Noel Ellis's Official Blog

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

Category: NDA

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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