Noel Ellis's Official Blog

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

Category: NDA

INDIAN MILITARY ACADEMY TALES

IMA was supposed to be a cake walk for us “nangas” but it happened to be otherwise for me. I was very happy to see Baljeet Sandhu in my platoon, after all SAIKAPIAN school types. The term break after NDA had cast a spell on me as I went through a nasty cycle of typhoid; jaundice and malaria in one go. I could barely stand on my two feet. Thanks to Rajinder Bhagtana who took real care of me till Dehradun. He had accompanied me to NDA wing along with Hitesh Kohli also. Heesh do you remember Jalandhar railway station.  Hope my memory is correct.

On arrival at IMA they asked us to deposit our identity cards of NDA for new ones to be issued. Let me confess now folks I had lost my NDA I card in fourth term in Ajmer when I had gone to attend my cousins wedding. She was the sis of Sanjeev Vajpei (G/65) God bless his soul. Can you believe it I did the entire monthly I card checks including drill com without one?  Now don’t ask me how I did it, I just did it. As it is I was shifted from Charlie to India Sqn with 28 days restrictions which finished with 42 of them besides the EDs & Lal Makans. Had I reported this loss, I would have definitely been a Brigadier if not a General.

Loss of I-Card, 14 days Restrictions from the Bhagat battalion parade ground into the tea gardens became a routine for me. I think I finished with 42 here also. I lost count actually. This did not deter me from doing my monkey tricks.

I remember how the Keren Company diving team was selected. Maj Satinder Singh (PARA) landed in one of the PT parades. Typical of him, all those who have passed all PT tests to my left. Half the second termers moved there, all those who have passed all higher tests to my right, so half of the rest moved there. Then he said all those who have passed two first class tests come to me. Seven of us came forward including me. You are now the company diving team, ustad inko swmming pool main le jao. So I learnt to do the “pike” and “swallow”. Shammer that I was I chose spring board as maximum he could push me to 3 meters. Who wanted to dive from seven or ten?

I also had a cat. All winter she used to be in my cabin in my rajai and when it came to littering she used to go my next cabin an Iraqi called ALI. This man used to keep a brand new quilt in his cupboard for cabin cupboard. He realised it too late and the cat had done her job. Anyways she became our fond pet. CSM Johnny and I have a pic with him. Do you guys remember Najim abdul lateef, tofeek ali wali quli blah blah blah another Iraqi. He had twenty four names and his sir name was Mohammed. Bugger only asked for pondies.

We had an ACC course mate Dili P Gurung, (God Bless his soul too) we became chaddi-buddies. I had a heater and used to make halwa very often. Basic Punjabi instincts. We used to have a typical laundry cupboard. I had a false bottom in it to hide all my gadgets like the sauce pan, ghee and various masalas. One day I had gone to Dehradun on liberty, Daju as I used to fondly call him did not come with me but promised me that once I come back he will get fish from Prem Nagar from his old ACC connections. He used to fondly call me EL. I came back and had fantastic fish fry and as luck would have it Capt Rayan Peter Lobo landed up on a Sunday surprise check. Daju was on 14 days run and my heater was confiscated. I disowned it. I had more company running around the tea gardens with me. Daju touched his ears that this was the first and last time he ever cooked in his cabin.

I had a bhabhi in Dehradun staying on Nashville road. Doonites would know the road and so would Salim Asif. We had had khana once, remember Salim. So there was a wedding in the family so I and Daju were invited. We went through Thimmaya battalion short cut on our cycles. We had a blast. Enjoyed the reception, daju carried his guitar and played like hell with the live band there. It was close to midnight and we both were a little high, well fed and feeling confident that no one will catch us while entering Bhagat battalion. As we were passing the FRI gate we heard a voice STOP. Instinct was to scoot but now we were gentlemen so we stopped. In the dark we saw a lady sitting on a lambretta scooter and a “Surdy” roaming around. Bloody hell, it was GJ. He took my cycle, mam sat on the danda and off he went. I had no choice but to sit on Daju’s danda. GJ had newly joined so asked us which company, I said keren. Name I gave him. Next day morning a Sikh Regiment jawan came looking for me. A shinning bike was handed over to me and I was told to report to his office at 1.30pm along with Daju. We got 7 hackel orders for not maintaining our bikes. They were cancelled before we were marched out. That used to be the spirit.

Next outing both I and daju were at bhabhi’s place. It was late already and we could not have got back in time. We found both our bikes punctured. We dug into our pockets and we had no money for a vikram too. Bhaiya offered yaar take my scooter and we did. I brought it and parked it in Bhangi platoons first room which was used as a batty’s store room. Next Saturday we decided to scoot after lunch. It was winters so wearing monkey caps both of us started from Keren company tea point. By the time we turned from the swimming pool turn I got an inkling a scooter is following us. I told daju not to look behind and I did the typical, “Nap de killi”. It was difficult to manoeuvre along the canal due to the pot holes but nevertheless. Two scooters were on a race. We reached the FRI gate and I took that road which used to go to clement town. Soon we turned back to find Sarkar kicking his scooter. I think his petrol finished. We enjoyed the evening in doon and came back in a Vikram. Got down at Prem Nagar and sneaked in.

Once we had finished our camp in the Sharanpur jungles we were getting ready for camp fire. Daju and I decided to carry a bottle of beer each and we will sit somewhere half way for a boost as it will help us finish the march with ease. It was Daju’s idea. The beauty was we carried the bloody bottles of beer till the end and they got confiscated when our kit was checked at the end of the josh run. Patil was generous enough to issue us another couple of bottles with promise to pay next week after Daju’s pay day.

