Noel Ellis's Official Blog

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

Category: INDIA (Page 1 of 10)

KASHMIR NEEDS A DIFFERENT MEDICINE

 

 

 

KASHMIR NEEDS A DIFFERENT MEDICINE

 

It took Delhi so long to identify why things were going wrong in Kashmir. “Der aye durust aye” is an old adage which fits in most appropriately. Now that der has been done the requirement is of durusti to be done. There is another one which says “a stitch in time saves nine”. We missed out stitching in time and thus lost those nine-nine-nine-nine soldiers and more. Nevertheless, it isn’t too little too late either. The root cause has been correctly identified and shown the door. Now is the time to do things differently.

Time now is ripe to find the right “man” (Governor) for this job. There are people who have extensively traveled and served in the valley and are capable to fit in the chair. They know the roots of this issue and can contribute positively once appointed at the helm of affairs.

Let me be clear, Governor’s rule is also part of democracy. Unlike Pakistan where the military just takes over. Here we have a method in the madness. The new Governor should be from the forces is my view. This man will have the correct overview, will be familiar with the terrain, routes of ingress and egress, intricacies, sensitivities, deployment, grids, intelligence set ups, gaps in information flow, military tactics, command and control set ups, internal rivalries, weakness and strengths besides having an analytical mind free from dirty politics.

The President of India should give one clear order to the Governor, “sort out Kashmir”. If the aim is clear, the rest can worked out. No ifs and buts please. Additional resources required for such a task can be placed at his disposal. The President should also lay out clear orders to the military, being the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces that sort out Pakistan. At least during the period when the Governor is internally sorting things out, Pakis dare not look this side. Hit them hundred times harder if they violate the terms. Keep talking to them but let them walk the talk. Shake them up if required till they beg for peace.

Militants and their supporters should not be spared either. Let these people now understand that if you have decided to stay in the pond then you cannot make the alligator your enemy. The security forces have to be ruthless now. The stooges of Pakistan need to be quarantined and moved out of the valley. They shall no more be considered as citizens of India. Put them in the clink and let them have no communication with the world.

Once situation gets under control then is the time to appoint new administrators to look into various ministries and departments. Let the Governor pick up his people who would be best suited for such jobs. No politicians & bureaucrats or political interference please. Totally apolitical people are the need of the hour to sort out the rot by eliminating what is wrong and why. Their focus has to be what needs to be done and how? They will give out the road map with time lines with people in charge and accountable. Every man & every Rupee needs to be accounted for.

We have experimented with Kashmir far too long. The concoction we made only produced germs where as we were supposed to finish the filth but disease kept spreading. Our doctors were either not interested or didn’t understand the pulse of what was happening. The miracle never happened. Now is the chance to firstly disinfect our land, secondly, change the hospital administration and pick up the best of doctors and nurses along with the latest gadgetry. Let us give Kashmir a complete face lift.

People will shoot me down for being radical, suggesting the undoable, unheard of & idiotic things. I say when politics and politicians have failed why not try something different. I have seen childless couples go to many babas, mazars, neem hakims. They go to churches, temples; gurudwara’s and ask mannats, even wear a taviz for that one wish. The pressure on them is so much that they grab anything suggested to them. When all fails then they go for IVF and many succeed. So why not try something untraditional and unconventional to get rid of the cancer affecting Kashmir. Where there is a will there is a way. However, will of the Kashmiri people is lacking.

Kashmir is our beloved and we have to try alternate medicines. Political, slow acting medicine has been a complete failure of kinds. Now is a window of Governor’s medicine. No harm trying it. Two things can happen, one is failure but why be pessimistic, let’s be optimistic that we will definitely succeed. Are the decision makers willing to take a bitter pill as I suggest? I wonder!!!!!!!!!!

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

LOVE THY NEIGHBOUR

LOVE THY NEIGHBOUR

 

Red Land and blue land are two neighbouring states, is generally the opening narrative of any Army exercise. When it comes to more than two “naughty” neighbours then we refer them as Nark and Chandal. No need to guess who is who. One is burning from within and the other engages with us like a devil. India keeps trying to tackle them but hasn’t been very successful till date.

Same is the case in the neighbourhood of Swarg. On one side I have Nark and the other side the chandals. Both are friendly and diplomatic and say “Namaste bhai saab” but both are jealous and envious of the hard work we have put in the garden and our life style.

The difference between Swarg and them is that we are a land of traditions, sabhyata, sanskar and grooming in the best of manners and etiquettes from the best of institutions. They are raw, crude, rusty, a little uncouth, loud mouthed yellers who incite you to pick up a fight for every small little thing. India just ignores them and moves on.

