Noel Ellis's Official Blog

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

Category: JAISALMER

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

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

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

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

BUST THE BUST

It all starts with an idea that let us do something different. How do we make our presence felt? It is by simply announcing that we are here. If no one acknowledges our presence then you do something to attract attention. This I say in context of breaking various statues & busts. Imagine India can be brought to a grinding halt for such things. I don’t know if these people were really sentimental or they were hired goons. Politics of the matter aside, how and why should someone deface or pull down any statue in broad daylight, where police is present and does nothing to sort these people out. Then they blame it on sentiments of the public, is just a cover story.

The basic reason is no fear of law enforcing agencies in the public. Everyone knows police will come at the last moment once the damage has been done. Police hides behind the veil of no one informed them. I ask, don’t they have their mukhbir’s (sources) to give them advance information that an incident of pulling down Lenin’s statue is going to take place. The public hires a JCB from somewhere, as if this equipment is readily available. People gather in hundreds without the local police getting a whiff. Definitely it has political patronage. Who will report to the police? A common citizen has no trust & faith in police as instead of treating him as a facilitator, he becomes the perpetrator of crime. He is questioned, grilled and harassed, by that time it’s too late.

I reckon that the police must have been informed in advance by politicians to not to come near the crime scene till such time riot has finished? Why don’t we put all those who did it behind bars for ten years and the SP and staff of that police station in the clink for life for dereliction of duty? If this does not deter people then God save this country.

It reminds me of a visit long back to Kingsway Camp in Delhi to meet friends. They took us to the Coronation Park. There was a pure white marble statue of King George the Vth besides other Kings and Governors of the British Raj. These statues were displayed in the smaller domes near India Gate but later all of them were shifted to this park in 1960. I shall not comment about the anti-British sentiments here but I shall talk about the artistry and the marvellous work done on stone. It definitely deserves a place in some museum. I appreciate that they were not destroyed but relocated. Many of them are now broken with marble chipped away either in transit or by druggies and bootleggers who frequented that place.

The Bamiyan statues of Lord Buddha in Afghanistan were decimated by the Taliban by firing all sorts of explosives at them. What did they achieve out of it? I don’t know. Even naming and renaming of roads etc has the same effect. Call it Connaught place or Rajiv Gandhi chowk, which one will you relate to. Call it Kings Circle or Maheshwari Udyan, what are you at ease with? In Bombay aka Mumbai one will never reach “fountain” unless you know the bus number or you know it has been re-christened as Hutatma Chowk. Well that is what the state of affairs is today.

I remember when posted in Jaisalmer many moons back, there was a corner stone in our mess, well engraved giving out who built the barrack, the date of inauguration etc. That piece of marble should still be found embedded in that wall if the building still exists. One fine day the mess was renovated again. From the hessian cloth false roofing we had graduated to plywood. We now had a new TV room, a nice bar and a dance floor. Our corridors and ante room now had marble from makrana. It was a total transformation from clay floor covered with tarpaulins. Someone decided that why not turn the stone Ulta (reverse) as time was short to get a new one engraved. A mason removed that stone and to the utter surprise it was found that someone had used this idea already. Was another stone was put in its place or we continued with the same one, I don’t remember?

Why are we trying to change history and the truth of our times? A statue or a bust, which has no powers to retaliate should be left alone. Trying to take law into your own hands speaks of a dirty mentality. I urge the security forces to use appropriate force rather than waiting for a statue to be destroyed and then appear on the scene. Will politics allow any stern action? I wonder!!!!!!!

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

MOST AUSPICIOUS TIME

I find it quite amusing when a news channel spoke to an Ex Air Chief about preparations to sort out Pakistan after 26/11 as revenge. Then the channel got after Dr Man Mohan Singh. Well, the Air Chief stated that plans did exist to strike and strike hard. It did not happen. The final go ahead is of the Govt and not any Chief or even PM. Thus to guillotine the PM of that time is not fair. To top it all, they dragged Rahul baba and his mom into it, who may not have any idea of warfare as such. The same yard stick should have been applied by the channel when the NDA Government was ruling and the attack on parliament had happened, in all fairness. To conjecture, had we done this that day, the repercussions would have been different is stretching it too far. Either we should have done it, now that we haven’t, let us not brag about it, is my view.

