Noel Ellis's Official Blog

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

Tag: NDA

JUGADU TALES

 

 

 

JUGADU TALES

 

Necessity is the mother of invention and in India it is called “JUGAD”. We can modify anything, copy anything & duplicate anything. To make any contraption, the brain is Indian, the brawn is Indian, tools are Indian, finance is Indian, the consumer is Indian and it is best suited to our Indian needs. The “jugaadu” in me was waking up as I walked around my colony yesterday.

I was astonished to see countless mangoes strewn on the ground. With so many children around how come this fruit hasn’t been touched. Reasons could be like; this year was a bumper crop, so now we are fed up of eating mangoes, it has rained once and people avoid eating the fruit as it becomes infested with worms and insects. Another reason could be that fruits of a particular tree are either very sour or very feeka (Tasteless) but one thing that caught my nostrils was the smell of fermented fruit, that fruity-mangoey kind of liquory smell.

This reminded me of a conversation with a colleague who won panchayat elections a few days back. Country made Daru and non-veg is a make or break for any election here he claimed. More the daru flows the probability of winning is directly proportional to it. This has to be continuous for many days before voting. I said you must have spent a fortune. He nodded.

How do you procure and transport daru without getting caught? He said sir; for police there is a jugad. There is a distillation plant in my backyard and has been brewing nonstop since last few months. He refused to part with the recipe. I was very curious to know the mode of transportation. He took me to his car and opened the dickey and I found a huge inflated truck tube along with smaller tubes. He said all these are the left overs. I touched them and they went “thull-thull” like a water bed. I was thinking to myself that thank God we are going tubeless.

I went into flash back of the good old days in school. During the summer vacations we used to be vagabonds roaming around every nook and corner and it used to be fun collecting used test tubes from behind the chemistry lab. I saw a broken distillation set & picked it up. I brought that equipment home and buried it in the backyard fearing dad’s wrath.

I also got hold of old rum bottles and made out a concoction in which if I remember correctly I made a slurry of jaggery, lot of “peesi hui long & elaichi”, sugarcane juice and some home fruit juices. I filled about ten bottles and buried them close next to our guava tree in the backyard. All this was done in total secrecy, in the afternoons when mom and dad used to take their siesta. This was in class XI. As time flew by, we got busy with NDA preparations and later for XII boards, those graves were never dug. Mom kept wondering where her fridge bottles evaporated.

One fine day, dad decided to put manure in the fruit trees. He dug those circular pits around the trees when he accidentally dug out one bottle of that concoction I had prepared. It had turned jet black. I confessed to dad that all this “jiggery-poggery” I had done. I was preparing for getting a solid thrashing. He said let’s try distilling it. That reminded me that I had a distillation set buried too. How effective or defective it was time would tell. The rubber hoses had worn off and glass had broken at places but we did a jugad for all that.

Distillation started and the end product was an absolute clear tasteless liquid, flavoured with elaichi. I had tasted dad’s rum chori-chori but this damn thing had no taste at all. Patience was running out as it was taking hell of a long time and finally the first bottle was left with a gooey black residue. In the evening an uncle came to visit. Dad said let’s try Noel’s special brand. Uncle used to be an occasional drinker and used to make a weird face when the first sip of Hercules or Sea Pirate XXX used to go down his gullet. Dad also proudly told him ghar ki bani hai, two years old hai. Dad stuck to his usual rum. Uncle was all smiles and laughing. Just as he was about to leave he just could not get up from the sofa. All hell broke loose.

It hit him so badly that he had to leave his scooter at our place as we could not figure out how to open a Bajaj Chetak due that typical twist of the handle with which the lock opened. Dad was impressed that for the first time I did something practical in Chemistry. How hard my chemistry teachers tried, I could never balance an equation but I balanced the whole contraption of this distillation process which started from a make shift “chullah”, to pipes from the kitchen tap for cooling and finally collecting the “liquid gold” in another bottle. The “pahle tor di daru” as it was called in Punjab, was a success.

Should I do a jugad to make some mango liqueur for old time’s sake? I wonder!!!!!!!!

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

FIT FITTER FITTEST

 

 

FIT FITTER FITTEST

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

OUR DEER PINKY

 

 

OUR DEER PINKY

It was a cold wintry evening when two people clad in white dhoti, kurta & Loi’s (shawls) came to our house in Sainik School, Kapurthala. On enquiring they said they were parents of Bishnoi of Sarojini House of which Dad was the house master. They were carrying something in their lap which was very fidgety. They requested for old news papers. A very unusual request it was. As they stood up to greet dad, this twitchy bundle jumped out of their lap. It was a small, dainty, wet nosed brown baby deer (Chinkara).

We all were startled for a moment. They said that having heard of your love for animals Ellis Saab, we present to you “PINKY” as a token of love and respect for teaching our children. I saw my Dads eyes getting moist for the first time. In those days it was not banned. On asking what you feed it, they gave the details of how to feed it with a bottle and otherwise it would graze the lawn grass. In case some wheat can be made available it could be palm fed.

Dad took the leash and took her to the adjacent room as they left. We had spread many news papers for the droppings. The story was that this fawn was orphaned as the mother was shot by some people. It was raised by the Bishnoi’s and now they had found a suitable home for it.

It was extremely difficult to control the inquisitiveness of our dogs. Their barks was making pinky panicky. Curiosity amongst Ellis’ was also at its pinnacle. This little darling had done a 7 hour journey by bus from Hanumangarh to Kapurthala. It must be tired and disillusioned. We tiptoed into her room, I with a bottle of milk, mom with a fistful of wheat followed by brother with some grass and father to oversee things.

In came Coco, our Tibetan Apso, then all hell broke loose. She panicked and darted through all of us and the main door and escaped into the darkness. Dad told us that we have to get pinky back at any cost. It was dark and the colony was a jungle in itself. Pinky had evaporated into thin air. The front yard, the back yard, the dhobi ghat, everywhere, we ran helter-skelter looking for her but no luck.

I and my brother went on a search mission. It was close to midnight in that freezing cold of Punjab & we were quite dejected. As we were combing the area we reached the chota swimming pool. Stories of various “bhoots-prets” and deadly cobras were running parallel in our minds when my brother& I heard jingle of bells tied in her neck. In pitch darkness with fog also creeping in, we saw two eyes glistened & staring at us. The first reaction was to bolt as it could be a bhoot. We spotted her & breathed a sigh of relief. Dad was anxious, mom was crying and we were white faced, cold, damp with running noses. I put a blanket on her as she dozed off. What a first night it was!

There used to be a competition between me and my brother who will feed her. Filling milk in a beer bottle and attaching feeding nipples was fun. Soon, Pinky started considering me as her mother. She used to crave for milk thrice a day. Dot at the precise hour she used to give her grunts. I used to call her back in the same tone.

Our dogs got used to her and pinky to the house. Cats started to cuddle with her. She was so friendly that we freed her. Within minutes she jumped the wall and was hopping and skipping merrily. All of us were afraid that the strays will kill her, well; they were no match to her speed. Once all the hostellers “gheraoed” her in a circle, she just took off & jumped over their heads. Her typical “deer jumps” on all fours together were a treat to watch.

She started accompanying dad to the cricket field and used to stand next to him where the Umpire stands. Once she got hit by a straight drive and collapsed on the pitch with all four legs stretched & the tongue hanging out, stiff as stiff could be. The batsman ran away fearing the wrath of Dad. She closed her eyes and we thought we have lost her. For 10 minutes we all were in tears. Then suddenly she sprung up and bolted away. Phew!

I had joined NDA and came back on my first term break. Dad was sitting on his haunches and hoeing his garden bed. I was explaining to him the “ragra” and in particular the front roll. I don’t know what came to pinky’s mind, she came charging and butted dad on his bums with her head. Dad did a beautiful somersault and I said now you know dad.

As time went by she started loving music and the school band playing. She used to stand with the band leader and walk along the march past of the school parade. She became the school mascot.