We were third termers and cross country practice was on. We used to run to Garhi Cantt and turn towards RIMC and then get back if I remember the route correctly. Daju had his Gorkhali friends in Garhi and we had decided to have tea with them. Daju’s girlfriend was standing there to receive us. A voice came from behind buggers if I don’t find you guys in the third enclosure you guys are in for trouble. Capt Sarkar was following us again. We saw the family waving but refused to recognise them. We just about finished in time and escaped his wrath.

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

MY CHOICES AFTER TWELFTH

If I were a twelfth class student today, fresh out of the exams, would I have already thought about my career? What would be going on in my mind? I think there would be utter chaos and confusion of selection of a stream triggering random thoughts to do this or something else? The twelfth mark sheet would be instrumental in further planning. Retest is besides the point due to these leaks.
If I get about 70-80 percent in twelfth, will I have a future? What career options do I have? Is there a scope for me to pursue something of my interest? Actually, do I know what my interests are in the first place! I am now transiting through a phase from a school going kid to adult life. I definitely need a career which should fulfil my dreams, excite me, suit my temperament, allow me to continue my hobbies and also pay me well.
Mom and Dad have generally been struggling all through their lives. We don’t have our own house as yet. Mom always picked up jobs in every place father got posted. They always insisted on savings. I saw them buying gold for obvious reasons. Everything used to be on a tight rope, there was a kind of an unseen discipline which we loved to hate. For them books and studies were the only priorities.
Dad preferred his scooter to the car. Mom would never let us feel lonely and dad always boosted our morale. Now was the time for my transformation to step into new shoes, walk my own steps and face my own challenges. Dilemma in the mind was eating me up.
Easiest for me was to continue studies. Now it will be college time, freedom, independence, new place, new friends, time to experiment with life, learn new things, get worldly wise and enjoy. Second was to become a professional as professional could be.
Donations were a big no from Dad. He was there for guidance, sharing knowledge and unflinching dedication for us. Mom had additional virtues of love, care and affection, besides being the best cook. Will I survive in this mad bad world without them? Will I miss home and homemade food? Will I be able to take on a hostel or paying guest? Percentage of marks was below the cut off of a good college, so admissions on merit would be an issue.
Suggestions from people were overflowing to do this & do that. The final decision was ultimately left to God. He would be the guiding light. As the saying says “God helps those who help themselves” so it again boiled down to me. The confusion kept compounding.
Had I scored well, my mark sheet would have spoken for itself. Medical is too tough, engineering I can’t even spell, Literature is not my cup of tea, arts is Greek and Latin to me, Law is difficult, then what else is left.
I decide to join the forces.  I love adventure, mountaineering and sports. I love to travel, I like to meet new people and I love to drive. Dad doesn’t know I have been driving the car on the quiet. I can name all kinds of battle tanks existing in the world today.  Let me give a try for NDA.
They will not only make me a graduate but give me all that I desire. I don’t have to worry about marks much plus they do give a good pay. I just have to be an upright, truthful, hardworking and an honest person. I have been standing first in debates and declamations in school and participated at state and national level and won prizes, which should help me.
Mom with her heart of wax said “mera sona beta” will not join forces. They have a very tough life. No food, no water, inclement weather and terrain. On top of that these militants. If he gets posted to Kashmir what will happen. He should never go to the North-East, it’s too dangerous. Deserts are too harsh. Dad just sits and watches all the rona-dhona and winks at me.
Phew! I won’t have to appear for JEE, CAT, NEET, TOEFL, PMT, CET blah blah blah.  One day, Mom wakes me with a registered letter from UPSC. I open it and see that I am 200 in the merit list and on 01 June I have to join NDA. I pick up mom and give her a swirl; she is like what the hell. I say mom “zindagi ban gayi”. I pull that letter from her hand and rush to announce it to the world.
Can I have a better career after twelfth other than the Forces? I wonder!!!!!!!!!!!
JAI HIND
© Noel Ellis

THE FOODIE WITHIN ME

I wish I had a job like these guys who come on a programme “Highway on my plate”. Some appetite those guys have. 30 years back I could have beaten them hands down. I like the one who is a non-vegetarian. Ghass-Phoos is not my cup of tea to be frank but due to dietary restrictions and age catching up, perforce I have to munch on my veggies and sprout salads. Nevertheless, I want to understand how they control their weight. For me even when I drink water, it goes and gets stuck on my waist like the after effects of Desi Ghee.

Imagine one gets paid for eating. This is some naukri I must say. Their crew must be dying salivating. The beauty is that they publically announce whether they liked or disliked the food. I wish they have a NDA second termers “square meal” as a daily ritual for their diet. In case they ran away from learning table manners I would send all the Drill and PT ustads hunting for them till the time they not only have a “flat foot” but a flat belly too.

Be that as it may, how can one eat so much and not have acidity. I am sure ENO salt people would have them on their cross wires. I think better would be “agar pet safa, har rog dafa” kinds. Kayam Chooran can claim to reduce the emissions of their obnoxious gases for free. By the way, these guys must be farting and farting non-stop. The only way to make way for the next morsel must be to release some gas. I pity the crew who accompany them as their car would be no less than the Nazi gas chamber of sorts.

When these guys must be reaching homes they must be insisting on their wives to make that “patli peeli wali khichiri”. People don’t get to eat two square meals and here we have two chaps who polish of meals for twenty chaps without even belching. I am sure they believe in the adage “pet bhar gaya par neeyat nahi bahri”.

