Noel Ellis's Official Blog

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

Category: NOSTALGIA

CHOICE OF ARMS

 

 

CHOICE OF ARMS

Choice of Arms (COA) used to be announced close to passing out in IMA. One could see three types of faces on hearing what has been allotted to you. Happy, sad and faces with no expression. Some people who opted for Ordinance landed up in Rajput Regiment, some could not opt for ASC because of their instructor’s pressure to join Gorkha Rifles.  Thambis got Sikh Regiment and Sikh gentlemen were allotted Madras Regiment. UP people got Naga regiment and J&K types were allotted Marathas. Most of us became “casualties” except for the super block kinds. (First twenty in the order of merit)
The Batty (Battalion Commander) used to announce the COA. GC 19964 you have been allotted Infantry, I almost swooned, with tears in my eyes that I have become causality. I was about to about turn when he announced Mechanised after a pause, I said what! I just could not believe my ears, as it was my first choice. The watery eyes changed to eyes glistening with pride eyes and then he added Recce and Support, 17th battalion. My expression turned to a frown that ye Recce and Support kaun sa keera hai. This was in June 1985.
When you come out of Batty’s office, you find GCs eagerly waiting, not bothered what they got but are more concerned on what the others have got. Quite a few of them gheroaed me asking Kya mila? Kya mila? I said Mech Inf. People almost fainted. Is sale ko Mechanised kaise mil gayi. The NRS (Nearest Railway Station) given to me was Jaisalmer. I did not even care to register it at that moment as the excitement was too much. The next thing was to have a beer, gum main ya khushi main.
I reached my room picked up an inland and wrote to Dad. All this while dreaming of the APCs (Armoured Personal Carriers) BTRs and the SCOTs, I had seen in Kapurthala cantonment. My motivation was Mech Units which used to come for equipment display to our school. I used to be awe struck when they told us these APCs float on water and used to show us a propeller at its rear end. I could never have asked for more from God.
Now to find someone from Recce and Support in IMA was like finding a needle in the haystack. I was lucky to find a Kote NCO of 17 Mech looking after my Karen Company Kote. I asked him ustad 17 Mech kahan hai, he said he cannot tell because of “sekorti” and equipment cannot be divulged as it is Top Secret. I asked a few Mech officers posted there, none could tell me what this recce and support battalion was all about.
Rumors were hot during that time. Posting locations, names of COs, characteristics of Brigade Commanders etc started floating around. There were certain fauji brats who knew various stations and hardships of those areas. So even if people were happy to get their choice, they were a little apprehensive of the areas they were going to serve. Well, in IMA who is bothered except taking the ANTIM PAG (final Step) which is the culmination of the POP (Passing out parade).
I was told that you are the luckiest person joining an elite battalion. One company is always on training in France. One started dreaming of the Eiffel Tower straight away. One company is equipped with helicopters for reconnaissance. Ones imagination ran wild that you are the next Rocky & Rambo combined. Pakistan you better watch out. Flying choppers whole night in my dreams used to leave me exhausted. The third company they said remains in India for training. I thought to myself as the unit is hush-hush, I will become a secret operative. I wanted to leave for Paris immediately but why have they told me to report to Jaisalmer. The excitement was too much to digest. Now, that once in a month beer became a weekly affair and that one fag a day became five. From Panama I graduated to Wills Kings. After all we were Mech People.
Be that as it may, COA got us busy drafting DO letters to the Commanding Officer as the first piece of military writing we were practicing. Life took a different turn that day when parents blessed their children and piped us. At least the civilian crowd like my parents had no idea what the difference was between Infantry and Ordinance. For them we were Officers of the Indian Army. We had made them proud beyond words.
All of us from different regiments took oath to abide by the Constitution of India and to go by land, sea or air to defend our motherland even at the peril of our lives. We had no choice left except to be an Officer and a Gentleman.
Our minds were blank as we did not know what was in store for us. Our thoughts were just conjectures. We didn’t know what a battalion looks like and what really happens in one. We all were happy folks, bubbling with josh and eager to join our outfits. All the training was in your heads, we were raw, unpolished and unaware of what lies ahead. We had joined one of the finest professions to be in service of our nation.

