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I read this heart wrenching news today that Promod is no more. A NDA Brigadier rose to be an actual Brigadier, hats off to you brother. Well for all those privileged people let me confess, we used to feel jay of all those who had one star* on their satchels. We used to admire those who had two of them and were called Generals**. In fact all of us still take a bow for those who had three stars and continued as Field Marshals***.

I and Promod were from the same battalion in NDA, he was in Alpha and I was in Charlie. Basically we clicked as we attended many French and English classes together. Promod was a happy go lucky person with dopey, sleepy, large but glistening eyes. He was fun loving, jovial and a spirited person who would win any ones heart. I am sure his nature was such that even if he would be angry he would not be able to show it. Well, what bonded us instantly was that we were smokers. Once I moved to India Squadron in V term, I met another Brigadier called G Prakash. Both these guys were class mates from Sainik School. My interactions with Promod increased as fags used to be available with me as a last resort. He only taught me where to hide them. He taught me how to smoke a Panama non filter till your finger tips and lips got burnt. In fact I got introduced to panama and got hooked on to it. My last empty pack of the luxurious Wills Gold went out of the window and saved me my budget imbalance.

This bugger was good at billiards, so one fine day I was introduced to the night billiards in India Squadron. But as luck would have it the DS of Air force caught us. We were given a stern warning and imagine an Alpha squadron chap went scot free in India Squadron as the DS was new. Then one fine day we all decided to have a nonstop billiards session. Sixth termers never gave us a chance during earthly hours, so we decided to do something at unearthly hours. So if I remember correctly, I, G Prakash (He is an Admiral now I suppose) Ajay another naval dope* and rest my memory fades decided to report sick. Reason we decided was conjunctivitis. Now how to ensure we look devastated with this communicable disease as one used to get 7 days SIQ (Sick in Quarters) for that. Promod suggested let us rub Colgate in our eyes and see the effect. I had never reported sick in NDA nor had been SIQ ever and it was close to end of term. I fell for it.

Dr Maj Mrs SK Singh looked at all of us sitting in the corridor of the MH and signed our SIQ slips without questions for a change. Knowing her reputation we were expecting to be told to attend all parades with closed eyes. With blood shot eyes all of us came to India Squadron smoked a fag each, slipped our SIQ slips under the door of the CSMs undie and off we rushed to the billiards room. The game started and to our utter surprise the DS body of India and Lima Squadrons landed up and shooed us away. Later we found the whole billiards room smelling of dettol and phenyl as we were told they got it disinfected seeing our condition. “Mokashi” the Batman used to wait with breakfast till almost 12. We used to quickly gobble bread, jam and eggs with a fresh plan, how and when to play the next game.

It was decided that we will now play night billiards; whole day we shall sleep and play at night. First task was managing blankets that we did with ease. Next was hanging them on the anteroom windows, with a little ingenuity we did that also. The game and fags began. We played and played billiards. The in offs and pots suddenly started falling in place. The long shots and flukes were perfected, the fouls and misses reduced drastically. We became experts in repairing tips of the cues ourselves. Game was top class. Company was top class. Time was ours. A jam session used to be on every day. We were the kings of billiards in NDA.

My room was on the first floor ante room flank, basically a safe haven for all the billiards playing stalwarts. So one fine day after being fed up having the same old cold bread, squished eggs, liquidy butter and jam in those huge tiffin’s we decided to “seko” our toasts in the morning. I had managed a heater from the helper on which he used to melt wax for our drill boots. Unfortunately the electricity went off. So another fag session and a decision of playing a twenty point game and be back to toast our slices. We peeled off the blankets and forgot to switch on the lights and the game begun. Suddenly there was shouting of AAG-AAG (fire), bloody hell my room was drenched as drenched could be. All of us were in pyjamas and shorts, nothing on top. DS body was lined up in my flank. My lock broken, as it is it used to be a piddly one? My heater with the squaddy and on the last day of our SIQ I got 14 restrictions for cooking in the room. We had left the toasts on the lid of the tiffin and forgot to switch it off while going for our World billiards Championship. The lights came on, we had left the toasts which were ready to be toasted but they got smoked and burnt down to cinders.

Promod and rest of the gang evaporated into thin air. I think MK Sandeep* was also there. I was marched up and till end of term I must have done 28 more restrictions. Well my dear Promod, we may not play billiards anymore but I fondly remember you as a super soul with a heart of Gold. Rest in Peace my brother. We shall miss you. A small thank you from me and LXVI course for all the lives you touched and all the friends you made. Cheers Buddy, wish you better times wherever you are and we shall remain friends for ever.

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis