain cool under any circumstances that life can throw at me. My blood and DNA will always remain Olive Green. Will I keep learning as I go? I wonder!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

YE MERA HINDUSTAN HAI  

A SHORT POEM
Har jagah kataar hai. 
 
Dheemi  hamari raftaar hai.
              
Na bajta dilon main sitar hai.    
 
Peeth main log bhonkte kataar hai.
 
Rote rahna hamara dharm siddh adhikaar hai.               
 
Karna sirf bhrashtachaar hai.     
 
Milawat ka garm bazaar hai.    
               
Koi sunta nahi hamari guhaar hai.  
    
Bhai kaisi yeh sarkaar hai.
                 
Jis main sirf paison ka vyapaar hai.           
 
Har shaks dikhta lachaar hai.   
              
Naukri bhi milna dushwaar hai.  
            
Dushman kar raha atyachaar hai. 
             
Dharm ke kewal thekedaar hain.    
       
Par koshish jaari har baar hai.  
                      
Ye Bharat hai Bhai Jis se mujhe pyaar hai…… 
 
JAI HIND

INDIA AS I SEE IT

It is high time for us to think of India, for India, by Indians otherwise we are heading towards disaster. All our make in India will be break in India. People in Hawai Chappals, will sit on Daryai Ghoras and never see the real Hawai jahaz. The political party in power has its agenda clear to win all elections, fine, I have no issues. But what I perceive as a common Indian citizen that the highest political machinery is busy in party promotion agenda like in Delhi and Mumbai municipal elections. The focus on India seems to be getting blurred in the bargain. This is where I am going to draw your attention today.

We are a vast nation is an idiotic statement to make. We have numerous problems is also foolish to say. We have diverse culture, languages, dialects, weathers; terrain is an understatement to make. We have porous boundaries with many nations and a few of them are hostile is an obvious fact. We have Terrorism, Insurgency, Naxalism, and Maoism besides “goondagardi” across the length and breadth of this country. Then we have so many castes and tribes scheduled or unscheduled is a different issue altogether. Unscheduled are those who after taking benefits and privileges’ in one generation misuse the reservation policy for their sons and daughters of subsequent generations, thanks to our reservations policy. Our major part of the country is affected by floods every year the rest with drought. Our agricultural sector is in a mess, our education system ranges from Madarsa’s, to ved-vidyalas, to convents, to Government schools, to International Schools.

Our elected representatives are history sheeters (so what charges have not been proved) and many are illiterate so to say. We employ lawyers for finance, engineers for defence, aviators for power, uneducated for HRD, what an irony. We suffer from fraud, bribe, donations, trickery, adulteration, as a national disease. Corruption flows in our blood and is part of our DNA. We bribe Gods, offerings are offered as “conditions apply”. We have interstate problems. We have gender related problems. Our population ratio is skewed. We are short of power. We have poverty and unemployment only as an election issue and part of every manifesto. We built infrastructure with no aim. We copy many policies which failed in other countries. We have a shortage of security force but no shortage of population. We lack a national security doctrine. We do not have a defence minister on paper. The one we had evaporated overnight. We are a land of sadhu’s and saints. We have everything but nothing with us. We can’t even win medals in sports, unless it is a Bak-Bak competition.

There is also one strata of population who go for shopping of their undergarments to Europe. They drink Jamaican Rum only in Jamaica. They get disturbed if they see a beggar touching their car. “Dirty ho jata hai”. We have NGOs and individuals donating millions in charity. We have religious institutions earning in millions & feeding millions. We are basically a concoction of only one of its kind of society. The beauty is that we still remain India. India still has not collapsed under its weight of problems. We fight with each other; we fight with our neighbours, within our states and within countries but desire peace and tranquillity. We appear unified, but are split into splinters of caste, creed, religion, region, gender. Democracy is not allowed to function, constitution is made a mockery of by states like J&K. Judiciary is overburdened that they now tell us what to eat, what to wear, what to see, what to talk. Soon we shall find bedroom rules too. Media has gone berserk covering, debating and discussing everything which shows our country in bad light without them realising how much disservice they are doing to this nation by washing dirty linen in public. Media has gone international; in fact, one shot on the mobile is as good as a whisper to spread a hearsay or rumour.

We have religious fanaticism, from protection of cows, to religious conversions, to fatwa’s for all and sundry. We want to be modern and progressive in outlook, but traditional and conservative in practice. We want to bring people to invest and make in India, but do not want to cut down the red tape. We want foreign collaborations but want to control the stakes and distribution of profits. We want to safeguard our policies, our systems and money at our terms and conditions. We have been just pussy footing while dealing with our enemies both internal and external recently. We oppose policies because we as a political entity are in opposition; we only know how to pick faults everywhere. We won’t suggest improvements. Politicians do not want to control the bureaucrats, fearing their strong lobby. We lack political accountability. Basically we are a nation of chalta hai kinds. We think of too many consequences. We delay in taking decisions. We are more interested in what the other chap is not doing. We are basically Hippocrates of kinds. We are not true to ourselves and our Gods, then how can we be true children of India.