In NDA, I and my cousin used to go to a tamarind jungle near Kondwa gate? We used to target the ripest pods, get them down with a fagot and squeeze the sweet, sour and tangy pulp on the slices of bread. Call it a “Tamrindwich”. We used to sometimes pick up “mixture” (namkeen) from gole market, mash a few “boondi ladoos” in it and stuff the “thing” in buns and wash it down with water, as going to get tea room on a movie day for a second termer meant trouble.

 Many moons back my wife once asked me yaar we have been married so many years and you have never told me that what you would like to eat. You just eat what I make. So please tell me. I said OK make Chicken Mayonnaise. All hell broke loose that day. “Don’t you know there is no chicken”. “First get chicken and then demand such a thing”. “We also don’t have mayonnaise”. “You do it on purpose”. Well I said you asked for it, what’s my fault. “No, you don’t love me and just want to embarrass me”. I learnt my lesson to keep shut and eat what you get ever after.

A few years later, when love overflowed again she said. “Yaar you never tell me how I cook”. “You never find any faults with my dishes”. “You just say “theek hai” never say “achha hai ya kuch kam-ziada hai”. One fine day I said “Namak kam hai” and all hell broke loose again. “How many times have I told you salt is not good for health”. “Don’t you find the salt and pepper shaker in front of you”? “This Tata chap is not making good quality salt”. “If I have forgotten to put it once why do you have to highlight it?” I said my dear, if I don’t say anything you have an issue. You coaxed me to say something, now there is an issue. Just tell me will I get dinner today or not. Believe you me there was double the salt in the dinner and I ate quietly. She sat with a grumpy face and decided to eat quite late. Then meekly came and said sorry and asked me how I ate with so much of extra salt. I told her I am Ex-NDA from 66 course. I can eat anything which moves or doesn’t move. We are Lakkar Hazzam and Pathhar Hazzam. (We can digest wood and stones)

Since that day I have been saved the agony of commenting on any food. By the way she is a terrific cook. My paunch reveals everything. Nevertheless, when will I get a chance to just taste food and be paid for it? I wonder!!!!!!!!!!

JAI HIND

 Noel Ellis

FAREWELL MY COMMANDO BUDDY ASHIWINI CHEEMA

FAREWELL MY COMMANDO BUDDY ASHIWINI CHEEMA

Can someone suggest a better word in any dictionary to describe a Gentleman? Is there a better description to mean more than a friend? Is there any superlative to describe sincerity, dedication and devotion? Could there be a better partner than this man called Ashwini Cheema. Mike squadron NDA was where I came across him for the first time and later he was my buddy in the commando course. Let me just recollect few funny moments we spent together as a tribute to the finest Commando buddy.

A power house of strength, witty, with a subtle sense of humour he had. Man of few words he was. It was very difficult to make him smile but when he did smile, he used to take anyone’s breadth away.

One day Capt KK Arun was with our group for a raid. As usual buddy did all the preparations. The LMG landed with us. I cursed in choicest Punjabi, he said in his gruff voice, buddy tu fikar na kar. As luck would have it I dropped the LMG and Capt Arun went berserk. Buddy was on me in fireman lift. I would have carried him for ten minutes and then I threw him down. He knew me so he decided to carry me. I slept all the way to the commando base. How he carried me and the weapons? I almost kissed him out of the love and affection that burst out of me.

Another raid, most of us were sleep deprived, tired and at the end of our tolerance limits. Buddy stopped so I stopped. Buddy moved, I forgot to move and slept off standing. I got up when my knees buckled. I was all alone. I didn’t know where to go. I tried following the footprints but soon they disappeared, so I sat down with my back to a tree waiting for almighty to do a miracle and dozed off again. Around first light I hear a sound Noel-Noel, lo and behold it was buddy. I got my quota of adjectives in chaste Punjabi and he told me to follow him quietly into the commando base. The raid had gone without me; my buddy covered for me. Once things got settled he had come looking for me.

Another patrol, I asked buddy what chocolate are you carrying, he said BHOOTNI KE its not chocolate it is my barrel in your mouth, as it must be in shikari position. I was sleep walking and dreaming of eating chocolate it seems, I was cursing why Indian manufacturers can’t make better chocolates, as the taste of rifle oil and sand was not to my liking.

Buddy used to prepare for briefings, I used to sleep. Buddy used to make khichiri I used to sleep, once buddy offered me a stone as a pillow at night. I thanked him and slept off. At first light I found it was semi-dried cow dung. What peaceful sleep I had! That day I cooked for my buddy on that piece of cow dung.

During escape and evasion we were supposed to cross a dirty pond with improvised water crossing expedients. Buddy warned me not to touch the pond water, I never listened. I drank so much that I would have drowned. Thereafter, I had such an upset stomach that with the dungarees I couldn’t run to ease myself every ten minutes. Well at the end of the day we had those 40 kms to do. Buddy suggested tear off the dangri from behind and I had no choice. He walked with me and used to support me when I had to go for natures call. Ashwani did 40 kms again and got an ‘I’ on the course.

Brother, I spoke to you two years back. I feel so heartbroken to see a powerhouse like you leaving so early. I salute your spirit; I salute your grit and determination to fight. I am happy that now you are relieved of all the pain and suffering. Hats off to Mrs Cheema and Shauraya, we are with you in this time of grief. Buddy as I sign off let me say that you live with us. Cheers brother till we meet again.

