Noel Ellis's Official Blog

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

Category: SCHOOL


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!!!!!!!!!!


 Noel Ellis


I came across a byte how the “pakorawala’s” shot into fame when they were mentioned in certain despatches in the Rajya Sabha. The famous “chaiwala” has already left a mark and now is a chance for this man to come to lime light. I saw many news anchors; mind you head of news channels going around their studios tasting various types of pakoras made by these hard working simpletons. I am convinced that to become successful in this country one has to either become a chaiwala or a pakorawala. This reminded me of days many moons back when “khalis doodh ki cha” and “garma garam pakoras” were in vogue.

I honed my skills of making chai as a little boy. The cuppa tea I used to brew used to be one litre of pure “bhains” milk, two big table spoons of tea leaves, two green elaichi’s nice and crushed in a “kharal”, four or five big spoons full of sugar and boil all these together. Tea used to be a minimum “dus ubala” which meant the concoction used to rise and fall at full heat in the “degchi” ten times. The dancing tea leaves would come up to the brim and then I used to lift the vessel off the “pump wala stove” to let it settle down and repeat. Then put one tea spoon of tea leaves in the “channi” and pour the liquid into my mug enamel. The brownish colour used change to coffee colour and that’s what I called a good cuppa steaming hot tea.

Well, if chai comes can pakoras be far behind. My favourite used to be bread pakoras. The “besan” coated ones I used to relish “aloo bhar ke”. All these were deep fried and in fact in the good old days it used to be in Dalda or Rath ghee. I recall dalda used to be a yellow colour tin with a few palm trees and Rath used to be a sky blue one with a chariot printed on it. Later they started calling it vanaspati, I couldn’t make out the difference. Much later refined oil came in. Today, if you tell the doctor that I had ghee, he will start looking at his watch as if my time to walk this earth is over.

They say that my dad’s era used to be of desi ghee, my era was of dalda and the present generation are the refined oil kinds. Meaning that all the desi ghee kinds were strong and hard working, the dalda kinds worked hard but the refined oil ones just don’t (pun intended). Never heard my dad or grand dad fall ill or had cold or cough. Their sweet dish used to be a hot cup of sweetened milk with a big spoon of desi ghee and a dash of haldi. Halwa of any kind meant ghee floating on top. “Tarka” meant shudh home made desi ghee ka tarka. Roti always had ghee “chipor” ke.

I remember in my ancestral home town doodh & jalebi made in pure ghee used to be a staple breakfast. There used to be long queues to get that crispy, juicy, entangled piece of sweet. The way the halwai used to “fainto” the milk and jalebi’s together was a treat to watch. The milk used to drop more than a meter and a half & not a drop used to spill. The attraction to eat was not only to do with the taste but the presentation of the milky wonder.

In Punjab it used to “chola bhaturas”. Deep fried ones in ghee. The small flour ball was pressed and lifted in the palm. Two or three claps of the hands used to turn it into a bhatura. Then with an artistic throw in the piping hot Jacuzzi of ghee with the anti clock wise rotation it used to be chucked in. Swirling and turning as it went down. Before the bhatura hit the bottom of the “kadhai” it used to start rising. A huge sieve used to press upon it. Out of the bubbling ghee used to pop a crispy bhatura which was flipped in style while the next one was thrown in. All of us used to wait for our turn, mouth salivating all this while.

One could never master was the chutney these “rehriwala’s” used to make. Mom could never replicate that taste. Their green and red chutney was different from our home made ones. Everything was served on a “pattal” and licked clean by us. At the end of it asking for additional free chutney was our birth right. The “committee ka nalka” was the only source of water for the burns in the mouth. If we were lucky, it used to be a bottle of “milk badam” or “bante wala soda” from the next thela.

Life has moved on, the place where I am is “vada pao” and “kanda bhajia” territory. Let me assure you the taste is out of the world. Order a plate and you will repeat the order before finishing it. I dare say should these pakorawals go on strike; there will be hell to pay. Will they be able to live a life of dignity as was mentioned in the august house? I wonder!!!!!!!!!!!