We dream of an ideal nation, “sone ki chirya” (Golden Bird). We dream of housing for all. We dream of education for all. We dream of justice for all. We dream of security for all. We dream of food for all. We dream of transport for all. We dream of monetary stability for all. We dream of jobs for all. We dream of water and electricity for all. We dream of no war with anyone. We dream of health for all. We dream of welfare of all. We dream of everything which is required to live as an ideal society and a nation. But we want a third party or a miracle to do the dirty work to achieve the aims. Our national fabric is weak. We can’t stand for our national anthem; we don’t want to sing our national song; we don’t want one constitution, we don’t want uniform civil code for all, we are a big drastically divided family, where everyone is on his own, doing what one feels like at his own convenience, fighting with everyone if the comfort levels are broken, cursing all and sundry, and still surviving as a nation. My dear “Deshvasio”, till when can we continue polluting our hearts, minds & soul of this country, I wonder!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

TO EAT OR NOT TO EAT

On hearing the ban on butcheries in UP I was reminded of a friend of mine who used to strictly follow “Mar jana par daliya nahi khana”. I used to love this phrase which means I shall die but not eat porridge. Well, it is simple, such guys are pure non-vegetarians. I fall in the same category too. Now my vegetarian friends can cry hoarse about everything available in ghaas-phoos and paneer category, it is going to fall on deaf ears. They can scare me with the cholesterol, BP and affiliated diseases but they can forget it. I have tried eating everything on earth so I shall stick to what I love to eat.

I was brought up in a “Shikari” family and it used to be mutton, chicken, fish, rabbit, pork and shikar sometimes. If nothing else then it used to be Anda-Curry, as eggs were abundantly available due to the small little poultry we had at home. The best used to be any rooster doing “cock-a-doodle-do” at any odd time of the day especially disturbing dad during his afternoon siesta was in the pot in the evening. The freezer of the fridge was always stocked with fish. Big sized fish used to be pickled by mom. How can I ever forget that mouth watering taste?

By the way I was a vegetarian throughout NDA. In NDA someone briefed us wrong, that one gets to eat more on the vegetarian table. Someone said that ragging is less on the vegetarian side. Well, my senior Cheetah’s Prithpal, Munish, Sardana, Navneet, Katoch hey guys, thank you for teaching us table manners. Thank you for teaching us as to how to cut the butter piece into half. Thank you for teaching us how to eat a square meal. Thank you for teaching us how to eat soup with a fork, elbows off the table, hands on your lap, keep mum while you chew, swallow whatever you have in your mouth and then answer, how to drink water without that glug-glug-glug sound, how dishes were excused (means you could not eat them even if they were served), how to break bread and chapatti, how to split a toast, which hand, spoon and fork to use for which item. Thank you for giving us privileges for breaking a few slices of bread in the porridge. They also taught us how to chew 32 times (buggers used to count) and the list is endless. The only concession we used to get was exchanging our veg cutlets for eggs. Well, it was only in sixth term I ever had lunch in the mess on Sundays as they served fish. Most of NDA never turned up for lunch.

Mom used to be very particular when I used to get back from NDA on holidays. Bhindi and Aloo were the only things vegetarian I used to tolerate. One morning she gave me the left over non veg gravy of previous night’s dinner and a few fried eggs. I must have chepoed four solid lachhedaar parathas with it and asked for more. She said beta should I make more eggs, I said no give me the vegetable in the pot. She said you won’t eat, I said who says, and told her to make a few more parathas. NDA taught me the value of food. I could eat anything which moved or didn’t move. My mom said beta in the last 17 years this is the first time you have ever eaten karela. I didn’t have a heart to tell her that my appetite is so much that even if she adds poison to this karela I will eat it.

Unit was fun, one could eat whatever, but on non-veg days, I used to be twenty second down the line on the table. So the poor chicken either had only broken wings or mashed necks. Mutton used to be just bones. How hard our waiters Jagjit, Laalu & Gabbar used to try but could never manage a leg for us. In a couple of years I had many juniors so the fight used to be for roti’s then. I remained a vegetarian after getting married as far as fauji rations were concerned. In peace stations meat on hoof and chicken on paws supplied were never up to my liking.

In high altitude eating tinned tuna or dal-tarka made no difference as the smell of your farts and the shrillness in its noise never changed. I got on to catching trout in the Lukung River which falls into Pangang Tso. Lovely times we spent up stream, fresh trout, fresh yak, love and fresh air was the only way to survive. The pinjas made lovely thuppa, a meaty clear soup with noodles. In case they were in the mood then one could get freshly made sausages. Otherwise tinned milk, tinned veges, and tinned fruit soaked in that surgery sticky syrup used to be ultimate. The huge pooris called “phu-amcho” which actually meant and resembled “donkey’s ears” were a substitute for pooris in the morning. I considered them non-veg for obvious reasons. Come evening the fresh catch of the day was my meal.