JAI HIND
© Noel Ellis

THE ART OF READING

THE ART OF READING

There was a time when a novel in my hand was compulsory. Be it travel, Military exercises or deployment on the borders. Summer holidays or Christmas time, a book had always been my partner. The only time my wife could get a window seat on a train used to be when I used to dig into my book. Then there was no looking back till I finished it. Ballet of a belle did exactly that to me.

In school, on each library card one could borrow two books. I remember the rule, we had to return them in 14 days and there after fine used to be 10 paise per day. I could never afford to be late. My librarian auntie used to be generous enough to issue me books from the new editions, a rare privilege.

Every day without fail, dot at 3pm before Inderjeet our library assistant used to open the door of the Durbar hall of the Jagjit Palace of the Maharaja of Kapurthala, which used to house our library, yours truly used to waiting for him. Half a novel used to be finished in that one hour of library time. In winters, tucked into your Rajai (quilt) with your head covered due to the freezing cold in Punjab the “silsila” of reading continued. Started with Enid Blyton, Nick Carter, James Hadley Chase, graduated to Harold Robbins, Ayn Rand, Ludlum and the works.

This practice continued till I joined my unit. While returning from leave at Jalandhar railway station there was one AH wheeler book stall which was my favourite haunt. Choice there was limited in terms of authors. The next long halt used to be at Ambala Cantt and then at Old Delhi to surf book stalls. Over the years the stall owners used to recognise me and recommend books keeping my taste of reading in mind.

My unit had a great tradition to build a library. One had to get one book on return from annual leave. Our staff college reference library also grew leaps and bounds as every year we were sending one officer. Five officers from one unit, in one go was a record of sorts. I too followed suit later.

Be that as it may, once I started studying for Staff College this art of reading novels slowly shifted focus to reading subjects related to the military. I loved reading but I hated reading Military history. Part B, I cleared in four attempts and Part D in five. Every two years the Military Campaign and personality changed you can imagine from Von Rundstedt to Gaip, Burma campaign to Falkland War, to Rommel to the Yom Kippur war, form Sun Tzu to Campaign in Malaya, to Montgomery, to the North African campaign, I read them all as I had no choice.

Now, after ages I picked up a novel written by my course mate and jiggery Rahul Tushar, “The Ballet of a Belle”. First thing that came to mind, Rahul writing a novel is not possible. Rahul and I did staff college together. Knowing him and his flair for gazals it was difficult to fathom that he is a fiction writer.

I must thank Rahul for rekindling the passion of good old days of yore. I still prefer to read a book rather than on the computer screen. It got delivered form Amazon but I didn’t pick it up for three days. Till the weekend there was a dilemma should I or shouldn’t. Finally, I picked it up and read the preface and I saw “to my mereee”. I knew her too. Then I could not resist starting it. The fear within me was will I be able to finish it, I was a little uncertain, as it has been almost two decades since I picked up any novel.

Yesterday being a holiday I started to read. Within minutes I was guzzling page after page. My daughter was quite surprised that I hadn’t touched the mobiles at all. My speed of reading was not the way I used be. It picked up gradually as the plot thickened. I skipped my afternoon siesta. I retired early after dinner to continue reading. At 1030 pm daughter came to check whether papa was asleep, papa was not. She was astonished that I had read past midway by then. In the morning instead of reading the news paper on my thrown it was this book. I read it in the lunch break as it stuck to me like glue. Now it’s the climax chapter which is left and I shall finish it with my evening cup of tea.

Rahul my friend it is not easy to write and it is definitely difficult to get into such minute details of places, names and things. The ease with which you describe villages in the valley and places in Jammu was as if you have visited them yourself. The cocktails you talk about even Shirley won’t know. The businesses you speak of are not simple ones; the corporate life you touch upon must have touched you personally somewhere. I can see the research; the hard work the toil to bring this girl Arti to life. The flow and language is so smooth that her transition from a village belle to a corporate honcho seems as if the years in between never existed. The way you have gone about weaving each bead and connecting the dots as if you are related to this girl. Marvellous my friend, simply kept me spellbound. I don’t know if I batted an eyelid while reading.