MY MARATHI & MY ENGLISH

I was just calculating my days spent in Maharashtra. Three years in NDA, Khadakwasla, one odd year of my Mech YOs (Young Officer’s Course) and Radio Course in Ahmednagar and then after retirement it has been eleven years I have been drinking Marathi pani. How come I could not pick up this language? Suffice to say, I understand it very well but I am not comfortable speaking it.

In my first term at NDA, I did not know what speak meant. In my second and third term no one let me speak, I only heard choicest adjectives being hurled at me. In my fourth term I could barely open my mouth to speak. In my fifth term I spoke what I had heard in second and third terms. In my sixth term I only spoke to practice my word of command in the bathroom. Besides “oye patilya, kaye re”. All the Joshi’s & Pawar’s used to wonder why I address them as Patilya, as I always thought that’s how you respectfully address a “taant”.

My second encounter with taant’s was when I met a unique family called “Camble” from Kohlapur. Well they were actually Kamble’s. My Sali ji was getting married to Sir Kamble and I was in charge of looking after them. So like a well groomed Liaison Officer of my battalion, I walked up to the would be mother in law before she retired for the night and asked her, auntie what would you like to have for breakfast? She said “supperchand”. Now my brains got shot circuited and I rushed back home repeating this word, lest I forget. Our whole family shook their heads, as none could decipher what missile she was referring to. I mustered some courage and walked up to the elder brother of the groom and hesitantly asked him what supperchand means. He coolly said A for apple. My foot I murmured & got back home, asked father in law to join me for a drink. We had two quick tots and went to the railway station, as at that unearthly hour the only place to find this fruit was the station and bought two kilograms of supperchand.

I was travelling to this place where I am working now, for my interview. This being a remote place we kept asking for directions. Everyone just said “saral-saral”. I said yaar if it was so saral (easy) then why are we not reaching anywhere. After three hours plus finally I came to understand what this word meant, “keep going straight”. Some of them also said “pude” and “maghe”, they sounded very unfamiliar and I did not trust them. I was a quite sure when I reach saral I would be at my destination.

Now, about my knowledge of English; my name sounds English, though my mother tongue is Hindi. Punjabi I spoke fluently as I studied in Sainik School Kapurthala, Punjab. The English faculty of NDA put me in class 6 which is for weaklings because of the reputation of my school in English. Believe you me I failed in English and was about to be relegated. Our teacher was Mr Warriar with an A not with an O. The poem in the exam was BYZANTIUM by William Butler “Yeats”. I wrote to my dad to help me as this poem was beyond my comprehension. He told me to send the poem. In ten odd inland letters I copied the poem and in twenty odd envelopes he sent the detailed reference to context.

Mr Warriar being the officiating principal, used to sit near the most dreaded place called the centre dome of NDA. I had just visited the Com’s (Commandant’s) office close by and escaped relegation a few days back for discipline. It took me great courage to arrange a meeting with Mr Warriar. He dismissed me on seeing my face but my pleading eyes got the better of him. My head bobbed up and down like the “Hades’ Bobbin”. With great reluctance he offered me a seat and from my KDs (Khaki Dress) which could carry 40 toasts came out those 20 letters from a father to his son. He read each word and then got hold of my answer sheet. His only anger was I had not written a single word he had taught. It was natural as I was never awake in his class. I had pasted my dad’s version verbatim. He asked me, what does your father do? I told him he was the HOD English of my school. My grade was changed from F to an A+. I visited the centre dome during my course get together after thirty odd years recently; my eyes went moist as I shouted Byzantium. The echo still reverberates in my mind.

Today a very funny incident happened. Someone came to our house and my wife asked the bai who is it. She could not trace anyone. Bai then went around the house and found that someone had left two gunny bags of manure. She came and told my wife that someone had got “Bomar”. My wife gave a blank look as she could not make head or tail. Ultimately our bai went out brought a dried piece of cow dung and said “Maveshi cha Potty”. My wife said Gobbar, she said hau bomar.

Be that as it may. Should I learn English first or Marathi? I wonder!!!!!!!!!!

JAI HIND

 Noel Ellis

PUNJAB MATRIC

This year some six lakh students skipped board exams in UP. The way they cheat khule aam is tauba-tauba. In Bihar I think assisting in cheating by climbing windows of multi storey buildings is a profession of sorts. It was nice to see students in chappals as I remember shoes could take on at least ten to twenty questions. If socks were taken into consideration then the complete exam could be managed unless you took the wrong subject notes. It reminded me of my days as a class ninth student.

In class ninth my Dad insisted that I must do “Punjab Matric” as it was called in those days. I was studying in a CBSE school then. He said that we all were going to stay in Punjab so a state degree would be instrumental in getting me a good job in Punjab Government. I had no choice and the more I resisted the more he got adamant. Once or twice I got a solid beating also for it.

Be that as it may, my first waterloo was arithmetic. As it is I was zero in maths. I got an MBD refresher from Vir di Hatti in Kapurthala. I can never forget the author; it was Barkat Ram Nair and sons. It had calculations like which day of the week was Gandhi ji born. It was Friday if I still remember it correctly, don’t ask me the formula please. Profit and loss, shares and debentures were bouncers for me. I was algebra kinds as somehow I used to find that notty fellow called ‘x’.

My second waterloo was the Punjabi itself. My Punjabi was half Hindi and half Punjabi. To ratto the Punjabi “kaida” of “oora-aira” took me some time. I used to get mixed up with “matras” and of course the alphabets. “pappa” and “dhadda”, “mamma” and “sassa”, they all looked the same. Well, now that my matriculation form had been filled there was no way out.