While in the deserts, I have had 17 meals continuous, breakfast, lunch and dinner of partridges. Dry in the morning, gravy in the afternoon and as snacks with chota-chota in the evening. My .22 & fishing net were standard accessories on my numerous reconnaissance missions. All the lakes, canals and ponds were GPS fixes. Navigation to these places could be done blind folded. Early morning partridge shoots were ultimate. Jonga’s front wind shield down for better visibility, even in coldest of winters and thick fog. Spotters on the lookout, driver trained to halt the vehicle with the right angle to fire. By the time the sun used to be up, we used to have enough in our kitty and on the way back the shoot used to be for the officers of the Unit. Injured animals of the Gujjars and Bakarwals in Srinagar made us dependent on leopard’s daily kill. Most of my boys were from hill tribes, so cooking up a non-veg dish was like making anda bhujia at short notice. Good old days, guys you can’t think of it now.

Now I am in a coastal area, if yogiji will come here and see then he may ban the vegetables also, leave alone the illegal unlicensed butcheries. Here one will find a goat hanging in a straw hut, with a huge tree trunk on stilts with flies humming nosily drowning the sound of chop-chop. The only thing you can ask for here is “pure meat”. Well that doesn’t mean hygienically pure or the rest of the meat is impure but is without much bones and fat.

The only vegetarian thing I enjoy most is “Bhains ka doodh” with the finger thick malai. I am happy I am not is UP and yet to taste Tunde kebabas, so let me keep enjoying varieties of fish which are available here besides all forms of pure and impure meat. I have no dilemma whatsoever that I shall continue to stick to “Mar jana but dalia nahi khana” Any one joining me? I wonder!!!!!!!!!!!!!

NO NEWS IS THE BEST NEWS

Time to rejoice again has come. Don’t ask me the reason yaar, it is not that Valentine’s Day is approaching, but I am feeling good because our paperwala decided to close his agency and there will be no more supply of “raddi” henceforth. By the way he is the only supplier of newspapers on this side of Kundalika River. Now, I must tell you that I stay on the banks of this river, in fact it’s estuary before it falls into the sea. The place is called REV DANDA, Rev means ret (sand) and Danda pronounced as Daanda means Killa (fort). Well, isn’t it news for most of you? Isn’t it more refreshing than the newspaper which is full of ads, tender notices, and classified commercials? By the way it still has to sink in my head that classified ads are classified as it means and not in the fauji parlance meaning it has been classified into Top Secret, Confidential etc.

Be that as it may, I am going to donate these 7×31=221 rupees saved from the cost of my monthly newspaper bill for some welfare of the have not’s fund. Let me round it off to 250/- for ease of calculations. Yesterday, I heard Akshay Kumar starting an app, let me see if I can help my own brethren and their kin first.

I know some of my good friends will now be wondering what will happen to my “potty times”. That is where all the ideas are generated. I remember many-many moons back somewhere during exercises in the desert sands of Jaisalmer our potties used to be shallow trench latrines (STLs). Invariably we used to be up at about first light (dawn) or before, have that lovely boiling steaming glass of tea brought by the sahayak, and while you finished your tea, the empty rum bottle filled with water used to be ready for you to rush and fire the first salvo of the day. Now, one used to be hesitant if one saw a white handkerchief on a head bobbing in the STL, it used to be our company commander who was a Sikh. The pressure of the charge building up used to be so great that any delay beyond 20 seconds would make an explosion which will stink for times to come. He being a gentleman said friends, this is one sacred place where entry is open at any time, just walk in do your firing and evaporate. Soon it became our meeting ground for the days planning. Within two minutes all that you had done the previous day, what you plan for today may be it recce or training was discussed. The company commander used to modify some plans in between the grunts and off we went on our daily routines. Good old news paperless days, good old golden sands of JA-SALE-MER.

I can assure you folks this weekend I did not watch any kind of news, any news debate, any election speculation and analysis, just stuck to a movie or a comedy show besides my garden and feel so relieved. I spent time with my wife and daughter, joked, went for a dinner. In fact a good old fauji friend organised a barbecue party and dinner day before yesterday. What a time spent it was! We laughed, chirped, cheered, jeered, cursed, bitched, dogged, ate, drank and made merry. Yesterday at the dinner table I shared how I fell in love with my wife with my daughter who was curious to know about it. I will share that story with you all too in due time. Also, we went visiting the nearest town which is 20 kms from our place. On our way back, we bought some tomatoes after pressing them, turning them, smelling them, checking them for leaks sitting on our haunches at the vegetable vendor shop on the road side. It was fun. I think let me enjoy these smaller pleasures in life then getting into complicated things like the SENSEX, election speculations etc. I don’t want to bet on who is going to win in Punjab, till the time people of Punjab win.

Well friends, if no news is the best news then I would suggest to you all take a break too. Just chill get away from the idiot box, wrap all your shoes in newspapers and venture into the outdoors. It will bring in some change in your daily grind.  I hope I am not tempted to start carrying my mobile to read my social media messages in the potty. Will I? I wonder!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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