Noel Ellis's Official Blog

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

Page 2 of 14

SAVING MOTHER FROM PLASTIC SMILES

SAVING MOTHER FROM PLASTIC SMILES

 

I was watching a programme on environment day and saw mountains of plastic all over the world. Statistics were alarming. Suffice to say, no one would have ever thought that it would reach such monstrous proportions over the years and threaten our very existence.

Like a ritual every year we too plant trees in our company on this day. Pits were dug and a water sprinkler made of “plastic” is kept handy for the ceremony. Lot of discussion on one time use plastics & their harmful effects on health and environment took place. I just pointed out that the bag in which the sapling has been sprouted is also “one time use” black colour plastic. There was a furore and instructions were passed that next year we will bring saplings in gunny bags only.

Then there was a photo op with “plastic smiles” and customary distribution of “peras”. A worker quickly pulled out a box of sweets from a “plastic carry bag”, threw it on the road side and wrestled with the thin cling film over the box. He tore it off and threw it at the same place. Everyone thanked the organiser & started walking off. Concern for environment also got over moment the sweet was in the mouth. I waited and picked up bits and pieces of plastic strewn and deposited them in a dust bin. People said why you do it; the safaiwala is paid to do it. I plastically smiled and walked off.

Last month, it was talk of our town that state government will come very heavily on plastic carry bags. They are called “PISHVI” in this part of the country. The rumour around was that anyone carrying a plastic bag will be fined 5000/- irrespective from where he got his hands on it from. Panic struck and suddenly cloth bags were on sale. They charged 10 rupees extra for it. Today, all kinds of plastic carry bags are back in vogue in all shapes and sizes.

I pass by an adivasi colony on my way to office every day. I see small boys and girls waiting to cross the road with one cup of tea “parcelled” in a pishvi from the local tea shop. Another child is holding 20 ml plastic milk sachets. Sometimes, I find them holding the same amount of cooking oil. They buy what they need and as much they can afford. How do they carry those small quantities? Pishvi is the only answer.

This Sunday we went to the beach. It was good to see lot of hustle and bustle and tourists’ thronging that place. It’s a pity that no one really cared for the environment. People had thrown plastic bags all over. Mineral water bottles were bobbing up and down with the waves giving such a shabby look. Cans of beer and empty plastic liquor bottles were strewn all over the place.

One fine day we will get a call from the Collector’s office, let’s do Swach-Bharat. T-shirts and caps will be given; school children will be involved with media coverage and press releases. The contractor will lift up the garbage and dump it in the mangroves on the other side. Garbage is actually never cleared; it is transferred from here to there.

This reminds me of the illegal dumping going on for landfills. All debris of construction sites and garbage of the village is brought and dumped at a particular place. This happens under the eyes of God as there is a temple next to the dump plus under the local Gods, as a Police Thana and Customs office isn’t very far. Dumping is known to everyone, police doesn’t get involved as it is matter of the gram panchayat. Customs department are meant for bigger things and life goes on. It may not be long when a new shopping or housing complex comes up in that area.

Worst is that when someone lights that garbage up. If you have your windows rolled down to enjoy the surroundings and fresh air, the whiff that will hit your nostril with that stinky smoke will get onto your brain. The whole impression of the place is turned upside down in that one second when the smoke fills your lungs.

Environmentalists’ are doing their bit I am sure but the biggest dilemma they face is when they visit a wash room and can’t decide whether he should save water or save paper.

Be that as it may. I as a citizen will do my bit for “my mother”. I am worried about those people who have no idea on the damage a pishvi can do. Then there are those who know about it but just don’t care. For them this is Sarkar’s job. Can we stop those “plastic smiles” and get down to save mother earth? 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

INNOCENT TERMITES

 

 

 

INNOCENT TERMITES

 

The innocent stone pelters of J&K are turning “innocenter” by the day. They are extra ordinary citizens who can be found praying all the time in this holy month of Ramzan. For what is a different issue? They don’t abuse, they are never violent. It happens so that when security force people appear in their area, stones, batons and bricks appear in their hands by a miracle. They are such naive people that anger is generated in them from somewhere, through some divine power that they start smashing and bashing anything related to the security forces.

It appears to me that their behaviour is akin to people who go into a “trance” when they get connected with that invisible force. Thereafter they don’t see or feel anything, they just throw anything and everything at the security forces in their stupor. The forces are actually there trying to assist them. Kashmiri’s need to understand that people are giving them false hopes of Azadi. This, the pelters are unwilling to understand.

Peace can never be one sided. Violence against the state and its forces will only increase the agony and time to attain peace. If forces withdraw, will all these people who attack the security forces guarantee peace & prosperity for their people? Will all those who are motivating these pelters guarantee that they will be able to look after their affairs. As I see it, these people do not except the elected government also. Can one Kashmiri be at peace with another Kashmiri? The answer is a straight and blunt no.

With limited resources, lack of education, jobless youth and over dependence on government funds, can these guys think of peace? Sarkari Naukri’s are limited. Tourism which became the backbone of Kashmir’s economy is touching rock bottom. Where is the famous apple of Kashmir? The fruit industry which can boost the economy is rotting. The blue revolution is below expectation, actually the fisheries are gasping for water. Animal husbandry needs a real husband to do the job. Timber industry which is so much in demand world over appears as if “ghun” (mites) are slowly gnawing through and turning it to dust.

I was staying in a walnut forest when I was in the anti-infiltration role in Kashmir. The logs which were being illegally “adjusted” in full view of the forest department for “deodar” & “akhrot” were unimaginable. “Janglat Vibhag” was the most “in demand” department. Timber smuggling was rampant. There is no penalty for a tree which has fallen due to natural reasons but how many were felled and reported as rotten? Villagers have been given permission to fell a few to construct or rebuild their houses. One tree becomes two and so on. The forest cover keeps dwindling. Funds for the forest keep evaporating.

Why is peace eluding J&K? I have heard many politicians deflecting this topic by saying; it’s a very complicated subject. Definitely it is! That doesn’t mean it cannot be tackled. Who are the main players? It is the people of Kashmir and their representatives. Then why can’t a solution be worked out? Cessation of fire has been imposed on the security forces, what about the same on the not so innocent militants, they don’t accept it. Is it a political gimmick? Should it be one sided?

Is Pakistan the culprit? In my mind I have no doubts. They can be tackled externally. But, who will sort out these mites who are drilling holes in our healthy wood? I would rather say they have done the termite effect on Kashmir. If the militants are the mites, then the people who support, fund, shelter, encourage militancy and are in touch with Pakistan, sitting inside Indian territory are termites. They are eating Kashmir from within.

By spraying insecticide the disease & decay won’t go. We need to eliminate the queen. Who will identify the queen? I think it has been done already. When a termite hill is attacked, the workers and soldiers are bound to be agitated. They fight and try to plug in holes so that the queen remains safe. The forces have been doing the ant eaters job. Eating and eliminating what is visible and leaving the rest of the nest to recoup, rebuild and keep feeding the queen which keeps reproducing more white ants. The expanding graveyards are witness to it. Government of India has got the wherewithal to just focus on the queen. Distractions and deflections have to be guarded against.

