Noel Ellis's Official Blog

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

Tag: ARMY LIFE (Page 1 of 4)

FABRIC OF INDIA

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I have no idea about clothes and fabrics. I stick to the basics, which was taught to me during my Army career. A dark coloured trouser and a light coloured shirt. Dark means close to black, navy blue or a dark brown. Shirt means a plain white or light coloured shirt, no pinks or purple. Yes, when it comes to casuals I prefer blue denim jeans with a single coloured T shirt preferably with a pocket, no checks & no stripes. I am in love with “khadi”, like a well starched kurta-pyjama. These days you get shirts which stand stiff like the good old days of our OG uniforms. I also prefer to wear silk scarves in “bandhej” prints in winters. Over the years my choices have evolved.

source Today, I go to a shop and ask the salesman to show a sober coloured shirt. If he brings a floral, purple or dark coloured one, I leave that shop and go to the next one. You may call be a dimwit, never mind. For me sober means something which is not gaudy, outlandish, loud, flashy & showy. Who defines all this? Your guess is as good as mine. I cannot impose my choice on you. So is with the nation. How does one decide what fabric suits the nation? I am sure it too would have evolved over the centuries.

follow link Man used to roam around naked and the first dress he wore was a fig leaf. Later he found wool. He discovered silk and cotton. Jute also came in. Synthetic apparels also surfaced. Plastics did make inroads to the fabric scene. Did anyone think about it that why we changed from one type to the other. We mixed and matched. Our outer cover changed with time and so did our inner feelings about other fellow humans.

http://www.amisdecolette.fr/?friomid=rencontre-agriculteur-celibataire-gratuit&ebf=14 Then there are people with a kitschy kind of choice of clothes, tasteless, cheap & vulgar in some ways. Well, I am no one to sit in judgement either. Probably the other fellow thinks about my choice of clothes in the same manner. Nevertheless, it depends on individual person how he wants to attire himself. Such people do exist in the society and we live with them in peace.

Well if I see how the “fabric” of India transformed over a period of time which was intricately woven into its culture, architecture, clothes, cuisine, transport, infrastructure & even warfare. Spices slowly entered our lives. As trading started there was a spice route. A silk route existed too. Soon the flavours, tastes, and colour of the pallet & fabric started to absorb the extracts of foreign lands. All got amalgamated as people traveled far and wide. India remained resilient and peaceful.

Invaders came and went, they killed and looted India but the fabric of India never got tarnished. Mughals, Christians, Parsi’s, Portuguese, Tibetans came, some stayed on. Even Hinduism evolved during times of turmoil to strengthen the fabric of India. It spread to various shores and was absorbed there. Each invasion contributed to the Indian fabric and helped in improving it.

Today this fabric is tearing up. The “tana-bana” is all messed up. If I don’t like the colour of a fabric you wear I will get intolerant. Then a tug of war begins. The cloth meant to cover us gets shredded to pieces leaving us half naked and exposed. Indian fabric was never so intolerant. Today, a poor person with tattered clothes will be tolerated but a lady with a tattered designer jeans will be looked down upon. Adivasi without clothes is not an issue but an advertisement of a bra and panty hurts our sanskriti. I dare not talk about the “temples” of Khajuraho.

Condition of the country today is such that we have to keep patching the fabric we wear. In good old days mom used to get “rafoo” done where the pant or shirt used to get torn. It used to be the artistry of the darner who used to blend and match the texture and design of that shear. Only you could guess where the cut was. Such craftsmen aka leaders are gone. Now with so much of infighting we need to put a “Paiband”. It is a kind of patch of cloth which is stitched to cover a big hole. That is the state we are reaching at.

Today, we don’t care for the fabric we were proud of once. Ultimately a time will come when that piece of cloth will become un-wearable and will have to be thrown away as the rafoos and paibands would no longer suffice to cover what they were supposed to. Why have we reached this stage and why can’t we preserve our very Indian fabric? I wonder!!!!!!!!!!

JAI HIND
© Noel Ellis

FIRST DAY IN LEH

go here FIRST DAY IN LEH

click  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

PM ON FAST

[ninja_form id=1]Gone are the days when Gandhi ji used to go on a fast and the world used to get shaken up. I think the British gave up because his fast was a more deadly weapon then any gun. PM Sahib decided to do the same. He is on a fast as a mark of protest because our representatives stalled all work in our “Gole Market”. It appeared more like a “Gole Macchi Market”. The basic decorum and the discipline of the august houses suddenly evaporated into thin air. PM Sahib must be in a terribly angry mood to take this action. Indeed it is very unfortunate for India but who cares.

I remember we used to ask the Adjutant, how is the bosses’ mood? Last minute check used to be with the COs runner, if he nodded his head straight, then you had a chance to put across your argument. If he nodded sideways meant hell is going to break loose. One entered the COs office at one’s own risk. Many times if you were called, you meekly asked the adjutant Sir, what is the agenda? His simple answer used to be “Danda”. There was no use for any guess about your condition when you came out. A good adjutant used to keep a chilled glass of nimbu pani in summers or a hot cup of tea in winters ready, knowing the aftermath of the firing you got.

Imagine if PM saab is in a foul mood and tells his secretary to call a few ministers to his office. Finance Minister, asking for a chilled nimbu pani “in winters”, holding a shredded noting sheet of a few lakh crores which the PM just tore off for no reason.  DM coming out all guns blazing at the Chief’s, stating PM passed though Delhi Cantt and found the Chuna-Geru was not up to the mark. Transport Minister trying to send a message to avoid meeting to the PM stating he is struck in a traffic jam. Foreign Minister already on a flight to Bhutan, when asked why? She says, because of that dhokla issue or was it dhoklam, she forgot.  General Saab already fit-chuted and ready to para jump over Iraq, just in case some more Indians had to be brought back.

Bosses mood was an indicator for things to come our way. It was like the daily horoscope. I remember one of them used to get in good moods moment you talked about a party. Who is throwing it and for what reason was beside the point. Another one used to be a bridge enthusiast; so one could wait till the cows came home and have lunch at dinner time, office started after that. One used to be that training type, if your dangri smells of sweat and your patka is full of sand, it was ok with him. So you knew what to do moment you saw him, just do a front roll in the sand and your day was through. One was a stickler for punctuality, one second late for any parade meant you were on leave that day.

In the civil I find mood swings more and very difficult to predict. He will talk soft but mean harsh. He will record every incident and keep quoting it, till you die. They provoke you and make you react, burden you ‘without resources’, backtrack from their words, mean something & say something. They assume that you will interpret what they say in a manner what they don’t mean. At least in the fauj a boss used to fire you, abuse you, kick you, and shout at you but at the end of the day things were forgotten over a drink. If he was really annoyed, he sent on an LRP (Long Range Patrol).

Be that as it may, where will the PM go to express is displeasure? For him, our diversity is now becoming our divisiveness. We are no more united. Everyone wants a bigger chunk of the pie. If not then hamper parliament proceedings. That’s what the reason is for the PM to react. How do you control such people, the PM per force has to go on a fast to show his unhappiness; a sad state for India.

I consider it a matter of shame if the PM has to go on a fast like this. Knowing the Indian mentality it will make no difference to any of those elected representatives who did not let the houses function. Had these guys thought about the country first, things would have been different? I wish the PM follows our adjutant and introduces stalls of Nimbu Pani and Chai outside both the houses, for all MPs found misbehaving. When will this Gole Machhi Market return to the stature and maintain the dignity required of our Parliament? I wonder!!!!!!!!!!

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

MOST AUSPICIOUS TIME

I find it quite amusing when a news channel spoke to an Ex Air Chief about preparations to sort out Pakistan after 26/11 as revenge. Then the channel got after Dr Man Mohan Singh. Well, the Air Chief stated that plans did exist to strike and strike hard. It did not happen. The final go ahead is of the Govt and not any Chief or even PM. Thus to guillotine the PM of that time is not fair. To top it all, they dragged Rahul baba and his mom into it, who may not have any idea of warfare as such. The same yard stick should have been applied by the channel when the NDA Government was ruling and the attack on parliament had happened, in all fairness. To conjecture, had we done this that day, the repercussions would have been different is stretching it too far. Either we should have done it, now that we haven’t, let us not brag about it, is my view.

Which Chief will say that there are no plans to sort what we all desperately need to sort out? We were unprepared in 1947, still we did our best. 1962, we braved it out against all odds. 1965 was no different and we came out victorious. In 1971 we created a new country. Kargil, who can forget? Such plans are never revealed but are continuously made, war gamed, modified, improved and updated. Nation is always supreme; the tri colour has to flutter, come hell or high water. I would rather say that after the experience of Kargil and deployment in OPERATION-PARAKARAM, the forces are definitely better prepared. Our operational options have been refined and our logistics has been practiced thoroughly. Men have seen all four seasons change in operational readiness during that time. Nuclear option can never be ruled out and we are prepared for the worst.

India has waited far too long to retaliate. It has tolerated and been patient enough against all nefarious activities and nonsense done by Pak. The country has sacrificed too many of its brave hearts to give peace a chance. The “PAAP KA GHARA” (pot of sin) of the adversary is filling up and needs to be shattered. When, how, by whom, by talks or otherwise are questions better left unanswered?

This reminds me of an anecdote of my good old army days.

