Noel Ellis's Official Blog

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

Category: SCHOOL

ANUSHASAN IN KASHMIR

ANUSHASAN IN KASHMIR

 

I am reminded of my school motto, “Vidya, Vinay, Anushasan” (Knowledge, Humility, Discipline). As one went up to senior classes one used to be interested in who will be our new class teacher. All teachers had their peculiar reputation, from being strict to being darlings. One thing was clear, if the class teacher was that no nonsense chap then a certain type of discipline and decorum used to be automatically maintained.

I think it is similar in Kashmir. With the changing of baton to the Governor’s rule, a wave of strictness and discipline is in the air. It is being felt that now no nonsense will be tolerated irrespective of how unruly certain Kashmiri people are. They also know that the teacher may use a muscular approach and the consequences are that someone will get thrashed badly to bring anushasan.

In school, we used to be have “cuts” in the morning assembly. When things used to go beyond the class teacher and house master, the school administration used to get involved. The procedure itself used to be terrifying. There used to be a desk on which our Harmonium used to be kept. After the charge sheet was read, the boy being punished used to come and place his hands on that desk. The PTI used to appear with a five foot long cane. The site of which used to give the rest of the school shivers. Whack! It used to land on the bums. I think maximum used to be four cuts.

Now two things used to happen, one this boy used to become a hero in some eyes, that see I defied orders and so what if I have been flogged in public view. What else can the school do? Second, it also used to become a deterrent for the others that look dear it hurts both physically and mentally to act against authority of the school. It is better to behave and stay within limits.

On the funny side this used to become a game in hostels where people used to tie pillows on their bums and practice. Some students used to wear twenty borrowed under wears sometimes. All this was fine & for fun but the fact remained the rod used to hurt badly on impact and left a mental scar too.

Now how do I know danda hurts is a different story?  I used to do something to give Dad a chance to get the cane going on me. He used to tell me to go and fetch a stick for myself. Now just visualise the scene that if you have to select a “Baint” for your own bums. I used to take my brother along and tell him to hit me just to see if I will be able to bear the pain. Imagine Kashmiri’s telling that what weapon is alright to be used against them.

Now if you argue that there has been too much of beating already done in Kashmir and people have become rebellious, I will agree. As students used to reach the stage where they continued to defy authority and had to be withdrawn from school. Same is the case of all those who have now taken up guns against the Indian State, they will have to be withdrawn and eliminated. Some like me will get beaten up for no reason and that has to be accepted and expected.

My mom used to be very loving and she used to plead to dad, “apna bachha hai”. So was the thought process of Mehbooba. She actually never knew how to tackle her people. She in her heart of hearts knew that her own children are on a wrong path but could not exert her authority to effectively bring peace and rather she put pressure, like the security forces to cease fire and also released stone pelters for cheap popularity. She thought she understands her “awaam” as a mother but she didn’t realise that “maa da ladla bigar gaya”.

Be that as it may. Discipline in personal life or public life is the key. You can revolt, be rebellious, be in disciplined, be violent, be dissatisfied, be discontented, be displeased and be disappointed with systems. You can think radically but finally you have to be part of a process. If you think you can fight the system, go ahead and do it. It may not work out. During this time your satisfaction level may further decline leaving you distracted and disillusioned. Loss is whose?

If today all love and affection is poured on Kashmir by meeting their maximum demands, will it resolve the issue? Will they stop all revolt after that? The answer is no. But, if they decide to come under one flag, one constitution, start believing in the security forces & change their stance to realise that Kashmir is India there would be no need of any danda or a strict teacher at all for anushasan to be enforced. Am I making sense? I wonder!!!!!!!!

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

DANCING IN THE RAIN

DANCING IN THE RAIN

Petrichor is that earthly smell which emanates when parched earth receives the first drops of rain. I just love “Mitti ki sondhi khushboo”. I remember a grass root called “Khas” which was used in the desert coolers. It used to emit a very unique earthy smell too. I also remember smell of tea in a Kulhar or Sakora at a railway station. The taste of the tea used to be transformed by this small earthen pot.