The “innocent” worker ants are pelting stones, the “soldier ants” are attacking as militants. Where has the queen gone and hidden herself? We got to locate & eradicate her. The sooner we get our act right, whole Kashmir will be in peace, India will be in peace, Kashmiriat will return, Insaniyat will resurface and Pakistan will rest in peace. Have I got it right? 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

CANTTS ARE FREE FOR ALL

 

 

 

CANTTS ARE FREE FOR ALL

 A weird kind of feeling sets in when one hears that the cantonments have been made free for all. When I was posted in Jaisalmer in 1985, reaching the railway station from my unit used to take 30 minutes. At times the station bus driver was briefed not to let the station master turn the signal green till officer’s vehicle was in site. I remember I missed the train once and caught it at the next station called Thaiyat-Hamira, as my jeep had got stuck in sand. One always cursed why the cantts are so remotely located. I think we didn’t want spies sneaking into military locations.

We used to dislike going to the distant Air force station in Jaisalmer but could not help it as all VIP movement used to take place from there. Hell used to break lose if one found one item missing which meant more than an hour’s delay to fetch it from the unit. The station was fenced with various check posts. Security SOPs were strictly followed. By the way on the lighter side, I always used to wonder why the Air Force Police chap carries a compass as part of his accoutrements’. Did he use it to guess the direction from which I came from or that he set a new bearing every time he moved from the gate?

Be that as it may. Suffice to say cantts used to be far from towns to avoid being a hindrance to any civil traffic or people. As time went by people started to slowly creep closer to the boundaries and encroach prime land. I remember Nabha, a small little place in Punjab, where, from ones backyard one could get milk through the barbed wire fence. One could choose the buffalo to be milched. If that black beauty did not look at you and say moo you could tell the person to skip to the next one. “Saron da saag” used to be exchanged in “dolu’s” full across the fence. It could have been bombs too. People wanted the road through the cantt open but they also understood the security concerns.

Nabha had Bouran gate, Alhoran gate, Patiala gate, Dulladi gate & Mehsi gate, which used to be manned and used to be the first check point for people trying to enter Nabha fort. Those gates did signify that the fort was protected from all directions. Military stations & cantonments too are protected areas. Exposing those places to the public gives an opportunity to anti national elements to have a free run. Leaving our doors open does attract thieves I suppose.

Inside Nabha cantt we had a “Ghora khana” and “Hathi khana” (Horse & Elephant stables). It was like having your Armoured Regiment and the Mechanised Infantry Battalion. These locations were closely guarded as the animals needed protection against sabotage and subversion. Someone could steal the animals or poison the animals and their fodder or could pollute the ponds in which they bathed. Fit animals could be replaced with lame ones. All these were security concerns of the King who had many enemies. In modern times if someone can get in and sabotage our tanks and BMPs costing crores, we might be unfit for war. Well, time will tell its repercussions.

I was talking to a friend of mine and she totally turned me off by saying that you army men think too much of yourselves by calling us “civilians”. She further went to say that I must remember that the forces are under the civilian rule so don’t think you guys are superior kinds. If this is how our fellow countrymen think about people who live and die for the tri-colour, then there is something wrong with someone’s mentality. I dare not say the “civilian mentality” lest my friend feels offended again.

Doesn’t a security guard of your society ask you at the entrances that whom you want to meet? Doesn’t he register your mobile number, name and address before letting you in. Then what is the issue if they check you at an Army check post. By the way, the Armed forces adapt fast to changing situations. Our families are also now mentally prepared in case of emergencies like Pathankot. We know how to look after ourselves and we are flexible enough to cope with any challenging situations. That’s how we are bred. Opening of roads do irritate us but don’t bog us down.

In case an Armed forces man is on duty in Kashmir and gets a message that his house has been burgled, his car has been damaged, his little child and parents have been hurt and manhandled badly while he was in an operation putting his life at stake for the sake of the people who don’t know and understand what an encounter with a terrorist is. Can those people assure him the safety of his family when he is risking his life for citizens of India?

I also know of people who are best friends till the time they can lay hands on a couple of bottles of liquor from the canteen. If such people feel hassled to show their identity and get equally inconvenienced like every other soldier, before entering any restricted area, then God help us! If opening the cantt road is for ego or vote bank, then it’s a shame. Why have security and protection for ministers then? I was sent out to rot in the desert for one year because our parliament was attacked. Had one odd MP been shot dead, then would the forces been given a free hand & told to eliminate Pakistan? I wonder!!!!!!!!!!!

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

FIT FITTER FITTEST

 

 

FIT FITTER FITTEST

 

It was amazing to see “Chilly” do those demo type push ups which we used to do in NDA. Media jumped in pushing only words out of their vocal chords on a futile debate. The discussions became so hot that people were sweating in air conditioned studios as if they had done 100 push ups non-stop. I wish all those overweight panelists and anchors had hit the floor to prove their fitness instead.

I have one “dili-tamanna” Chilly. You being a fauji will understand it. Please get every “Saansad” to Rajpath at 5.30 am every morning (Rain or no Rain). Road walk and run should be the first day’s agenda. Area between North and South block maybe used for the PT fall in. North Block for the ruling party and South Block area for the opposition and others. Sick report people to stand near the gates of Rashtrapati Bhawan and should be checked by the Rashtrapati himself. All “shammers” to be sent back with Att “A” (Attend all parades).

You can be the Adjutant and give the report to the Commanding officer whose name I need not mention. As it is the opposition parties have united so Raga can give it to Mummy ji, as the neighbouring battalion adjutant. You can call them Blue land and Red land reports.

Kindly request the Army to please spare PT ustads in those red stockings for the event. If army can help laying yoga mats and building bridges on Yamuna this won’t be a big ask I suppose. Thereafter, all “dhotiwalas” should be handed over to the ustads in manageable squads. I find there will be an issue here as there would be very few parliamentarians under 40 years. Therefore, the grouping should be 40-50 years, 50-60, 60-65 and above 65 years. I know that most of them will fall in the last bracket. You may have to design a special PT Exercise Table for them (No table 13 please).

Kindly ensure about 30-40 ambulances are placed for Medical cover for the event. Hospitals need to be kept on standby as there would be lot of ligament injuries and sprain cases. I would love to hear the ustads say, “India Gate ko dahine chor ke ayega”. “Pahila teen rakhega baki dobara”. Go and suddenly say wapaaaas. You don’t know whether you have to go or come back. I would also like to see how these people react to” idhar fall in-udhar fall in”. Remember, ustads used to shake us up from slumber by showing his hand where to fall in. A Kenyan NDA cadet just gave up. The Ustad asked him what happened, he said Ustad you first decide where I have to fall in and I will go there.

Their X, Y, Z security personnel to be lined up for crowd management. I am sure when the Desh will hear that our “desh chalane wale” are doing PT to stay fit, it would be an event of sorts. At least for the first few days people may come in large numbers to show their solidarity as they definitely follow their leaders, even though blindly.

I remember the famous “nimbu pani” of NDA Khadakwasla after Josh Runs. Here we would be dealing with many diabetics so give them “karela” and “lauki” juice to refresh them. If that is not possible then” neem-ras” in lieu of aam-ras would do. All “kitanoos” in the tummy and brain will get destroyed. O My, how can I forget “Sulabh”? You will have to place mobile toilets as some “Mahanubhav” would like to stay inside to escape the wrath of ustads. The doors must have timers, after five minutes they should automatically open to expose the reality.