Which Chief will say that there are no plans to sort what we all desperately need to sort out? We were unprepared in 1947, still we did our best. 1962, we braved it out against all odds. 1965 was no different and we came out victorious. In 1971 we created a new country. Kargil, who can forget? Such plans are never revealed but are continuously made, war gamed, modified, improved and updated. Nation is always supreme; the tri colour has to flutter, come hell or high water. I would rather say that after the experience of Kargil and deployment in OPERATION-PARAKARAM, the forces are definitely better prepared. Our operational options have been refined and our logistics has been practiced thoroughly. Men have seen all four seasons change in operational readiness during that time. Nuclear option can never be ruled out and we are prepared for the worst.

India has waited far too long to retaliate. It has tolerated and been patient enough against all nefarious activities and nonsense done by Pak. The country has sacrificed too many of its brave hearts to give peace a chance. The “PAAP KA GHARA” (pot of sin) of the adversary is filling up and needs to be shattered. When, how, by whom, by talks or otherwise are questions better left unanswered?

This reminds me of an anecdote of my good old army days.

We were a newly raised unit in a God forsaken place called JA-SALE-MER many moons back. It was month of May and we had to move for field firing. As usual, we are kind of superstitious in the army, so the unit pandit ji was told to take out a “Mahurat” (auspicious time) for the convoy to move. Pokhran ranges were just about 100 odd kms. Pandit ji came up with all rahu-ketu calculations to 9 am. It used to be 45+ degrees in May at 9 am and rising. Anyways, as usual the convoy lined up and the paltan fell in. 2IC was about to take the report when people started falling like nine pins due to the heat. He ordered the paltan to “Visarjan” (break off) and called the pandit ji to his office and told him. “Pandit ji, mauhrat niklega aur kal subha 5 baje ka nikelaeg”. Koi shak? (any doubts). Aap ne jis ko jo chadhana hai chadah do (you can offer whatever to whomsoever) but if mahurat is delayed by one second you had it. Pandit ji did a peechay mur, daur ke chal. (About turn and run for life)

Next day Pandit ji instead of his usual white dhoti kurta was in a new never used combat dress. Dot at 5 am the nariyal was broken and off we went. BMPs had already reached and the “shubh arambh” of firing was to be done by panditji by firing the first round of the 30mm cannon. I was the Commander of the BMP. I had never seen a Pandit scared to death ever. Here I had one who had only performed poojas in front of BMPs. The closest he reached the tracks was to keep a nariyal under the track. Anyways, panditji had for the first time put on a head gear, shivering, sweating and he got the orders to fire. Bang and it hit the target (the gun of course was laid by the gunner). Pandit ji from inside the cupola looked at me Sahib bahar aa jaun (Sir, may I come out). I said let the MCT (Mobile Control Tower give clearance). They did. From that day onwards pandit ji used to come a week in advance to ask, “sahib march karne ka muhrat kitne baje ka nikalna hai”. (Sir what time do we need to set the auspicious time to move). I hope it is being followed even today by the paltan. God bless my Paltan.

Pakistan you better be aware, we are a land of pandits. The mahurat will definitely be taken out and the date, time and place of attack will be of the choosing of our Chief’s that shall be revealed by the forces that auspicious day. It did not happen yesterday. Will it happen tomorrow? Or will it happen in the near future; I leave it for everyone to wonder!!!!!!!!!!

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

ARMED FORCES TO RESCUE POLLUTED INDIA

The buzz in Delhi and the media is pollution. To that extent my mind has got so polluted that I cannot think rationally anymore. The constant bak-bak, tu-tu-mai-mai about the subject is getting on my nerve. Worst is what can be implemented now is being deferred or postponed. Governments are busy with what they are best at doing that is passing the buck. It is not surprising that now even Pakistan has started blaming India for polluting its air, like we blame everything on ISI and Pakistan.

