Noel Ellis's Official Blog

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

Category: JEEP

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

SMALL MODIFICATIONS

 

 

SMALL MODIFICATIONS

 

Yesterday I was looking at the plight of helicopter passengers. It was a lovely looking blue and white bird with skids. I was told the passengers were 70 + alighting to attend a wedding. It meant a few things that these people were VVIPs, super rich, super influential, overall, banda pahuncha hua hai. This was confirmed by the class of vehicles which had come to pick them up. However, when it came to getting down from the chopper I pitied them. Both of them were too short.

The gentleman was the first one to get down but struggled to find the ground, the lady’s plight was even worse. The pilot and an assistant tried to hold her hand and finally she had to be baby carried. Haath main purse bhi tha bhai. They needed a step in between.

This reminded me of the good old days of the army when the ladies could never sit in the front seat of Jeeps & Jongas. I think that still continues. Getting inside a Jeep after folding the front seat was an obstacle course in itself. Sitting on the mudguards with cramped feet ensured that in case you were wearing a sari for a party, it would be crushed beyond the lady’s liking. We had to keep the pink room of the mess ready for them to re-arrange their costumes.

Jonga’s could carry four ladies comfortably but six damsels had to be stuffed in due to fauji constraints like non-availability of light vehicles, COs fleet, CMP restrictions, Dry day chits et al. Then Gypsy’s came in. The biggest challenge for ladies used to be to get in from the rear of the vehicle in a sari without exposing their lovely legs. Sometimes the petticoats used to get caught in the towing hook. Someone in the Army decided to go in for a “step”, which used to be welded to the frame in the rear. I wish the aviation people also get their choppers modified. Just send the helicopter to any Army workshop; modification would be a two minutes job.

This reminds me that my mom too was very short. Mom and Dad’s height difference was more than one and a half feet. One day she had gone to the market walking. I had just been presented with a new cycle which meant that after games in the evening and before the study period one went around the town to show off. Mom caught me in the market and told me to take her home. Well it would have saved her close to Rs 3.50/- depending on the ability to bargain with the rickshaw-wala.

I tried several times but to no avail as there was too much of rush for mom to mount the bike. So we walked almost half way on the “Thandi Sarak” as it used to be known in Kapurthala, till we reached the LIC office. The foot path had been newly cemented, so there was a berm about 6-8 inches high. I was confident mom will be able to climb on the carrier. Well I sat on the seat with the right foot on the pedal to get the initial momentum. Mom climbed on the sixth attempt. The sabzi jhola was hung on the handle. Then something happened. I just couldn’t balance my cycle. The handle got stuck due to the vegetable bag and we were spread on all fours on the road.

Both of us looked left and right, thank God people were far away. I asked mom, you hold the Thaila and sit. She said she couldn’t do both. Now what to do was the question. Well I made a valiant attempt once again but failed. One of our uncles was watching all this tamasha and came to our rescue. He held the carrier of the bike while I got ready to take off. Mom sat behind, she was handed over the bag and then uncle gave a shove to the cycle. Off we went.

It was dusk and now we were approaching home. We turned in from Puri uncle’s house. I asked mom how will you get down, she said good question, now I didn’t know what to do. I needed help from someone to hold the bike. Mom said mujhe mat girana and I knew without help, girana hi parega. Well, I did what the pilots do. I went on a circuit. Went around all the row of houses & hostels and came back for landing again, all this while preparing mom for impact. Mom threw the sabzi-bag close to our house. What all rolled out from that? Dad collected the remnants next morning.

Now on my final approach, luckily Dad had seen us going past so he came and stood on the side of the road. I shouted to dad please hold the bike, I slowed down as much as I could and dad with his legs stretched was going to get hold of the bikes handle. Bang, I pushed dad. Dad went into the hedge and I went on paddling. One more “chakker” and this time dad was well prepared. Younger brother had brought a stool. Dad was a strong man & instead holding us from the front he caught hold of the bike carrier from the rear. Brother placed the stool for mom to alight as I jumped and kept both feet on the ground. Our Maharani of Kapurthala alighted from her stage carriage; chauffeured by yours truly on a blue and white Phillips bicycle.

Can Chopper pilots also carry a stool with them for short people? I wonder!!!!!!!!!!

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

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