We were a newly raised unit in a God forsaken place called JA-SALE-MER many moons back. It was month of May and we had to move for field firing. As usual, we are kind of superstitious in the army, so the unit pandit ji was told to take out a “Mahurat” (auspicious time) for the convoy to move. Pokhran ranges were just about 100 odd kms. Pandit ji came up with all rahu-ketu calculations to 9 am. It used to be 45+ degrees in May at 9 am and rising. Anyways, as usual the convoy lined up and the paltan fell in. 2IC was about to take the report when people started falling like nine pins due to the heat. He ordered the paltan to “Visarjan” (break off) and called the pandit ji to his office and told him. “Pandit ji, mauhrat niklega aur kal subha 5 baje ka nikelaeg”. Koi shak? (any doubts). Aap ne jis ko jo chadhana hai chadah do (you can offer whatever to whomsoever) but if mahurat is delayed by one second you had it. Pandit ji did a peechay mur, daur ke chal. (About turn and run for life)

Next day Pandit ji instead of his usual white dhoti kurta was in a new never used combat dress. Dot at 5 am the nariyal was broken and off we went. BMPs had already reached and the “shubh arambh” of firing was to be done by panditji by firing the first round of the 30mm cannon. I was the Commander of the BMP. I had never seen a Pandit scared to death ever. Here I had one who had only performed poojas in front of BMPs. The closest he reached the tracks was to keep a nariyal under the track. Anyways, panditji had for the first time put on a head gear, shivering, sweating and he got the orders to fire. Bang and it hit the target (the gun of course was laid by the gunner). Pandit ji from inside the cupola looked at me Sahib bahar aa jaun (Sir, may I come out). I said let the MCT (Mobile Control Tower give clearance). They did. From that day onwards pandit ji used to come a week in advance to ask, “sahib march karne ka muhrat kitne baje ka nikalna hai”. (Sir what time do we need to set the auspicious time to move). I hope it is being followed even today by the paltan. God bless my Paltan.

Pakistan you better be aware, we are a land of pandits. The mahurat will definitely be taken out and the date, time and place of attack will be of the choosing of our Chief’s that shall be revealed by the forces that auspicious day. It did not happen yesterday. Will it happen tomorrow? Or will it happen in the near future; I leave it for everyone to wonder!!!!!!!!!!

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

FILTERING DELHI SMOG

Invisibility is increasing or is it visibility is decreasing is the state of affairs of our National Capital. As they say every person has a fixed number of breaths in his life time, when this adage was written it was taken for granted that it would be pure air. All things “Shudh” are no more shudh. Ashudh is getting ashudher. Every breath you take, your “counter” keeps counting but it does not filter out the impurities that are doled free with it. One micro gram of carbon is free with every litre of air one inhales. We will take anything free even if it is at the peril of our lives. No one needs to be blamed except me & myself.

Let us leave the Delhi government aside. They are only capable of issuing orders for odd and even. Beyond that they blame all and sundry. Doesn’t the North and South block breathe the same air or are there special filters circulating clean air for the high and mighty. It just struck me that our circular parliament building will come into action shortly for the winter session hopefully by then all smog will have cleared off. The observation I have is the shape of the parliament building. It looks like a huge air filter of a vehicle. Therefore no matter how polluted the air is, nothing will penetrate through.

Pardon my saying so, it also depends on the thickness of skin of our law makers. Nothing can percolate through either. Another thing I find that hampers the smooth functioning of systems is the bureaucratic filters. A file goes from one desk to another. Form one department to another, from one ministry to another, it might be approved or disapproved it comes back the same way to the clerk who initiated the case. Imagine a sanction which goes through such stringent filtering of so many laws, by laws, clauses, notes, foot notes, annexure, appendices, rulings and finally reaching the top man. What is left of the original would have been soaked, rinsed and dried by the end of it. What is dished out to the public is anybody’s guess.

Well it reminds me of my fauji days where we were taught that sand is a natural filter for water, so to get the basic impurities out of it, we used to fill sand in a pitcher, pour dirty water on top, make a pin hole at the bottom and then wait for the water to drip, drop by drop. All those who lost patience and drank dirty water landed up in hospitals for dysentery and all those who had the patience to wait also landed up in hospitals due to dehydration. So the government is like that, you will in any case land up in hospital.

It is a fact that processes in our government’s machinery move at snail’s pace. To procure a machine, someone has to first say that it is needed. Then a group of ministers (GOM) will be formed. They shall roam around the world to understand it and give the final nod. Then someone will suggest putting the best brains together to order a product manufactured in Timbuktu, modified for Indian conditions. Finally, delays in budgetary approvals followed by the tendering procedure. The machine will be handed over after a photo operation, press release and front page coverage. It might find a mention in the MAN KI BAAT too.

A nut case like me will be made responsible to run and maintain it. Within two days I will damage some part. The same will be demanded and the whole procedure repeated. Now someone in Bhatinda will be contacted to make a replica which may or may not fit. The equipment will soon die its own death. Fog or smog stays where it is, as two seasons would have gone by. By then election time would be fast approaching, it would be summers by then, to hell with smog, people are fools and will forget.

Some people will die of lung and related ailments will make no difference to Neta ji. If “note bandi” could take a few lives so “fog bandi” deserves its share of sacrifices too. Road accidents due to poor visibility and smog will continue we will blame the potholes. Trains will run late, Flights will get diverted. Crops waste will continue to burn. Garbage will keep smoldering, blame it on the people, if there are no people there will be no garbage. Construction will continue without adhering to pollution norms. If nothing else blame it on Pakistan.

If the main cause of this smog are the winds from north which carry sand particles than those need to be trapped. People of Punjab and other neighbouring states have already started bundling up the stubble which now needs to be encouraged on a war footing before the next season. Vehicular and construction pollution has to be drastically reduced. No garbage whatsoever be burnt or allowed to be burnt should be our sincere pledge.

When the root cause of the smog is known, the polluters and pollutants are known, what I as a citizen have to do is known, then what the government and its agencies got to do should also be done. Is it lack of resources? Is it lack of funds? Or is it lack of will? I wish it was a pollution driven chemical attack on the parliament, this matter would have been sorted out in one day. When will this filter shaped parliament ever understand the value of each life which voted for them? I wonder!!!!!!!!

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

THE BEST CAREER

As I sit back and look at the journey of my life, had I continued in the Indian Army, I would have retired at the end of this month. In the civil where I work with now, I may go on for another 6 years if all goes well. Well, I am not sure will I be able to last that long because of my nature which does not go very well in civil, which is to take a stand for my subordinates or for something which my conscious does not allow. Well, this attitude has cost me my job many times. I still continue to bash on regardless without bothering about the outcome.

This brings me to a question. Which is the right profession then? What can be termed as a satisfying career? In which job can you keep working till the day you like, keep earning and enjoy the best of life? Is it the forces? The answer is an absolute no. Is it the corporate? My answer is an absolute no again. I find two professions which might fit in the bill. One is to become a politician and the other is to become a holy man.

Be that as it may, the thought that triggered me to write this piece was the way armed forces are being used in the country today. It has been proved that the forces will come to the rescue of this nation for anything and everything including building a foot over bridge or cleaning the mountains besides all that we keep doing routinely in Aid to Civil Authorities. Why do we do it so professionally? It is because this comes from the ethos the men and women in uniform imbibe in them.

The simple formula we follow is Z-KIT-BM. The landmarks (Zamini Nishan) are given to get familiar with the terrain and area of responsibility, the information of both, own side and the enemy is given in great detail (Khabar dushman ki aur Khabar apni), the aim (Irada) of the operation is made crystal clear. It is short, crisp and precise. The modus operandi (Tarika) is then told so that no doubts are left lingering, including various contingencies. Thereafter, we discuss the administration (bandobast) and finally are the communications (Milap) between all parties participating in the operation.

Last but not the least we also synchronise our watches (Ghari Milao). This is the most important ritual, as we do things time bound. We then get to work even without orders. In case our leader becomes a causality or is not available, the next senior assumes his position automatically. We work, we rest and we get back to work again amidst all chaos till we achieve our aim as given out in the Irada. We fight till the last man last round, if rounds finish we get our bayonets on, if bayonets break, we don’t give up even then, we use are bare hands to achieve the aim even if we perish in the process. That’s our culture.

All this I do not see happening in the civil. First, I find the main aim is “paisa banao” (make money). Second, is to paisa bachao (save money), by not paying well and cutting down on salaries, amenities and manpower. To achieve greater heights the formula becomes lick, lick and lick. Butter every side of the toast. The formula used is, “KAAM NA KARO, KAAM KI FIQR KARO AUR FIQR KA ZIQR APNE BOSS KO ZAROOR KARO” (Don’t work, just worry about work and keep telling your boss that how worried you are) is the key to success. Secondly, for any fault, blame all and sundry rather than own up responsibility. Make someone the scapegoat. Let truth never prevail. If caught, run away or go to court.

Sit long hours in office twiddling your thumbs. In fact your boss does the same but apparently it should appear that you are the most sincere employee. Bring a pin and describe the process as if you bought an aeroplane. Discuss it repetitively in all meetings the efforts you put in to research about it, the hurdles you faced in the selection process, the difficulty with which you could convince people to pass your budget, not to forget how many mails you sent and the paper work you did. How you almost visited the vendor, got the pin loaded and followed it through every octroi post. Blame the delay on the non cooperation by some who did not give a crane to unload this pin especially if you hold a personal grudge against him. At the end expect a complimentary mail for you to keep in record to show it during your appraisal. Life actually sucks.

The profession of babas and baby’s I don’t have to discuss. Politics I don’t know and about politicians I won’t utter a word. One thing I may like to tell the people who run this country is that, Sirs, if you don’t make the profession of the Armed Forces the best career option in this country, if you don’t give the serving and the veterans their dues and Izzat, then your profession will be jeopardy someday. Politics as a career is alright but will you be able think beyond the petty politics and pay heed to the writings on the wall called “Khabar Apni”? I wonder!!!!!!!!!!

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

WAY AHEAD FOR OROP PROTEST

I have these mixed feelings when I see Gen Satbir crying hoarse on TV. Sir, I too being on your side of Suez can feel the pain. I am thankful to each and every veteran and veer nari who has given even one minute for the agitation for our OROP. My hats off to you all for sustaining these 860 plus days which has seen many seasons change. The only thing which didn’t change was the dauntless attitude of all you people who sat in unison for our brethren. Sir, I salute each one of you for your spirit and courage shown for this cause.

I can only with folded hands plead to you sir, please do not highlight this in the media. They just want a story for breaking news and pass time on debates pitting soldiers against soldiers. Media and the politicians will have the last laugh watching and debating our plight.

The Armed Forces are a different breed in many ways. It has been amply proved the way veterans conducted themselves exemplarily by not going violent and abiding by the rules. Then why did we not vacate that place in the first go itself. Sir, I feel, we let ourselves become objects of ridicule by waiting there too long to be shooed away.  We are supposed to be Gentlemen first and Officers later. Somewhere we got mixed up.