Rains have brought much relief from the heat and humidity. Here when it rains, it rains like hell. Not like Cats and Dogs but like Elephants and Rhinos. The brown and burnt terrain has suddenly turned lush green. I have yet to see so many shades of green. With the sky overcast, these shades vary & add beauty to the landscape. It is 10 am now and it as dark as 7.30 pm. “Kaali ghata cha gayi hai”.

The chicks of nesting birds have flown. Ponds are overflowing; Ducks and Cormorants are flocking in them. Frogs and toads have gotten busy fluffing their wind bags and croaking sweet melodies. I have yet to see one worth a kiss though. Earthworms have left their holes and are easy pickings for Mynah’s. They devour them like noodles. Ants have now got wings & are flying in swarms. Street lights are clogged and the frogs are having a “barakhana”.

Waterfalls have come alive and are in gusto, sprinkling and spraying water on passersby. All sorts of contraptions besides the conventional umbrella and raincoats are out. White cement bags slit from one side are a common site. Ladies wearing polythene bags instead of shower caps appear funny. Motorcycles with handle covers and seat covers, kids with school bags under wraps are a common scene in this part of the country. A kind of “wetty” feeling is in the air.

You open a packet of namkeen it will go soggy in a minute. The crunchiness just doesn’t stay. Biscuits many drop off from your hand before dipping them in tea, just exaggerating. The only saving grace is the garma garam pakoras which my wife makes for me after office.

The man who cannot just do his job is our poor dhobi. How hard he may try and how hot he may iron the dresses, they are going to stay soggy. The bed feels soggy, the sofa feels soggy & the towel too feels soggy. I just can’t stand that typical stink which creeps in from somewhere in wet towels and baniyans. Clothes now take three to four days to dry. Imagine if you have to wear soggy underwear.

Soon algae will start greening everything. Mushrooms have already started sprouting all over, not the edible ones but the decorative woody kind. Flowers pots are on a musical chairs spree as one has to keep shifting them. In our place plants actually drown. For plant lovers like me, our green house has been converted into a makeshift shelter, with all of them huddled together to face the wrath of rain. Small embankments to divert water, besides water blocks to stop flooding are being made. Digging and freshening of drains is in progress. Tough times I must say.

I somehow love rains. The pitter-patter is such a soothing sound punctuated by the roar of thunder and a crack of lightening. It shakes your soul out in a way. As I drove my bike with my daughter through villages and farms yesterday, it was very soothing to see light green grassy patches. On closer look we found them to be paddy seedlings. Oxen standing in the fields with their ploughs hooked up. They too have their raincoats made out of fertilizer bags. Their horns brightly painted and tinker bells making music as we saw them obediently reacting to every whistle, shoo, shout and sound of the farmer. I wish the farmers luck. May they have a bumper crop and may million hungry mouths be fed.

My only issue is why all this water is flowing down to sea without being harvested. Villagers fight for this precious resource in lean months. People blockade our company gates if water is rationed. Villages which had two hundred people twenty years back now have two thousand. I do not see any government water pipeline or even an effort to mitigate their water woes. Funds come and go down the drain it seems.

Be that as it may. Next three months are going to be wet, wetter and wettest. Getting drenched is a ritual as work will never stop. Schools here do not have a rainy day holiday. I like one thing about the honesty of local people that no one runs away with your umbrella or your slippers.

Rain is a blessing indeed and my garam piyali of chai has arrived. Let me stand in the corridor and appreciate the rhythm of falling rain. Is anyone coming to dance with me? I wonder!!!!!!!!!

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

JUGADU TALES

 

 

 

JUGADU TALES

 

Necessity is the mother of invention and in India it is called “JUGAD”. We can modify anything, copy anything & duplicate anything. To make any contraption, the brain is Indian, the brawn is Indian, tools are Indian, finance is Indian, the consumer is Indian and it is best suited to our Indian needs. The “jugaadu” in me was waking up as I walked around my colony yesterday.

I was astonished to see countless mangoes strewn on the ground. With so many children around how come this fruit hasn’t been touched. Reasons could be like; this year was a bumper crop, so now we are fed up of eating mangoes, it has rained once and people avoid eating the fruit as it becomes infested with worms and insects. Another reason could be that fruits of a particular tree are either very sour or very feeka (Tasteless) but one thing that caught my nostrils was the smell of fermented fruit, that fruity-mangoey kind of liquory smell.