Rahul, keep enthralling us, keep us mesmerised, keep enchanting us and keep us captivated. Your charming ways of writing has bloomed. The bait you cast has hooked us all. God Bless you & thank you for re-igniting within me the passion to read once again. Dasvidaniya (till we read again). How soon will it be? I wonder!!!!!!!!

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

PS : The book is available on Amazon for 350/-.

THE LAWYER HIS TYPIST AND THE JUDGE

THE LAWYER HIS TYPIST AND THE JUDGE

 

It does take a lot of time and effort to prove a criminal guilty in India. Assa Ram’s conviction at Jodhpur is just a case in point. From the preliminary investigation to the verdict, it is such a long drawn process. The twist in the story comes in when very reputed and senior lawyers get sucked in. Voluntarily or otherwise, pro-bono or not, the cat and mouse game begins. To pick holes and to plug them becomes an interesting contest of oratory skills. In all this we have a referee who interprets the law as a judge, who waits for the cats to finish fighting over a piece of bread and finally hit his mallet to declare which side wins.

Since I have visited Jodhpur court, I was fascinated by the scene of the numerous “Munshi’s” (typist)” there. If you want to see how a typewriter looks like then either go to a museum or go to a court. Computers have replaced those machines now but the charm of listening to the keys striking the paper with multiple layers of carbon used to be music to the ears, the rat-a-tat, the quick adjustments of the roller, the winding of the ribbon spool, separating the stuck keys were a treat to watch.

Today it is the keyboard. I noticed that on most of them the alphabets, numbers and special characters are all invisible. The keyboards have been so overused that even the space bar shines like silver.

I am awestruck at the speed with which these guys type. They have a speed of more than 150 words per minute. You need that electrifying speed to key in cases. There is rarely any spelling or grammatical mistake. This I am talking of the English typing. Vernacular typing may be a word or two slower. A dot matrix printer would take longer to print than would take a Munshi to type. They are the nerve centre of any court and a force multiplier for any lawyer.

As you enter the court premises’ you will find people with black cloaks and black suits all over. I don’t understand if there are so many lawyers why cases dangle so long. They have specialisations like divorce lawyers, land & property specialists, criminal lawyers etc etc. There I found a lot of these tout kind of people hanging around. Moment you enter he will ask you your issue and take you to the perfect place. A typical Munshi with a typewriter on a “takhat”, sitting on chair, a make shift cupboard to his side, a wooden bench for you to sit, papers strewn all over are a common sight. You would be lucky if they have a tin roof on top otherwise it would be under a tree. I have never understood why they can’t have proper offices.

The record of stamp papers he issues is kept meticulously. Your name and your father’s name is the only thing that matters. Some things are done on a hundred rupees one, the price varies from state to state. Even the court rooms are dingy. Most of the times the judge refuses to see your face but sometimes he does. He summons you, looks at you and asks you your name and date of birth, turns that bunch of papers up and down, glances back at you with piercing eyes and signs the documents. You breathe a sigh of relief that thank God you have not been put in jail for registering your own house.

Be that as it may, court cases linger on far too long. Fast track courts can beat normal courts. The long list of witnesses is never ending. Some die, some are killed, some evaporate from the scenes and some backtrack from their words. The easiest thing is to say that they said so under duress and were made to forcefully confess. The investigative agencies do a shoddy job which gives a chance to these black coats to twist the case. The result is even if one judge pronounces a person guilty; the higher court judge finds no evidence worthwhile to prosecute the criminal.

If this is how the “mandi of the judicial process”, the law, the lawyer, his typist & his typewriter are going to churn out tons of “raddi” then God help us. From the commitment of crime to an affidavit on a stamp paper, from an FIR to summons, from a hearing to a judgement, from one court to another court we go around in circles. The laws keep becoming stricter but the crime and the criminal are there to stay. The speed of the typist doesn’t matter after all cases are decided on the skills of a lawyer. The judge keeps waiting to deliver justice & to finally make his kill. How can we reduce justice delivery time? I wonder!!!!!!!!!!!

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

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