Noel Ellis's Official Blog

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

Category: WIFE

METRO MENTALITY

 

 

METRO MENTALITY

While working in Mumbai I have used jam packed public transport, faced traffic snarls and escaped the monsoon deluge. I have also walked to office in knee deep water. I used to travel through Dharavi and smelt the stench and experienced the slowest moving traffic ever. People had right of way; traffic could wait even on a green light there. You had your eyes concentrating on people, one foot on the clutch, second on the brake, hand on the horn and an abuse on your lips. I have yet to see a foot over bridge or any effort of de-congest it.

People don’t want to move out from metros. Gurgaon is an example. You name a corporate it is there. The chain of malls I saw for the first time left me dumbfounded.

It reminded me of one our first ever visit to a mall in 2004. My wife, daughter and cousins decided to do our Christmas shopping. As we were done, I found a Barista counter near the main entrance. We sat down to have coffee. Suddenly there was commotion and people started to leave. I was observing this exodus sitting facing the entrance door.

I walked across to the gate to find the same thing happening on the opposite side malls too. Desperate honking and fanatic waving was going on. I asked the security what it is. He said there is a bomb scare in the mall opposite. I told myself don’t panic Noel and walked across to my gang sipping coffee. Kya Hua was the typical question and kuch nahi, relax was my typical answer.

I mentally started making escape routes as I had no idea of gurgaon. We had a few shopping bags and our new Christmas tree. Daughter was barely three. First thing I did was picked her up and made her sit on my shoulders so that my hands were free as I felt at home carrying a “pithoo”.

We had parked about a mile away in a private plot as their underground parking was full.  Outside there was only chaos. Road was jammed because all husbands or drivers who had gone to fetch their vehicles were now waiting for their better halves. Some cars had brushed each other so that typical Ma-Behen was on between drivers. No one bothered that there are others who need to use this road. In fact it was an eerie kind of panic as no one knew what the situation was. Everyone just wanted to flee.

I heard that NSG had been called in so I understood matter is serious better evaporate before something blasts. We reached our parking lot. My cousin knew a route which was not blocked. By then it was shocking to see people had by now put their small kids on car roofs and handed them ice creams. I thought to myself, look at our mentality, people are now in time pass mode and have come to witness a “tamasha”.

Police was nowhere to be seen, red lights which were functional when we came were no more functional. Some people tried the smart act of taking U turns at the red light had added to the chaos blocking both sides. There was no method in this madness.

I told my cousin lets scoot before we are trapped. We reached the main highway zig-zagging & went up the flyover; one only saw headlights and bright red tail lights glowing for miles. We reached home and said a prayer and hoped there would be no blast of any kind.

The Bomb Disposal Squad with their sniffer dogs had to alight well short of IFFCO chowk due to the jam. They could carry only hand held equipment and by the time the dogs reached the mall they were tired and had to be rested before they could start their job. Mera Bharat Mahan!

People celebrated all night, Chana-Mungfali, Ice cream-Bhutta walas had a ball. Water was sold at price of petrol. Cars ran out of petrol as the jam could not be cleared till the wee hours of the morning adding to further chaos. No one left their cars or cleared the area either. It turned out to be a hoax call.

In our village here traffic gets jammed due to tourists. They break lanes, halt at will, without being sensitive to the limited road space. I prefer my scooter to go to market. It is easy to manoeuvre, easy to park and can wriggle trough any jam, besides carry our weekly shopping with ease. Thank God we are far from a metro. Will our basic Indian mentality ever change? I wonder!!!!!!!!

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

FUEL DUELS

 

 

Fluctuations in fuel prices have become a kind of joke these days. Moment news comes that from midnight tonight the prices are going to increase; long queues are bound to be seen at each and every petrol pump. Price hike is like dooms day has come that tomorrow all petrol will finish. Hectic parleys, scuffles, traffic jams, and the same old syndrome why is my line not moving can be witnessed. Petrol pump staff starts acting pricey and the man who used to politely ask you “kitne ka” tells you arrogantly “line main lago”. The same chap who would come and clean your wind shield will tap on your windshield to tell you to back off.

The “ghar ki grahni” starts calculating return on investment on petrol. Loud thinking starts that auto wala will now charge me five more means I will have to leave the dhaniya and ask for whatever my sabzi wala will give free. The frequency of consuming andas will now reduce to Sundays as the chain of supply starting from the bird feed would have gone up. The quantity of aloos in egg curry would increase to compensate for the eggs.