This reminded me of a conversation with a colleague who won panchayat elections a few days back. Country made Daru and non-veg is a make or break for any election here he claimed. More the daru flows the probability of winning is directly proportional to it. This has to be continuous for many days before voting. I said you must have spent a fortune. He nodded.

How do you procure and transport daru without getting caught? He said sir; for police there is a jugad. There is a distillation plant in my backyard and has been brewing nonstop since last few months. He refused to part with the recipe. I was very curious to know the mode of transportation. He took me to his car and opened the dickey and I found a huge inflated truck tube along with smaller tubes. He said all these are the left overs. I touched them and they went “thull-thull” like a water bed. I was thinking to myself that thank God we are going tubeless.

I went into flash back of the good old days in school. During the summer vacations we used to be vagabonds roaming around every nook and corner and it used to be fun collecting used test tubes from behind the chemistry lab. I saw a broken distillation set & picked it up. I brought that equipment home and buried it in the backyard fearing dad’s wrath.

I also got hold of old rum bottles and made out a concoction in which if I remember correctly I made a slurry of jaggery, lot of “peesi hui long & elaichi”, sugarcane juice and some home fruit juices. I filled about ten bottles and buried them close next to our guava tree in the backyard. All this was done in total secrecy, in the afternoons when mom and dad used to take their siesta. This was in class XI. As time flew by, we got busy with NDA preparations and later for XII boards, those graves were never dug. Mom kept wondering where her fridge bottles evaporated.

One fine day, dad decided to put manure in the fruit trees. He dug those circular pits around the trees when he accidentally dug out one bottle of that concoction I had prepared. It had turned jet black. I confessed to dad that all this “jiggery-poggery” I had done. I was preparing for getting a solid thrashing. He said let’s try distilling it. That reminded me that I had a distillation set buried too. How effective or defective it was time would tell. The rubber hoses had worn off and glass had broken at places but we did a jugad for all that.

Distillation started and the end product was an absolute clear tasteless liquid, flavoured with elaichi. I had tasted dad’s rum chori-chori but this damn thing had no taste at all. Patience was running out as it was taking hell of a long time and finally the first bottle was left with a gooey black residue. In the evening an uncle came to visit. Dad said let’s try Noel’s special brand. Uncle used to be an occasional drinker and used to make a weird face when the first sip of Hercules or Sea Pirate XXX used to go down his gullet. Dad also proudly told him ghar ki bani hai, two years old hai. Dad stuck to his usual rum. Uncle was all smiles and laughing. Just as he was about to leave he just could not get up from the sofa. All hell broke loose.

It hit him so badly that he had to leave his scooter at our place as we could not figure out how to open a Bajaj Chetak due that typical twist of the handle with which the lock opened. Dad was impressed that for the first time I did something practical in Chemistry. How hard my chemistry teachers tried, I could never balance an equation but I balanced the whole contraption of this distillation process which started from a make shift “chullah”, to pipes from the kitchen tap for cooling and finally collecting the “liquid gold” in another bottle. The “pahle tor di daru” as it was called in Punjab, was a success.

Should I do a jugad to make some mango liqueur for old time’s sake? I wonder!!!!!!!!

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

CHANGING TIMES

 

 

 

CHANGING TIMES

 

I was not aware of this thing called Netflix, except for a few advertisements I had seen on TV. My daughter came to me and said papa there are very good programmes and movies on it so please take a subscription. She said she will watch them on her mobile. I gave her the nod.

She told me Papa I would like to pay for my connection with my debt card, as recently I have activated it. Well, I was more than happy because of the confidence of this young girl and her enthusiasm to learn online payment. Honestly, I am so sceptic to use debit cards online and avoid transactions. I have a level of discomfort in doing so. Though, I had to download “Paytm” on my mobile. Modi ji had given us a scare of our lives to go cashless. Things have become easy these days and children are at ease with technological advancements. I must learn and keep abreast.