I know our politicians walk a lot (padyatra) and are fit guys. They talk a lot too especially when they are on TV. Some of them can sit for 18 hours on their chairs and work. I must appreciate their stamina.

One more thing, if we can do all this then let us stick to timings and punctuality. If you leave timings of PT Parade to be discussed in parliament as to what time is the best time to exercise, I am sure they would never be able to come to a consensus. If you say morning the opposition will say evening, the speaker can keep requesting them to “baith jaiye”. I would say, moment they clog the well of the house, PT Ustads should appear and take them for a run around the parliament building. Make them climb up and down the stairs 40 times, desh fit apne aap ho jayega.

I am not asking for any cartwheels, handsprings and back flips which politicians keep doing in political life by jumping from party to party and doing politics of convenience. They ride high horses because we elevate them to that pedestal. They do push the common man into blind wells.

Be that as it may, I congratulate you Minister Saab to have started the fit India initiative. I shall not take your challenge as I am best at doing “Shavasan”. India can only be fit, if their leaders are fit. Leaders need to be physically fit, mentally strong and morally straight. I must thank my Alma Mater for making me fit in all respects. I also want to thank & salute all my PT & Drill ustads for their service to the nation. Will fitness I mention ever be on the politician’s agenda? I wonder!!!!!!!!!

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

MY LADAKH DIARIES

MY LADAKH DIARIES

 

My climate (acclimatisation) at Leh went off well and I was ready to take on the mountains. For a Mech officer to get posted to high altitude meant one more medal. To earn it, I had to spend 180 days excluding breaks which I thought would be a cake walk. The reality was way off and I shall share how tough life is subsequently.

Early morning we started in a 1ton for Tangtse. It could take 6-8 hours, I was told. All was going well till we passed by a canal. I saw huge layered ice slabs neatly piled like files in a rack. A thought passed my mind, that why they want ice slabs in such weather. I looked at the Indus which was smoothly flowing, shimmering and meandering in the valley below but got no answers. Then I thought they must be transporting ice to Leh. Such weird thoughts get sorted out very fast. I got to know later that the canal had frozen in winter, ice was still melting and water goes to the Stakna hydel project. How stupid I must have felt. Bloody mechie come down to mother earth, I told myself.

As we were crossing a causeway near Karu, my excitement knew no bounds when I saw a BMP near the Indus river bed. My imagination started running wild as the valley was broad enough to take a Combat Group. I had also heard that a Mech Battalion and an Armoured Squadron were located there. I was on home turf kinds and without even reaching Tangtse, I was already making plans to take on the Chinese with anti-tank missiles.

Karu onwards the climb started getting steep. I, who had driven a 1 Ton up every sand dune of Jaisalmer District, now started to feel the presence of the mighty mountains. The scene was barren but sublime. The drive was bumpy and kept getting bumpier. Soon the road disappeared and converted into a track. Our vehicle started skidding. The sound of the engine in constant low gear was telling me something. Sitting behind, I was not able to see the valley below but when suddenly our driver braked and we started to slide backwards and the damn thing turned away from the mountain wall. My instinct to jump out was at its peak. Luckily the tailboard hit the vehicle following us & we came to a halt. All of us jumped doing a kind of obstacle course as the vehicles were kissing each other.

My heart skipped a beat when I peeped over the side into the valley. There were more than 10 odd vehicle chassis crumpled and crushed half buried in a graveyard of sorts. My goodness Lord I said, today we would have been minced. Our driver quickly got out, put a rock under the tyre and opened the tool box. He pulled out some chains. They were very funny looking things and I assumed that they would be for towing but to my surprise I found them to be anti-skid chains. Water had frozen and made a thick slate of ice on the track. Every year I was told that one odd vehicle goes down this slope. Frankly, I got the shivers down my spine. Whatever parts can be recovered from the vehicle is recovered and rest is destroyed in-situ. I shuddered but put up a brave face. The cold now started to grip me; I wore my coat Parka thereon.

I was shocked to see two drivers trying to burn their vehicles by lighting cotton waste under fuel tanks of their 3 Tons parked on one side. I almost shouted at them but I was told that the diesel has frozen in the pipes, as they must not have put anti-freeze in their tanks. I would have arrested them for destroying government property.

We reached Changla, it is 17,586 feet above mean sea level. It is the second highest mountain pass after Khardungla. The GREF teams keep it open but in the thick of winters it closes for weeks together. People told me that kindly pray before you leave or else Changla Baba will keep calling you back. The driver knew that I was a novice; he opened the glove box and handed over a pack of Parle-G and an aggarbatti to me. I thanked him as my “batti” was really band for obvious reasons.

The toughest part was yet to come which was down hill to Zingral. I could see the TCP but the road was multiple Zs, a zig-zag kind of landscape. On the first hairpin bend I saw a 3 ton in its grave. The officer sitting next to me narrated the story that it was a 3 Ton carrying CSD stores of a regiment which went down. He was part of the rescue mission. They told me that day every local Ladakhi they met was drunk. The reason was this vehicle was carrying about 150 cases of the most precious liquid on the other side of Changla. All bottles broke on impact and the liquid froze. The local fellows, after rescuing the men got busy sucking on ice and carried chunks of frozen liquor home. The drink was definitely on the rocks. In Jaisalmer one craved for ice, here one just needed rum and a glass.

It was close to dusk when we rolled into our battalion. The welcome board said “Second to None” with Snow Lions painted on its sides. I looked up and thanked the Lord and also said Changla Baba ki Jai in my mind.

I was cold, fatigued, disoriented and dizzy with a slight headache. I just wanted to have a hot cup of tea and I wasn’t disappointed as a jawan said “TASHI DELEG” & poured piping hot tea from a Chinese thermos in steel glasses. I rolled the glass vigorously in my hands. With one sip, I was already feeling better.

How many such trips would be needed to please Changla Baba? I wondered!!!!!!!!!!

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

CHOICE OF ARMS

 

 