Pati dev is told that come back with the petrol tank full. He tells her darling I did it yesterday, she shows him those eyes and says, do liter to daal lo, pati wonders for those two litres I will stand for two hours in the queue. But hukum hai home minister ka so better stand in line. That’s a different issue that while waiting he would have consumed two packets of pan parag, went around the corner and puffed a few cigarettes, sitting in the car chabaoed a few ten rupee packs of chana-mufli, bought a spray gun and a yellow cloth from the road side vendor. By the time you reach the petrol dispensing area you find petrol has finished. You come back home and tell your wife bharva liya. What else do you say when you want to see that smile on your better half’s face which gives you the licence to tell her that while returning you picked up a whisky bottle, she says never mind at least our tank is full.

Life goes on and the sarkar drops the rates by one paise. Today there is no hustle and bustle at all. No queues and no tension. You do not have the provision of going back to the pump and returning the fuel and claim the difference of price. Two things happen, one that everyone just feels happy, chalo daam gir gaye, two politicians make a mountain of a mole hill on every debate that see we slashed prices by one naye paise as if they are doing a big favour.

I remember putting dus rupai ka petrol in Dad’s scooter. We used to get more than two liters with mobile oil many moons back. Today for ten rupees you won’t get ten drops. A joke is going around that the cost of a liter of petrol and a bottle of beer would be the same very soon, so we have to decide, “ghoom lo, ya jhoom lo”, I would prefer the later kyon ki ghoomte to Modi ji hain. People are also telling to invest saved petrol money in Mutual Funds, sarkar ki neeti aur neeyat sahi ho na ho, mutual fund sahi hai.

I was thinking that what is the cheapest thing in the country today? Petrol-No, Diesel-No, Gas-No, then what is cheap? I think its human life. It has no value actually, who cares, who bothers, who is actually interested in the fellow citizen, parents are neglected, children are being molested, and ladies are insecure; besides life is lost daily at the borders and in encounters with terrorists. All of us are loggerheads with each other for no reason.

Yes one thing is cheap and manufactured in abundance by all those people who are never affected by the rise and fall of any prices. That is H2S. Like Methane is produced deep inside the belly of the earth, this gas is produced deep inside the belly of our most honourable and respectable people. These people can inflate, manipulate, influence, control, stage manage anything and everything for votes. They have the authority, wisdom and expertise to play with the common man. Fuel prices are nothing.

Be that as it may. I use my scooter instead of car to office, I never had a car for five years while I worked in Mumbai; suffice to say I am doing my bit to save precious fuel for the sake of the country. Will the people who take a fleet of cars with protection and escorts now start walking to understand the pain of the man on the street for each paisa increase in petrol price? I wonder!!!!!!!!!!

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

WATERY TALES

 

 

 

WATERY TALES

 

I was watching a programme on water scarcity where I saw long queues of residents waiting to fill water in Simla. India may see a water crisis soon. Does this strike a chord somewhere? War for oil is passé, the next World War is going to be for water, I reckon.

Hills do have a peculiar problem where water freezes in pipes in winters. In summers tourists flock the area and consume water in bucket loads, in rainy season every drop gets washed away. So how to sustain is the question. My place has an average rainfall of 2500 mm plus per annum and all goes to the sea. Villages around are crying hoarse for drinking water but nothing is being done to harvest a single drop or address their perennial problem.

Be that as it may. I remember in the deserts I was lucky to have served in a battalion which had no dearth of vehicles and had many bowsers of 1000/3000 litres capacity. We were also fortunate enough to have our Engineer Regiment friends who used to go in advance to establish water points for us in midst of nowhere. I must also thank the Indian Government and their vision to construct the Indira Gandhi canal from Harike barrage in Ferozpur to deep inside Rajasthan, teeming with fish and delivering pure water from the confluence of Beas & Sutlej Rivers to the parched deserts. Fresh canal fish, fried to perfection with rum and “thanda pani” was ultimate during exercises.

I remember a place called “Dharmi Khu”. It was a deep well very close to the boundary of India and Pakistan. Shepherds of both countries used to water their cattle from this common well. I for the first time saw two camels pulling a huge leather bucket (MASHAK) made of one piece camel skin out of the well from a depth of about 1000 feet for water to reach the surface. The communication between the camel operator and the man at the well used the typical one finger whistle. It used to be fun to see the irritated camels come back in reverse gear grunting and blabbering their frothy tongues. I have tasted that water, it was very brackish. Normal people will spit it out like a shower but man and beast in those far off lands had to drink it. I hope “Sagarmal Gopa Canal” water has reached there by now.