There are no free lunches after we retire, isn’t it sir. So if the Ramlila grounds were asking for whatever amount per day, it was their right. Why were we showing our Ex-serviceman card to them? Are we looking for concessions or are we expecting a waiver of fees being an extra special category of people? That’s not going to happen. I can understand that what was passed in parliament and what we have got may be at variance but isn’t that we need to be thankful for. Whatever is left we can always put across in a manner befitting our community.

In good old days, when did we have everything that one needed Sir? Manpower was always short; equipment was off road or deficient; Ration, lesser said the better; state of accommodation was pathetic. We kept cursing the higher head quarters for lack of funds. Everything fell into the category of “manage”. Every year we were told to cut down budgets; consumption of fuel was curtailed; ‘A’ vehicle mileage kept reducing; administrative requirements kept increasing. A time came when Havildars were doing standing duties. Didn’t we live then? An officer below major’s rank was not even authorised a cooler. Officer Messes used to be flooded with officers; today they are rarities to be found. We in those days never lost our balance and sense of humour. We did crib like hell but made jungle main mangal.

Well, slowly and steadily our equipment was made up. So I am sure the same would be for the OROP. Why do we have to be so adamant and stuck? I concede that had you not started this agitation, we wouldn’t have got what we got. This doesn’t mean that unless we get what we think is correct, we keep protesting and fast unto death. I saw officers and widows being put to discomfort. I felt sad.

We are not politicians and not aware of the political game plans. They have the patience to wait and we don’t. They can make us cry and won’t budge. Tomorrow, if the parliament decides that pensions will be halved, would we protest then? Day after tomorrow the parliament passes a bill that there would be no income tax on pensions, will we still protest. One fine day the government decides that everyone will serve only five years, no pension and no other benefits, what will we do then?

Be that as it may, Sir, time is ripe for mid course correction. You don’t have to reveal your cards now. Let us do a tactical withdrawal, sit together and prepare a new plan to assault the perceived “enemy”. Shoot to kill is not working then let change tactics but let us not make ourselves the centre of scorn to be mocked and used for target practice by media and politicians. If we want to fight politics with politics like a tank versus tank battle, then let’s leave Jantar-Mantar and organise ourselves politically. If AAP could do it, we are definitely capable of being sabka BAAP.

I wish half of these days were utilised to reinforce, restructure, reorient, reconcile, recoup, reconstruct, re-crystallise our thoughts, resynchronise our effort, re-synergise our focus, rejuvenate, reconfirm our faith in our effort, revitalise, recapitulate, re-examine our lacuna, revitalise our energies,  reinforce our demands, resettle our nerves, resurrect our image, reformulate our plans, re constitute our ORBAT, rededicate ourselves to revolutionise our efforts and then renegotiate with the Government from a position of strength so that they cannot refuse but to condescend to our demands. Does it make sense to any one? I wonder!!!!!!!!

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

TO STAND OR NOT TO STAND

Our National Anthem has been in the headlines since the last couple of days. We Indians are not on the same grid on whether to stand, sit or lie down when it is played. We are also not sure as to when it should be played and where. We are also not clear what all occasions are solemn and what all occasions are not appropriate for it to be played. We all actually want to just talk about our rising goose bumps when we hear it and the patriotic kind of feelings it injects into us. We all are ready to give a lecture to one and all how to show respect to the anthem and flag but are unwilling to leave our pop corns for the fear of them spilling over. It is 180 bucks after all. We basically do not want to stand up once we have sat down in the cinema hall due to lethargy. That is the problem.

While watching TV and flicking channels, say, we land up on the opening moments of a hockey match. We may not understand the meaning or even the tune of the national anthem of another country but we will like to follow the lip sync of their players to try and understand what is being sung. We all will appreciate the way those ten odd spectators of the other country carrying their country’s flag with their hands across their hearts. On the other hand we will keep fidgeting for at least one stanza to stand up for “jana gana mana”. In case the camera focuses on us during the process, then to hell with my patriotism. I will wave all my hands and jump on my feet so that in case even my bai watching the match on TV will recognise me. Another reason for doing so is that the cameraman may not focus at me again unless there is a good looking girl sitting there.

Well, in the forces we do the “Rashtriya Salute” on various occasions, no one has to tell us to stand up. If the “Nishan Toli” is trooping the National Flag all of us in uniform salute. The salute is not given sitting down but standing in “Savdhan”(Attention). Yes, all those who are battle causalities and are on wheel chairs are the only people who are allowed to salute sitting down and they too pull their arms to their sides before saluting. There is another exception when your right hand is bandaged, immobilised or amputated; the person salutes with his left hand but salute he will. After all, the tricolour is being unfurled or being paraded and the “Rashtriya Gaan” are being played. That is the importance we as soldiers give to our national flag and the National Anthem. We fight for this flag, we die for this flag and we come draped in this flag. This was taught to us, drilled into us and now it imbibes in our blood as second nature. We don’t need debates whether to stand or sit, we know what to do.

Another thing is, moving around when the anthem is played. Why can’t people just stand straight? What is so urgent in that Whatsapp message? Why does some part of the body feel itchy at that precise moment? Can’t the description of the dress of the lady in front of you wait? Wait for the anthem to be over to discuss all that is under the sun after those fifty two seconds yaar? If you spot your old neighbour in the stadium, why you can’t hold waving to him? Hold your horses friends, join your heels, pull your arms to your sides, stand rock solid, don’t fidget or move, leave that itch for a moment, leave your pant stuck at the wrong place for less than a minute, concentrate on the anthem, sing along and there after you cheer and jeer for any team, is my view.

As a child I remember, the national anthem used to be played in cinemas at the end of the movie. All of us used to stand. Slowly, as time passed by, everyone used to be in a hurry to get to the cycle stand to locate ones bicycle and rush back home. People who had to catch buses after the show did not even wait for the movie to finish. The cinema owners stopped opening the exit gates initially but pressure of the people to break their doors left them with no option but to open up moment the final acknowledgements use to roll. We were impatient then and we are super impatient now.

Well folks, when it comes to India we will tolerate no nonsense from anyone, isn’t it? If I tell people that the symbol of your nationalism the National Anthem and flag is being disrespected due to our own despicable behaviour and nonsense, would anyone agree? I am no one to tell anyone to stand or sit and I cannot question the courts either but if people cannot understand how to respect our national symbols then God only save us. If for this also courts have to intervene then why do we call ourselves Indians in the first place? I wonder!!!!!!!!!

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

RAKSHA MANTRI IN THE DESERT

It gives me a good feeling when my Raksha Mantri (RM) finds time to visit forward troops. I recently saw her in the desert sector atop a BMP modified like a chariot. The crew would have been, the Army Chief as the Commander, the Army Commander as the gunner and the Brigade Commander, no you guessed it wrong, poor fellow must be hanging on for dear life as the driver would surely be the senior most Havildar. Can’t take a chance with Brigadier saab’s driving and giving jhatka’s of a life time to the minister. (With no offences meant please)

 

Be that as it may, I am reminded of the good old days when I started my career from the deserts. Jaisalmer Sector was the place I joined. The then Army Commander was on an operational tour and I was made the official photographer with one pip on my shoulder. My location was in the navigation party led by open jongas of the Motorised Battalion. For me map of the desert meant nothing as I had just come from IMA Dehradun, where I could never make out the difference between a spur and its contours. We all just did “Bhed chal” to reach Bhadraj top behind Mussorie. There maps were green and shades of it. Here I had a khakhi blank sheet of paper with one odd marking of a toba, taal sar, khu, talai, tibba and an odd Dhani (hamlet) after two map sheets. This jonga was modified for carrying many tubes. One could mistake them for missiles. Actually they were stuffed with map sheets and tons of them. That was my abode for the next fortnight and I was off on my maiden desert safari thereafter.

 

These motorised guys taught me how to join maps in a sequence as every 10-15 odd kilometres the sheet used to change. My CO used to be in the gunner’s cupola and the Army Commander on a Tatra’s seat welded behind. A jeep’s seat was also welded in the rear for all and sundry. This was the Army Commander’s chariot (BMP). Our two waiter’s Gabbar Singh and Jagjit Singh were stuffed into the stick compartment in the rear of the BMP.

 

Hats off to the waiters, as moment there used to be a halt they used to stick their necks out from the gunner’s cupola in between CO’s legs with some beverage. Our CO had catered for thanda pani, garam pani, neebu pani, narial pani, meethi lassi, zeera lassi, garam chai, garam coffee, cold coffee, frooty, unit soda in three flavours and you name it. There was one officer detailed to keep fetching ice from wherever he could. Our ice supply never ran out. Administration was perfect.

 

Yours truly had no clue of Mechanised tactics. So I hung on to dear life on to that leading jonga with a “hot shot” camera and clicked away merrily. One of my photos of the BMP tracks on a virgin desert stretch was later used to design the Recce & Sp logo showing the track marks. Well, we did move bound to bound, the Pakistani rangers were following us, there were no border fences that time and we used to take the shortest cut between the border pillars. It used to be a pleasure to relieve oneself on the other side of the border. Somehow it gave a kind of sadistic pleasure and a feeling of satisfaction deep within that we watered Pakistan.

 

I learnt to read a map, I learnt to bear the heat, I learnt to face sand storms, I learnt to navigate a little, I learnt navigation by stars while moving cross country at night, I understood what a mirage is. I learnt to identify blind wells and how to avoid them. I learnt how to use a magnetic compass while on the move, I learnt to survive on limited water, I learnt to handle start a jonga, I learnt how to negotiate a vehicle in absolute lose sand, I learnt to recover a stuck vehicle, I learnt to enjoy cold meals, I learnt to enjoy the sandy crunch in the meals, I learnt the importance of a “patka” and sand goggles and this learning stood me in good stead later in life as more than half my service I did in the deserts and above all I learnt to use my seventh sense and instincts.