CHOICE OF ARMS

Choice of Arms (COA) used to be announced close to passing out in IMA. One could see three types of faces on hearing what has been allotted to you. Happy, sad and faces with no expression. Some people who opted for Ordinance landed up in Rajput Regiment, some could not opt for ASC because of their instructor’s pressure to join Gorkha Rifles.  Thambis got Sikh Regiment and Sikh gentlemen were allotted Madras Regiment. UP people got Naga regiment and J&K types were allotted Marathas. Most of us became “casualties” except for the super block kinds. (First twenty in the order of merit)
The Batty (Battalion Commander) used to announce the COA. GC 19964 you have been allotted Infantry, I almost swooned, with tears in my eyes that I have become causality. I was about to about turn when he announced Mechanised after a pause, I said what! I just could not believe my ears, as it was my first choice. The watery eyes changed to eyes glistening with pride eyes and then he added Recce and Support, 17th battalion. My expression turned to a frown that ye Recce and Support kaun sa keera hai. This was in June 1985.
When you come out of Batty’s office, you find GCs eagerly waiting, not bothered what they got but are more concerned on what the others have got. Quite a few of them gheroaed me asking Kya mila? Kya mila? I said Mech Inf. People almost fainted. Is sale ko Mechanised kaise mil gayi. The NRS (Nearest Railway Station) given to me was Jaisalmer. I did not even care to register it at that moment as the excitement was too much. The next thing was to have a beer, gum main ya khushi main.
I reached my room picked up an inland and wrote to Dad. All this while dreaming of the APCs (Armoured Personal Carriers) BTRs and the SCOTs, I had seen in Kapurthala cantonment. My motivation was Mech Units which used to come for equipment display to our school. I used to be awe struck when they told us these APCs float on water and used to show us a propeller at its rear end. I could never have asked for more from God.
Now to find someone from Recce and Support in IMA was like finding a needle in the haystack. I was lucky to find a Kote NCO of 17 Mech looking after my Karen Company Kote. I asked him ustad 17 Mech kahan hai, he said he cannot tell because of “sekorti” and equipment cannot be divulged as it is Top Secret. I asked a few Mech officers posted there, none could tell me what this recce and support battalion was all about.
Rumors were hot during that time. Posting locations, names of COs, characteristics of Brigade Commanders etc started floating around. There were certain fauji brats who knew various stations and hardships of those areas. So even if people were happy to get their choice, they were a little apprehensive of the areas they were going to serve. Well, in IMA who is bothered except taking the ANTIM PAG (final Step) which is the culmination of the POP (Passing out parade).
I was told that you are the luckiest person joining an elite battalion. One company is always on training in France. One started dreaming of the Eiffel Tower straight away. One company is equipped with helicopters for reconnaissance. Ones imagination ran wild that you are the next Rocky & Rambo combined. Pakistan you better watch out. Flying choppers whole night in my dreams used to leave me exhausted. The third company they said remains in India for training. I thought to myself as the unit is hush-hush, I will become a secret operative. I wanted to leave for Paris immediately but why have they told me to report to Jaisalmer. The excitement was too much to digest. Now, that once in a month beer became a weekly affair and that one fag a day became five. From Panama I graduated to Wills Kings. After all we were Mech People.
Be that as it may, COA got us busy drafting DO letters to the Commanding Officer as the first piece of military writing we were practicing. Life took a different turn that day when parents blessed their children and piped us. At least the civilian crowd like my parents had no idea what the difference was between Infantry and Ordinance. For them we were Officers of the Indian Army. We had made them proud beyond words.
All of us from different regiments took oath to abide by the Constitution of India and to go by land, sea or air to defend our motherland even at the peril of our lives. We had no choice left except to be an Officer and a Gentleman.
Our minds were blank as we did not know what was in store for us. Our thoughts were just conjectures. We didn’t know what a battalion looks like and what really happens in one. We all were happy folks, bubbling with josh and eager to join our outfits. All the training was in your heads, we were raw, unpolished and unaware of what lies ahead. We had joined one of the finest professions to be in service of our nation.

JAI HIND
© Noel Ellis

FIRST DAY IN LEH

FIRST DAY IN LEH

 I was posted to a new battalion on deputation based at Durbuk, (Tangtse) in 1990. It was in high altitude. Cold, frozen, snowing and icy was the impression in my mind. I was told it has a rear near Leh. “Rear” had a very different impression in my mind.

I was posted in Jaisalmer then and having measured the hot & sandy deserts by all means of transport available in the army including by foot I was looking forward to this change.

Zozila pass had not opened so I had to travel by air from Chandigarh to Leh. I was shoved into an IL-76. I saw this huge aircraft up close for the first time. It had been converted into a double Decker and I got a seat near the tailboard. Engines started and that whine was getting to scare me a little. We rolled off. With the first “jhatka” when the brakes are released I almost fell off. Soon the ears started getting blocked. I kept praying not realising I shall be jumping with parachutes from this plane later in life.

A 45 minute flight was an experience in itself. Then there was a thud, it was touchdown at Leh. We taxied and parked and as the tail door opened I saw a mountain of sand. I said to myself, hope I have landed at the right place. A very smart looking NCO with a red beret received me. We were off to a transit camp in a very shinny one tonner. We reached the site and I was taken inside a mess.

One had to bend to get in. Two odd bulbs were glowing in that room, flickering with the fluctuating voltage. They used to go dim and then flicker and then suddenly emit a bright light. I saw four people sitting on the table playing bridge. A few Gorkha looking people wearing torn sandow baniyans and combat pants were serving drinks and snacks. The bar man had a weird haircut with locks of curly hair over his ears. He was also chewing gum, unheard of in messes I suppose. I was not used to the “Pinja” way of life. I wished the crowd, they acknowledged as if saying one more “murga” has come and continued playing.

I was feeling cold in the month of April and watching those waiters in sleeveless baniyans I was getting the shivers. My feet were getting cold too and I was itching to go to the loo. The waiter guided me to a bathroom where I saw the Indian style thing. The door latch was a wire cable which one had to hook to a nail. No flush and I also noticed that the window glass was actually a transparent plastic sheet with which we used to cover maps. Water was freezing; sinks were there but without taps. Boy, I was in for adventure. I looked up to God, as I was closer to him by 11000 feet and asked him to bless me.

I came back and took a seat when someone said “saab ko drink lagao”. I said it’s too early, he said how you dare disobey the commanding officer. The waiter was already on my head with a whisky-pani. I asked for soda and he gave me a dirty look as if such things were never heard in these valleys. My mind floated back to Jaisalmer where Naik Padmasanan L our unit soda factory NCO could be hauled up for not filling adequate gas in the soda bottle.

I was a rum drinker so got it changed, took a swig and felt a little warm. In the mean time I found one waiter lighting up a contraption which I later came to know is called a “bukhari” (Kerosene heater). My feet were as cold as ice as the sky was overcast. The rum gave me a little pep but the bukhari boosted my morale. I was in summer uniform and constantly getting goose pimples which I think the mess Havildar noticed and from somewhere he brought an outer of a “coat parka”. I wanted to stand up and kiss him for his thoughtful gesture.

The barman was refilling the glasses without anyone even saying a word. I was already feeling little  tipsy by midday. The CO got up to take a leak & shook hands with me. He told me to enjoy my drink and left. Bridge continued. At 1.30 pm a person came with soup. It smelt good and I had a sip and it tasted really good. I asked the waiter what soup it is. He said “Haddi ka soup”. I was taken aback, “kis ki haddi ka soup”. Later I found out it was chicken soup.

Lunch was laid and I was feeling glad already. I ate well but the foursome had their “saunf” on the bridge table itself. We exchanged pleasantries during lunch. They told me to do as the Mess Havildar tells me to do. Then they got glued to their dealt hands with toothpicks stuck in their teeth.

I was taken to my room and given a sleeping bag. The mess Havildar said saab “aap sho jao”, dinner will be served in the room. I being from 17 Mech Recce and Support and that too Tracked was taken aback that in JA-SALE-MER even in midst of summers, we were told to report in suit and tie to the mess. Mess Havildar replied Sir; aap ka “climate” nahi hua hai is liye. Baki shaab log climate kar chuke hain. He meant to say that you have walked the earth more than you had to on the first day of acclimatisation in Leh, others are old hands. I thanked my stars and knocked off in deep slumber.

This was on first day of my posting to high the altitude desert. The next stage was at 13000 feet in the battalion after four days. The foursome also said “In the Land of Lama don’t become a Gamma”. What did they mean? I kept wondering!!!!!!!!!

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

FIRE TO CEASEFIRE

FIRE TO CEASEFIRE

 

Ceasefire has been ordered in J&K. I don’t know will it be applicable to both sides as some forces are hell bent to destroy Kashmir and in turn India. Why a cease fire in the holy month of Ramadan only? Why not every month? Kashmir thus will stop suffering and so will the security forces.

I say why anyone should fire at all and then call for a cease fire. Every Kashmiri has a right to live in peace and so does every man and woman in uniform deployed there. Why pick up a gun or a stone in the first place? If every village decides to cease hostilities, where is the question of anyone dying? I hope militants will be sincere in not violating it for the sake of people of Kashmir. If this time is going to be used to trouble villagers to condescend to their demands to garner support and brain wash Kashmiri youth against India, then time is not ripe to give this leverage of ceasefire. In case they are going to cross the dotted line, then God help them.

Who doesn’t want peace? The security guy will be the first one to grab anything which will help to create a peaceful atmosphere. He is fed up of roaming day in and day out in unknown territory, checking unknown people, whose intentions behind those fake smiles are not known. He also wants to sit and enjoy a kahwah and wazwan. He also wants a “Sunday” to rest. They fire at him and stone pelt him. Then only the soldier retaliates. Who actually needs to cease fire then?

If our own convoys cannot pass safely in our own territory then it should be a matter of shame for the Kashmiri people. It looks pathetic that security forces have to place guns on top of our vehicles to kind of intimidate the militants warning them to dare attack us. The common citizen has to pay the price by getting inconvenienced, delayed, diverted and threatened of dire consequences if a convoy is harmed. The militant comes, does his job and melts away, Common man bears the brunt.

Let us then ceasefire like this on mutually agreed terms. No firing or militancy related activity in the months of January as it is the first month of the year. February, we have Valentine’s Day so everyone to give and take love. March is Holi and time for spring. So let us enjoy the fruits of nature. May and June are too hot and June also being the month of Ramadan, so let us forget our animosity. July is monsoon, time for a break. August is when India attained independence & Id time, so why fire then. September and October are months of Dussera-Diwali. November is my birthday, so please don’t fire. December again is time for Christmas so let peace prevail. Let this cycle repeat.

If peace is the requirement of the valley people, then it is they who need to create an atmosphere for peace. The security forces will take nine steps but you take one. Security forces cannot be only on the receiving end always. The forces will continue to keep their vigil and stick to their word. People of “jannat”, when will you understand this? I wonder!!!!!!!!!!!

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

NATAK NATAK EVERYWHERE

NATAK NATAK EVERYWHERE

 

India it seems is engrossed in the natak of Karnatak. Of course for the people of that state it matters as they choose their new mai-baaps. For me sitting in a remote and isolated place where if you run out of bread you run out of bread, it makes no difference.

Has any political party made any difference in my life? Yes, they only have strengthened my resolve to hate politics and politicians. Country may have progressed and that is evident as I am holding a cell phone. Roads and railway is improving but the people who govern this country are not. Scams and red tape have taken their toll. Now “modi-fication” is getting on my nerves.

The parliament must decide the following things. No cow will be killed, khatam baat. The only way a cow can die, if she dies in a road accident. In case she survives she will not be put to sleep but left to die on the road side. Then, the cow can die eating plastic. Of course it is ridiculous but we will not stop throwing plastic in the open, the poor mata will not stop munching on it. Change of taste after all. Further, the cow can die of old age. Yes, once she has lived her milk productivity age she will be left on the streets to fend for herself. In a few years time she will automatically die. A new brigade called the gau rakshak brigade will be used to replace the veterinary corps of the Indian Army.

The next item on the parliamentary agenda should be the dress to be worn by men and women. Sari and kurta pyjama is absolutely fine. The colour of the dress has to be “orange”. It is simple, sober, in fashion colour and I love it. Parachute cloth for the Army will be made of Khadi and dyed in vegetable green ink. Ladies can apply bindi only with pooja ashes. Vermillion may be adorned on ceremonial occasions only. In case you like to wear western dresses please go to the nearest country in the west.

Patanjali products will be consumed should be an act of the parliament. No bombastic names like Glaxo Smithkline or Procter and Gamble. Only desi items that are swad aur sehat se bharpoor, milawat se dur, will be allowed on our tables.

Once these guys have decided as to what we are going to eat. There would be no non-veg. All the bakra’s and the broilers will be left free. Hatya is out of question chahe vo gau ki ho ya bakariya ki. No egg trays for faujis even in lieu of meat. Fish too shall be banned as the smell of all machhi markets raises a stink. For Army jungle survival only patanjali noodles and vegetation can be eaten.

All gyms will have to be shut being a western concept. No pumping iron & no treadmills. Only yoga, on a handmade durrie extracted out of jute from farms made in small scale industries.

Then the parliamentarians should fix the petrol and diesel prices as anticipated in 2025. Why keep everyone in suspense. This will entail two things, the common man will not be able to run his bike and he will run or walk and stay fit. Free healthcare for all, isn’t it?

Jobs will not be an issue as we require thousands of masons and plumbers. After all we require 130 billion toilets and counting. Pakora makers would be India entrepreneurs’ and make case studies for Hayward business school like the dabbawalas.

Cooking gas is not an issue as pradhan mantri ujwala yojna has already burnt a hole in the gareeb ka pocket. They are using the gas cylinders to keep tokris of lassun because no one can afford a cylinder costing close to 900 bucks. They have got back to collecting firewood under sway-rozgar jungle kaato yojana. Mom is already used to smoke in her eyes since long and she finds food made on gas tasteless.

The parliament also needs to decide as to who will speak what, in what tone and tenor and who will publish what. Social media will only be used for forwarding godly and good morning messages. Chatting will be banned as the sarakri karamcharis now utilize offices to chat on their cell phones in air-conditioned environment. Earlier they used to do the same in parks after spreading the morning news papers after having read even the tender notices.

Only two channels will be allowed on air, LSTV and RSTV, rest all will be booked for sedition. No news debates, no barking & no shouting. Yes food channels if they are going to distribute food they make for the desh ke dalit-shoshit-vanchit-peerit would be made tax free channels.

All those who pay GST would be given a chance to visit a country of their choice except Bangkok, provided they convince twenty NRIs to vote for the PMs Party and send a few thousand dollars as chanda for party funds. All those who want to go to Italy will be given one way tickets.

Defence will be the only exception. All faujis will have to pay double the income tax in case they want free rations. If they want OROP then they will have to sacrifice the last basic pay drawn. ECHS will only be contributory, for health they will need to take health insurance from a private company and get treated in government hospitals only. Ex servicemen cannot write any columns or articles and all those who do it will be reinstated in service without salary in field till they attain nirvana.

Parliament also has to pledge that once elected they will only disrupt parliament. Bills passed would be at the peril of the common man. Ministers will move from ministry to ministry every session. This will ensure that all parliamentarians are fully trained to run any ministry irrespective whether the MP is capable to read or write or not. In case he has a criminal case he will be the law minister by default.

Be that as it may, I am looking forward to the next elections. Hope all this natak will be implemented when the new government is formed? Possible! I wonder!!!!!!!!!!!!!

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

GO MAN GO

 

 

GO MAN GO

 

The mango season is in full swing at our place. Road sides are lined up with countless baskets of the local variety of Haphooz aka Alphonso. This year has been a bumper crop and the rates are falling fast. The variety which was 1800 a dozen has come down to 200. State of affairs is that people have stopped plucking them and are letting them fall off on their own.

I have two mango trees behind my house and none of them are Haphooz. It is a local variety called “pairi”. I haven’t tasted a tastier mango all my life. If you want to fall in love with mango then you have to taste this. I get into my Bermuda and sandow baniyan, chill the mangoes, “ghulao” them nicely, squeeze those two drops of white liquid out, close my eyes and suck the pulp out, then pop out the gootli, slurp it till its white. Then catch the rest of the skin between the teeth and pull till every drop has been squeezed out, finally bite the rear end and repeat. My desi way of mango eating.

I just can’t stand the Army way of eating a mango where you get a slice and have to scoop it with your spoon. Being the food member I used to wink at the Mess Havildar so that he doesn’t throw the goothli’s away.

My daughter has a different issue with mangoes. She can’t eat sweet ones and loves only “khatta” ones. Imagine going to a shop and saying “bhaiya khatte aam dena”, sounds ridiculous. If one eye automatically shuts with a wink for me and my wife, means that this mango is fit for my daughter.

My favourite is the mint-coriander-raw mango chutney. My wife is an expert but she has a problem that I need kebabs as accompaniments with it. To be frank it is her favourite too.

The harvest from our tree was close to 60 dozens. We kept about 20 odd pieces for ripening the rest we shared. Today the whole house smells of mangoes, even the milk emanates mango flavour.

Wife has already made a lot of aamchoor. She makes aam-panna daily. The other day I screwed up my panna by adding soda, it tasted like dish water. Imagine a panna glass, chilled and iced, with a twig of mint and some “boondi” and freshly chopped coriander floating on top. Add a tea spoon full of jal-jeera powder, guys it becomes a fabulous drink. Add a little crushed pepper and rock salt and sip it, you will attain “moksha”.

Aamras is stored in big dhakkan wala plastic buckets which come free with 10 kg washing powder. Achaars of all kinds, “khatta”, “meetha”, “pissay masala ka”, “sookha”, “khare masalewala” are all ready. My wife uses residue of the panna to make aap papar. If I start spreading it I think it will cover the whole house. Our pantry is full of “martabaans” of all shapes and sizes, ufff, too much of mango.

I love dal-chawal with pappad and mango achar. The tangier the better it is. My favourite is the sookha aam ka achar with lots of masala sticking to it. Once I have finished the dal then I take time to lick the plate clean with the achar ka goothli with lots of hair. Pure desi tariqa of cleaning your plate!

I tell my wife to put extra masala in pickles. Reason is that after the pieces of pickle have been polished off, the concentrated achari masala at the bottom of the martbaan is the best. I love to eat nice crisp deep fried matthi’s with this achar ka masala along with a hot cup of tea. The names achari baingan, achari karela and achari meat are already salivating my mouth. Hope my wife reads this.

These days one has to be very careful while going under the mango trees. I don’t take chances as I may become the second Newton with one ripe mango falling on my head. It is quite a scary noise at night as it first falls on to the roof and then rolls on it, till it falls down to the ground with a solid thud.

Oh Yes! Homemade mango ice cream and kulfi are doing the rounds too. Wife has thrown all my non-veg stored in the freezers to make way for the icy delights. I would suggest to you to try a green mango ice cream with chillies. It is out of the world. Decorate your glass with a slit green chilli and a slice of raw mango, you will love it. Try making a mango mary, the bloody thing will taste good.

Do you guys remember when that typical achar smell used to hit your nostrils and went up your brain while travelling in a train when someone opened their tiffin? I could beg for it from anyone. That unforgettable achari smell was just enchanting, triggering hunger in many.

My personal favourites though are the “langra” and “dusseri” which I miss in this part of the country. Very soon the rains are going to come and all this mango will be used to remember achhe din. All those who love this fruit are most welcome to visit us. Who will be the first one? I wonder!!!!!!!!!

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

CONFESSIONS OF SINS BY PERPETUAL LIARS

 

 

CONFESSIONS OF SINS BY PERPETUAL LIARS

 

It is so easy to confess after you have sinned and then wash away your guilt. It is like going to the confession box and the pastor tells you to say ten Hail Mary’s. You come out as if you have now put the burden of all your “confessed sins” on the pastor. Pastor is a holy man, he speaks to God and he will further transfer confessions of the whole congregation to the Almighty. You get back to commit more sins. Though you remember what Pastor said not to repeat it, but “adat se majboor” you do it again. This time the pastor will increase the Hail Mary’s. What else can he do? Crime still remains.

There is another way to do it I suppose and that is to take a dip in the Holy Ganges. The whole life one has sinned and now one decides, after a particular age that enough is enough. Now let me go to all holy shrines and ask for forgiveness and beg pardon for my sins. With so many Gods, Goddesses I will finally get relieved from my earthly deeds. At the end of the day we take a bath, light an aggarbatti and lamp. Sing our Arti and that’s it. All wrongs of the day turn right for a peaceful sleep. We Indians do so much of pooja then why is there so much of crime.

Pakistan is also a sinner of kinds. The damage of their sins has been bleeding India with a thousand cuts. You don’t want to trust us, fine, no worries. You don’t want us to assist you in improving things, your look out friend. You want to eliminate terrorists from your soil but will support them to destroy us; I like this idea, should we reciprocate? You started all wars and say you never started them. The whole world knows it, isn’t it a matter of shame? You want India to bend and show a large heart, we do it and you do Kargil. We grant you MFN status you don’t; it doesn’t make an iota of difference to us. Who teaches hatred against India? Don’t tell me we are sending people to your side to teach you to hate India.

We fire across the LoC, you don’t, right! You allege we kill people in Kashmir but who sends butchers this side? You can threaten us with nuclear war, well go ahead. Why do you want to be obliterated from the world map? If you don’t want to progress at least stop putting spokes in our progress. Don’t worry dear Pakistan; Prime Minister of your own country is now in the confession box and confessing all sins. The whole world already knows what your real character is.

I once had a chance to write a book review on “In the Line of Fire” by General Parvez Musharaf. It is his life story with special mention of Kargil. On the first read itself I was convinced that the General was lying and lying blatantly about Kargil. I was told to replace the word “lie”, with the word “untruth” in my review. Well, I could not lie to myself and left it as it is. Till date I have not been able to differentiate between the two words. Who did Kargil and why is all available on you tube as his own confessions. Why were the Lashkar and Taliban his friends and why he exploited them against India are no secrets anymore? He confessed too late as lot of damage has already been done.

On deeply analyzing what could be the reasons he told such “untruths” about Kargil war was that after a few years’ people would forget Kargil. The present and may be the next generation would no more be walking this earth in a couple of years. Then to find out the exact history of that war, his book would be quoted as Gospel. There would be no one to deny it. Indian version will never be accepted by Pak.

Be that as it may. Now why is Nawaz Sharief confessing to his sins or for that matter disclosing sins of Pakistan to the world? From 1947-48 till date whatever they have done to India in terms of war, limited war, proxy war, militancy, terrorism, Kargil, Mumbai and what have you, is now proven beyond doubt. Confessions of a Prime Minister should be evidence to set things right. What action needs to be taken against them? Have the panama leaks helped India? Let us see what else this Sharief- badmash confesses to.

Today, Pakistan is kind of headless. Their system is on dialysis. All their infectious blood passes through the Army channels and half cleansed is put back into the body. Their de-facto control remains in their Army HQs who are tolerating this “democratic sin” of virtually no government. ISI remains the nervous system, need not be confessed. The Army stands by, watching all developments waiting to take over. Democracy is a distant dream for Pak is my honest confession.