My third waterloo was history. From the battles of Panipat, to revolt of 1857, from Shivaji, to the East India Company and of course Akbar, Birbal, Humayun and who was whose son, it was beyond me. I had a lot of cramming capacity as I used to participate in declamations and plays. So the only option was to by heart the father, son and son of a gun.

Saving grace was English. For Punjabi’s English was like going to the gallows. I remember I used to take exams in the evening sessions as a private candidate. I had also the unique distinction of being the only English medium candidate in that centre. As luck would have it I had all girls around me. Well, when it came to the English exam I was kicked and nudged by this girl sitting behind. “Baau kuj taan das de” (Sir tell me something at least). The one on the left kept winking at me; each wink meant the question number. Where was Priya Prakash those days? The girl on the right kept tapping her pen and the one in front kept showing me fingers behind her neck, unfortunately she could not ask beyond question ten due to the limitation of the number of fingers.

The best part was that was the first time I saw where all ladies hide their “parchies”. Well, I don’t have to elaborate. I also came to learn where all they can write on their bodies, it was interesting. After the exam when one went to the toilet it appeared to be a “raddi ki dukan” with rolls and rolls of paper. As I later came to know that girls were striped to bare minimum to “excavate” their knowledge banks in form of chits.

Then came the maths exam and it was my turn to take favours. When I asked for the formula; they gave me the “faar-moolah”. I asked for the value of x they gave me back some “rakam”. Ede nal onu guna kar de, te ode naalon es nu manfi. I thought to myself if I got to fail I will fail myself and not take help from anyone to fail. And fail I did, I got a compartment in maths which I cleared subsequently.

Another funny thing my dad did was he wrote my date of birth as 1969 instead of 1963. Well, no one checked birth certificates then. The logic he gave was I will retire six years late. Good that I did not join “Gormint” of Punjab and my Sainik School mark sheet saw me through to NDA.

Indeed board exams are a nightmare for many. People claim they are double MAs etc but has any one of you done double matric? I have? Why did I do it? I still 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

MY NEW DEFENCE MINISTER

Wallah! At last India has a permanent Defence Minister after a long wait and amidst so much of speculations. Congratulations ma’am and welcome to a different world. Things are different here and things are done very differently in the Armed forces. I am not using the words defence on purpose because you will get a first hand feel of its enormity once you get on the chair proper. You will have the three services Chiefs at your command to give you the correct picture of things on ground and national security. They will also tell you how things are on paper. If you will have a heart to heart talk with them they will reveal to you how they are actually functioning with all that they have. Madam, trust them and listen to them. I wish you all the best.

Well let me not get into the 3Cs of criticizing, comparing and complaining mode from the very beginning. I am sure all your predecessors would have contributed their bit in nation building and with special reference to defence. You have got a fresh slate and a fresh charter. You also have come in here in the third year of the government so the ball must have been set rolling in any case by now. I am sure budget will not be a constraint even if you have to walk in into the FMs or the PMs Office or is this asking for too much on the second day in your office. So let me assume that you will take that liberty as and when the need arises but on the other hand I would request you to change the way the defence ministry works and that its rigid protocol. You will find it on every file, the seniority in which people will put their remarks on each noting sheet. Ma’am I want you to go to the three service Chief’s offices rather than them coming to you.

Imagine what commotion you will create in the corridors of South block if you walk up to the Army Chief’s office. Let me tell you ma’am the sandwiches served there are too good. They will be served with so much of love and affection that you may ask for more. Madam you will see people running to hide all maps with those huge curtains in the Military Operations room, later realising that you will be the one giving directions soon as to which part of the map to obliterate or pound and with what intensity. Suddenly, you may find pink napkins in the corridors of South Block. Madam jokes apart, you have yourself to feel the warmth that the men & women in olive greens, sky blue and white will shower on you. They are looking for a fresh face as they have had too many stain marks from spilled goan curry, Chai from Jaitley’s ketley and rancid coconut oil on their documents.

Madam Minister, another thing I request you to change is the perception of an iron wall between the MoD per se and the people from the services. If a gun has to be used by the Army man, an Aircraft by the fly boy or a submarine by a mariner then who should have the last word in its procurement. Please involve the user in every phase ma’am because to tell the difference between a smooth bore gun and a rifled gun your technocrats will give you but for a man to survive on the battlefield and hit the target in varied terrain and weather will only be revealed by the user, I hope you will agree. Please let there be a change where the well walks up to the thirsty rather than the other way around. If anyone in uniform does hanky-panky or misappropriation of money please skin him alive. He doesn’t deserve to be in uniform but if the same is done by someone in white collars, you may decide appropriate punishment.

The biggest thing I ask of you madam is the restoration of our IZZAT. I do not want to get into the naam, namak and nishan part of it. But our prestige, our honour, our self esteem needs a definite boost. Why do we in the forces get a feeling that we are children of a lesser God? Madam our ex-servicemen are sitting on Jantar mantar peacefully till date. They are old, many infirm and not in their best of health but are conveying their feelings to this nation that for what fault of theirs they still have to bear the heat, rain and cold after doing their time in hell. Madam do go and just say a hello to them. Probably your predecessors never had the time or inclination to meet the veterans and the veer naris.