One day pinky was nowhere to be seen. There was panic and a sense of loss as a story was afloat that someone had killed her. Fourth day, while dad was on his angling trip a “Kabari” (rag picker) who used to come and collect small fish gave an input that she has been seen in the cantonment. Dad wound up and came rushing five kilometres from Kanjali River. She was not there but dad found her droppings. On a lot of pleading someone told that she had been sold to a “Kasai” (butcher). Dad rushed to find that “kasai” who just won’t admit. With folded hands and 400 rupees did he take him to the shed where she had been confined to. She would have been butchered the next day. Four days without water and food she was a wreck. She couldn’t even stand on all fours. People who had caught her had bruised her very badly. Dad left his cycle as mortgage and took a rickshaw to get her home. We were delighted to see her alive.

Within days she was frolicking around as usual. She lived with us for 10 years and one fine day we found her dead in the wheat fields. Probably she ate too much of insecticide which had been sprayed on the crop. It was a sad day. Her grave is still there behind our house 12-A.

Thank you for being part of our lives PINKY we all still remember you fondly and miss you. Can we relive those good old days again? I wonder!!!!!!!!!

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

MY CHOICES AFTER TWELFTH

If I were a twelfth class student today, fresh out of the exams, would I have already thought about my career? What would be going on in my mind? I think there would be utter chaos and confusion of selection of a stream triggering random thoughts to do this or something else? The twelfth mark sheet would be instrumental in further planning. Retest is besides the point due to these leaks.
If I get about 70-80 percent in twelfth, will I have a future? What career options do I have? Is there a scope for me to pursue something of my interest? Actually, do I know what my interests are in the first place! I am now transiting through a phase from a school going kid to adult life. I definitely need a career which should fulfil my dreams, excite me, suit my temperament, allow me to continue my hobbies and also pay me well.
Mom and Dad have generally been struggling all through their lives. We don’t have our own house as yet. Mom always picked up jobs in every place father got posted. They always insisted on savings. I saw them buying gold for obvious reasons. Everything used to be on a tight rope, there was a kind of an unseen discipline which we loved to hate. For them books and studies were the only priorities.
Dad preferred his scooter to the car. Mom would never let us feel lonely and dad always boosted our morale. Now was the time for my transformation to step into new shoes, walk my own steps and face my own challenges. Dilemma in the mind was eating me up.
Easiest for me was to continue studies. Now it will be college time, freedom, independence, new place, new friends, time to experiment with life, learn new things, get worldly wise and enjoy. Second was to become a professional as professional could be.
Donations were a big no from Dad. He was there for guidance, sharing knowledge and unflinching dedication for us. Mom had additional virtues of love, care and affection, besides being the best cook. Will I survive in this mad bad world without them? Will I miss home and homemade food? Will I be able to take on a hostel or paying guest? Percentage of marks was below the cut off of a good college, so admissions on merit would be an issue.
Suggestions from people were overflowing to do this & do that. The final decision was ultimately left to God. He would be the guiding light. As the saying says “God helps those who help themselves” so it again boiled down to me. The confusion kept compounding.
Had I scored well, my mark sheet would have spoken for itself. Medical is too tough, engineering I can’t even spell, Literature is not my cup of tea, arts is Greek and Latin to me, Law is difficult, then what else is left.
I decide to join the forces.  I love adventure, mountaineering and sports. I love to travel, I like to meet new people and I love to drive. Dad doesn’t know I have been driving the car on the quiet. I can name all kinds of battle tanks existing in the world today.  Let me give a try for NDA.
They will not only make me a graduate but give me all that I desire. I don’t have to worry about marks much plus they do give a good pay. I just have to be an upright, truthful, hardworking and an honest person. I have been standing first in debates and declamations in school and participated at state and national level and won prizes, which should help me.
Mom with her heart of wax said “mera sona beta” will not join forces. They have a very tough life. No food, no water, inclement weather and terrain. On top of that these militants. If he gets posted to Kashmir what will happen. He should never go to the North-East, it’s too dangerous. Deserts are too harsh. Dad just sits and watches all the rona-dhona and winks at me.
Phew! I won’t have to appear for JEE, CAT, NEET, TOEFL, PMT, CET blah blah blah.  One day, Mom wakes me with a registered letter from UPSC. I open it and see that I am 200 in the merit list and on 01 June I have to join NDA. I pick up mom and give her a swirl; she is like what the hell. I say mom “zindagi ban gayi”. I pull that letter from her hand and rush to announce it to the world.
Can I have a better career after twelfth other than the Forces? I wonder!!!!!!!!!!!
JAI HIND
© Noel Ellis