Pak continues to “sin” against India. They keep confessing to their sins but don’t stop sinning. With admissions by their PM of their lies, it may heal one wound of India but how will we stop them hurting the nine hundred and ninety nine cuts remaining, which they don’t allow to heal? I wonder!!!!!!!

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

FISHING TRIPS TO KANJALI

FISHING TRIPS TO KANJALI

River fish was my staple diet as a kid. That too caught fresh from Kanjali by none other than my Dad. My favourite was fried fish and sweet milk for dinner. All the aunties and uncles used to do hawww! They believed that my skin would turn white at places. It was considered to be more of a curse I suppose. In Punjabi they used to say that I would turn into “Dab-Kharabba” (spotted or patched in black and white). Well, I am still short, dark and handsome for some.

If Dad was in a happy mood, meant he is going fishing. On happy days he could pardon you for murder “Sare khoon maaf”. His fishermen’s circle used to range from professional anglers, desi fishermen, village folk, kabari’s (ragpickers) etc. Depending on the inputs from these people, he used to prepare his bait for the catch. “Gandoya” (earthworms) & Atta (flour) were the two commonest baits. Special ones used to be Jhinga (prawns), live fish, guts of table birds, frogs etc. He also was a collector of recipes of fish baits. Recipe ingredients were mashed into clay balls and thrown weeks in advance for fish to congregate at his favourite spot. Roasting and toasting various condiments used to send aromas for miles. Imagine what must be happening to the fish.

He never used a fibre glass or synthetic rods. He preferred the pure bamboo ones which used to be lightly roasted and oiled with “Alsi ka tel” (Flax seed oil) for days together to get that “latchak” (flexibility) to perfection. These bamboo rods were fetched from as far as Barielly in UP. I still have his collection of hooks, lines and sinkers. The variety is unbelievable. From a six inch hook to a 3 mm almost invisible hook. The knots which he has tied on lines, I fail to unknot them till today.

Kanjali River was an off shoot of Beas River; actually it is a flood water drain to divert excess water which passes through Kapurthala and Kartarpur. It was fondly called a “Bein” (rivulet). Only licensed fishermen could catch fish in it. In 1962 Dad had an all India angling licence. We learnt this after he passed away when I saw his licence for the first time.

There was a check dam which Maharaja Jagjit Singh of Kapurthala had made on the bein. The Royal boats, sculls and canoes later became our school property and boat club. Initially, our school used to have river swimming, rowing and diving competitions there.

I was not that patient kind to wait for a fish to get hooked. I used to run from uncle to uncle who used to have one on the line and dad used to scold me that I will disturb the fish. Sitting quietly for hours together as a boy was not my cup of tea. Some “khurafat” had to be done. While we used to be standing on the narrow Kanjali bridge, Dad would be concentrating about fifteen meters below where the fish used to be. I used to be standing alongside counting trucks passing by, which used to almost kiss your bums. I used to drop one chappal into the water. Dad used to fret and fume and finally hook out my floating hawai chappal as I won’t stop crying.

If on Saturdays he used to get “keema” (mince) from the market it was a hint that tomorrow is picnic. Mom would make “keema-pooris”. After dinner, all fishing equipment used to be displayed in the drawing room. Small rods with little hooks to keep me, mom and brother amused catching fingerlings used to be made. We all used to hang on to dear lives on our orange coloured Lamby. Brother cramped in front, Mom and dad on the seats, I on the stepney. The rods used to be laid on the foot rest on the right with a blue plastic bucket tied to the seat handle dangling alongside. That is how the Ellis’ used to travel.

The bucket used to carry a frying pan, a bottle of sarson oil, a masaladani (Condiment box), and a durrie besides lunch. Our duty on reaching the spot used to be to run and get a few bricks to fabricate a make shift choolah, then to collect firewood for freshly caught fish which were fried as snacks with beer for dad. There was a “baraf ki taal” (ice shop) enroute from where we used to collect ice for chilling beer and water. Beer bottles also used to be strung and lowered in the river to chill if ice was not available. Mom, within minutes used to dish out the crispiest fish. Mooli, gajar and shalgam for salad used to be pulled out fresh from the fields. After lunch it used to be “Lassi” (butter milk) sessions courtesy Kundan Singh, the boat club in charge.

Dad was very superstitious and used cuss words often. A particular person he used hate, if he met him on his way to Kanjali he used to abandon his plan of fishing that day. Then while casting his line in case it used to get stuck in the tree above or the hook used to get stuck in some piece of his clothing or overshoot or undershoot the precise point he had in mind then Saali, ullu ki patthi could be heard from miles.

Often we used to take a canoe or a paddle boat for a spin. We used row to the other bank where the weaver birds used to nest. It used to be teeming with birds of all kinds. We used to hide in the over hangs, chase swimming snakes, drop messages in bottles etc. One never wanted to return home in the evening. We used to come back tanned and dead tired. The other treat we used to look forward to that day used to be “dhabe ki daal and tandoori rotis”, as mom was given a night off. At the end of the day there used to be a prayer to thank God for all the bounties he had provided.

I loved to go on bi-cycle with dad to Kanjali. How many times I did susu sitting on the cycle carrier behind him, I don’t remember. As soon as I told him that pressure is high he used to give a code word “sprinkle”. This meant that one could turn around and do the job making zig-zag patterns on the road. Why I used to accompany dad was actually to listen to so many stories and tales and the way he used to narrate them. He used to do the same at night too but the feeling to listen to them over and over again is inexplicable. Sometimes he used to carry his air gun and if partridges posed on the road they used to be assured a place in the bag. If he did not get fish, then doves cooing on the telephone wires were dinner. If that too didn’t work out then egg curry was assured. Good old days they were.

Can we turn back in time? 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

SMALL MODIFICATIONS

 

 

SMALL MODIFICATIONS

 

Yesterday I was looking at the plight of helicopter passengers. It was a lovely looking blue and white bird with skids. I was told the passengers were 70 + alighting to attend a wedding. It meant a few things that these people were VVIPs, super rich, super influential, overall, banda pahuncha hua hai. This was confirmed by the class of vehicles which had come to pick them up. However, when it came to getting down from the chopper I pitied them. Both of them were too short.

The gentleman was the first one to get down but struggled to find the ground, the lady’s plight was even worse. The pilot and an assistant tried to hold her hand and finally she had to be baby carried. Haath main purse bhi tha bhai. They needed a step in between.

This reminded me of the good old days of the army when the ladies could never sit in the front seat of Jeeps & Jongas. I think that still continues. Getting inside a Jeep after folding the front seat was an obstacle course in itself. Sitting on the mudguards with cramped feet ensured that in case you were wearing a sari for a party, it would be crushed beyond the lady’s liking. We had to keep the pink room of the mess ready for them to re-arrange their costumes.

Jonga’s could carry four ladies comfortably but six damsels had to be stuffed in due to fauji constraints like non-availability of light vehicles, COs fleet, CMP restrictions, Dry day chits et al. Then Gypsy’s came in. The biggest challenge for ladies used to be to get in from the rear of the vehicle in a sari without exposing their lovely legs. Sometimes the petticoats used to get caught in the towing hook. Someone in the Army decided to go in for a “step”, which used to be welded to the frame in the rear. I wish the aviation people also get their choppers modified. Just send the helicopter to any Army workshop; modification would be a two minutes job.