 

It took us lot of reconnaissance and practice to achieve the mastery of the desert. Yes I also learnt a lot of Rajasthani. I learnt what a KHOJI was. He is a person who tracks down animals in a village. Their expertise was such that they could tell by the footprints of the camel that was it laden or empty. They could identify number of camels in a group by hoof marks & foot prints. They could tell how long the animal was sitting in a particular place by the droppings and urine. They could make out that the animal is tired or fresh by the belly marks on the sand; they could even say whether a particular animal is injured or had a natural limp by the imprint on sand. They could indicate the direction of the move of the animal, was it running or walking. Basically they were the most sought after people. Later in life we used to take their help for navigation to reach our objectives.

 

Well I transformed from a desert novice to a desert fox many moons later. But it was nice to see our RM on the “Mechanised ship of the desert”. Madam I hope now you will try and understand how life is in the deserts especially while operating such equipment. I hope now you will change your opinion and understand that life in the sandy wilderness is tough too. Will you? I wonder!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

BABA JIs LITTLE KNOWLEDGE

I just saw a video of our great Baba and yoga guru conducting a workshop for the BSF people where in he is all praises for them. What caught my attention was when he compared their services to that of the Army. Babaji, yes the Army engages in war once in a decade or two and the BSF does guard our borders throughout the year in varied terrain is absolutely the truth. I am not getting into all that but what I want to get into is that Babaji your little knowledge is very dangerous.

I can understand your expertise in yoga and your stomach churning mastery in it. I can also understand your knowledge in “Jari-booti’s” and things like that. I have no doubts about your business acumen. I shall not question your philanthropic mission that you have undertaken. I also shall not question your intentions of providing the purest, cheapest and quality products to us Indians. However, I definitely am going to question your knowledge and expertise with which you demean the Army who unflinchingly hold the integrity of this nation. By the way we also do your goddamn yoga at the highest & coldest battlefield of the world.

Babaji have you seen a militant. I know it is none of your business. Babaji do you know what is the LC. It is not a cosmetic which reduces the lines and controls wrinkles on someone’s face. LC is where the fight happens day in and day out with the countries enemy. The BSF definitely plays its part, I know it and I have seen it and experienced their life first hand. They are one of the best forces have no doubts. Issue with you is how have you underestimated the Army? From a child in the bore well, to a natural disaster, who does the job? From a riot in Haryana, to catching another baba from sirsa, who gets things under control dear sir, would you enlighten us please? From Dhoklam to Siachen, who is sorting issues out? Babaji it is not you or your yoga for sure!

Actually, I see no fault in your thoughts, many people who have never understood what is done by which force would never know the difference. So let me forgive you babaji. I suggest you keep entangled in your own knots of asanas and yoga. May your stomach churn till you forget to turn? May you get a chance to face the real enemy? May your intentions and thoughts remain pure and innocent without getting muddy in the name of pleasing someone? Let me assure you, you put your foot in the wrong place next time; I shall let you practice your yoga that summer on a BMP in the desert at mid day. I may be generous enough to send you to Dhoklam to teach the Chinese folks some yin and yan. If I am in a mood I may make you sit on a mat in the leech infested jungles of the north east and leave your there till all your blood is purified. I would like to send you on an encounter with the terrorists. I will allow you to make a “surakhsa kawach” of pure “sarson oil” around you and be part of the assault party. Please lay yourself in shav-asan next to a T-90 while firing. You will levitate two feet like a miracle has happened. Mind your dhoti as it will automatically shred itself exposing your jewels with effect of the blast. Please show your fitness to my artillery friends by loading a few 130mm rounds. Try doing Kapal Bharti at Bana top in the glacier. Please display your stillness and control of your mind & body while my engineer friends do mine clearance or live bomb disposal.

My list is endless Babaji. Do you even know anything about this four letter word called ARMY? Do you know what the army does, how it functions? Let me assure you we are no yoga experts but we know the basics of what you teach and preach. So get rid of this ranting anything you want depending upon the target audience. I hope when you visit an army camp you don’t say the same things about the other forces. I can assure you the commander there will tell you to pack your mat and send you rolling out of his campus, “Boria Bistra Gol” in army parlance

As I said in the beginning that little knowledge is dangerous, this little knowledge when used out of context and out of place becomes treacherous. Your knowledge may please the people who do not wear uniform but please remember you are not talking about trans-fats and minerals like in advertisements of your products. Babaji please take pride in us. Even if we fight at the frequency you mention doesn’t matter. You must understand that when we fight then either we unfurl the tricolour on the objective or come back draped in it. Unlike you we don’t change into ladies salwars and scoot away. Babaji please be man enough to apologise to the Army stating that you knew not what you were saying. In any case the army has a big enough heart to forgive you for what you said out of ignorance. Will Babaji leave at least the Army alone, I wonder!!!!!!!!!!!!

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

IS INDIA ON THE RIGHT TRACK

Bechare Modiji is in a catch 22 situation. Where to start and where to finish? What to do and what to leave? I applaud his efforts of making a beginning but his efforts need an equal thrust down the chain. Unless the states and center sit together on one national agenda, one national priority then only it will be possible to chalk out a path. All citizens have to chip in and be on the same grid.

With all that I see, read and hear, it appears to me that our industries are in a mess, trade is in a soup, railways are derailing, women and child care no one cares, farmers are left in wilderness, defence of the country is short of manpower and equipment, terrorism and militancy are never ending. On the surface things look calm but the undercurrents are giving a different signal. Why is my perception like this? Why do my senses infer everything is not right? Why am I uncomfortable with the way things are? The common man is perturbed. He is unsure of his future.

Unemployment and job creation are mismatched as on date. What can a youngster do even if he is educated? The political game plan of dividing the people of this country is leading us nowhere. Plus our religious fundamentalism and intolerance is adding fuel to the fire. We are becoming our own enemies; appears to be path of self destruction.

Be that as it may, if the PM says that he is satisfied with his efforts, definitely he will have the overall picture. I am sure he will reveal it in one of his “man ki baat”.  Money is not the issue I suppose for the government but money cannot work on its own. People who are responsible to distribute the resources and money have to show accountability.

The underlying factor is the sincerity in effort, good governance, close monitoring, no corruption and no shortcuts by one and all. If we could stand in queue for our turn to get money from the ATM after demonetisation, we need to be prepared to stand in line for everything else. We need to have patience in this world of internet and twitter. We need to have the will to sacrifice our luxuries for the sake of this nation and its future. We have to think India first.

I can give this moral lecture because of two reasons, firstly because of my background and training in the army I know what discomforts are and how to overcome them. Secondly, I am financially ok even if I have to live on simple dal-roti. The rich will never feel the pinch but what about the poor, middleclass, unemployed people who are running from pillar to post for their living? Petrol and diesel prices add to their woes. The farmer who provides us food is dying a slow death due to lack of support. The Defence is facing an external enemy on multiple fronts is also involved in the internal aggression needs full government backing. Our education system is cockeyed with multiple types of education, multiple fees structures and barriers due to the federal system in this country. Our huge orchestra is playing in a concert with many instruments out of sync and out of tune thus producing only noise which is clearly visible in parliament and news debates.

Red tapeism still exists. There are multiple rules and regulations for the same thing. There are laws but getting justice is difficult. Justice gets delayed that it is almost kind of denied. Corruption in government departments is still rampant. A common man has to grease someone somewhere up the ladder in cash or kind or through a third party. Bribes are camouflaged when they change into Diwali or New Year gifts; people stay on the house with family in resorts maintained by companies, provision of chauffeur driven vehicles on holidays, booking of air tickets etc at the corporate level have become the new normal to oblige and get things done.

Basic health care doesn’t find a place in our national priorities. People die, children die, makes no heads roll. The pathetic condition of the stinky, dirty, filthy government hospitals makes you wonder whether you have come here to be treated or come here to fall sick. Conditions of public toilets & toilets in schools are no better. Policing is under pressure too. They don’t know whether to listen to their political bosses or face the consequences of disobedience. Women are unsafe, schools are unsafe, hiring domestic help is unsafe, filing an FIR is a task in itself besides harassment of the common public never ends. Thus faith in system is reducing.

I kind of feel upset about the whole scene in the country. The beggar on the railway platform, the leper on the red light, the small child selling national flags on the footpath would never know that he too is a hero in his own way. Though they shall live and die in anonymity. This person will have a large enough heart to feed two street dogs. Push your car without charging if you are stuck, eat the left overs which you throw away in dustbins and still proudly salute the national flag because he considers himself an equal citizen of India. He too hopes for achhe din. It is another matter how we treat them.

We have now got to shift focus to nation building. A road map needs to be laid out and we the people have to get involved to implement it. I suppose the vision is there but the will to implement it with all sincerity is lacking. Am I the only one feeling this way? I wonder!!!!!!!!!

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

MY NEW DEFENCE MINISTER

Wallah! At last India has a permanent Defence Minister after a long wait and amidst so much of speculations. Congratulations ma’am and welcome to a different world. Things are different here and things are done very differently in the Armed forces. I am not using the words defence on purpose because you will get a first hand feel of its enormity once you get on the chair proper. You will have the three services Chiefs at your command to give you the correct picture of things on ground and national security. They will also tell you how things are on paper. If you will have a heart to heart talk with them they will reveal to you how they are actually functioning with all that they have. Madam, trust them and listen to them. I wish you all the best.

Well let me not get into the 3Cs of criticizing, comparing and complaining mode from the very beginning. I am sure all your predecessors would have contributed their bit in nation building and with special reference to defence. You have got a fresh slate and a fresh charter. You also have come in here in the third year of the government so the ball must have been set rolling in any case by now. I am sure budget will not be a constraint even if you have to walk in into the FMs or the PMs Office or is this asking for too much on the second day in your office. So let me assume that you will take that liberty as and when the need arises but on the other hand I would request you to change the way the defence ministry works and that its rigid protocol. You will find it on every file, the seniority in which people will put their remarks on each noting sheet. Ma’am I want you to go to the three service Chief’s offices rather than them coming to you.