The compliment I got on buying my bike was bhai saab aap ne nai “fatfatti” li hai. Hello madam hawa ane do. I controlled and counted till ten and said to myself bhabhi ji, my bike goes dug dug dug dug and not pit pit pit pit pittrrrrrrrr like yours. How dare you call it what you called it! This was while we were enjoying our evening cup of tea in the garden. You think I would have given mithai for such a compliment. Well, with a heavy heart I did, even India-Pakistan exchange sweets on happy occasions.

The other country could not be left far behind. This is how the parleys went. Actually Bhaisaab hum bhi motorcycle khareedne hi wale the, par mere Mister ko scooty pasand hai. Fir main bhi chala leti hun so humne idea drop kar diya. I kept waiting for some further inputs like congratulations on your new purchase but the only thing I registered was padosi hone ki pahli mithai to banti hai. I went inside and told my daughter poora dabba pakra de, kahin nazar na laga de meri bike ko.

This neighbour keeps doing the dhoklam thing once in a while. We have a mango tree in our back yard and it was laden with fruit this year & half the branches over hang on their terrace. The fruit was hanging so low that we could touch it. I requested our horticulture people to pluck the fruit. They told us Sir, there is about two to three weeks time for them to ripen so we waited. One fine Sunday we went to Alibaug and on return all mangoes were gone till where her bamboo could reach. To kill her guilt she sent about a dozen across. We gave it to our safaiwala. The icing on the cake was when our people came they plucked out more than four buckets full in the first go and same number after another twenty days. We distributed them to the world, not them. Khundak main.

I have these neat rows of bricks geru chunaed nicely. This lady will place her foot on one of the bricks as if asserting her dominance and shake it till it gets up stuck. Same happens in case of a common water tap. They know that every evening after office we water our plants. They will come and ghusao their pipe in it just before our time. We didn’t react. We waited how long one can water their lawn. Then feeling guilty she said, bhai saab lawn main pani dena tha kya, still wondering why we have not reacted or requested her for our turn. This thing continued for a week, we just didn’t react. Now she has lost interest in watering her plants.

The story doesn’t end here. The amount of surveillance done on us is fantastic. Can you guess who their spies are? If there is a bunch of slippers lying outside, people go on a vigil as to what is the occasion. Conversations are over heard by taking positions like snipers in windows. Eavesdropping is routine. Anybody visiting our place has to go through their personal scrutiny as if the Dalai Lama has visited Arunachal.

God bless both my neighbouring countries. Their frustration levels have reached such a peak that their fatfaties are now backfiring. They need to service their minds and mentality or else this guessing game will kill them. I and my wife enjoy this cold war. We sit on our bike, give them the biggest smile and wish them the time of the day. I wave at both these “Bhabhi jis” but I avoid giving them a flying kiss for obvious reasons and go dug dug dug dug dug dug dug dug………………………

JAI HIND
© Noel Ellis

A DAY IN THE VALLEY

 

 

 

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!!!!!!!!!!!

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

PAKISTAN MUKT BHARAT

 

 

 

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!!!!!!!!!

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

JUGADU TALES

 

 

 

JUGADU TALES

 

Necessity is the mother of invention and in India it is called “JUGAD”. We can modify anything, copy anything & duplicate anything. To make any contraption, the brain is Indian, the brawn is Indian, tools are Indian, finance is Indian, the consumer is Indian and it is best suited to our Indian needs. The “jugaadu” in me was waking up as I walked around my colony yesterday.

I was astonished to see countless mangoes strewn on the ground. With so many children around how come this fruit hasn’t been touched. Reasons could be like; this year was a bumper crop, so now we are fed up of eating mangoes, it has rained once and people avoid eating the fruit as it becomes infested with worms and insects. Another reason could be that fruits of a particular tree are either very sour or very feeka (Tasteless) but one thing that caught my nostrils was the smell of fermented fruit, that fruity-mangoey kind of liquory smell.

This reminded me of a conversation with a colleague who won panchayat elections a few days back. Country made Daru and non-veg is a make or break for any election here he claimed. More the daru flows the probability of winning is directly proportional to it. This has to be continuous for many days before voting. I said you must have spent a fortune. He nodded.

How do you procure and transport daru without getting caught? He said sir; for police there is a jugad. There is a distillation plant in my backyard and has been brewing nonstop since last few months. He refused to part with the recipe. I was very curious to know the mode of transportation. He took me to his car and opened the dickey and I found a huge inflated truck tube along with smaller tubes. He said all these are the left overs. I touched them and they went “thull-thull” like a water bed. I was thinking to myself that thank God we are going tubeless.