One more thing ma’am, please do not change your ministry like my wife changes her dresses. By the time you get the hang of it your tenure will be over. Do a good job and help me to vote for you in 2019 again to see you at the helm of affairs in the same Ministry. You will see many Chiefs change during your tenure but the ethos and dastoor of the services won’t change. Let them hold their head high and give you all their support. Visit doklam next week end, I would say visit every theater of operation, ask the commanders there what are their typical issues and resolve them then and there. Issues could be operational or administrative like infrastructure, health care, accommodation, equipment, morale anything under the sun. Madam another thing I am skeptic of is the DRDO, reason I don’t know but the perception says there is something amiss. We still wait for our Main Battle Tank, a state of art rifle to say the least. We want Israel and Russia to use equipment made in India is what I ask you.

At the outset let me again welcome you to the uniformed part of it. The non-uniformed you have to take care of. I can’t say I wish you were Ex-NDA but madam I expect you to be one. You need to be a flier, a commando, a paratrooper, a deep sea diver, a tank man, a sailor, a Commander of men and women in all varied terrain and weather. Madam above all you will have to have a heart of gold which beats in sync and tune with the armed forces. I wish we sort out Pak in the next three years to start with. Good Luck and God Speed to you. Have I asked for too much? I wonder!!!!!!!!!

JAI HIND

FAREWELL MY FRIEND PROMOD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BATTLE TANK VERSUS WATER TANK

As a kid I remember when Dad used to take us to an Army cantonment we used look at every piece of military equipment in awe. My kindergarten school had many army kids and they used to come in those old TMBs (Tata Mercedes Benz) or SHAKTIMAN trucks modified as school busses. We could spend hours sitting on our haunches imagining what all attachments it used to have, like the pick axe, the shovel, the jerry cans, mule tanks etc. Some trucks had winches on their front bumpers. The numbers painted on them used to be a mystery especially with an arrow pointing upwards. We at that time had gone through a phase of the war of 1971 with Pakistan so as boys our basic game used to be fantasising using all the military equipment we had seen in our lives to defeat of Pakistan.

I subtly remember while passing through Jalandhar Cantt there used to be these Pakistani Patton tanks at the entrance. I cannot describe how proud one used to feel just looking at them as Indian Army got these as war trophies. Even till today if I happen to pass by military equipment displayed in any town, I make it a point to have a look. I remember having clicked many photos on the tanks that used to be displayed in front of Sudan block in NDA. The feeling of elation and a sense of pride that crosses your mind moment you see a military convoy passing by is indescribable. One has seen many of them as a child, huge guns in tow, all covered with tarpaulins. Even one saw many military special trains passing by. One always waved to the faujis and wondered is war imminent. I used to long to be part of them, as I wanted to live that life on a train, with a tarpaulin tent made on a barrel of a gun, eating cooking and yet cheerfully waving to us going towards the border.

We used to have military equipment displays in school. One used to speechless when an NCO used to describe an Artillery gun or an Air Defence Gun or an APC (Armoured Personal Carrier) of the BTR-60 kind or SKOT. Heavens used to break loose when a KRAZ with a 130mm gun in tow used to come for a demo deployment. Though one could never understand the words of command but the whole process used to leave our jaws open. I clearly remember touching those practice rounds and getting bewildered at the size of the 130 mm shell. We even used to follow those tyre tread marks of the APCs. One could never imagine that APCs can fill air in them from inside. One used to think of one’s own bicycle, if this could be possible. The way the baffle plate used to go up and the propeller used to be exposed at the rear. To imagine that this huge beast could float was pure fiction. Though, I later joined an outfit which had both the BRDMs and BMPs as my bread and butter.

One really dreamt of joining the forces as a child. The starched dungarees with big pockets close to the knees were something fascinating, crisp uniforms, shining stars, glistening equipment everything used to mesmerise us. The wooden pointer with a white tip in a pocket on the shoulder was awesome. I even remember going through every detail of an army ambulance. One was very impressed by the fans inside as one had never seen them in cars also that time.

Today, during Republic Day Parade, the main highlight is the equipment that the country displays. It gives an inherent sense of security as the commentator gives the description of the various tanks, guns and missiles. The mind starts appreciating the skills of the pilots who do formation flying, or refuel midair, or do a vertical Charlie right in front of your eyes. Your mind doesn’t register when you hear that all these aircrafts have come from faraway air bases like Pune, Delhi Ambala etc on a precise call and accurate time. How can one stage manage a machine moving at double the speed of sound to fly past exactly when the last marching contingent has just saluted the President? Well friends, the coordination, the discipline is mindboggling and that is what impresses us.

The marching contingents are no less matter of pride and honour when all those Gorkha hats tilted at just the precise angle do an eyes right. The “turras” of the pagris suddenly appearing broadside like a peacock displaying its feathers is an awesome experience to see. The front foot lifted higher than the shoulder and dug in the tarmac for Dahine Dekh (Eyes Right). The dipping of the tank barrels and turning towards the President as a mark of respect is mind blowing. The commentator when he starts listing out the decorations of each passing contingent, one is really baffled to hear what mettle these people are made of. Yes one does get a lump in the throat and moist eyes when a widow of a brave heart comes to the President to take a medal which her husband won. It is heart breaking on hearing the citation about his bravery. Ones head bows down in respect and gratitude and a small prayer to thank the martyr that brother because of you we all are alive today.