Imagine what commotion you will create in the corridors of South block if you walk up to the Army Chief’s office. Let me tell you ma’am the sandwiches served there are too good. They will be served with so much of love and affection that you may ask for more. Madam you will see people running to hide all maps with those huge curtains in the Military Operations room, later realising that you will be the one giving directions soon as to which part of the map to obliterate or pound and with what intensity. Suddenly, you may find pink napkins in the corridors of South Block. Madam jokes apart, you have yourself to feel the warmth that the men & women in olive greens, sky blue and white will shower on you. They are looking for a fresh face as they have had too many stain marks from spilled goan curry, Chai from Jaitley’s ketley and rancid coconut oil on their documents.

Madam Minister, another thing I request you to change is the perception of an iron wall between the MoD per se and the people from the services. If a gun has to be used by the Army man, an Aircraft by the fly boy or a submarine by a mariner then who should have the last word in its procurement. Please involve the user in every phase ma’am because to tell the difference between a smooth bore gun and a rifled gun your technocrats will give you but for a man to survive on the battlefield and hit the target in varied terrain and weather will only be revealed by the user, I hope you will agree. Please let there be a change where the well walks up to the thirsty rather than the other way around. If anyone in uniform does hanky-panky or misappropriation of money please skin him alive. He doesn’t deserve to be in uniform but if the same is done by someone in white collars, you may decide appropriate punishment.

The biggest thing I ask of you madam is the restoration of our IZZAT. I do not want to get into the naam, namak and nishan part of it. But our prestige, our honour, our self esteem needs a definite boost. Why do we in the forces get a feeling that we are children of a lesser God? Madam our ex-servicemen are sitting on Jantar mantar peacefully till date. They are old, many infirm and not in their best of health but are conveying their feelings to this nation that for what fault of theirs they still have to bear the heat, rain and cold after doing their time in hell. Madam do go and just say a hello to them. Probably your predecessors never had the time or inclination to meet the veterans and the veer naris.

One more thing ma’am, please do not change your ministry like my wife changes her dresses. By the time you get the hang of it your tenure will be over. Do a good job and help me to vote for you in 2019 again to see you at the helm of affairs in the same Ministry. You will see many Chiefs change during your tenure but the ethos and dastoor of the services won’t change. Let them hold their head high and give you all their support. Visit doklam next week end, I would say visit every theater of operation, ask the commanders there what are their typical issues and resolve them then and there. Issues could be operational or administrative like infrastructure, health care, accommodation, equipment, morale anything under the sun. Madam another thing I am skeptic of is the DRDO, reason I don’t know but the perception says there is something amiss. We still wait for our Main Battle Tank, a state of art rifle to say the least. We want Israel and Russia to use equipment made in India is what I ask you.

At the outset let me again welcome you to the uniformed part of it. The non-uniformed you have to take care of. I can’t say I wish you were Ex-NDA but madam I expect you to be one. You need to be a flier, a commando, a paratrooper, a deep sea diver, a tank man, a sailor, a Commander of men and women in all varied terrain and weather. Madam above all you will have to have a heart of gold which beats in sync and tune with the armed forces. I wish we sort out Pak in the next three years to start with. Good Luck and God Speed to you. Have I asked for too much? I wonder!!!!!!!!!

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

FEELING NOSTALGIC

I am working in an organisation which has quite a few ex-servicemen working under me. It feels so good when one receives salutes with the same josh as one used to get when I was in uniform. The loud shout of Jai-Hind still gives me goose bumps.  Sometimes it feels that one never left the army. It makes me emotional as one had never imagined the same izzat will continue. I am definitely lucky.

In my office I miss my dak “in-out” tray. How can I forget the “pending” tray, it actually used to give nightmares as to why something was pending? The wall clock and calendar are still displayed, I still have a bell on the side of my desk to call the runner; the only difference is that I have to ring it more than ten times for half a minute each to catch somebody’s attention, unlike the reaction in the unit. Here we have one person looking after one floor and he has more than ten offices to look after. Sometimes this man does the disappearing trick also.

I also miss my fly swat which used to be my secondary weapon during peace time. I had mastered killing a fly with a flying shot. The glass of water still remains, the coasters are still there but the blazer cloth on my table has gone missing. I still love to have that important information under the glass of my table as a ready reckoner. The nominal rolls are still posted on the notice board along with the training programmes. I still have an operations board with maps and enlargements to show the general area, its major assets, routes of “ingress and egress”.  I love that arrow which prominently shows “YOU ARE HERE” or else I will be lost. I display an arrow which shows north prominently, by the way I will fail if you ask me the difference between true north, magnetic north and grid north.

I also have another board which gives me a feel of my good old days is the parade state board. The only thing is that now there are no companies and platoons but contractors and vehicles. From a black board we have moved to white board, from the chalk we have graduated to temporary markers but the feeling of knowing where each person is gives you a satisfaction that all must be well.

I used to have a white “Sunmica” writing board with lots of china graph pencils and some “chindi” to wipe things off, basically the progress of things and my follow up points which I miss. I also miss the draft pad, a light green shade of paper with a prominent green line about two inches from the left side if I remember correctly. Our clerks were always short of paper and this draft pad used to be the saving grace. The good old glass paper weights, the golden pen stand with a blue and red ballpens called pen Wilson. I used to feel a little jay when the Second in Command’s pen stand used to have slots to keep paper pins and we had a magnet to which anything metallic used to be stick.

I also miss the red and green bulbs denoting busy and free lights. The parallel set of lights in the Adjutant’s office which used to become a waiting hall of kinds for the umpteen cups of tea, waiting for your turn to be fired by the CO. The worst used to be at 2’o’clock. The COs jonga used to be ready to take off, the 2IC inside, red light on, you are hungry and waiting for that one signature and suddenly there is commotion. The adjutant springing out of his chair, both the lights switched off together and off went the boss. 2IC comes and tells you that brother prepare for op area tomorrow. You say sir my leave starts tomorrow, he says which leave, you say sir let me speak to the CO, he says CO has left for Div HQ and there were no mobiles. The only thing one could do was Peechay Mur daur ke chal.

Well another thing typically fauji I have in my office still are those chairs with white covers on their back rests.  I miss my small note pad with your appointment written on top. The Int Section used to nicely cover it, put a talc cover and then fire an “imprinta gun” on a tape. Out used to pop your name and stuck in the centre of your note pad. For lesser mortals they used to stencil the name. So to make up for my love for my name I display the same in form of a metal name plate on my office door with pride. It reminds me that old chap you better maintain the fauji decorum here as people call you Colonel saab and look up to you.

Today we had a kind of orderly room to reprimand a chap for dereliction of duty. I felt so sad for this retired Army clerk who has now become a discipline case beyond any ones control. I have been with him for five years. How I covered him up at the peril of my job is only known to me. How I went out of the way to help him, counsel him, counsel his family, wife too was involved like a unit lady, got him treated for alcohol dependency, motivated him to go through a rehab, sat with him in his hospitalisation, adjusted his leave and pay when he did not have any left and all those things that you do in fauj but to no avail. Today, I had to take his resignation. One could give a pitthoo in the unit or an extra guard check but here I just can’t do any such thing. There is a limit to give “lift” and tolerate nonsense. Incorrigible people are everywhere. I never give up but fauji methods don’t work in civil.

My heart is heavy, my mind is not reconciling with the fact that I as an ex serviceman had to take such a drastic step against another ex serviceman. My conscience did not allow army’s image to be tarnished anymore. If this man has decided not to listen to logic, so be it. He better be relieved from duty and left free to live his life the way he likes. Have I done the right thing? I wonder!!!!!!!!!

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

MY CHINESE EXPERIENCE

I have been avoiding writing about China and its recent mis-adventures purposely. Let me confess, I am no expert on China. Though we used to have an army pamphlet about China but I could never remember even one organisation chart of their units or formations. Reason was that moment I used to visualise them, all faces used to look alike. So to differentiate HU from HUI and JING from PING became a nightmare for me and I decided in case a question lands up in my exams, I shall just write “Ni-Hao” and leave it at that.

Their script always fascinated me. Their architecture fascinated me too. The “SHAOLIN” movies were my favourites. Jackie Chang was too good but the exaggeration of the drunken monk kind of movies made that fascination fade away. Their aerial tricks and their flying mid air fights were definitely a wow factor but were a bit too much to swallow. I could not watch those Kung-fu kinds of movies as everyone kept picking up fights for no reason. They could fight with a tea cup, a broom, or even a spoon. What I disliked the most was the sounds they made while fighting. I was more comfortable with dishoom-bhishoom stuff.

I used to wonder while playing cricket about a term called “China Man”. Well it was a left arm leg spinner bowling an off break to a right handed batsman. I am sure you would be confused like I was for many years. That’s the aim of this ball, to surprise the batsman. I remember Navjot Sidhu, “Sherry” was in the slips when YPS Patiala was playing with my team from Sainik School Kapurthala many-many moons back. They had this left arm spinner and Sidhu kept shouting to him from second slip, China maar China isko. I laughed as I knew what he was talking about. This boy bowled a china man a bit too short of a length; I went on the back foot and gave it a solid whack. Off it went for a four towards square leg. I winked at sherry. I never got a china man bowled at me in that match.

Yes, Chinese food still fascinates me. I was introduced to it while in IMA Dehradun in a small eatery on Rajpur road called YETI, if I recollect the name correctly. Slowly we weaned off to the basic Momo-Thuppa kind of stuff near Ghanta Ghar due to financial constraints as a GC (Gentleman Cadet). One always thought those people were Chinese. Later when I served with them did I realise that how real Chinese noodles were made. Lovely people they were and Tashi Deleg to all of them. We Indians now are hooked on to the Tibetan cuisine for sure.

Another incident of how far I could dig my soul into the Chinese military was when I was made the CO of a Signal Regiment in a war-game of a mountain division against China in Staff College. Firstly, I had no idea about the terrain in the East of India where this Dhoklam thing is happening. Secondly, my phobia of learning anything about Chinese Army petrified me like hell. Thirdly, I was a Mech officer, commanding a Signal Regiment almost killed me. The only Radio sets I handled were the ones fitted in my BMP or the ANPRC with a ten foot telescopic antenna. I knew if the instructor asks me even one question, leave alone Chinese tactics I will forget how to spell “signal”. Well, the great moment arrived and I had to brief a truck load of Directing Staff (DS) on a map about my role as a Commanding Officer of a Mountain Division Signal Regiment. One of the Brigadiers asked who amongst you is CO Signals. I stepped forward, sir yours truly. He said Noel we don’t have time; we give you five minutes for your briefing. I said sir trust me I will take only two because of enemy jamming. The DS burst out laughing and moved on to CO ASC battalion without even listening to me. I thanked my stars and must have smoked a pack of cigarettes after that, as I was feeling so goddamned relieved. You may lose a war if you read the “signals” wrong, isn’t it? I had won mine.

The recent intrusion in Chushul took me down memory lane when I was posted there. I had the privilege to climb the heights around Chushul to experience firsthand how conditions of 1962 would have been for our soldiers. While counting bunkers, I remember the doors used to be jammed due to frozen ice. The bunkers had to be aired for a couple of days to open up. Imagine how they would have dug those bunkers. Standing atop Pankha heights, the Pongang Tso staring at you like a vast ocean and the air strip appeared to be a highway of some kind. My head bows in respect to every soldier who participated in whatever capacity in that battle. It was indeed a humbling experience, an experience of a life time. The Trishul heights, the Spangur area etc were the most beautiful places I ever saw. My brothers who bore the brunt of 62 war fought with minimum strength, underrated equipment; clothing not fit for that altitude and weather but their morale was high, their spirits were dauntless; their courage was rock solid even when the enemy kept chanting Hindi-Chini Bhai-Bhai. Today one finds the saying painted on many stones, “In the land of Lamas, don’t be gammas”, is absolutely true.

Be that as it may, China is huge, China is tough and of course China is strong in every way. That should not deter us from keeping that country at bay. These incidents which are happening are not really what their actual intentions might be as I reckon. There is something more sinister to it.  We got to be prepared to take China on. Are we ready? I wonder!!!!!!!!!

JAI HIND

 

JAI HIND & JAI KASHMIR

I got a chance to listen to the PMs Independence Day speech only late in the day. The phrase that caught my ears was “Na Goli se, Na Gaali se Kashmir ka masla hal hoga Kashmiri ko gale lagane se” and words to that effect (Neither with bullets nor with abuses can we resolve the problem of Kashmir; it can be resolved only by embracing them). Well PM Sahib, I have an issue here with what you said. On one hand you say that you won’t leave any “ATANKWADI” or his supporter, right. On the other hand you want to embrace Kashmiri’s some of them who are militants. On one hand you see a role of security forces; on the other hand you don’t want to fire a bullet. On one hand you don’t want to talk to Pakistan till it behaves as they understand only gaali’s, right. You also want to teach Pak a lesson for what it does in Kashmir. You want peace and prosperity in Kashmir without getting the elected representatives of Kashmir moving. Now you come out with this goli-gaali Jumla. I am now thoroughly confused sir, what do you mean and how do you propose to do what you say?

You want the Central Government to work hand in glove with the state government, right. If I understand correctly that funding to Kashmir that has been going on till now shall continue like hither to fore, right. Everyone will know the package you announce but no one will know how it will be utilized. The Kashmiri politician will know where and how it has to be utilised but the Kashmiri population you want to embrace will not know where the hell this fund has gone. The State government will demand more and you will give more from your benevolent funds that you have at your disposal. I as a tax payer and a contributor to your funds will never know on what scheme was this money spent on ever. Your FM will account for every “paai” he releases and announce it to the world but how much will be swindled, mis-utilised and seep out of the system, no one will ever come to know. I don’t have to remind you about terrorist funding Sir, which needs to be eliminated too.

I had seen border roads organisation working and maintaining most of the roads in Kashmir, if I am correct. Most of the infrastructure projects like the rail and major highways funded from the centre employ maximum locals, right. How much more infrastructure they require can someone give a road map? Why is the Kashmiri so lethargic? Why is the pace slow? Is it because the local contractors are slow? Or is it because of the sluggish attitude of the Kashmiri people? Or is it the threat to any project by the militants which slows projects? Is it lack of supervision at the governmental level and accountability of the officials? I have seen myself, people working on projects having cups after cups of tea, discussing everything under the sun, closing shop early to reach home before sun down. PM Sahib, can a reality check be done how work is done there? You are in for surprises, if not shock.

Do we have a dearth of infrastructure companies in India? Answer is no. Then why can’t they work in Kashmir, if Kashmir is part of India? Why can’t the labour be taken from rest of India to expedite projects ultimately an Indian is working on an Indian project. Why a company has to work at the Kashmiri pace which is like get up in the morning, warm up your Firan with a Kangri, wait for the blood circulation to increase, smoke a few biris till mood to work sets in, curse the world around, look for fire wood and gucchi the whole day and by 3pm pack up and head back home. Winter months as it is there won’t be any work due to snow. During monsoons the rains stop projects, rest of the months there is hardly a window to work and one has to catch up on gossip. If GREF can take labour from Bihar and build the Tangtse-Pangong Tso road, what is the problem in Kashmir. Is work the problem or is it the work culture? I believe no one is marked absent after all it is welfare of Kashmiris.

I say, catch hold of all the stone pelters and tell them to crack boulders for the next road project. Pay them the same amount they get for pelting. Give them food and shelter till a project is completed but make them work. Question is that is he willing to work? Will he contribute to the progress of Kashmir he has dreamt of? I further say, you want to agitate; you want to protest, do it after 10 years and during this time work dedicatedly for what Kashmir needs. Let there be power generation all over. Let there be cold storage chains professionally managed all over. Let there be best of fisheries, saffron and fruit production. Let there be a full scale furniture industry, woollen garment industry, fruit canning and pickling industry. Let train and plane loads of cargo be flown in and out of Kashmir. In case of landslides and road blocks, let everything go by alternate means of transport. Is it possible?

My idea may sound absurd, bizarre, ridiculous or even silly but it is an idea worth thinking of Mr PM. Make the representatives of the people of J&K accountable to their own people. Embrace the people once they are willing to work on their dream projects. Shake up the typical lethargy of the people and let them be handled professionally. Pay them when they work, pay them on the quality of output they produce. Let the security forces help them to create an environment for their own betterment. Weed away the “gaddars” and traitors. PM Sahib you will get jhappis if your vision is made into a mission.

Let tourism flourish. Engage locals to provide security to all visiting Kashmir. Let the security forces become friends of Kashmiri people. Help the forces change Kashmiri outlook towards India and life. Let prosperity come and then let the goli be only for Pakistan and the traitors. Let gaali be only for terrorists and their supporters and jhappi for the common Kashmiri people who have been torn apart from this strife due to utter neglect, lack of vision and transparency. Create a framework for them to accept the tri-colour from their heart. Give them the dignity they deserve. Your change of stance from gali to jhappi without goli will materialise soon. Take a decision, now!

Will I ever hear JAI HIND-JAI KASHMIR there, I wonder!!!!!!!!!!

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

INDIA NEEDS TO UNITE WITHOUT A WAR

If there will be a war with either China or Pakistan or both in the near future, are we as a country ready to cope with it? The Armed Forces will do their best I am sure. What I am sceptic about are the people who are other than armed forces including me. Are they going to do their bit for India? I know this country always unites during wars. My question is will we unite as “Indians” without and before a war? What cost will we have to pay for this unity is the big question? Can we put India first? The consequences of war will take us back by more than 50 years. How will we plough back, the very thought gives me the shivers.

Natural calamities I can understand, do take a toll. What I am afraid of is the manmade disasters like goondaism, dadagiri, corruption, bribery, fraud, dishonesty in thought and action, lynching, stalking, agitations for reservations, etc as prevalent today. Why do we destroy national assets in case we want reservations? Why do we burn our transport and buildings if we want water? I feel in case of war some people still won’t change from doing such misdeeds. It needs a miracle to change our basic character. People will still make money by hoarding, by hiding things, by manipulating, by creating an artificial shortage of certain essential goods and services. War clouds can never be wished away but trickery and deceit can definitely be avoided for the sake of this nation. Chances are that the war clouds may not rain. However, in today’s times we better be prepared for a cloud burst. Death may fall from the sky as bombs during war. Enemy can target anything, so citizens of India let’s brace ourselves up for it. Let us join hands for the nation’s sake.

Let us be prepared for rationing and curtailing of our freedoms including the press. Rationing of food grains, fuel, clothing, transport, medical care, freight, railways, air space, internet, mobile telephony and you name it. Doesn’t it look scary? Doesn’t it sound outlandish? How will we function without internet or a mobile? How will it feel when military special trains will be given priority over super fast trains? How will it feel to live with black outs? There is a difference between power cut and black out. You will have electricity but can’t switch on lights. People will still switch lights on until a bomb will find their building. How will it be to live in trenches? How will it be when suddenly you are unemployed as your industry is obliterated in an air attack? Air raid sirens blowing, you shall be rushing to shelters? From your luxurious, chauffeur driven, air conditioned BMWs, you will be sharing space with 10 others in a hot and humid bomb shelter. How will it be when all facilities that one takes for granted are suddenly withdrawn? You will be checked, frisked and questioned. Your daily routes diverted and movement restricted. It will be difficult to imagine and unacceptable to most.

Let me ask another question here, how many of the able bodied men and women would volunteer to join the forces if need be? I will request all those who send mails and messages to change ones DP to the tri-colour on Independence Day and Republic Day to be ready to join the war effort. Saying it on face book and twitter is easy, doing it on ground needs guts. Trolling on social media is easy but assaulting the enemy on the battlefield is a tough job. To stalk a girl in Chandigarh is easy but to stalk the real enemy is never done the “Barala” way. Desh Bhakti doesn’t come from the free flowing ideas in JNU but it comes from within our Indianess. It comes from our soul and not from our tongue. Singing Vandematram and shouting Jai Hind is desh prem. Having tears in your eyes when lata sings “ai mere watan ke logo” is your feelings for the soldier. Standing up for the National Anthem is our duty. Desh Bhakti actually is when one understands the meaning of each of these compositions and slogans and inculcates them in ones lives and that is the need of the time.

I am ready to offer my services again if the nation needs them. We the veterans will definitely do our bit. I request all the corporate honchos who do lots of number crunching, graphs, pie charts etc to understand that all that is fighting on paper. All that may impress your bosses. All that may get you incentives. All that may get you various awards. If you people are such experts, please volunteer to do social service during war. Promise to be a sentry of a society at night. Promise you will not do any fraud whatsoever ever. Promise that you will not lie and fudge figures. Promise that you will pay your taxes truthfully for this country. Promise you will report every happening correctly as seen and not as perceived. Promise you will not back bite and back stab your fellow workers. Honesty has to come from within; unity has to be understood in its totality. Time now is to build “Desh Shakti”.

Be that as it may. Over the year luxuries of life have become necessities and we take them for granted as our birth right. I am sure my countrymen shall unite moment the balloon goes up. We have to anticipate things and be prepared mentally. We need to forget caste, creed, religion, region, language and any form of reservations. Bombs and bullets cannot differentiate any of these. We need to keep the independence of this country intact by doing our bit, war or no war. Will we? I wonder!!!!!!!!!

WISHING ALL MY FELLOW CITIZENS A VERY HAPPY 71ST INDEPENDENCE DAY

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

POLITICAL KABADDI

I had just finished watching the Kabaddi match last night, which is far better than watching the “kabaddi on news debates. My instinct told me that the match between “BJP Lotus Giants” and “Congress Handcrafters” being held in the polling stadium of Gujarat for the famous of Rajay Sabha Cup from where three members were going to be selected for the national team is going to be interesting. There were various reporters spread all over India taking reactions from spectators. Some of the anchors had already declared the results prematurely. There were political experts on every channel trying to give out all kinds of opinions like the good old Lala Amarnath. Tension was in the air. There were players who were surrounding the third umpire’s office as some controversy had erupted. The final results were to be declared after the third umpire “The Election Commission” would have reviewed each and every move replayed in “slowmo” from every angle. The situation was touch and go.

Well, my patience ran out and I went off to sleep. This morning I found that the unpredictable happened due to “Duckworth Achal Joti” method. The Lotus giants who were expecting a clean sweep lost one seat to the Handcrafters. What difference does it make in the Rajay Sabha? I don’t know. But after this round I know that congress has already declared a definite victory in Gujarat in 2019. We all know “there is many a slip between the cup and the lip”. Till the time the game is fair and square may the best team win; if my constitutional bodies aka referees abide by the rules, I shall have all praises for them because I know my country is in safe hands.

Be that as it may, come to speak of fairness, honesty, integrity etc my instinct to trust our political set up has gone totally wonky. I don’t know why. The congress had huddled together their MLCs in Bangalore and released them on voting day and still some cross voted it seems. The rumors that they can be bought at a price by the opposition were hot. How far they are true I can’t speak with authenticity. But there is no smoke without fire is also true. Does it mean that the value of this politician is just those few crore rupees? Is this what we have fallen to? His Zameer and conscious is for sale. If this is how I am going to earn a living then what am I going to do when I sit in parliament. Naturally, I will loot my country any which way I can. If money is the criterion to sell off my soul then this country has a very faint chance to dream of “acche din”.

The icing of the cake would be if one of the two people elected yesterday from the Lotus Giants is made the Defence Minister of India. One is already a minister so chances are that the present portfolio with that minister continues, I am worried about the other one. I will have no choice but to accept him as that’s the law of the land. So, all my brothers in uniform I wish you luck. PM Sahib, I still insist you have people qualified with more than 40 years of service in Defence of the nation, please be fair and do justice. Am I asking for too much? Let me not drift into my dreamland again.

I am still not clear as to why do we join a political party and have loyalties depending upon the price offered by another party. How can we switch at a moment’s notice? Why do political parties fear that their workers will change teams? Is there nothing called trust left in this nation? Do we need to use unfair means to woo people to defect? Should false promises and hopes still have place in our political system? The larger issue is, are we building this country or ruining it? If we are ourselves not sure on which side we are going to stand then when it will come to decision making for the poor and common man our decisions will be biased based on who offers us the best returns. We are corrupting this system at the highest level and then we are expecting the lower levels to be the most honest people. How can this be possible? My disillusionment for the political class keeps getting deeper. I am now convinced that money makes the mare go.

Thank God a few institutions are still upholding the Constitution of India. Otherwise this country if left to the people who know how to manipulate the system would have sold this country out by now. I was amazed to hear the hard work and toil the political workers were claiming to have done. The midnight oil that they burnt as if they were going to sort out Pakistan. They claim to have won a battle and appeared fatigued sitting in their offices and roaming the streets as aimless nomadic workers. The bursting of crackers and dancing on the streets was as if the enemy had been conquered. The rejoicing and celebrations continued through the night. Who paid for all that? Someone needs to take an account of that too. I see the waste of money in every electoral process irrespective of the political inclinations and affiliations.

Well folks, I am now looking forward to more Kabaddi of the political kind in 2019. Will I see team Lotus Giants lifting the “acche din cup”? I don’t know. Do the Handcrafters stand a chance to bounce back, I have my serious doubts, is there any other team capable enough, I wonder!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

FINDING THE RIGHT SOLUTION TO KASHMIR

I was listening to Mehboobaji on the issue of Article 356 and the flag of J&K. I thereafter heard various discussions on what she said, what she meant, what does it signify, what does it imply etc and made my own conclusions which I shall reveal as this article unfolds. Is she right? I doubt, but if she is wrong, then there is an issue of a very large scale brewing to explode. I am convinced Kashmiri’s can only give a solution for Kashmir. But are all Kashmiri’s on the same grid? Is the present J&K Govt on the same grid with the Govt in Delhi? I as a common man feel that communication is lacking. There is a weak effort to resolve what needs to be done. Calling for a plebiscite doesn’t work in democracy. When you madam represent the people of Kashmir, (if you really represent them), then tell us where do you stand and the measures you propose to stop this mayhem. Expecting only Central Govt to give solutions is passing the buck.

I say if there needs to be a plebiscite, let there be one with a question that do these elected representatives actually represent the voices and aspirations of Kashmiri people? If not then who are their real representatives, solution to Kashmir will automatically start evolving. Are these leaders of Kashmir capable enough to lead their people? The picture will start getting clearer. If war is not a solution and talks are the only solution then let us talk internally first. Today we are falling in our own trap, where the political parties of J&K especially of K, the separatists and the terrorists are taking advantage of our lack of clarity amongst us as to what to do, with whom, when and why.

Be that as it may, let Mehboobaji keep her flag and article 356 for the time being. Can she give out a road map to solutions to the Kashmir problem? Let her speak to the “stake holders” in our Kashmir, what they want and discuss with the PM that this is how it needs to be implemented. Let her, Omar and Farookh sit across the table with all those who believe in India as their nation and tell how are they going to seal the borders? How is she going to stop terror funding? How is she going to convince the Hurriat to forget Azadi and come under the tricolour? Let her give a method to convince and control the stone pelters. Let her government take over the internal situation of Kashmir and show she can govern and protect everyone fairly and effectively, rather than only giving the consequences of removal of the articles.

Yes the Central government should continue all its support like hither to fore. Let Mehboobaji give a manner she proposes for employment generation other than Sarkari naukris. Let her reveal plans as to how she will develop tourism, fisheries, agriculture, power, infrastructure, industry etc and set a time frame to address these issues to wean away unemployed youth from nonsense. Simply by sucking Central Govt of funds and resources and leaving Kashmir to be governed by God doesn’t work out. She has the mandate, she has to do it. She needs to create history. She has to have her intelligence grid going and sorting out those who throw stones or fire weapons or support such things, after all the J&K flag flutters today because the Tiranga flutters there, is there a doubt?

Let her come up with a method of utilising her state forces. CAPFs and Indian Armed forces deployed for the protection of the state may be utilised if she needs them. I feel we need to take a big chance if we agree to withdraw all central forces. Let Mr Rajnath and her sit down and plan with the civilian “Mehakma” how to police and keep every citizen safe from harm’s way. I would rather say it would be an ideal opportunity for the armed forces to take a breather. I know my military expert friends shall shoot me down that this will give the militants a breather to regroup and rejuvenate. So be it friends. Imagine by then all terror funding would have stopped. All people with separatist tendencies put in the clink, all hawala money choked, traced out and seized if possible. Infiltration as good as zero as the armed forces would be able to beef up the borders, all those infiltrating through the third country would be scared enough to take a chance to reach Kashmir alive.

Won’t police operations by the sons of the soil stop stone pelters? Stone pelters may not do so to their own kith and kin. Locals if taken on board will reveal most of the caches or routes to them thus bringing a halt to availability of arms and ammunition. Even if many of them take up arms, good for us. Now the forces can take them on without hesitation with definite information available. Moment militants engage security forces they will ensure they are dead meat. The residual militants thus get wiped out. Let it be deterrence for future militants. Let us give them a lose rope to hang themselves. Pakistan by then should be warned to be prepared for some roughing up with every breach and every cease fire violation. You do mischief, we would slap you hard, needs to be conveyed loud and clear.

All this needs meticulous planning, guts and decisions which can be game changers. The key issue remains getting Mehboobaji and gang to get on the job. Today, I find the home minister running up and down, political leaders visiting without reason, Army Chief meeting her for courtesy sake? Let us stop it. Today, there is a government, there is state machinery, there are the people who want peace but there is no strong will and clear intention to sort out this mess. Each day of delay is costing money, resources and precious lives. They are Indian lives, our people. Because getting martyred has become routine doesn’t mean that this should be allowed to continue. If every life counts, out of box solutions have to be found by Mehboobaji first and now.

I heard General Musharaff on a channel who clearly stated that Pak will do Kargil like operations again. He also stated that they call those people mujahedeen whom we call terrorists and this India and US need to understand, they won’t. He also was emphatic about CPEC which is already in advanced stages of construction. If it hurts India, Pak will do it. Let’s be clear then whom are we dealing with. All this people to people contact, aman ki asha chaps wake up. Indian Biryani is far better.