In the good old days In Kapurthala, Punjab, we were addicted to Pakistani and English serials on PTV as kids. Dhoop Kinare, Uncle Urfi, Buddha Ghar pe hai, CHIPS, Six Million Dollar Man, Here is Lucy, Mind Your Language, Nilaam Ghar, Walt Disney Cartoons, plus late Friday night English movies were never missed. Dad used to put an alarm and wake the whole house up for this Friday ritual. Thursday night, sofas used to be pushed to the sides and mattresses laid out on the floor. Chitrahaar and Hindi movies were banned. Anything in English would do, after all Dad was an English teacher.

My duty used to be to climb the roof with a half broken bamboo ladder to a banister from where one had to get hold of a pipe going up to the water tank on the roof. Antenna used to be balanced on a 25 feet high pole tied to the chimney of the kitchen. I had to twist it from direction of Jalandhar to Lahore. Younger brother used to stand outside the drawing room as a relay station, relaying my voice “aa gaya”, “Nahi aya” used to be relayed back and forth. It used to be such a relief to hear “aaaaaa gaya”. By the time I used to get down, half the serial would have gone. By then Dad would have turned the tuning knob 360 degrees many times and kicked the TV just to ensure it behaves.

I remember in Jaisalmer, one of our COs wanted CCTV installed. He wanted RAMAYAN serial beamed to every company dining hall including officer’s mess. Complete India used to come to a standstill for it. I distinctly remember “Satayam Electronics” located at Falna Rajasthan were the CCTV experts. Yours truly was made in charge. One 3 ton, a couple of chaps and an electronics expert along with my favourite Havildar Azad Singh (Now Honorary Captain Retd) were given the task to get this whole contraption and get it functional.

We proceeded with all documents and cheques and landed up in Falna. Our electronics expert learnt how to join the “dabbi”. Dabbi was the splitter from where the cable could be sent in three directions. Then there used to be a “dabba” which used to be the booster for the signal. So with dabba, dabbi and chattri (Dish) we got back to unit.

Three days of hectic driving in midst of summers from Jaisalmer to Falna and back was some drive. On arrival CO gave orders that tomorrow’s serial he shall see in unit lines being a Sunday. We were dead tired and stinky but “CO Saab ka hukum” cannot be turned down. I asked Azad, kya karen, he in his typical jatoo said “gaad denge saab” meaning we will do it. At 3 am my eyes started to close. I had not had dinner as the task at hand needed my presence for many small things. I dozed off sitting on a red velvet folding chair. I told Azad I am breaking off. He said “saab eeb to jhanda gaad ke hi chodenge”, “re chore, saab ne garam chai pila saath anda bujia banwa liya langar tai”. (Sir we will finish this job and in the same breadth told a chap to get some anda bhujia from the cook house with a hot cup of tea to keep me awake).

At first light we tested our signals from a VCR as DD used start at 7. Every one said, aa gaya, What a relief it was! Dot at five to nine CO arrived. Our eyes were red and bloodshot. He went to one of the cook houses and saw the signal. I don’t remember whether I got a pat on the back or a kick about one foot below but I missed my favourite serial and slept off that Sunday. How I wish we had Netflix in the good old days. What all new inventions are in store for us in future? I wonder!!!!!!!!!

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

MY HOME IS OPEN FOR YOU

 

MY HOME IS OPEN FOR YOU

 

“HANS KE BOLA KARO BULAYA KARO

AAP KA GHAR HAI AYA JAYA KARO”

                                                                                            -Gazal sung by Jagjit Singh

Will opening cantt roads improve civil-military relations? If the answer is yes, then balle-balle but I have an issue with people who do not belong to the Armed Forces fraternity; I dare say “civilians”.  It appears to me they take it as an insult if not an abuse. How should we address them as? Let us think.

I find “non-military people” carry many myths, that because I am a “fauji” I must be drinking daily. The second myth is that in cold areas we keep drinking alcohol to stay warm. Third myth is that liquor in the fauj is free, if not free then “bahut sasti” as they put it. Non-fauji’s are more aware of your quota of rum and would always request for a “case” or two on a regular basis. Some even have the audacity to offer extra cash for a bottle because “Purity ki sureity” hoti hai fauji liquor main & Chadti bhi jaldi hai. Also, CSD is the cheapest bazaar on this side of Suez.