I went into flash back of the good old days in school. During the summer vacations we used to be vagabonds roaming around every nook and corner and it used to be fun collecting used test tubes from behind the chemistry lab. I saw a broken distillation set & picked it up. I brought that equipment home and buried it in the backyard fearing dad’s wrath.

I also got hold of old rum bottles and made out a concoction in which if I remember correctly I made a slurry of jaggery, lot of “peesi hui long & elaichi”, sugarcane juice and some home fruit juices. I filled about ten bottles and buried them close next to our guava tree in the backyard. All this was done in total secrecy, in the afternoons when mom and dad used to take their siesta. This was in class XI. As time flew by, we got busy with NDA preparations and later for XII boards, those graves were never dug. Mom kept wondering where her fridge bottles evaporated.

One fine day, dad decided to put manure in the fruit trees. He dug those circular pits around the trees when he accidentally dug out one bottle of that concoction I had prepared. It had turned jet black. I confessed to dad that all this “jiggery-poggery” I had done. I was preparing for getting a solid thrashing. He said let’s try distilling it. That reminded me that I had a distillation set buried too. How effective or defective it was time would tell. The rubber hoses had worn off and glass had broken at places but we did a jugad for all that.

Distillation started and the end product was an absolute clear tasteless liquid, flavoured with elaichi. I had tasted dad’s rum chori-chori but this damn thing had no taste at all. Patience was running out as it was taking hell of a long time and finally the first bottle was left with a gooey black residue. In the evening an uncle came to visit. Dad said let’s try Noel’s special brand. Uncle used to be an occasional drinker and used to make a weird face when the first sip of Hercules or Sea Pirate XXX used to go down his gullet. Dad also proudly told him ghar ki bani hai, two years old hai. Dad stuck to his usual rum. Uncle was all smiles and laughing. Just as he was about to leave he just could not get up from the sofa. All hell broke loose.

It hit him so badly that he had to leave his scooter at our place as we could not figure out how to open a Bajaj Chetak due that typical twist of the handle with which the lock opened. Dad was impressed that for the first time I did something practical in Chemistry. How hard my chemistry teachers tried, I could never balance an equation but I balanced the whole contraption of this distillation process which started from a make shift “chullah”, to pipes from the kitchen tap for cooling and finally collecting the “liquid gold” in another bottle. The “pahle tor di daru” as it was called in Punjab, was a success.

Should I do a jugad to make some mango liqueur for old time’s sake? I wonder!!!!!!!!

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

SAVING MOTHER FROM PLASTIC SMILES

SAVING MOTHER FROM PLASTIC SMILES

 

I was watching a programme on environment day and saw mountains of plastic all over the world. Statistics were alarming. Suffice to say, no one would have ever thought that it would reach such monstrous proportions over the years and threaten our very existence.

Like a ritual every year we too plant trees in our company on this day. Pits were dug and a water sprinkler made of “plastic” is kept handy for the ceremony. Lot of discussion on one time use plastics & their harmful effects on health and environment took place. I just pointed out that the bag in which the sapling has been sprouted is also “one time use” black colour plastic. There was a furore and instructions were passed that next year we will bring saplings in gunny bags only.

Then there was a photo op with “plastic smiles” and customary distribution of “peras”. A worker quickly pulled out a box of sweets from a “plastic carry bag”, threw it on the road side and wrestled with the thin cling film over the box. He tore it off and threw it at the same place. Everyone thanked the organiser & started walking off. Concern for environment also got over moment the sweet was in the mouth. I waited and picked up bits and pieces of plastic strewn and deposited them in a dust bin. People said why you do it; the safaiwala is paid to do it. I plastically smiled and walked off.

Last month, it was talk of our town that state government will come very heavily on plastic carry bags. They are called “PISHVI” in this part of the country. The rumour around was that anyone carrying a plastic bag will be fined 5000/- irrespective from where he got his hands on it from. Panic struck and suddenly cloth bags were on sale. They charged 10 rupees extra for it. Today, all kinds of plastic carry bags are back in vogue in all shapes and sizes.

I pass by an adivasi colony on my way to office every day. I see small boys and girls waiting to cross the road with one cup of tea “parcelled” in a pishvi from the local tea shop. Another child is holding 20 ml plastic milk sachets. Sometimes, I find them holding the same amount of cooking oil. They buy what they need and as much they can afford. How do they carry those small quantities? Pishvi is the only answer.