© Noel Ellis


In India quality of life is nowhere to be found for the common man. The reason why I make this statement is in view of the brutal murder of this little child in Gurgaon. It could have been any school for that matter. Many schools will wake up and do a self audit to plug any loop holes. Many schools will continue the way they were, taking chances till something drastic like this happens again. My issue is not with the schools, my sympathies are with the parents of this child, how heart wrenching it would have been to bid farewell to this small soul who had yet to begin his life’s journey.

I am just supposing that after his education in such a prestigious school a child would have got admission to a good college. I assume that the child would have got close to 90 % marks and could have been refused admission to Delhi University. The parents would put in their efforts to even pay capitation fee which exists in various forms and got him admission. Maybe his life would be much better off thereafter as career prospects would be multiple. Say this child would have got close to 80% marks; I can assure you except for a private college the child would have nowhere to go. Two things would happen then; either the child would pursue his studies in all sincerity or become a vagabond and be part of the educated unemployed people of India. My story starts here.

Say he becomes a conductor of a school bus. What is his life? Start early in the morning on a fixed route, meet the same people and children every day. Reach the school by the stipulated time and then do what! While away time, waiting for the 2’o’clock bell to ring and same routine in reverse order to leave the children. How much will he be paid for this duty? Peanuts are an understatement. Those hours spent inside or outside the school premises wasted playing cards with other conductors or listening to stories of other drivers and cleaners, just waiting. Curse the traffic, the government and anything on earth. Smoke a few biri’s or cigarettes sitting on haunches, abusing and picking up a fight with the other driver if that bus is parked wrongly or has taken his permanent space. People intervene, a compromise struck, a black eye and life moves on.

With the mobile era a few of them would be busy with them. I have yet to understand that such people get so many calls from all over especially while driving the kids around. The prime minister will also feel that they are busier than him. What content from the internet they would be watching I should not comment on that. What they discuss about the children and especially the bai’s/moms who come to leave the kids to the bus stop, kindly let your imagination run.

Let me now imagine the place where this person might be staying, or the colony in which probably he would find a shelter. Any guesses? The same fights for dominance of space and no place for ablution. Can we imagine his issues, no latrines, no water supply, no PDS kerosene for stoves, one small KHOLI, and probably he too will have a family. If God has been kind he would have two children, no system of health care, landlord mafia pressurising for payments, wife in family way expecting her third, pressure on him not to be late for duty, children playing next to the dirty muddy, murky Nala near the railway tracks, life goes on for him. He won’t even have enough money to buy a detergent for his uniform if he has one. Will he stink of sweat or of the firewood he burnt to keep himself warm on a winter’s night? One can keep conjecturing.

Where is his quality of life? What is his mistake to walk this earth even if he is educated but could not find a job matching his qualification? Why can’t he be given the same dignity of life as anyone else? Why is he insecure of his job? Why has he no access to boarding, lodging, healthcare, basic civic amenities? Why has he to survive every day? His children don’t go to school, his wife is dealing with her own problems, he comes back home with provisions then only she cooks, he now has got into a habit of drinking so besides the load of the household this lady has now to deal with abuse. The area stinks, the neighbours are no better, he lives life and that’s it.

Well folks I am not taking sides of this brutal killer but I am trying to imagine his psyche. Though he might be educated, might have a family but his thinking and mentality cannot go beyond the company he keeps. Governments and NGOs must be doing a herculean job in trying to give him his due but overall he doesn’t care. For him every day is survival, just survival to make two ends meet.

What came into is mind at that particular moment, needs through psychiatric investigation. Drivers and cleaners using toilets used by children need to be thought through by the schools. Definitely all schools need to pull up their socks. To expect total integrity from the lowest paid employee in the school chain is asking for too much. Lots need to be done, lots need to be introspected; quality of life needs to be improved for him, you and me. Who will do it? I wonder!!!!!!!!!!!



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