THE FOODIE WITHIN ME

I wish I had a job like these guys who come on a programme “Highway on my plate”. Some appetite those guys have. 30 years back I could have beaten them hands down. I like the one who is a non-vegetarian. Ghass-Phoos is not my cup of tea to be frank but due to dietary restrictions and age catching up, perforce I have to munch on my veggies and sprout salads. Nevertheless, I want to understand how they control their weight. For me even when I drink water, it goes and gets stuck on my waist like the after effects of Desi Ghee.

Imagine one gets paid for eating. This is some naukri I must say. Their crew must be dying salivating. The beauty is that they publically announce whether they liked or disliked the food. I wish they have a NDA second termers “square meal” as a daily ritual for their diet. In case they ran away from learning table manners I would send all the Drill and PT ustads hunting for them till the time they not only have a “flat foot” but a flat belly too.

Be that as it may, how can one eat so much and not have acidity. I am sure ENO salt people would have them on their cross wires. I think better would be “agar pet safa, har rog dafa” kinds. Kayam Chooran can claim to reduce the emissions of their obnoxious gases for free. By the way, these guys must be farting and farting non-stop. The only way to make way for the next morsel must be to release some gas. I pity the crew who accompany them as their car would be no less than the Nazi gas chamber of sorts.

When these guys must be reaching homes they must be insisting on their wives to make that “patli peeli wali khichiri”. People don’t get to eat two square meals and here we have two chaps who polish of meals for twenty chaps without even belching. I am sure they believe in the adage “pet bhar gaya par neeyat nahi bahri”.

In NDA, I and my cousin used to go to a tamarind jungle near Kondwa gate? We used to target the ripest pods, get them down with a fagot and squeeze the sweet, sour and tangy pulp on the slices of bread. Call it a “Tamrindwich”. We used to sometimes pick up “mixture” (namkeen) from gole market, mash a few “boondi ladoos” in it and stuff the “thing” in buns and wash it down with water, as going to get tea room on a movie day for a second termer meant trouble.

 Many moons back my wife once asked me yaar we have been married so many years and you have never told me that what you would like to eat. You just eat what I make. So please tell me. I said OK make Chicken Mayonnaise. All hell broke loose that day. “Don’t you know there is no chicken”. “First get chicken and then demand such a thing”. “We also don’t have mayonnaise”. “You do it on purpose”. Well I said you asked for it, what’s my fault. “No, you don’t love me and just want to embarrass me”. I learnt my lesson to keep shut and eat what you get ever after.

A few years later, when love overflowed again she said. “Yaar you never tell me how I cook”. “You never find any faults with my dishes”. “You just say “theek hai” never say “achha hai ya kuch kam-ziada hai”. One fine day I said “Namak kam hai” and all hell broke loose again. “How many times have I told you salt is not good for health”. “Don’t you find the salt and pepper shaker in front of you”? “This Tata chap is not making good quality salt”. “If I have forgotten to put it once why do you have to highlight it?” I said my dear, if I don’t say anything you have an issue. You coaxed me to say something, now there is an issue. Just tell me will I get dinner today or not. Believe you me there was double the salt in the dinner and I ate quietly. She sat with a grumpy face and decided to eat quite late. Then meekly came and said sorry and asked me how I ate with so much of extra salt. I told her I am Ex-NDA from 66 course. I can eat anything which moves or doesn’t move. We are Lakkar Hazzam and Pathhar Hazzam. (We can digest wood and stones)

Since that day I have been saved the agony of commenting on any food. By the way she is a terrific cook. My paunch reveals everything. Nevertheless, when will I get a chance to just taste food and be paid for it? I wonder!!!!!!!!!!

JAI HIND

 Noel Ellis

FAREWELL MY COMMANDO BUDDY ASHIWINI CHEEMA

FAREWELL MY COMMANDO BUDDY ASHIWINI CHEEMA

Can someone suggest a better word in any dictionary to describe a Gentleman? Is there a better description to mean more than a friend? Is there any superlative to describe sincerity, dedication and devotion? Could there be a better partner than this man called Ashwini Cheema. Mike squadron NDA was where I came across him for the first time and later he was my buddy in the commando course. Let me just recollect few funny moments we spent together as a tribute to the finest Commando buddy.

