Noel Ellis's Official Blog

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

Category: KAPURTHALA

FISHING TRIPS TO KANJALI

FISHING TRIPS TO KANJALI

River fish was my staple diet as a kid. That too caught fresh from Kanjali by none other than my Dad. My favourite was fried fish and sweet milk for dinner. All the aunties and uncles used to do hawww! They believed that my skin would turn white at places. It was considered to be more of a curse I suppose. In Punjabi they used to say that I would turn into “Dab-Kharabba” (spotted or patched in black and white). Well, I am still short, dark and handsome for some.

If Dad was in a happy mood, meant he is going fishing. On happy days he could pardon you for murder “Sare khoon maaf”. His fishermen’s circle used to range from professional anglers, desi fishermen, village folk, kabari’s (ragpickers) etc. Depending on the inputs from these people, he used to prepare his bait for the catch. “Gandoya” (earthworms) & Atta (flour) were the two commonest baits. Special ones used to be Jhinga (prawns), live fish, guts of table birds, frogs etc. He also was a collector of recipes of fish baits. Recipe ingredients were mashed into clay balls and thrown weeks in advance for fish to congregate at his favourite spot. Roasting and toasting various condiments used to send aromas for miles. Imagine what must be happening to the fish.

He never used a fibre glass or synthetic rods. He preferred the pure bamboo ones which used to be lightly roasted and oiled with “Alsi ka tel” (Flax seed oil) for days together to get that “latchak” (flexibility) to perfection. These bamboo rods were fetched from as far as Barielly in UP. I still have his collection of hooks, lines and sinkers. The variety is unbelievable. From a six inch hook to a 3 mm almost invisible hook. The knots which he has tied on lines, I fail to unknot them till today.

Kanjali River was an off shoot of Beas River; actually it is a flood water drain to divert excess water which passes through Kapurthala and Kartarpur. It was fondly called a “Bein” (rivulet). Only licensed fishermen could catch fish in it. In 1962 Dad had an all India angling licence. We learnt this after he passed away when I saw his licence for the first time.

There was a check dam which Maharaja Jagjit Singh of Kapurthala had made on the bein. The Royal boats, sculls and canoes later became our school property and boat club. Initially, our school used to have river swimming, rowing and diving competitions there.

I was not that patient kind to wait for a fish to get hooked. I used to run from uncle to uncle who used to have one on the line and dad used to scold me that I will disturb the fish. Sitting quietly for hours together as a boy was not my cup of tea. Some “khurafat” had to be done. While we used to be standing on the narrow Kanjali bridge, Dad would be concentrating about fifteen meters below where the fish used to be. I used to be standing alongside counting trucks passing by, which used to almost kiss your bums. I used to drop one chappal into the water. Dad used to fret and fume and finally hook out my floating hawai chappal as I won’t stop crying.

If on Saturdays he used to get “keema” (mince) from the market it was a hint that tomorrow is picnic. Mom would make “keema-pooris”. After dinner, all fishing equipment used to be displayed in the drawing room. Small rods with little hooks to keep me, mom and brother amused catching fingerlings used to be made. We all used to hang on to dear lives on our orange coloured Lamby. Brother cramped in front, Mom and dad on the seats, I on the stepney. The rods used to be laid on the foot rest on the right with a blue plastic bucket tied to the seat handle dangling alongside. That is how the Ellis’ used to travel.

The bucket used to carry a frying pan, a bottle of sarson oil, a masaladani (Condiment box), and a durrie besides lunch. Our duty on reaching the spot used to be to run and get a few bricks to fabricate a make shift choolah, then to collect firewood for freshly caught fish which were fried as snacks with beer for dad. There was a “baraf ki taal” (ice shop) enroute from where we used to collect ice for chilling beer and water. Beer bottles also used to be strung and lowered in the river to chill if ice was not available. Mom, within minutes used to dish out the crispiest fish. Mooli, gajar and shalgam for salad used to be pulled out fresh from the fields. After lunch it used to be “Lassi” (butter milk) sessions courtesy Kundan Singh, the boat club in charge.

Dad was very superstitious and used cuss words often. A particular person he used hate, if he met him on his way to Kanjali he used to abandon his plan of fishing that day. Then while casting his line in case it used to get stuck in the tree above or the hook used to get stuck in some piece of his clothing or overshoot or undershoot the precise point he had in mind then Saali, ullu ki patthi could be heard from miles.

Often we used to take a canoe or a paddle boat for a spin. We used row to the other bank where the weaver birds used to nest. It used to be teeming with birds of all kinds. We used to hide in the over hangs, chase swimming snakes, drop messages in bottles etc. One never wanted to return home in the evening. We used to come back tanned and dead tired. The other treat we used to look forward to that day used to be “dhabe ki daal and tandoori rotis”, as mom was given a night off. At the end of the day there used to be a prayer to thank God for all the bounties he had provided.

I loved to go on bi-cycle with dad to Kanjali. How many times I did susu sitting on the cycle carrier behind him, I don’t remember. As soon as I told him that pressure is high he used to give a code word “sprinkle”. This meant that one could turn around and do the job making zig-zag patterns on the road. Why I used to accompany dad was actually to listen to so many stories and tales and the way he used to narrate them. He used to do the same at night too but the feeling to listen to them over and over again is inexplicable. Sometimes he used to carry his air gun and if partridges posed on the road they used to be assured a place in the bag. If he did not get fish, then doves cooing on the telephone wires were dinner. If that too didn’t work out then egg curry was assured. Good old days they were.

Can we turn back in time? 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

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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