We need to sort out our internal Kashmir thing first and fast. We need the present J&K government on its toes besides being careful of Pak at all times. We have the wherewithal to make it happen. Mehboobaji aur Modiji, Abhi nahi to Kabhi nahi, will you please take note of it, I wonder!!!!!!!!!!

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

BATTLE TANK VERSUS WATER TANK

As a kid I remember when Dad used to take us to an Army cantonment we used look at every piece of military equipment in awe. My kindergarten school had many army kids and they used to come in those old TMBs (Tata Mercedes Benz) or SHAKTIMAN trucks modified as school busses. We could spend hours sitting on our haunches imagining what all attachments it used to have, like the pick axe, the shovel, the jerry cans, mule tanks etc. Some trucks had winches on their front bumpers. The numbers painted on them used to be a mystery especially with an arrow pointing upwards. We at that time had gone through a phase of the war of 1971 with Pakistan so as boys our basic game used to be fantasising using all the military equipment we had seen in our lives to defeat of Pakistan.

I subtly remember while passing through Jalandhar Cantt there used to be these Pakistani Patton tanks at the entrance. I cannot describe how proud one used to feel just looking at them as Indian Army got these as war trophies. Even till today if I happen to pass by military equipment displayed in any town, I make it a point to have a look. I remember having clicked many photos on the tanks that used to be displayed in front of Sudan block in NDA. The feeling of elation and a sense of pride that crosses your mind moment you see a military convoy passing by is indescribable. One has seen many of them as a child, huge guns in tow, all covered with tarpaulins. Even one saw many military special trains passing by. One always waved to the faujis and wondered is war imminent. I used to long to be part of them, as I wanted to live that life on a train, with a tarpaulin tent made on a barrel of a gun, eating cooking and yet cheerfully waving to us going towards the border.

We used to have military equipment displays in school. One used to speechless when an NCO used to describe an Artillery gun or an Air Defence Gun or an APC (Armoured Personal Carrier) of the BTR-60 kind or SKOT. Heavens used to break loose when a KRAZ with a 130mm gun in tow used to come for a demo deployment. Though one could never understand the words of command but the whole process used to leave our jaws open. I clearly remember touching those practice rounds and getting bewildered at the size of the 130 mm shell. We even used to follow those tyre tread marks of the APCs. One could never imagine that APCs can fill air in them from inside. One used to think of one’s own bicycle, if this could be possible. The way the baffle plate used to go up and the propeller used to be exposed at the rear. To imagine that this huge beast could float was pure fiction. Though, I later joined an outfit which had both the BRDMs and BMPs as my bread and butter.

One really dreamt of joining the forces as a child. The starched dungarees with big pockets close to the knees were something fascinating, crisp uniforms, shining stars, glistening equipment everything used to mesmerise us. The wooden pointer with a white tip in a pocket on the shoulder was awesome. I even remember going through every detail of an army ambulance. One was very impressed by the fans inside as one had never seen them in cars also that time.

Today, during Republic Day Parade, the main highlight is the equipment that the country displays. It gives an inherent sense of security as the commentator gives the description of the various tanks, guns and missiles. The mind starts appreciating the skills of the pilots who do formation flying, or refuel midair, or do a vertical Charlie right in front of your eyes. Your mind doesn’t register when you hear that all these aircrafts have come from faraway air bases like Pune, Delhi Ambala etc on a precise call and accurate time. How can one stage manage a machine moving at double the speed of sound to fly past exactly when the last marching contingent has just saluted the President? Well friends, the coordination, the discipline is mindboggling and that is what impresses us.

The marching contingents are no less matter of pride and honour when all those Gorkha hats tilted at just the precise angle do an eyes right. The “turras” of the pagris suddenly appearing broadside like a peacock displaying its feathers is an awesome experience to see. The front foot lifted higher than the shoulder and dug in the tarmac for Dahine Dekh (Eyes Right). The dipping of the tank barrels and turning towards the President as a mark of respect is mind blowing. The commentator when he starts listing out the decorations of each passing contingent, one is really baffled to hear what mettle these people are made of. Yes one does get a lump in the throat and moist eyes when a widow of a brave heart comes to the President to take a medal which her husband won. It is heart breaking on hearing the citation about his bravery. Ones head bows down in respect and gratitude and a small prayer to thank the martyr that brother because of you we all are alive today.

I do not know what JNU people are made of. I am sure they would be more patriotic than all of us. Fortunately or unfortunately I too am a graduate from JNU only thing is my campus was in NDA. I wish you guys learn to make peace and also learn to be prepared for war. All those who oppose a tank being displayed in the campus deserve a water tank to remind them to save water. Please take inspiration from water tank and debate whether we stand by our Army or otherwise. If installing busts of personalities they want to emulate satisfies them, so be it. I only have one request friends that please ensure that no bird droppings are seen on those busts. Ensure every student knows whose statue it is and what he did in his life time. Please make sure that at least once a year you all go and salute this great man rather than sitting under the shade of the statue and make plans of how to create the next kanhiya like episode.

I having served my motherland more than 20 years in the Army would request you if you are so interested in history and are so vehement against putting a tank, kindly put a bust of all Param Vir Chakra winners with space for more to come for a change. I am sure they too shall form part of Indian history. These war heroes have definitely given you the freedom to attack your VC to fire verbal salvos towards him with words which neither have direction nor will meet any target. Will they ever understand why we say Jai Hind and Bharat Mata ki Jai, I wonder!!!!!!!!!

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

PAY COMMISSION AND ARREARS

Effects of the seventh pay commission have percolated to the political class. The pay of an Undersecretary may be more than the MP now. How can this be palatable to the Mantr ji? I heard one of the MPs saying that we have to maintain three houses, one at Delhi, one in the constituency and one own home. Government needs to pay us for the taam-jhaam therefore I need a pay hike. How is Jaitley ji going to get this money is his baby. Who all will be squeezed is the FMs problem? The FM is looking towards me, why me sir? Get hold of Malya and gang please.

Let me tell you how I felt after the implementation of various pay commissions. Initially, I felt elated and jumped up and down my bed on receiving my pay slip. This happiness used to last a very short while, around six to seven months. Then inflation used to catch up and we were back to square one. We turned back to looking at the prices in the menu card first and then deciding what to eat rather than the other way around. I remember I had to compromise while buying my first car. I was falling short by 25000 and had to pick up a non AC one. No regrets though, we drove it like hell and she was my darling for more than ten years.

I remember my rank pay got stuck as there was some issue way back in 1987. I had picked up as a Barsati Captain in 1987 with just two years of service. The rank pay then was 200 if I remember correctly. In those days mess gave us khana and mess was home so pay never bothered me. Later I got married and got posted to high altitude. There, food was plenty, expenditure was negligible and the bank used to be our unit Baniya and his famous note book in which he used to write every hisaab-kitab our pass book. I was in Ladakh then and baniya used to get us all what we needed. My only expenditure used to be on fags. In those days the DFR dollars used to come in handy. Another bank used to be the field cashier. I remember carrying lots of field cheques to Leh for many officers when on pay collection duty. I had to cross Changla pass many a times to get pay.

Soon I got posted to a place near Dehradun. One fine day accumulated arrears with pay around 40,000 got released in 1992. I almost jumped through the roof. I showed my pay slip to my wife, she too rubbed her eyes at least 20 times to see whether the figure had a comma or a full stop after 40. We started making plans as if we could buy the whole world. My wife said save half of it, so next day I went to the field cashier and withdrew the money. He gave me bundles of 10 rupee notes from the RTC. I rushed straight to the post office and bought NSC certificates worth 20000. In those day’s money used to double in five years. That was my first and last investment for more than 3/4th of my Army service.

I carried the rest of the bundles in my brown VIP briefcase, with a suspecting eye on everyone. I laid those 20 bundles in front of my wife on the small coffee table and asked her have you ever seen so much of cash in your life. I still remember I could hear her heartbeat sitting across the table. Well, like a chivalrous man I said all yours and she picked them and hid them in the cupboard under her third sari, well that was all she had then. We bought a new lock for that cupboard and watched it every night. We used to bring out the notes sometimes and count them and as luck would have it I always either counted one extra or one less. Then she used to recount it. I used be sent back from parties to go and see if the house was ok. I used to quietly go down to the bar. Refill my drink, come and say all is well. We were posted in such a remote place where leopards used to visit our quarter guard not far from our house quite often.

Well, next weekend I put my name on the bus to Dehradun and we had made up our mind to buy a VCR. I had just bought a BPL-Sanyo TV and this would compliment it. Moment we touched Doon we hired a taxi to Mussoorie. On our return we went to this big VCR/TV shop close to the famous “Moti-Mahal” restaurant. We picked up the best one which cost us around 14000. We asked for a guarantee, the shopkeeper said there is none on imported stuff. In case something goes wrong we shall repair it. I told my wife let us take a chance, she reluctantly agreed. From there we rushed to Kumar sweets at Ghanta Ghar and picked up “Ras Malai” and stick jaws. We were going to stay with one of our relatives. First thing I told them that tonight is movie night; get as many cassettes as you want to see. We finished dinner and inserted the first movie. My happiness knew no bounds as the clarity of the video was impressive. I told my wife to get the sweets to celebrate our moment of joy and we gave everyone a bowl of Ras Malai.

Believe you me my heart sank as the first spoon of the tasty Ras Malai went into my mouth. I saw smoke rising from the brand new VCR. I jumped and switched it off but by then it was too late. I looked at my wife who had turned into a statue. That night was the longest night for both of us. We would have kept awake watching movies with the family but that night we were consoling each other as tears of my wife were unstoppable. We had a quick breakfast and caught the first Vikram to Ghanta Ghar and by 9am we were at the shop. The assistant came at ten and half an hour later came the owner. He saw our faces and understood and I meekly said that the VCR got burnt. This man was cool and said chotu get another one from the attic. My wife said no we will take a VCP instead with a proper bill and guarantee. I had no choice but to agree and bought a KRISONS VCP. We were sceptic but it gave us fantastic service till the VCD mania took over.

Hard earned money can become hard burnt money in seconds. That was a lesson for me in life and I carry it with me still. Nothing without a bill otherwise be prepared to take a chill pill. Are you guys and gals listening, I wonder!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

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