This Sunday we went to the beach. It was good to see lot of hustle and bustle and tourists’ thronging that place. It’s a pity that no one really cared for the environment. People had thrown plastic bags all over. Mineral water bottles were bobbing up and down with the waves giving such a shabby look. Cans of beer and empty plastic liquor bottles were strewn all over the place.

One fine day we will get a call from the Collector’s office, let’s do Swach-Bharat. T-shirts and caps will be given; school children will be involved with media coverage and press releases. The contractor will lift up the garbage and dump it in the mangroves on the other side. Garbage is actually never cleared; it is transferred from here to there.

This reminds me of the illegal dumping going on for landfills. All debris of construction sites and garbage of the village is brought and dumped at a particular place. This happens under the eyes of God as there is a temple next to the dump plus under the local Gods, as a Police Thana and Customs office isn’t very far. Dumping is known to everyone, police doesn’t get involved as it is matter of the gram panchayat. Customs department are meant for bigger things and life goes on. It may not be long when a new shopping or housing complex comes up in that area.

Worst is that when someone lights that garbage up. If you have your windows rolled down to enjoy the surroundings and fresh air, the whiff that will hit your nostril with that stinky smoke will get onto your brain. The whole impression of the place is turned upside down in that one second when the smoke fills your lungs.

Environmentalists’ are doing their bit I am sure but the biggest dilemma they face is when they visit a wash room and can’t decide whether he should save water or save paper.

Be that as it may. I as a citizen will do my bit for “my mother”. I am worried about those people who have no idea on the damage a pishvi can do. Then there are those who know about it but just don’t care. For them this is Sarkar’s job. Can we stop those “plastic smiles” and get down to save mother earth? I wonder!!!!!!!!!

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

CHANGING TIMES

 

 

 

CHANGING TIMES

 

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!!!!!!!!!

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

INNOCENT TERMITES

 

 

 

INNOCENT TERMITES

 

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!!!!!!!!!!

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

FUEL DUELS

 

 

Fluctuations in fuel prices have become a kind of joke these days. Moment news comes that from midnight tonight the prices are going to increase; long queues are bound to be seen at each and every petrol pump. Price hike is like dooms day has come that tomorrow all petrol will finish. Hectic parleys, scuffles, traffic jams, and the same old syndrome why is my line not moving can be witnessed. Petrol pump staff starts acting pricey and the man who used to politely ask you “kitne ka” tells you arrogantly “line main lago”. The same chap who would come and clean your wind shield will tap on your windshield to tell you to back off.

The “ghar ki grahni” starts calculating return on investment on petrol. Loud thinking starts that auto wala will now charge me five more means I will have to leave the dhaniya and ask for whatever my sabzi wala will give free. The frequency of consuming andas will now reduce to Sundays as the chain of supply starting from the bird feed would have gone up. The quantity of aloos in egg curry would increase to compensate for the eggs.

Pati dev is told that come back with the petrol tank full. He tells her darling I did it yesterday, she shows him those eyes and says, do liter to daal lo, pati wonders for those two litres I will stand for two hours in the queue. But hukum hai home minister ka so better stand in line. That’s a different issue that while waiting he would have consumed two packets of pan parag, went around the corner and puffed a few cigarettes, sitting in the car chabaoed a few ten rupee packs of chana-mufli, bought a spray gun and a yellow cloth from the road side vendor. By the time you reach the petrol dispensing area you find petrol has finished. You come back home and tell your wife bharva liya. What else do you say when you want to see that smile on your better half’s face which gives you the licence to tell her that while returning you picked up a whisky bottle, she says never mind at least our tank is full.

Life goes on and the sarkar drops the rates by one paise. Today there is no hustle and bustle at all. No queues and no tension. You do not have the provision of going back to the pump and returning the fuel and claim the difference of price. Two things happen, one that everyone just feels happy, chalo daam gir gaye, two politicians make a mountain of a mole hill on every debate that see we slashed prices by one naye paise as if they are doing a big favour.

I remember putting dus rupai ka petrol in Dad’s scooter. We used to get more than two liters with mobile oil many moons back. Today for ten rupees you won’t get ten drops. A joke is going around that the cost of a liter of petrol and a bottle of beer would be the same very soon, so we have to decide, “ghoom lo, ya jhoom lo”, I would prefer the later kyon ki ghoomte to Modi ji hain. People are also telling to invest saved petrol money in Mutual Funds, sarkar ki neeti aur neeyat sahi ho na ho, mutual fund sahi hai.

I was thinking that what is the cheapest thing in the country today? Petrol-No, Diesel-No, Gas-No, then what is cheap? I think its human life. It has no value actually, who cares, who bothers, who is actually interested in the fellow citizen, parents are neglected, children are being molested, and ladies are insecure; besides life is lost daily at the borders and in encounters with terrorists. All of us are loggerheads with each other for no reason.