The chaggal (water canvas small) and the pakhal (mule tank) were the ultimate Army water carriers. As a Mech Officer I never carried a water bottle but had chaggals tied all around my open jonga. The thin crust of ice in the chilly desert winter on canvas buckets was common. How can one forget, beer bottles were chilled in deep pits left overnight, sprinkled with water in the golden sands of Jaisalmer.

In Ladakh fetching water was fun. Though we had an engineer detachment but they were left to run the boat in Pangong Tso with a modified one tonne engine. The water point was between Lukung and Phobrang village. My “Pinja” buddy in a 3 Ton with my wife and our post dog Rambo used to hop on with a small working party to fetch water every second day. Wife, I & Rambo used to get down at the fishing point to catch Brown Trout. Rest of the party used to go to fetch water. I used to wonder why they didn’t carry water tanks. They used bring back frozen blocks of nice clean transparent ice. This also solved the mystery of why these guys carried crow bars instead of rubber hoses. Later I found this a common site in Ladakhi villages where ladies used to carry ice in baskets.

Water both in High altitude and the deserts was rationed. Our unit water bowser used to pump water in our over head tanks once a day in married accommodation at Jodhpur. Jaisalmer was equally bad where we lived off pakhals. While one was deployed in the deserts for exercises and operations one had the privilege of having an exclusive bucket of water as an officer. Men generally took a dip in the canal in case it was in the near vicinity. In my whole army life it was rarely I would have taken a shower. Today, in Jodhpur one has to store water in underground tanks and it is 1000 rupees for a tanker these days. All our lives we lived with water timings and never complained.

Most of us would never have witnessed dry cleaning of utensils. Let me tell you about a typical desert village where the utensils are rubbed clean with sand and we too did it in various exercises to conserve water for the days ahead. I haven’t seen “BARTANs” cleaner and glistening like gold after dry cleaning with sand. They will beat Vim bar any day.

A man can live without food for weeks but maximum three days without water. If water is so important, then what are my countrymen doing to preserve it? I think fauji’s can manage with rationed water can the rest of India too? 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

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/-.

SUNDAY SHOPPING

SUNDAY SHOPPING

 

Sunday is our weekly shopping day. It is the same old routine. Find parking for your car. I prefer the scooter as it is easy to manoeuvre. Hand over a few shoes and sandals to the “Mochi” (cobbler). Yes one odd piece you find shearing off and going to get one from Bombay is not worth the petrol to be burnt.  Our man Friday is such a smiley chap and will wish you with so much of warmth that I can’t help but shaking his hand every time we use his services. He will be waiting patiently even though it would be beyond his duty hours and will also tell you that probably we did not notice that the other shoe too needed a mend. The other day it was raining heavily. We had to get my daughters school shoes repaired and we got late, he knew tomorrow she has to go to school, he waited for us. Advantages of a small place I must say.

Next stop is our sabzi-wala. One of his workers is “Walter”. I love to see him glow with excitement seeing me and my wife. He will wish us the loudest good evening and then speak only in Marathi. By now he knows what we prefer. They generally hand over a basket to you to select your vegetables. I do it the other way, I tell him to do it for me. This way I ensure I will not get a dressing down from my wife as I still have no idea which bhopla (kaddu/pumpkin) is good and which bhindi (okra) is “Kauli” (tender) even after close to thirty years of marriage.

I was noticing how people pick up tomatoes. They will pick up one and drop it. Pick up the second one press it, look around it and drop it, pick the third one up and put it in their basket and this happens to more than twenty they need. I kept noticing that how long that one particular tomato is not picked up. I was amazed that the ones that I had fixed my eyes on were picked up by the next lady. This lady also dropped quite a few and picked up the ones dropped by the previous chap. The sabzi-wala puts up a huge basket full; one actually is confused as to what to pick up and what to drop. As the basket empties out, he doesn’t replace or refill them. A person who needs them will have to pick up from what is placed in front of you. Smart, I would say.

Then I came across one guy not taking off his helmet. He was just pointing out to Walter to weigh what he wants. Soon I realised he had his mobile stuck inside his helmet and was hands free of sorts. We Indians have a jugad (improvise) for everything. Then I found one fellow with his helmet’s face guard over his forehead.  That too was for a purpose. The pan masala he was chewing and the mixture which accumulates inside the mouth has to be spit out.  I asked him then why do you wear it, he said traffic police.