This reminds me that my mom too was very short. Mom and Dad’s height difference was more than one and a half feet. One day she had gone to the market walking. I had just been presented with a new cycle which meant that after games in the evening and before the study period one went around the town to show off. Mom caught me in the market and told me to take her home. Well it would have saved her close to Rs 3.50/- depending on the ability to bargain with the rickshaw-wala.

I tried several times but to no avail as there was too much of rush for mom to mount the bike. So we walked almost half way on the “Thandi Sarak” as it used to be known in Kapurthala, till we reached the LIC office. The foot path had been newly cemented, so there was a berm about 6-8 inches high. I was confident mom will be able to climb on the carrier. Well I sat on the seat with the right foot on the pedal to get the initial momentum. Mom climbed on the sixth attempt. The sabzi jhola was hung on the handle. Then something happened. I just couldn’t balance my cycle. The handle got stuck due to the vegetable bag and we were spread on all fours on the road.

Both of us looked left and right, thank God people were far away. I asked mom, you hold the Thaila and sit. She said she couldn’t do both. Now what to do was the question. Well I made a valiant attempt once again but failed. One of our uncles was watching all this tamasha and came to our rescue. He held the carrier of the bike while I got ready to take off. Mom sat behind, she was handed over the bag and then uncle gave a shove to the cycle. Off we went.

It was dusk and now we were approaching home. We turned in from Puri uncle’s house. I asked mom how will you get down, she said good question, now I didn’t know what to do. I needed help from someone to hold the bike. Mom said mujhe mat girana and I knew without help, girana hi parega. Well, I did what the pilots do. I went on a circuit. Went around all the row of houses & hostels and came back for landing again, all this while preparing mom for impact. Mom threw the sabzi-bag close to our house. What all rolled out from that? Dad collected the remnants next morning.

Now on my final approach, luckily Dad had seen us going past so he came and stood on the side of the road. I shouted to dad please hold the bike, I slowed down as much as I could and dad with his legs stretched was going to get hold of the bikes handle. Bang, I pushed dad. Dad went into the hedge and I went on paddling. One more “chakker” and this time dad was well prepared. Younger brother had brought a stool. Dad was a strong man & instead holding us from the front he caught hold of the bike carrier from the rear. Brother placed the stool for mom to alight as I jumped and kept both feet on the ground. Our Maharani of Kapurthala alighted from her stage carriage; chauffeured by yours truly on a blue and white Phillips bicycle.

Can Chopper pilots also carry a stool with them for short people? I wonder!!!!!!!!!!

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

POTS & PETS

POTS & PETS

 

The response I get on photos of my garden is tremendous. In the bargain I get to hear a lot of stories of my Dad who was a die hard gardening enthusiast. If I talk about chrysanthemums’, he had every variety, colour and variant of the flower.  The assortment of crotons and the array of fruits in our house was mind blowing.  Rajnigandha (tuberose) and Narcissus (Nargis) were his favourite. That sweet scent still lingers in my memory. Geranium was another of his darlings. He only could manage his three hundred pots and numerous flower beds. I rekindled this hobby after ages and it gives me so much of solace. Hibiscus (Gudhal) is my weakness.

We were born and brought up in a house surrounded with fruit trees. Cheeku, Malta, Guava, Custard Apple, Kagzi Nimbu, Grapes, Gal-Gal, Dhurunj (a huge citrus fruit akin to Chakotra), Peach, Papaya, Louqaat, Banana, Mango, Faalsa, Ber besides the wide variety of vegetables which were organically grown in our kitchen garden. Shakarkandi (sweet potato) one used to love digging out.

Our house was a mini zoo too. Dogs, cats, Australian pigeons, partridges, hens like the Red Rhodes and black “desi” ones. He didn’t like the white leghorns. A speaking Parrot called “Mithoo”, Angora rabbits etc used to be all around the house. Mom used to handle all their tantrums from feeding them to looking after the sick and the infirm. Watching the chicks hatch from eggs was amazing. From those small little cracks in the eggs till they emerged out of their shells, I have seen it all. Hatching goose eggs under a hen was also done at my place. The dog-cat team fighting a cobra in the courtyard, I have witnessed that intense fight. The dog engaged the cobra from the front and the cat tore it to smithereens from the rear. Chickens riding cats and bitches feeding kittens were not uncommon.

Twenty odd hens meant fifteen odd eggs a day. The song “ande hi ande khana-meri jaan meri jaan” was apt. Mint, coriander and onions were home grown, so making a ten egg omelette was no big shake. The day cocks fought amongst each other or cock-a-doodle-doed in the afternoon disturbing Dad’s siesta, it was assured a place on the dining table the same evening.

We lived in a colony of a school with hostellers living very close by. Boys were always trying to steal fruits. Dad used to be way ahead of Sherlock Holmes. I remember, Mom used to delicately tie paper envelopes around the grape bunches to save them from the birds. She never realised that it became easier for boys to identify their targets. Fed up with the losses, one fine day dad collected hornets and wasps and placed them inside those envelopes. He caught the culprits red handed literally.

One day I found him setting up his air gun near the papaya tree after dusk. We knew dad was up to something. He connected the trigger to one end of the rope and the other end to his bed side. He was a light sleeper. Moment he heard footsteps of the boys scaling the wall to pluck the fruit “bang” went the airgun. It was not loaded with a “Charra” (Pellet). One only heard thuds and screams as boys fell over each other and got bruises and cuts. Next day, all the culprits were lined up and caned, which used to be the norm in good old days.

All injured bird and animals were brought to our house for treatment. Haldi and Mirchi in pure Sarson oil were used for fractures. I remember mom used to peeso a tablet called “Sulphadiazine” and another one called “APC” if they had fever or infections. All those who could not fly away or be released used to become our pets. We had Herons, Owls even Maynah’s for company many times.

We kids were also crazy. Moment we came to know that there are puppies somewhere; we used to bring them home with their mother. Once we brought two Alsatian looking puppies. One of our family friends came to our place and fell in love with them and took them along thinking they would turn out to be German Shepherds. Their daughter confirmed from me ten times and I told her a white lie about the breed. They grew up to be such junglee pie dogs. We had a hearty laugh when we met years later.

Once, mom got fed up of the cat, as every day she used to polish off milk. Dad was ordered to leave her far away never to return. The cat and her kittens were huddled up in a gunny bag. Dad on his ladies cycle left them between villages Lakhan Kalan and Hamira about 15 kms away. Two days mom was erratic. Dad, I and my brother were fired left right and centre for anything and everything. She loved the cat like hell and was missing her. On the seventh day kitty was back sans the kittens. All of us just didn’t react except mom who ran to the kitchen for a bowl of milk. The cat was starved for sure. Thereafter cats were never even scolded in the house men were.

It is good to have pots & pets but in manageable numbers. They pose restrictions as they can’t be left unattended. We can’t keep pets in the colony we stay in but I fulfil my urges through the stray cats and dogs. I am keenly watching pair of Kingfisher’s (Mallya) making their nest. There is a water crisis here too. I don’t know how long I will be able to carry on this hobby of gardening without adequate water. I am waiting for the rains to come desperately. Here, monsoons start in the first week of May. Will the rain Gods bless us on time? 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/-.

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