I do not know what JNU people are made of. I am sure they would be more patriotic than all of us. Fortunately or unfortunately I too am a graduate from JNU only thing is my campus was in NDA. I wish you guys learn to make peace and also learn to be prepared for war. All those who oppose a tank being displayed in the campus deserve a water tank to remind them to save water. Please take inspiration from water tank and debate whether we stand by our Army or otherwise. If installing busts of personalities they want to emulate satisfies them, so be it. I only have one request friends that please ensure that no bird droppings are seen on those busts. Ensure every student knows whose statue it is and what he did in his life time. Please make sure that at least once a year you all go and salute this great man rather than sitting under the shade of the statue and make plans of how to create the next kanhiya like episode.

I having served my motherland more than 20 years in the Army would request you if you are so interested in history and are so vehement against putting a tank, kindly put a bust of all Param Vir Chakra winners with space for more to come for a change. I am sure they too shall form part of Indian history. These war heroes have definitely given you the freedom to attack your VC to fire verbal salvos towards him with words which neither have direction nor will meet any target. Will they ever understand why we say Jai Hind and Bharat Mata ki Jai, I wonder!!!!!!!!!

 

SIXTY SIX MIXED FEELINGS

Mama I don’t want to go to office today was the first thing that came to my mind as the alarm rang this morning. I was feeling uncomfortable, miserable and down. The feeling was the same when after the term break one had to go for the first muster. I remember we used to count DLTGH, cutting away, smudging those dates in our diaries, on our tables, inside our drawers, behind every note book of which ever subject we had. It used to be a dilemma that should I cut today’s date tomorrow morning or should I cut it today itself. On the way back to NDA one got that kind of eerie feeling which I had while going to office today. Never in my life have I felt so home sick. We used to dread to get to NDA especially in those “faded OG” TATA busses. How we used to rush to get a seat on the newer type ones. That feeling which used to come moment Khadakwasla used to come in sight was the feeling that came afresh after ages. I want to start striking off dates for the next one today onwards, hopefully on a cruise. I shall be there with my wife and daughter for sure.

Friends, I took an additional day leave after coming here as the hangover of the dose of friendship, camaraderie, bonhomie, fellowship, association, love and bonding we shared was still fresh in my brains. The laughter which roared from every group if calculated in terms of energy released could have flown the “Tejas” to Pakistan, decimated it and come back. If we packed the good vibrations of that cheer in forms of bombs and attach them to Sukoi’s we could devastate our enemies with a force greater than the nuclear bombs which fell on Japan. The atmosphere was so strong in positive energy that words cannot fathom. I was falling short of words because I did not want the event to end. I know what the organisers would have gone through weaving such an experience for us. Notwithstanding the pressure on them and the nitty-gritty’s being meticulously looked into. The man who took the onus to organise it deserves a grand kudos. All that followed was the true espirit-de-corps of being part of the great course called 66. A grand salute to every course mate who attended and his family for enriching our lives. At least 10 years have been added for sure.

It was first time in my life that I was claimed by two squadrons equally in this get together. When I was told to leave Charlie squadron ages back, my heart weighed a ton but could not help it. India Squadron became my second home thanks to my course mates. I remember the way I was welcomed in India Squadron. It was evening tea time; the hustle and bustle was at its peak as the cadets were reporting back from term break. Appointments were already in, so were people like me who were on restrictions, plus there were some like “Kathpalia” who had come for GCI. Cabin allotted to me was on the ante-room side facing the parade ground. His cabin was the corner cabin in line as the bathroom. I was walking with my mug of tea into my cabin when I heard, hey you! I gave a dirty look and went inside. As I was about sip my tea in that red plastic mug there was a fanatic knock on the door. You bloody Bas***d, didn’t you hear me, wake me up at 4.30 tomorrow morning. I opened the door; I was in my gown and nothing else underneath. You Fu***r don’t you know me, as I opened the cabin door. I said no I don’t and go and hop for all I care. His rage and fury knew no bounds, come outside and start rolling you son of a glitch. I shut the door again and sat down to have my tea. By then due to the commotion CQ and CSM landed up and told him, yaar he is a fifth not a second termer and mind you he has been sent here after being duly marched up to COM for the charge of manhandling. Kathpalia made me his pal instantly and offered to wake me up whenever it was convenient to me. I lived in peace ever after.

Well, nostalgia creeps all over me as I have yet to come to terms that the get together is over. Thank you my dear organisers, you all were fantabulus. My wife and daughter are still in no mood to either cook or go to school. The new friends we made and the charming ladies I met cannot be cupped together in two palms like one does to water. ACA of the ladies kind must remember that I am a discipline case, so, not easy to control and handle but cheers to her effort. As she was listing out suggestions for improvements for the next bash at the airport, the only suggestion which came to my mind was that the horses should smell better, Johnny is witness to that. Narpat don’t mind as this is on the lighter side, because with the amount of food, snacks and liquid we ate and drank, we could only blame our smelly farts on the horses and muffled the musical farty notes in different octaves under the roar of the tornado’s.

My sincere thanks to each person behind the scenes, the bands, the working parties, the drivers, the cooks, waiters and maslachi’s, the house keepers’ et al. Though we the RSI kinds were separated by locations but were united in the spirit of 66. Jaws still hurt, eyes get moistened both by the thought of the laughter we shared and the ache of separating from the bonds we made. So my friends let me say Au revoir, Dasvidaniya, sayonara, till we meet again. We have to meet again. Cheers friends and “girl friends”, hipipip hurray 66.

LEARNING AS YOU GO

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

DEATH OF KASHMIR

Time now has come to let go of Kashmir or whatever is left of it. I say this with a heavy heart because my blood boils at every drop which falls. I also express my heartfelt condolences to all those associated to Lt Fayaz. I too get associated with him being an Ex-NDA. Above all he too adorned the Olive Greens of which I am as proud still even after having hung my uniform ten years back.