My macchiwali is very smart. She will shout uncle surmai sasti ho gai hai (Fish has become cheap). So even if you don’t want to buy it you get carried away. She will take out a small one and say pandrah shau 1500. You look at her and are about to turn back she says shaat shay pannas 750. You show two fingers meaning 200, now she looks back as if to say, what nonsense you are talking man. I realised two things if you get into a conversation with them you will not be able to wriggle out. Second is become “besharam” (shameless) and haggle and haggle till cows come home. Moment you start become a bara saab you will not know when she has stripped you.

After all this shopping is generally my haircut time. The head massage after that is the attraction. The ladies I leave at a general store to pick up their shampoos and lipsticks.  I don’t know how these barbers know which hair to cut. I find him snipping at the same place for ages neglecting the rest of the circumference. He always asks me “Chota karun” (shall I cut them short). In the first thirty seconds he would have cleared the head and it takes him the next ten minutes to find hair and keep snipping.

I remember going to a saloon in Bombay, that chap took an hour to snip off what my barber does in ten minutes. The only thing was that he used about 11 types of scissors and shavers. Another thing I noticed in our desi barbers. Once they have snipped some hair, they continue doing the sniping action behind your head in thin air. Why they do it, I will have to research. The difference between my barber and the saloon wala nai was 450 bucks. My nai does a better job any day and gives me a head massage free. The saloon chap will charge me a fortune.

Be that as it may, small little things and personal touch matters. My daughter keeps asking me that dad you have friends all over. The auto wala, the sabji wala, the chana-mufali wala, the chicken wala, macchiwali (I call her my girl friend) even the cobbler and the barber greet you so nicely. I tell her yes beta, it is nice to know them too as they do very important jobs. It is our duty to treat them with dignity and show respect. Will my daughter understand the importance of these people, I wonder!!!!!

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

THE FOODIE WITHIN ME

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JAI HIND

 Noel Ellis

SATRAH KA PARIVAAR HAMARA

As life takes a turn where our children start getting married, suddenly you realise that you are becoming a “Buzurg”. I happened to attend three weddings technically over the week end of the SEEKERS family. Those teeny weenie, pram bound, diaper and nappy wearing lap kids were ready to start their new journey of their married lives. How time flies, as if it was yesterday. The image of the kids and the parents still remains of what you saw when you met them for the first time ages ago. The kids were replicas of their parents.

It took me some time to fathom that our kids are now bankers, marketing wizards, architects, interior designers, roadies, army officers and women officers in the Indian Armed forces. Some are psychologists, some HR Professionals, some IT champions, some engineers and some like mine are still in school.

The parents with more grey in their hair, more bulges around the waist, wrinkles galore, some balding, some already grandparents but with a heart of a teenager still. On meeting time became static. We are transported into an era when we were in our twenties and early thirties, some newly married, some bachelors. Some of course remained chronic bachelors quite long. The dainty looking brides who joined the paltan now transformed into loving mothers and mother in laws. Their nakhras and jhatkas still intact but the outlook to life now sees a sea of change.

As I looked at all the kids my heart felt so happy and proud, completely filled with joy to just meet and give all of them a hug. It had been ages that we had met after being duty uncles at mess parties. Thanks to the social media I was in touch with some, however, meeting the future generations face to face was an out of the world experience. I supposedly was the common factor of one wedding and I have the proud privilege to be called “Noel Ram Gharjore”. I can pat my back for it.

Kids’ handling their parents was an awesome treat to watch. Dad who won’t listen to anyone was now quietly obeying them like a puppy. “Dad avoid sweets”, back went one rasogoola out of the two he had picked up. Mom, don’t forget your medicine and pop came out a pill and went into mumma’s mouth. Life had changed I realised.

After the initial pleasantries and bear hugs, the topic very intently discussed was health. Earlier bachelors discussed girls, movies etc. Now they were married and discussing life style changes. When I said I do not drink anymore and have quit smoking, it came as a shock to many. Diabetes was the centre of discussion, followed by arthritis and asthma. Most of us had morning “starting trouble” from joints to the obvious. Blood pressure was fluctuating and was directly proportional to the happiness being generated. The heart beats were keeping pace with the sudden gush of love. Laughter remained the best medicine though.