A power house of strength, witty, with a subtle sense of humour he had. Man of few words he was. It was very difficult to make him smile but when he did smile, he used to take anyone’s breadth away.

One day Capt KK Arun was with our group for a raid. As usual buddy did all the preparations. The LMG landed with us. I cursed in choicest Punjabi, he said in his gruff voice, buddy tu fikar na kar. As luck would have it I dropped the LMG and Capt Arun went berserk. Buddy was on me in fireman lift. I would have carried him for ten minutes and then I threw him down. He knew me so he decided to carry me. I slept all the way to the commando base. How he carried me and the weapons? I almost kissed him out of the love and affection that burst out of me.

Another raid, most of us were sleep deprived, tired and at the end of our tolerance limits. Buddy stopped so I stopped. Buddy moved, I forgot to move and slept off standing. I got up when my knees buckled. I was all alone. I didn’t know where to go. I tried following the footprints but soon they disappeared, so I sat down with my back to a tree waiting for almighty to do a miracle and dozed off again. Around first light I hear a sound Noel-Noel, lo and behold it was buddy. I got my quota of adjectives in chaste Punjabi and he told me to follow him quietly into the commando base. The raid had gone without me; my buddy covered for me. Once things got settled he had come looking for me.

Another patrol, I asked buddy what chocolate are you carrying, he said BHOOTNI KE its not chocolate it is my barrel in your mouth, as it must be in shikari position. I was sleep walking and dreaming of eating chocolate it seems, I was cursing why Indian manufacturers can’t make better chocolates, as the taste of rifle oil and sand was not to my liking.

Buddy used to prepare for briefings, I used to sleep. Buddy used to make khichiri I used to sleep, once buddy offered me a stone as a pillow at night. I thanked him and slept off. At first light I found it was semi-dried cow dung. What peaceful sleep I had! That day I cooked for my buddy on that piece of cow dung.

During escape and evasion we were supposed to cross a dirty pond with improvised water crossing expedients. Buddy warned me not to touch the pond water, I never listened. I drank so much that I would have drowned. Thereafter, I had such an upset stomach that with the dungarees I couldn’t run to ease myself every ten minutes. Well at the end of the day we had those 40 kms to do. Buddy suggested tear off the dangri from behind and I had no choice. He walked with me and used to support me when I had to go for natures call. Ashwani did 40 kms again and got an ‘I’ on the course.

Brother, I spoke to you two years back. I feel so heartbroken to see a powerhouse like you leaving so early. I salute your spirit; I salute your grit and determination to fight. I am happy that now you are relieved of all the pain and suffering. Hats off to Mrs Cheema and Shauraya, we are with you in this time of grief. Buddy as I sign off let me say that you live with us. Cheers brother till we meet again.

MY MARATHI & MY ENGLISH

I was just calculating my days spent in Maharashtra. Three years in NDA, Khadakwasla, one odd year of my Mech YOs (Young Officer’s Course) and Radio Course in Ahmednagar and then after retirement it has been eleven years I have been drinking Marathi pani. How come I could not pick up this language? Suffice to say, I understand it very well but I am not comfortable speaking it.

In my first term at NDA, I did not know what speak meant. In my second and third term no one let me speak, I only heard choicest adjectives being hurled at me. In my fourth term I could barely open my mouth to speak. In my fifth term I spoke what I had heard in second and third terms. In my sixth term I only spoke to practice my word of command in the bathroom. Besides “oye patilya, kaye re”. All the Joshi’s & Pawar’s used to wonder why I address them as Patilya, as I always thought that’s how you respectfully address a “taant”.

My second encounter with taant’s was when I met a unique family called “Camble” from Kohlapur. Well they were actually Kamble’s. My Sali ji was getting married to Sir Kamble and I was in charge of looking after them. So like a well groomed Liaison Officer of my battalion, I walked up to the would be mother in law before she retired for the night and asked her, auntie what would you like to have for breakfast? She said “supperchand”. Now my brains got shot circuited and I rushed back home repeating this word, lest I forget. Our whole family shook their heads, as none could decipher what missile she was referring to. I mustered some courage and walked up to the elder brother of the groom and hesitantly asked him what supperchand means. He coolly said A for apple. My foot I murmured & got back home, asked father in law to join me for a drink. We had two quick tots and went to the railway station, as at that unearthly hour the only place to find this fruit was the station and bought two kilograms of supperchand.

I was travelling to this place where I am working now, for my interview. This being a remote place we kept asking for directions. Everyone just said “saral-saral”. I said yaar if it was so saral (easy) then why are we not reaching anywhere. After three hours plus finally I came to understand what this word meant, “keep going straight”. Some of them also said “pude” and “maghe”, they sounded very unfamiliar and I did not trust them. I was a quite sure when I reach saral I would be at my destination.

Now, about my knowledge of English; my name sounds English, though my mother tongue is Hindi. Punjabi I spoke fluently as I studied in Sainik School Kapurthala, Punjab. The English faculty of NDA put me in class 6 which is for weaklings because of the reputation of my school in English. Believe you me I failed in English and was about to be relegated. Our teacher was Mr Warriar with an A not with an O. The poem in the exam was BYZANTIUM by William Butler “Yeats”. I wrote to my dad to help me as this poem was beyond my comprehension. He told me to send the poem. In ten odd inland letters I copied the poem and in twenty odd envelopes he sent the detailed reference to context.

Mr Warriar being the officiating principal, used to sit near the most dreaded place called the centre dome of NDA. I had just visited the Com’s (Commandant’s) office close by and escaped relegation a few days back for discipline. It took me great courage to arrange a meeting with Mr Warriar. He dismissed me on seeing my face but my pleading eyes got the better of him. My head bobbed up and down like the “Hades’ Bobbin”. With great reluctance he offered me a seat and from my KDs (Khaki Dress) which could carry 40 toasts came out those 20 letters from a father to his son. He read each word and then got hold of my answer sheet. His only anger was I had not written a single word he had taught. It was natural as I was never awake in his class. I had pasted my dad’s version verbatim. He asked me, what does your father do? I told him he was the HOD English of my school. My grade was changed from F to an A+. I visited the centre dome during my course get together after thirty odd years recently; my eyes went moist as I shouted Byzantium. The echo still reverberates in my mind.

Today a very funny incident happened. Someone came to our house and my wife asked the bai who is it. She could not trace anyone. Bai then went around the house and found that someone had left two gunny bags of manure. She came and told my wife that someone had got “Bomar”. My wife gave a blank look as she could not make head or tail. Ultimately our bai went out brought a dried piece of cow dung and said “Maveshi cha Potty”. My wife said Gobbar, she said hau bomar.

Be that as it may. Should I learn English first or Marathi? I wonder!!!!!!!!!!

JAI HIND

 Noel Ellis

PUNJAB MATRIC

This year some six lakh students skipped board exams in UP. The way they cheat khule aam is tauba-tauba. In Bihar I think assisting in cheating by climbing windows of multi storey buildings is a profession of sorts. It was nice to see students in chappals as I remember shoes could take on at least ten to twenty questions. If socks were taken into consideration then the complete exam could be managed unless you took the wrong subject notes. It reminded me of my days as a class ninth student.

In class ninth my Dad insisted that I must do “Punjab Matric” as it was called in those days. I was studying in a CBSE school then. He said that we all were going to stay in Punjab so a state degree would be instrumental in getting me a good job in Punjab Government. I had no choice and the more I resisted the more he got adamant. Once or twice I got a solid beating also for it.

Be that as it may, my first waterloo was arithmetic. As it is I was zero in maths. I got an MBD refresher from Vir di Hatti in Kapurthala. I can never forget the author; it was Barkat Ram Nair and sons. It had calculations like which day of the week was Gandhi ji born. It was Friday if I still remember it correctly, don’t ask me the formula please. Profit and loss, shares and debentures were bouncers for me. I was algebra kinds as somehow I used to find that notty fellow called ‘x’.