Yes one thing is cheap and manufactured in abundance by all those people who are never affected by the rise and fall of any prices. That is H2S. Like Methane is produced deep inside the belly of the earth, this gas is produced deep inside the belly of our most honourable and respectable people. These people can inflate, manipulate, influence, control, stage manage anything and everything for votes. They have the authority, wisdom and expertise to play with the common man. Fuel prices are nothing.

Be that as it may. I use my scooter instead of car to office, I never had a car for five years while I worked in Mumbai; suffice to say I am doing my bit to save precious fuel for the sake of the country. Will the people who take a fleet of cars with protection and escorts now start walking to understand the pain of the man on the street for each paisa increase in petrol price? I wonder!!!!!!!!!!

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

WATERY TALES

 

 

 

WATERY TALES

 

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!!!!!!!!!!!

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

MY HOME IS OPEN FOR YOU

 

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!!!!!!!!!!

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

CANTTS ARE FREE FOR ALL

 

 

 

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!!!!!!!!!!!

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

FIT FITTER FITTEST

 

 

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!!!!!!!!!

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

CHOICE OF ARMS

 

 

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.

JAI HIND
© Noel Ellis

FIRE TO CEASEFIRE

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!!!!!!!!!!!

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

NATAK NATAK EVERYWHERE

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!!!!!!!!!!!!!

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

CONFESSIONS OF SINS BY PERPETUAL LIARS

 

 

CONFESSIONS OF SINS BY PERPETUAL LIARS

 

It is so easy to confess after you have sinned and then wash away your guilt. It is like going to the confession box and the pastor tells you to say ten Hail Mary’s. You come out as if you have now put the burden of all your “confessed sins” on the pastor. Pastor is a holy man, he speaks to God and he will further transfer confessions of the whole congregation to the Almighty. You get back to commit more sins. Though you remember what Pastor said not to repeat it, but “adat se majboor” you do it again. This time the pastor will increase the Hail Mary’s. What else can he do? Crime still remains.

There is another way to do it I suppose and that is to take a dip in the Holy Ganges. The whole life one has sinned and now one decides, after a particular age that enough is enough. Now let me go to all holy shrines and ask for forgiveness and beg pardon for my sins. With so many Gods, Goddesses I will finally get relieved from my earthly deeds. At the end of the day we take a bath, light an aggarbatti and lamp. Sing our Arti and that’s it. All wrongs of the day turn right for a peaceful sleep. We Indians do so much of pooja then why is there so much of crime.

Pakistan is also a sinner of kinds. The damage of their sins has been bleeding India with a thousand cuts. You don’t want to trust us, fine, no worries. You don’t want us to assist you in improving things, your look out friend. You want to eliminate terrorists from your soil but will support them to destroy us; I like this idea, should we reciprocate? You started all wars and say you never started them. The whole world knows it, isn’t it a matter of shame? You want India to bend and show a large heart, we do it and you do Kargil. We grant you MFN status you don’t; it doesn’t make an iota of difference to us. Who teaches hatred against India? Don’t tell me we are sending people to your side to teach you to hate India.

We fire across the LoC, you don’t, right! You allege we kill people in Kashmir but who sends butchers this side? You can threaten us with nuclear war, well go ahead. Why do you want to be obliterated from the world map? If you don’t want to progress at least stop putting spokes in our progress. Don’t worry dear Pakistan; Prime Minister of your own country is now in the confession box and confessing all sins. The whole world already knows what your real character is.

I once had a chance to write a book review on “In the Line of Fire” by General Parvez Musharaf. It is his life story with special mention of Kargil. On the first read itself I was convinced that the General was lying and lying blatantly about Kargil. I was told to replace the word “lie”, with the word “untruth” in my review. Well, I could not lie to myself and left it as it is. Till date I have not been able to differentiate between the two words. Who did Kargil and why is all available on you tube as his own confessions. Why were the Lashkar and Taliban his friends and why he exploited them against India are no secrets anymore? He confessed too late as lot of damage has already been done.

On deeply analyzing what could be the reasons he told such “untruths” about Kargil war was that after a few years’ people would forget Kargil. The present and may be the next generation would no more be walking this earth in a couple of years. Then to find out the exact history of that war, his book would be quoted as Gospel. There would be no one to deny it. Indian version will never be accepted by Pak.

Be that as it may. Now why is Nawaz Sharief confessing to his sins or for that matter disclosing sins of Pakistan to the world? From 1947-48 till date whatever they have done to India in terms of war, limited war, proxy war, militancy, terrorism, Kargil, Mumbai and what have you, is now proven beyond doubt. Confessions of a Prime Minister should be evidence to set things right. What action needs to be taken against them? Have the panama leaks helped India? Let us see what else this Sharief- badmash confesses to.

Today, Pakistan is kind of headless. Their system is on dialysis. All their infectious blood passes through the Army channels and half cleansed is put back into the body. Their de-facto control remains in their Army HQs who are tolerating this “democratic sin” of virtually no government. ISI remains the nervous system, need not be confessed. The Army stands by, watching all developments waiting to take over. Democracy is a distant dream for Pak is my honest confession.

Pak continues to “sin” against India. They keep confessing to their sins but don’t stop sinning. With admissions by their PM of their lies, it may heal one wound of India but how will we stop them hurting the nine hundred and ninety nine cuts remaining, which they don’t allow to heal? I wonder!!!!!!!

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

OUR DEER PINKY

 

 

OUR DEER PINKY

It was a cold wintry evening when two people clad in white dhoti, kurta & Loi’s (shawls) came to our house in Sainik School, Kapurthala. On enquiring they said they were parents of Bishnoi of Sarojini House of which Dad was the house master. They were carrying something in their lap which was very fidgety. They requested for old news papers. A very unusual request it was. As they stood up to greet dad, this twitchy bundle jumped out of their lap. It was a small, dainty, wet nosed brown baby deer (Chinkara).

We all were startled for a moment. They said that having heard of your love for animals Ellis Saab, we present to you “PINKY” as a token of love and respect for teaching our children. I saw my Dads eyes getting moist for the first time. In those days it was not banned. On asking what you feed it, they gave the details of how to feed it with a bottle and otherwise it would graze the lawn grass. In case some wheat can be made available it could be palm fed.

Dad took the leash and took her to the adjacent room as they left. We had spread many news papers for the droppings. The story was that this fawn was orphaned as the mother was shot by some people. It was raised by the Bishnoi’s and now they had found a suitable home for it.

It was extremely difficult to control the inquisitiveness of our dogs. Their barks was making pinky panicky. Curiosity amongst Ellis’ was also at its pinnacle. This little darling had done a 7 hour journey by bus from Hanumangarh to Kapurthala. It must be tired and disillusioned. We tiptoed into her room, I with a bottle of milk, mom with a fistful of wheat followed by brother with some grass and father to oversee things.

In came Coco, our Tibetan Apso, then all hell broke loose. She panicked and darted through all of us and the main door and escaped into the darkness. Dad told us that we have to get pinky back at any cost. It was dark and the colony was a jungle in itself. Pinky had evaporated into thin air. The front yard, the back yard, the dhobi ghat, everywhere, we ran helter-skelter looking for her but no luck.

I and my brother went on a search mission. It was close to midnight in that freezing cold of Punjab & we were quite dejected. As we were combing the area we reached the chota swimming pool. Stories of various “bhoots-prets” and deadly cobras were running parallel in our minds when my brother& I heard jingle of bells tied in her neck. In pitch darkness with fog also creeping in, we saw two eyes glistened & staring at us. The first reaction was to bolt as it could be a bhoot. We spotted her & breathed a sigh of relief. Dad was anxious, mom was crying and we were white faced, cold, damp with running noses. I put a blanket on her as she dozed off. What a first night it was!

There used to be a competition between me and my brother who will feed her. Filling milk in a beer bottle and attaching feeding nipples was fun. Soon, Pinky started considering me as her mother. She used to crave for milk thrice a day. Dot at the precise hour she used to give her grunts. I used to call her back in the same tone.

Our dogs got used to her and pinky to the house. Cats started to cuddle with her. She was so friendly that we freed her. Within minutes she jumped the wall and was hopping and skipping merrily. All of us were afraid that the strays will kill her, well; they were no match to her speed. Once all the hostellers “gheraoed” her in a circle, she just took off & jumped over their heads. Her typical “deer jumps” on all fours together were a treat to watch.

She started accompanying dad to the cricket field and used to stand next to him where the Umpire stands. Once she got hit by a straight drive and collapsed on the pitch with all four legs stretched & the tongue hanging out, stiff as stiff could be. The batsman ran away fearing the wrath of Dad. She closed her eyes and we thought we have lost her. For 10 minutes we all were in tears. Then suddenly she sprung up and bolted away. Phew!