The parties where we all used to stand throughout the night as youngsters saw a change as people like me could pull chairs to sit down. How dare one sit if a senior was standing were the ethos but things had changed. Old anecdotes, the loud laughter did not change. Who did what to whom and why did not change? Many secrets which were hidden deep inside, now were freely flowing across the table. The echoes of laughter and the interjections added to the flavour.

Another thing that had changed was that most of us had retired. Most of us were enjoying the second innings, some still working and some in no mood to work. What did not change was the josh and gusto. What did not change was the brotherhood. What did not change was the camaraderie. What did not change were the spirit, love and affection for each other. What did not change was the mutual respect for each other. Ladies looked more beautiful and stunning was another thing I noticed.

Yes perceptions did change and especially about me. Everyone praised my writings, though there were critiques too but they were for me to improve. It was an honour to be commended by very senior officers who saw me with one pip on my shoulder. The way I received blessings from them, I shall continue to look forward for more and strive hard to write better.

People who were not there were missed and stories of such people were the most interesting ones. A little “tarka” to the tales was an added bonus.  Unlike in the good old days when you were supposed to just listen as opening your mouth had its dire consequences.

Another nostalgic thing that happened to me was that I could share a room with my buddy and room partner of Infantry YOs, Commandos and Mech YOs. The only thing is that the bugger snores like a road roller. I did hear a lot of people confessing about their snoring sins. Well very few admit it openly like me. I have mastered the art of answering back my wife in snores perfectly.

Well, Arjit & Pooja, Ila & Shubhanshu, I wish you all good luck and God speed, may almighty shower his choicest blessings on you all. Also to my seniors and juniors and their better halves may our bond grow stronger. There is one life to live and one life to love and our children helped us to relive it. Thank you children and be blessed. Let me live up to the new name Noel Ram Gharjore.

Three Cheers to the “Satrah ka Parivaar” and HAR MAIDAN FATEH.

FAUJI DRIVERS

I just happened to see our RM take a Sukoi ride. I am sure after a hectic 24 hours on our Air Craft carrier Vikramaditya, to fly in an aircraft would have left her flabbergasted. My salutes to you Mam, it needs a lion’s jiggra (heart). What you went through in a sortie or a day at sea, these men in white and blue do it on a daily basis. You must have spent some time with the folks in Olive Green too and I am sure you would have cherished every moment. You can be rest assured that the country is in safe hands. You can bet your life on them. They won’t let India down is now stamped, signed, dated and sealed with your visit.

Be that as it may, moment I saw the SU-30 rolling out with the RM, the first thing which came to my mind is that the Air Force would have put her in the cockpit with the best pilot. In all probability it would have been the Commanding officer. My mind wandered as I was just thinking had she sat in an army vehicle then everyone would have gone looking for the best driver. Reason for detailing the best driver is that he avoids all dhachkas (bumps) while the memsaab is sitting in the gaari (vehicle). In other words the lady has to have the smoothest ride. Saab ke saath, parvah nahin.(If makes no difference when sir sits) Ask the pilot mam, what he must be thinking while you were on board. He would have ensured not a “G” extra. They are indeed the best of best.

This reminded me of my good old days when we were in a place called Lalgarh Jattan. It was so God forsaken that the nearest STD booth was in Ganganagar about 20 kms away. We had just been allotted a house and were busy setting it up. Wife complained of severe back ache one day, probably she might have got a catch, shifting the black steel trunks around. Simple fauji drill I did, took her to the MI (Medical Inspection) room, got medicines and off we went. However, the pain did not subside. The third day she just could not get up from the bed. I panicked and decided to take her to MH (Military Hospital) Ganganagar. Whole night she cried in pain and I could just do nothing about it except rubbing Iodex.

As luck would have it, due to mobilisation practice I was not able to accompany her. My company driver Rajjan Lal was detailed and Major Kandari volunteered to accompany her. I spoke to Rajjan and told him that make sure the drive is smooth. My wife was furious because I wasn’t going along. She said “your office is more important than me” etc. Rajjan gave me the most assured look, half pitying me and said memsaab aap fiqr mat karo (madam you don’t worry). I bade her good bye at about 9 am and at 11.30 Rajjan was back. I asked him what happened as I could see him totally white faced and with dried up lips. I knew something was not right and just hoped my wife was OK.