My second waterloo was the Punjabi itself. My Punjabi was half Hindi and half Punjabi. To ratto the Punjabi “kaida” of “oora-aira” took me some time. I used to get mixed up with “matras” and of course the alphabets. “pappa” and “dhadda”, “mamma” and “sassa”, they all looked the same. Well, now that my matriculation form had been filled there was no way out.

My third waterloo was history. From the battles of Panipat, to revolt of 1857, from Shivaji, to the East India Company and of course Akbar, Birbal, Humayun and who was whose son, it was beyond me. I had a lot of cramming capacity as I used to participate in declamations and plays. So the only option was to by heart the father, son and son of a gun.

Saving grace was English. For Punjabi’s English was like going to the gallows. I remember I used to take exams in the evening sessions as a private candidate. I had also the unique distinction of being the only English medium candidate in that centre. As luck would have it I had all girls around me. Well, when it came to the English exam I was kicked and nudged by this girl sitting behind. “Baau kuj taan das de” (Sir tell me something at least). The one on the left kept winking at me; each wink meant the question number. Where was Priya Prakash those days? The girl on the right kept tapping her pen and the one in front kept showing me fingers behind her neck, unfortunately she could not ask beyond question ten due to the limitation of the number of fingers.

The best part was that was the first time I saw where all ladies hide their “parchies”. Well, I don’t have to elaborate. I also came to learn where all they can write on their bodies, it was interesting. After the exam when one went to the toilet it appeared to be a “raddi ki dukan” with rolls and rolls of paper. As I later came to know that girls were striped to bare minimum to “excavate” their knowledge banks in form of chits.

Then came the maths exam and it was my turn to take favours. When I asked for the formula; they gave me the “faar-moolah”. I asked for the value of x they gave me back some “rakam”. Ede nal onu guna kar de, te ode naalon es nu manfi. I thought to myself if I got to fail I will fail myself and not take help from anyone to fail. And fail I did, I got a compartment in maths which I cleared subsequently.

Another funny thing my dad did was he wrote my date of birth as 1969 instead of 1963. Well, no one checked birth certificates then. The logic he gave was I will retire six years late. Good that I did not join “Gormint” of Punjab and my Sainik School mark sheet saw me through to NDA.

Indeed board exams are a nightmare for many. People claim they are double MAs etc but has any one of you done double matric? I have? Why did I do it? I still wonder!!!!!!!

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

FAREWELL MY FRIEND PROMOD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

SIXTY SIX MIXED FEELINGS

Mama I don’t want to go to office today was the first thing that came to my mind as the alarm rang this morning. I was feeling uncomfortable, miserable and down. The feeling was the same when after the term break one had to go for the first muster. I remember we used to count DLTGH, cutting away, smudging those dates in our diaries, on our tables, inside our drawers, behind every note book of which ever subject we had. It used to be a dilemma that should I cut today’s date tomorrow morning or should I cut it today itself. On the way back to NDA one got that kind of eerie feeling which I had while going to office today. Never in my life have I felt so home sick. We used to dread to get to NDA especially in those “faded OG” TATA busses. How we used to rush to get a seat on the newer type ones. That feeling which used to come moment Khadakwasla used to come in sight was the feeling that came afresh after ages. I want to start striking off dates for the next one today onwards, hopefully on a cruise. I shall be there with my wife and daughter for sure.

Friends, I took an additional day leave after coming here as the hangover of the dose of friendship, camaraderie, bonhomie, fellowship, association, love and bonding we shared was still fresh in my brains. The laughter which roared from every group if calculated in terms of energy released could have flown the “Tejas” to Pakistan, decimated it and come back. If we packed the good vibrations of that cheer in forms of bombs and attach them to Sukoi’s we could devastate our enemies with a force greater than the nuclear bombs which fell on Japan. The atmosphere was so strong in positive energy that words cannot fathom. I was falling short of words because I did not want the event to end. I know what the organisers would have gone through weaving such an experience for us. Notwithstanding the pressure on them and the nitty-gritty’s being meticulously looked into. The man who took the onus to organise it deserves a grand kudos. All that followed was the true espirit-de-corps of being part of the great course called 66. A grand salute to every course mate who attended and his family for enriching our lives. At least 10 years have been added for sure.