I had joined NDA and came back on my first term break. Dad was sitting on his haunches and hoeing his garden bed. I was explaining to him the “ragra” and in particular the front roll. I don’t know what came to pinky’s mind, she came charging and butted dad on his bums with her head. Dad did a beautiful somersault and I said now you know dad.

As time went by she started loving music and the school band playing. She used to stand with the band leader and walk along the march past of the school parade. She became the school mascot.

One day pinky was nowhere to be seen. There was panic and a sense of loss as a story was afloat that someone had killed her. Fourth day, while dad was on his angling trip a “Kabari” (rag picker) who used to come and collect small fish gave an input that she has been seen in the cantonment. Dad wound up and came rushing five kilometres from Kanjali River. She was not there but dad found her droppings. On a lot of pleading someone told that she had been sold to a “Kasai” (butcher). Dad rushed to find that “kasai” who just won’t admit. With folded hands and 400 rupees did he take him to the shed where she had been confined to. She would have been butchered the next day. Four days without water and food she was a wreck. She couldn’t even stand on all fours. People who had caught her had bruised her very badly. Dad left his cycle as mortgage and took a rickshaw to get her home. We were delighted to see her alive.

Within days she was frolicking around as usual. She lived with us for 10 years and one fine day we found her dead in the wheat fields. Probably she ate too much of insecticide which had been sprayed on the crop. It was a sad day. Her grave is still there behind our house 12-A.

Thank you for being part of our lives PINKY we all still remember you fondly and miss you. Can we relive those good old days again? I wonder!!!!!!!!!

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

IMPEACHMENT OF OUR PILLARS

I saw Mr Kapil Sibal speaking to the press in the most apologetic manner the other day. He was briefing the press as they were about to initiate the process to impeach the Chief Justice of India. Suddenly they find him to be a useless fellow. I could not stand it for more than thirty seconds and switched off the TV.

I picked up the dictionary to understand this word impeach and other words starting with IM. It means to accuse, bring to court, indict, prosecute, charge and put to trail someone. I was amazed that out of all the people they found the head of our judicial system of which all the Sibal’s, Manu Singhvi’s, Manish Tiwari’s, Salman Khurshid’s and Chidambrams are part and parcel of.

If we don’t trust the highest judicial office then who shall we trust? There is a system to appoint a person for this office of which the opposition is a member. How can CJI suddenly become immoral? If they want that the only institution which is doing its job impeccably to become immobile then there is something basically wrong. It is an immodest act by the opposition. The impact will impair the judicial system for sure. The idea is to be an impediment in the normal working procedures. They act like an imp. Impudicity is lack of modesty which it taking its toll on our system. The impulse to show the other person down reflects the impurity of thoughts.  The government of the day appears to be impuissant-unable to take effective action, kind of powerless to tame these free roaming impalas called the opposition parties.

To create an imbalance in an established system is the aim of opposition. I find more of imbecility rather than reason. Where have these people imbibed such a spirit and how such notions have got imbedded in their minds that a few lawyers are trying to undermine the judicial system of this country. I am no lawyer nor do I know much of law but I am not a dodo either that I don’t understand what is going on and why.

The present government is already at logger heads with all such parties and how to get out of this imbroglio is the moot question. The opposition will do all that it can to derail the smooth functioning of the government. The way the opposition imbrues (stains) the ruling party is what is intriguing or is it to add a little imli (spice) to life in the already dull & non functional parliament.

The congress is imitating what its opposition did to them like a “Nakalchi Bandar”. If they could not function they would not let this government to function. It appears to me a little immature as they drag such high offices into politics. The tradition of fingering the opposition is from times immemorial which they want to continue.

Had everything been so immaculate, this country would have been a golden bird by now. The black, white and shades of grey are all part of this political and judicial system. The long time which the judiciary takes to bring the culprits to book causes immeasurable pain to many definitely.

How to break this impasse also needs to be worked out. The seeds of jealousy which are implanted in the heads of politicians are difficult to remove. Due to this implicit innuendo our system is bound to implode. I think the government of the day has now got immune to this mudslinging. They have reconciled with this immutable–unchanging trend that has been set. Political disaster is imminent. Let us not confine this to the centre; it is happening all over the states too.

Why do we have to be impenitent or unapologetic for our actions? It is high time that we gradually move towards a system where the government and the opposition work in sync. The opposition today appears to be imperceptive, lacking perception. They only think about their narrow gains. They are impercipient- failing to perceive something which might harm the country in the long run thus imperilling the stability with their imperious- arrogant and domineering behaviour. I am sounding like Shashi Tharoor.

Why can’t we implement the judicial reforms? I implore-beg earnestly to this government. Let us make it impersonal. Let’s not take decisions impetuously or rashly. Let us not be impolite and let us reduce the imponderables. Imperfections will always be there and can be corrected. Let us not improvise at the spur of the moment rather have impeccable laws and lawyers to withstand these challenges.

Let us my dear politicians unite for the sake of this country. Calling names won’t work. Cursing will not either. We need to stop doing “Ghatia Politics”. Tomorrow they may initiate proceedings to impeach the Service Chiefs and the President also? Can they? I wonder!!!!!!!!

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

SUNDAY SHOPPING

SUNDAY SHOPPING

 

Sunday is our weekly shopping day. It is the same old routine. Find parking for your car. I prefer the scooter as it is easy to manoeuvre. Hand over a few shoes and sandals to the “Mochi” (cobbler). Yes one odd piece you find shearing off and going to get one from Bombay is not worth the petrol to be burnt.  Our man Friday is such a smiley chap and will wish you with so much of warmth that I can’t help but shaking his hand every time we use his services. He will be waiting patiently even though it would be beyond his duty hours and will also tell you that probably we did not notice that the other shoe too needed a mend. The other day it was raining heavily. We had to get my daughters school shoes repaired and we got late, he knew tomorrow she has to go to school, he waited for us. Advantages of a small place I must say.

Next stop is our sabzi-wala. One of his workers is “Walter”. I love to see him glow with excitement seeing me and my wife. He will wish us the loudest good evening and then speak only in Marathi. By now he knows what we prefer. They generally hand over a basket to you to select your vegetables. I do it the other way, I tell him to do it for me. This way I ensure I will not get a dressing down from my wife as I still have no idea which bhopla (kaddu/pumpkin) is good and which bhindi (okra) is “Kauli” (tender) even after close to thirty years of marriage.

I was noticing how people pick up tomatoes. They will pick up one and drop it. Pick up the second one press it, look around it and drop it, pick the third one up and put it in their basket and this happens to more than twenty they need. I kept noticing that how long that one particular tomato is not picked up. I was amazed that the ones that I had fixed my eyes on were picked up by the next lady. This lady also dropped quite a few and picked up the ones dropped by the previous chap. The sabzi-wala puts up a huge basket full; one actually is confused as to what to pick up and what to drop. As the basket empties out, he doesn’t replace or refill them. A person who needs them will have to pick up from what is placed in front of you. Smart, I would say.

Then I came across one guy not taking off his helmet. He was just pointing out to Walter to weigh what he wants. Soon I realised he had his mobile stuck inside his helmet and was hands free of sorts. We Indians have a jugad (improvise) for everything. Then I found one fellow with his helmet’s face guard over his forehead.  That too was for a purpose. The pan masala he was chewing and the mixture which accumulates inside the mouth has to be spit out.  I asked him then why do you wear it, he said traffic police.

My macchiwali is very smart. She will shout uncle surmai sasti ho gai hai (Fish has become cheap). So even if you don’t want to buy it you get carried away. She will take out a small one and say pandrah shau 1500. You look at her and are about to turn back she says shaat shay pannas 750. You show two fingers meaning 200, now she looks back as if to say, what nonsense you are talking man. I realised two things if you get into a conversation with them you will not be able to wriggle out. Second is become “besharam” (shameless) and haggle and haggle till cows come home. Moment you start become a bara saab you will not know when she has stripped you.

After all this shopping is generally my haircut time. The head massage after that is the attraction. The ladies I leave at a general store to pick up their shampoos and lipsticks.  I don’t know how these barbers know which hair to cut. I find him snipping at the same place for ages neglecting the rest of the circumference. He always asks me “Chota karun” (shall I cut them short). In the first thirty seconds he would have cleared the head and it takes him the next ten minutes to find hair and keep snipping.

I remember going to a saloon in Bombay, that chap took an hour to snip off what my barber does in ten minutes. The only thing was that he used about 11 types of scissors and shavers. Another thing I noticed in our desi barbers. Once they have snipped some hair, they continue doing the sniping action behind your head in thin air. Why they do it, I will have to research. The difference between my barber and the saloon wala nai was 450 bucks. My nai does a better job any day and gives me a head massage free. The saloon chap will charge me a fortune.

Be that as it may, small little things and personal touch matters. My daughter keeps asking me that dad you have friends all over. The auto wala, the sabji wala, the chana-mufali wala, the chicken wala, macchiwali (I call her my girl friend) even the cobbler and the barber greet you so nicely. I tell her yes beta, it is nice to know them too as they do very important jobs. It is our duty to treat them with dignity and show respect. Will my daughter understand the importance of these people, I wonder!!!!!

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

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