With a stammering voice Rajjan sheepishly said memsaab theek ho gaya (Madam is alright) and he has dropped her home. I exclaimed, what! How can this miracle happen? Sheepishly he said sir, I was driving very slowly till Khayali Wala (a village), suddenly the road became good and I sped. It slipped out of my mind that madam is sitting behind and I missed a speed breaker. The jonga jumped over it, she said Bhaiya main theek ho gayi, ghar chalo. (Brother I have become OK take me home)

I picked up my bike and rushed home and found she was happily in the kitchen. I asked what happened. She said the sprain (CHOOK) in my back was straightened out by the driver as they jumped over a speed breaker. She landed with a thud and heard a crackling sound and suddenly all pain subsided. I thanked my stars and thanked “Dr” Rajjan. Rajjan thereafter never missed a speed breaker till retirement.

Well, Madam, I don’t know how many of your aches and pains the Army, Navy and Air Force would have removed. However, you definitely need to look into what pains them the most and that is their IZZAT. For every Indian’s tomorrow they are giving their today. Do take a closer look at issues of all those serving and of all those who gave their yesterday too. You will then always be given the smoothest ride. Do you get my point madam? I wonder!!!!!!!!

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

IN CONVERSATION WITH CATHERINE

Catherine and I were driving down to Alibaug over the weekend when we struck up a conversation. I was listening to the stereo and my wife was appreciating the music system and the stereo effects. Catherine was not enjoying the drive at all; actually the same was the case with me. Reasons were many. One was the dilapidated condition of the road and the pot holes. Besides, the village dogs accosting us barking at their loudest and snarling with their dirty teeth. Hens along with their chicks thought the road was for them.  Worst of all was the chaotic traffic jams. Above all the weekend crowd who were pouring into our territory by the dozens. They were blocking traffic in garb of purchasing something or asking for directions in these narrow alleys. Quite a frustrating kind of a drive it was all in low gear.

I ignored her and kept my concentration on driving but there were pieces of the conversation which kept striking me again and again as she asked me the first question. Have you paid road tax? I said yes and that to a hefty amount. After a pause she asked me, why are there so many pot holes then? I had no answer. She told me, Noel, please take me out on a long and majestic drive, where the road surface is smooth, maybe on expressways where the thrill of driving can be enjoyed. It appears that here every time we venture out she is worried about checking out how long will the suspension hold and she told me that this way it won’t take long to give away. I just kept quiet and listened.

The next question she asked me that do you pay toll tax? I told her yes and where ever my ID card works I don’t. She said never mind, you have actually paid life time toll tax by serving the Indian Army, so I won’t ask you again, however, she continued to say that where does this toll money  collected  from the other vehicles disappear. I said I don’t know and continued focusing on the oncoming traffic and the huge potholes.

I was wondering to myself, that last year I saw lot of work going on this road. I used to have a smooth ride but where has the road vanished. This must be happening year after year and taxes which were being collected going down the drain. I again started to listen to the stereo and this time I changed the channel of my choice. I got lost in the music and lyrics as we were getting close to our destination.

Catherine was in a chirpy mood and threw another question at me. She said do you pay income tax? I replied in the affirmative. I am sure that some portion of that must also be allocated to the development of infrastructure in this country. I said surely it must be the case, I am not sure of the percentages. She appeared to be questioning the government head on. She continued to quiz me, see why there are so many accidents on the road? I said reckless driving! She said yes, just then two bikes whizzed past overtaking us from the wrong side and missed hitting us by a whisker. The basic reason is that the infrastructure is not being planned as per our expansion of population she said. I could not agree with her more. Her observation was that our population is exploding and so is purchase of vehicles but government is not making better and broader roads. I said yes. After a while she said, it is time for the government to wake up and I just kept mum.

A little ahead Catherine again poked me. I said now what and she said, you pay income tax, professional tax, GST and all the other taxes which the tax man can think of. I replied to her that it appears that you have got hold of a book on finance. She wanted to know where each and every pie went. I actually didn’t know. I looked at the setting sun from out of the window and thought to myself that yes she is right; over these years I couldn’t even hide one paisa of my income and all my taxes go down the drain, without much of accountability and returns.

At last Catherine blurted, I don’t want to be a dented and painted car for no fault of mine. I told her that I shall definitely convey her concerns to the people who matter. I then requested her to just keep quiet for a while as my wife watched the moon rise from the other side. I switched over to John Denver singing “Country Roads, take me home”, on the car stereo.