How can the Armed Forces contribute to reduction of pollution in North India? I have an idea. The serving folks will kill me for what I am going to suggest but I shall take it in its stride because we have done so many things for this country so why not chip in here too.

Let all transport aircrafts sprinkle water over the complete affected area, from Punjab to UP and from Himachal to Rajasthan, in and around Delhi where smog exists. I don’t know if our aircrafts can be modified to carry water but if need be let’s do it to our transport fleet. If the Government of India or for that matter Delhi goes to hire such aircrafts, it would be two seasons passed due to governmental delays. In case government hires aircrafts emergently, the exorbitant rates it might have to pay and how many people will make money needs to be considered. Yes, if we need to buy a few aircrafts which douse forest fires, let’s start the procurement process now for the next season.

The basic issue is the burning of stubble in Delhi & its neighbouring states. This year the farmers have already burnt what they had to but for next season let there be a massive logistics exercise by the Army or under the Army with Indian railways included. The complete fleet of the armed forces transport, civil hired transport (CHT) and goods train rakes be mobilised with adequate manpower by forming a grid across the affected states. As the farmers harvest, the trucks pick up the stubble and transport it to the remote desert of Rajasthan by rail and road.

Few things will happen; one, animals in Rajasthan’s will never go hungry. Two, thermal power plants can utilise this for generating power. Three, tremendous amount of compost can be generated which can be sent all over the country for farming. Four, in case Rajasthan wants to start organic farms along the IGC (Indira Gandhi Canal) I can assure you we will have radish (mooli) and carrots three feet long. Five, prices of vegetables will drop and six, there will be no need to import vegetables. The only thing is we will have to ban “Mooli Parathas” for obvious polluting reasons.

Let us try it out for one season. Let us have no burning of any crop waste. All this has to be done in a time bound manner and no one can beat the forces in punctuality. Let the government agencies clear all roads for passing of these huge convoys and railways give highest priority to such rakes. Let the CHTs be moved under the army supervision to places earmarked. Let a civil organisation get into fodder distribution and compost making so that well before the next crop all that was received is disposed off. Once the forces have shown the way let the civil administration take over and carry out this ritual as their primary duty to save people from pollution.

I am still not sure how do the developed countries expand their infrastructure without polluting their cities. Why Delhi needs to stop construction? Odd even rule needs to be followed but not with a double whammy that you quadruple the parking charges. Make Delhi so transport friendly that everyone commutes by public transport. If you count the number of cabs in Delhi the figure would be in many lakhs. Registered four wheelers may touch a figure of one crore plus. So rather than having 20 cars in the PMs Fleet can we reduce a few. Down the line Mantri’s who have such categories of security also need to prune their fleet. The Army Chief goes around with just two or three vehicles. Could anybody be a bigger target than the Chief himself? Let’s stop this show-sha bazi.

Well complete North India is gripped with this menace. Let us implement the short term measures today, plan for the long term in the next 30 days and be ready for its implementation in the next harvest season.

I gave this suggestion of using the forces in jest. You never know I might be given the Nobel Prize for “idiotic thinking”. If we as a force could do so many things for this country then why cannot we contribute to saving the residents of North India from this deadly pollution?

I have one more suggestion; someone needs to take the responsibility straight away irrespective of state, center, gram panchayat or whatever. The citizens have to stand up with the government now. Situation is becoming desperate. Stop this mind pollution, stop this venom and hatred spreading, stop all kinds of pollution of minority, majority, Hindu, Muslim. PM Sir, India is the biggest canvas where you can paint a collage. Let us see it emerging rather than it getting blurred in this mix of all sorts of pollutants. Will it be now or will it be never? I wonder!!!!!!!!!!!!!

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

 

RAKSHA MANTRI IN THE DESERT

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

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