Noel Ellis's Official Blog

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

Category: WIFE

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

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

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