I go back to my piping ceremony after I had taken oath to serve the mother land by land, sea or air, where my Mom and Dad’s joy knew no bounds that their son is now part of a different clan. The glisten in their eyes, the tears which rolled down my mother’s cheeks, the hug which my Dad and brother gave as if to say, now we have given you to India, fare well, and keep the honour of our family and this country supreme always and every time. We brought you thus far and now pave your own way forward. The burden of that one pip on my shoulder was really heavy but a dream come true. I am sure all of us who have stepped across “ANTIM PAG” (final step)would relate to what I say. Imagine all dreams of the parents of Fayaz got shattered, all dreams of this young man crushed, never to be fulfilled again. 2nd RAJ RIF lost a future leader who was about to start his journey. Sad indeed!

I can imagine what tough life this young officer would have had. I can imagine what his parents and family would have gone through to make him an officer. I can also conjecture that this would have been their greatest fear that how the anti India elements will treat their son when they come to know that he has joined the Indian Army. How his parents must be shivering at the thought of any harm coming to him. The harm came and today he sleeps in peace. Fayaz was about to embark on journey but was shot in cold blood by these barbarians. The murderers achieved their aim. However, now the Army has to achieve aim plus. Firstly, they must find his killers and eliminate them at the earliest. Secondly, to look after the bereaved family the way the forces look after any martyrs family. Thirdly, motivate at least 100 more people of his village and surrounding areas to become officers of the forces so as to give a shut up call to these HIZB dastards. Fourthly, give all armed forces personnel proceeding on leave adequate protection from the evil hands of terrorists. It may have an additional burden on the battalion deployed nearby; well it now should be part of the SOP. Fifthly, to get the intelligence network going to find out all overt and covert supporters of these monkeys and eliminate them as also instill fear of God in them so that they dare not try anything like this again. Lastly, get hold of the parents these cowards & their supporters and keep them under pressure to surrender.

I saw and experienced firsthand the people of Kashmir just after elections of 1996. I think the mentality has not changed much since. Hatred for the armed forces did exist then but they feared the army gun. The hatred continues today also, however fear of the gun has gone as CAPFs and police have weapons but cannot and do not fire. Kashmiri’s fear militants as they not only fire but take their women to bed at will by pointing their weapons. Kashmiri’s now pelt stones as weapons and shield terrorists besides hampering military operations. Do we draw a lesson from this? Covert recruitment and brainwashing of young minds was being done then & it still continues. Common Kashmiri feared death by the security forces of their kin who had joined militancy or had gone across for training. Today, recruitment is done openly thanks to the political mis-governance over the decades. Size of population has increased so rapidly that the parents find it as an alternative to employment as they get food for the family. It has been proved that they get paid for both stone pelting and being a militant or a militant supporter. Only thing that has not changed is the ineffective politicians of Kashmir who have only done Haqumat on Riasat-e-Kashmir. They just want funds in whichever way and yet never had a concrete solution for Kashmir.

If you take a Kashmiri in private, he will talk to you like a parrot and if you talk to him in public he would act dumb as a dumbo. He may not even recognise you. You call a Kashmiri to your post he will get half the village along in tow. Out of which half would be chest beating women as if the heavens have fallen on earth. You go to a village, kids will line up as you are the toffee uncle. They will peep trough every balcony, follow your patrol like a shadow, and take you to the maulvi’s house or the village headman’s house. Moment you halt and speak to one, they all will just evaporate.

I remember very vividly that a suspect was picked up by my battalion and was taken for interrogation. My company being the closest was sent to cordon and search, especially his specific house. On reaching the house, it happened to be one of my informers house. This person was really innovative to earn money and toiled like hell. He worked on the local hydel project 15 kms from his village. He ran a tea shop on the hydel road. He ran a vegetable shop in his village. The vegetables used to come from Srinagar by the local bus and dropped at his tea shop in Kangan as it became an unofficial bus stop. From there he used to lug it on his back. Even my post used to get home delivered boxes of tomatoes. People around had turned purple with jealousy from this guy and his family. His son in law and daughter used to run a tailor shop in the village. Wife ran poultry and a dairy. He used to take leave and go into the walnut jungles to get “Guchhi” a kind of very costly rare variety of mushroom. To fix this man people connived and got his son in law arrested for possessing a weapon. They almost shattered that hard working family on behest of an influential Gujjar politician in that area.

I drifted into nostalgia once again. The militants and their ilk cannot stand people who are well settled and have jobs. Fayaz I have no words to express my grief brother and I feel sorry for the politicians of Kashmir as none of them have uttered a word for you. People perhaps could not attend your funeral as they would be taken as supporting the Army, never mind. The Hurriyat has gone underground as they don’t care for Kashmir anymore. At this rate death of Kashmir is eminent so India it is high time we part ways with them. Jamhuriat never came into being, Kashmiriat is non-existent, Insaniyat is too big a word for the Kashmiri people to understand, so let them take azadi and go to hell for all I care. They are not worth it. Every drop of blood fallen on Kashmiri soil of any Indian will pinch and hurt me and we can no longer bear loss of our colleagues falling to militant bullets. PM Sahib let them go. Let them become “gulam’s” (slaves) once more. Within one year they will ask for azadi from the other side too. We should let Kashmir die or should we continue to live with the rot, I wonder!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

TO EAT OR NOT TO EAT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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