I stay in a colony of my company. It has been maintained like a cantonment. People from the nearby villages make it a point to come inside, just to feel good & show their authority. The gardens, flora, fauna, lawns, fountains and a kind of discipline in the layout lures them inside. To keep them out is not possible as facilities like banks, ATM, School and relatives reside inside. If you stop them, they feel offended. If you let them go without a check then the company management gets angry. Catch 22.

We maintain parking in designated areas, however the village folk fail to understand that parking in the middle of the road can cause accidents, they just won’t listen. Speed means as fast as the accelerator can take you. Speed limits don’t matter. We put speed breakers, they started bypassing them. Helmets are an absolute no, they get a headache.  Seat belt, what are seat belts they say. Plucking leaves from hedges is a big time pass for them.

Let’s now go inside a military cantonment. You will find very well laid out lanes, parking slots, parks, geru-chuna on trees and pavements. Without helmet you just cannot move, even the pillion rider has to wear one. No one litters as a habit. Outside, people litter as a habit. Spitting is rare in cantts, outside, gutka along with saliva is spat in every corner. On a roundabout, non military people get a licence to take short cuts. Suffice to say the basic civic sense is lacking. Why?

Keeping the cantonment neat, clean and green is a matter of pride for us. Units are given designated areas of responsibility to keep cantts spic and span. As a corporate we did a “Swach Bharat” campaign and picked up every tiny bit of filth around a famous temple close by. Within one week it is back to square one, dirty as dirty could be. “Koora” as they call it is piled a mile high again.

Well, let us welcome the non military crowd to our folds but with a caveat that friends when you come kindly maintain discipline, don’t break traffic rules, understand that someone else also has the right of way, don’t over speed, don’t litter and assist us to assist you to feel free and safe. All faujis know that they won’t stay more than two years in any station but maintain them to the best of their ability.

Please stand with our families who are separated from their husbands fighting on the borders for you. That lady is a father, brother and sister to her children. She doesn’t let the absence of the father be felt. She also knows that bad news can come anytime. She is the doctor, nurse, washerwoman, teacher, tutor, coach, driver, maid and banker for the house hold. She is used to living in a protected environment so please do not let her feel threatened is a request.

The Services are now kind of used to dictates’ of kinds, cease fire with militants, Yes sir, go for flood relief, Right sir, react in natural calamity Wilco sir, open cantt roads, yes ma’m, remove AFSPA, roger sir, civil administration has failed, control riots, no problem sir, fight militants, my bread and butter sir, fight enemy within and without, aye-aye sir. Ask for modern equipment, no budget, ask for ammunition, manage in what you have, Rations need to be restored, we shall think about it, implement OROP, we have given you enough, sort out pay commission anomalies, court will decide, give us at least our Izzat, what the hell does this word mean.

Be that as it may, we the cantt people do not want to unnecessarily inconvenience you guys at all. “Aap ka ghar hai aya jaya karo”. From our experience we know that once we let you in, you will take it as a birthright. Friends we in the forces live by certain ethos and Dastoor. We swear to protect our constitution and the integrity of India. Do the “non-military people” also do so? I wonder!!!!!!!!!!

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

OUR DEER PINKY

 

 

OUR DEER PINKY

It was a cold wintry evening when two people clad in white dhoti, kurta & Loi’s (shawls) came to our house in Sainik School, Kapurthala. On enquiring they said they were parents of Bishnoi of Sarojini House of which Dad was the house master. They were carrying something in their lap which was very fidgety. They requested for old news papers. A very unusual request it was. As they stood up to greet dad, this twitchy bundle jumped out of their lap. It was a small, dainty, wet nosed brown baby deer (Chinkara).

We all were startled for a moment. They said that having heard of your love for animals Ellis Saab, we present to you “PINKY” as a token of love and respect for teaching our children. I saw my Dads eyes getting moist for the first time. In those days it was not banned. On asking what you feed it, they gave the details of how to feed it with a bottle and otherwise it would graze the lawn grass. In case some wheat can be made available it could be palm fed.

Dad took the leash and took her to the adjacent room as they left. We had spread many news papers for the droppings. The story was that this fawn was orphaned as the mother was shot by some people. It was raised by the Bishnoi’s and now they had found a suitable home for it.

