Today the social media circuit of the fauji kind is full of “Ration pe Bhashan”. What all rations will discontinue in what all military stations is matter of grave concern I suppose. Most of the officers are worried about their bai’s running away, for obvious reasons. I can vouch for it that my free rations were the biggest spoiler of our maid’s figure. Well, rice we didn’t eat. Bread was given in lieu of atta. Oil was toooo refined. Butter was not good for health said the doc. Daal’s were too stony. Cheese, we kept begging the supply depots yaar pleeease give us a reason to say cheese. Ek Murgi ke saath do anda used to come free as so called chicken used to be a yucky “egg layer” and not “broiler”. Meat was always malnourished and injected with water. Bhindi used to reach us as bhindi dry. Potatoes could go straight to the pot as they were automatically peeled in transit. Gobi was mostly fired. Palak came to us as squashed soup and so on. This I am talking of a decade back of the condition of our wonderful rations. Today, my ASC friends might take offence to it but never mind.
The other issue which bothered me was that fresh rations were collected for a week, so rivers of milk used to flow as minimum seven packets had to be collected. One could now make paneer, kheer or curds choice was yours. In summers by the time the milk from the military farms (MF) reached us it was mostly curdled. The fat percentage used to be just above the threshold of the minimum required to call it milk, balance used to be SNF (solid not fat) a term I picked up as DQ, notwithstanding the water content. Our child refused to drink the MF milk as it used to taste “different” from the pure cow’s milk we could get from the civil.
I remember I was deployed in the outskirts of Srinagar valley and my post was a four hour walk from the road head. Imagine the plight of chickens as they would have travelled many kilometres to reach our admin base. By the time they used to reach my post most of them were dead. My Senior JCO suggested that Sir let us send a chicken detachment (det) to the base. I asked for what, he said sir; they will cut and clean them before they died. As I was a pure man eater kind found logic in his wisdom and sent a det from the company HQ who’s only job used to be cutting chicken, plucking chicken feathers and sending them up as dressed chicken. My boys used to hang 10 chickens each on a bamboo with their necks blobbing up and down as they travelled up to the post. What a sight!
Then we had an MOH category (Meat on Hoof). The sheep and goats of Rajasthan used to travel more than 500 miles away from home to reach the base. They used to go mad on setting hoof on terra-ferma. From deserts to my post they used to go berserk eating the green-green grass of the greenest pastures. All the starving they had done while travelling in military vehicles used to be made up by eating anything green including our dress. Notwithstanding that within a week they used to grow fat and were sent up through the half link patrol. My anxiousness used to keep increasing with every passing hour when this patrol used to get delayed. On reaching the post I used to find at least two boys almost fainting, reason used to be that they had to carry the damn sheep on their shoulders because they refused to walk in this altitude and mountainous conditions. Worst is that most of them caught a cold on arrival. While inspecting them one could see the long greenish squishy liquid oozing out of their noses. I used to call the nursing assistant and tell him to give a few “paracetamols’ each for one week and report back when their noses were nice and shiny having acclimatised with cold conditions and altitude. Then only they were ready to feast on. Meat and rum issue was ultimate.
In high altitude one got used to tinned rations. Given a choice the companies would tin anything that moved. We had tinned tuna, meat and chicken in all forms, all fruits including some I had never heard the names of, in sweet sticky syrup. Then there used to be lot of this dry stuff. Dry and dehydrated onions, garlic, ginger, tomatoes, even egg powder. With egg powder we used to make tons of bujia for the whole company in the mornings. Beans never used to cook even after two days in a pressure cooker. Milk powder was used as “choona” to mark the volley ball court or make gulab jamuns. Dry fruits, no one cared to eat as they gave a bad rumbling tummy. Of course, how can I forget Milk Maid, the best of thing we used to enjoy! Condensed milk was the only reason to fight with my wife when she had joined me at Lukung post (Pangongtso) many many moons back.
Well, the last ten years I never had a chance to crib for what I ate, as I ate what I bought. I do not know is it psychological to say that the army rations were not good. I remember my wife being a good baker and used to make excellent cakes out of the tray of eggs we used to keep getting off and on, as I had declared myself a vegetarian as far as the free fauji rations were concerned. The extra milk always came in handy for puddings which are now off my menu as sugar is catching up but give me tipsy, I shall break all rules and to hell with sugar.
So my dear fauji folks, you guys may have to survive on “Maggie” of the Ramdev kind in peace stations. The calculations of ration allowance with the taxes being cut at source due to the implementation of the GST would be good enough to get half a plate of Gol Guppas per week. The issue is when you get rations you crib, now that you won’t get rations there is more to crib about. This will help all of us to take care of the indigestion which is going to be a fall out of the free ration ban.
Modi ji ka lamba bhashan aur fauj ka tagra ration (Modiji’s long speech and army’s strong ration) have no meaning whatsoever, sab dikhava (all show biz). As the saying goes, atta bhi mehnga, chini bhi mehengi, mehanga har saman, fir bhi mera Bharat Mahan. Achhe din kab ayenge? I wonder!!!!!!!!!!!!!
© Noel Ellis