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

TEACHER TEACHER EVERYWHERE

Who is the best teacher? Is it the one in your kindergarten school where your foundations were laid? Were the teachers of your school till XII the best? Were the college teachers the best? All those like me who had a college life of a different kind as we joined the NDA, should we consider our academic teachers there the best or the Directing Staff, or our drill and PT ustads?  After graduation we moved for further studies to the IMA, do I take those instructors who guided me to get my commission as the best? As my career progressed I did many professional courses were they my best teachers? On retirement I had the privilege to study at one of the prestigious management institutes of India called IIM Ahmadabad; did I find my best teachers there?

I got married so I taught my wife a few things and now after 28 years she teaches me more. Most of us married folks will vouch for such strict teachers. As life progressed a child came in our lives and suddenly one found everyone else becoming a teacher. Everyone became a doctor, nurse, nanny, as if we were dopes. As you grow with your child does your child also become your teacher?

In school and college you make tons of friends, are they also your teachers? In your profession you meet people and go through lots of pleasant and unpleasant experiences from people. Are they your teachers? You are a member of a society in which you live, you go and live in different lands, you see and meet people of various castes, creeds, religions, regions, speaking different languages, following so many customs, do they teach you anything? Then comes your religious teacher he could be a padre, a monk, a guru, a baba, a molvi or a pandit; are they your teachers?

Births and deaths in the family teach you many things in life, so do I consider such experiences as teachers. You meet genuine people and frauds they both teach you something, so do they from part of the teachers. I faced the enemy on various fronts both conventional and unconventional operations like the insurgency in J&K and Manipur. Did they teach me something? I braved the deserts of Rajasthan and also the icy deserts of Ladakh did they teach me something? I para-jumped from aircrafts, drove and fired from ICVs; I handled logistics of a Brigade as an aftermath of the attack on our parliament from induction to de-induction. Those were lessons for a lifetime for me.

I think the answer to all the above questions is yes. Life is a learning process, everyday is learning and everyday is a lesson. Every experience is a lesson. I would rather say that I am my own biggest teacher. If I want to learn, I definitely will, if I decide not to learn there is no force on earth which can make me learn. The quality of the teacher is immaterial; the environment in which you study is not the issue. The number of laptops you use is also irrelevant; it is just your will to learn. Your teacher can be anyone. If the mind is open and receptive a shoemaker can also teach you a lesson of your life.

My Brigade Commander got wild with me one day when I had sought his permission to attach a newly released gypsy from a regiment to the brigade. He said son never snatch a chocolate from a child, either don’t give it and if you have given it don’t snatch it back. You will be the worst person for that child. It was a huge lesson for me for life as it touched me deep inside. You all may draw your own lessons from this. This commander was a different kind of teacher. He could show his displeasure by just lowering his spectacles on his nose. Cheers Brig Grewal, I owe this to you sir.

If you have animals in your home, I consider them to be teachers too. I was lucky to see cats and dogs as best friends, bitches feeding kittens, chicken cuddling up with cats, parrots riding a dog on its head, dogs taking dogs for walks, cat and dog team killing a cobra in the house. Their unconditional love and affection, their seventh sense that something is wrong, their joy to tell you how much they missed you when you came back on annual leave. One really needs to learn from them.

Patience and perseverance I learnt watching my father while angling. Therefore, I humbly request everyone to pursue a hobby. I picked up gardening as one and I lost many plants, some due to over watering due to my enthusiasm and some due to lack of knowledge of protection from sun and shade. I drew my lessons from incorrect potting, over manuring, wrong season to sow, too much of insecticide becoming a disaster. I am learning.

I also picked up writing also as a hobby like I am writing this piece. I learnt to handle criticism. I learnt to see the positive in the negative comments. I learnt to take appreciation in its own stride. I know the difference between a genuine comment and thumbs up on face book.  I can’t be always right is the biggest learning for me. The best part of all is I learnt how to type myself.

To draw a line who was the best teacher and what was the best lesson it is getting difficult for me say. I dedicate this article to my parents, teachers, wife, daughter, coaches, instructors, gurus, ustads, Indian Army, colleagues, relatives, friends, class mates, course mates, hobbies and pets that touched my life somewhere to give some lessons in life which I shall cherish throughout. Thank you every one, keep guiding me. I also want to thank internet too which helps me research my topics. This one I did not research at all, I just kept penning my thoughts. I want to keep picking up life’s lessons as I go. My learning will not end till I die. Will it, I wonder!!!!!!!!!

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

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