It was extremely difficult to control the inquisitiveness of our dogs. Their barks was making pinky panicky. Curiosity amongst Ellis’ was also at its pinnacle. This little darling had done a 7 hour journey by bus from Hanumangarh to Kapurthala. It must be tired and disillusioned. We tiptoed into her room, I with a bottle of milk, mom with a fistful of wheat followed by brother with some grass and father to oversee things.

In came Coco, our Tibetan Apso, then all hell broke loose. She panicked and darted through all of us and the main door and escaped into the darkness. Dad told us that we have to get pinky back at any cost. It was dark and the colony was a jungle in itself. Pinky had evaporated into thin air. The front yard, the back yard, the dhobi ghat, everywhere, we ran helter-skelter looking for her but no luck.

I and my brother went on a search mission. It was close to midnight in that freezing cold of Punjab & we were quite dejected. As we were combing the area we reached the chota swimming pool. Stories of various “bhoots-prets” and deadly cobras were running parallel in our minds when my brother& I heard jingle of bells tied in her neck. In pitch darkness with fog also creeping in, we saw two eyes glistened & staring at us. The first reaction was to bolt as it could be a bhoot. We spotted her & breathed a sigh of relief. Dad was anxious, mom was crying and we were white faced, cold, damp with running noses. I put a blanket on her as she dozed off. What a first night it was!

There used to be a competition between me and my brother who will feed her. Filling milk in a beer bottle and attaching feeding nipples was fun. Soon, Pinky started considering me as her mother. She used to crave for milk thrice a day. Dot at the precise hour she used to give her grunts. I used to call her back in the same tone.

Our dogs got used to her and pinky to the house. Cats started to cuddle with her. She was so friendly that we freed her. Within minutes she jumped the wall and was hopping and skipping merrily. All of us were afraid that the strays will kill her, well; they were no match to her speed. Once all the hostellers “gheraoed” her in a circle, she just took off & jumped over their heads. Her typical “deer jumps” on all fours together were a treat to watch.

She started accompanying dad to the cricket field and used to stand next to him where the Umpire stands. Once she got hit by a straight drive and collapsed on the pitch with all four legs stretched & the tongue hanging out, stiff as stiff could be. The batsman ran away fearing the wrath of Dad. She closed her eyes and we thought we have lost her. For 10 minutes we all were in tears. Then suddenly she sprung up and bolted away. Phew!

I had joined NDA and came back on my first term break. Dad was sitting on his haunches and hoeing his garden bed. I was explaining to him the “ragra” and in particular the front roll. I don’t know what came to pinky’s mind, she came charging and butted dad on his bums with her head. Dad did a beautiful somersault and I said now you know dad.

As time went by she started loving music and the school band playing. She used to stand with the band leader and walk along the march past of the school parade. She became the school mascot.

One day pinky was nowhere to be seen. There was panic and a sense of loss as a story was afloat that someone had killed her. Fourth day, while dad was on his angling trip a “Kabari” (rag picker) who used to come and collect small fish gave an input that she has been seen in the cantonment. Dad wound up and came rushing five kilometres from Kanjali River. She was not there but dad found her droppings. On a lot of pleading someone told that she had been sold to a “Kasai” (butcher). Dad rushed to find that “kasai” who just won’t admit. With folded hands and 400 rupees did he take him to the shed where she had been confined to. She would have been butchered the next day. Four days without water and food she was a wreck. She couldn’t even stand on all fours. People who had caught her had bruised her very badly. Dad left his cycle as mortgage and took a rickshaw to get her home. We were delighted to see her alive.

Within days she was frolicking around as usual. She lived with us for 10 years and one fine day we found her dead in the wheat fields. Probably she ate too much of insecticide which had been sprayed on the crop. It was a sad day. Her grave is still there behind our house 12-A.

Thank you for being part of our lives PINKY we all still remember you fondly and miss you. Can we relive those good old days again? I wonder!!!!!!!!!

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

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/-.

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

CHAI PAKORA TALES

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!!!!!!!!!!!

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

A BUS CLEANERS DAY AT WORK

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!!!!!!!!!!!

 

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

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