It was first time in my life that I was claimed by two squadrons equally in this get together. When I was told to leave Charlie squadron ages back, my heart weighed a ton but could not help it. India Squadron became my second home thanks to my course mates. I remember the way I was welcomed in India Squadron. It was evening tea time; the hustle and bustle was at its peak as the cadets were reporting back from term break. Appointments were already in, so were people like me who were on restrictions, plus there were some like “Kathpalia” who had come for GCI. Cabin allotted to me was on the ante-room side facing the parade ground. His cabin was the corner cabin in line as the bathroom. I was walking with my mug of tea into my cabin when I heard, hey you! I gave a dirty look and went inside. As I was about sip my tea in that red plastic mug there was a fanatic knock on the door. You bloody Bas***d, didn’t you hear me, wake me up at 4.30 tomorrow morning. I opened the door; I was in my gown and nothing else underneath. You Fu***r don’t you know me, as I opened the cabin door. I said no I don’t and go and hop for all I care. His rage and fury knew no bounds, come outside and start rolling you son of a glitch. I shut the door again and sat down to have my tea. By then due to the commotion CQ and CSM landed up and told him, yaar he is a fifth not a second termer and mind you he has been sent here after being duly marched up to COM for the charge of manhandling. Kathpalia made me his pal instantly and offered to wake me up whenever it was convenient to me. I lived in peace ever after.

Well, nostalgia creeps all over me as I have yet to come to terms that the get together is over. Thank you my dear organisers, you all were fantabulus. My wife and daughter are still in no mood to either cook or go to school. The new friends we made and the charming ladies I met cannot be cupped together in two palms like one does to water. ACA of the ladies kind must remember that I am a discipline case, so, not easy to control and handle but cheers to her effort. As she was listing out suggestions for improvements for the next bash at the airport, the only suggestion which came to my mind was that the horses should smell better, Johnny is witness to that. Narpat don’t mind as this is on the lighter side, because with the amount of food, snacks and liquid we ate and drank, we could only blame our smelly farts on the horses and muffled the musical farty notes in different octaves under the roar of the tornado’s.

My sincere thanks to each person behind the scenes, the bands, the working parties, the drivers, the cooks, waiters and maslachi’s, the house keepers’ et al. Though we the RSI kinds were separated by locations but were united in the spirit of 66. Jaws still hurt, eyes get moistened both by the thought of the laughter we shared and the ache of separating from the bonds we made. So my friends let me say Au revoir, Dasvidaniya, sayonara, till we meet again. We have to meet again. Cheers friends and “girl friends”, hipipip hurray 66.

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

TO EAT OR NOT TO EAT

On hearing the ban on butcheries in UP I was reminded of a friend of mine who used to strictly follow “Mar jana par daliya nahi khana”. I used to love this phrase which means I shall die but not eat porridge. Well, it is simple, such guys are pure non-vegetarians. I fall in the same category too. Now my vegetarian friends can cry hoarse about everything available in ghaas-phoos and paneer category, it is going to fall on deaf ears. They can scare me with the cholesterol, BP and affiliated diseases but they can forget it. I have tried eating everything on earth so I shall stick to what I love to eat.

I was brought up in a “Shikari” family and it used to be mutton, chicken, fish, rabbit, pork and shikar sometimes. If nothing else then it used to be Anda-Curry, as eggs were abundantly available due to the small little poultry we had at home. The best used to be any rooster doing “cock-a-doodle-do” at any odd time of the day especially disturbing dad during his afternoon siesta was in the pot in the evening. The freezer of the fridge was always stocked with fish. Big sized fish used to be pickled by mom. How can I ever forget that mouth watering taste?

By the way I was a vegetarian throughout NDA. In NDA someone briefed us wrong, that one gets to eat more on the vegetarian table. Someone said that ragging is less on the vegetarian side. Well, my senior Cheetah’s Prithpal, Munish, Sardana, Navneet, Katoch hey guys, thank you for teaching us table manners. Thank you for teaching us as to how to cut the butter piece into half. Thank you for teaching us how to eat a square meal. Thank you for teaching us how to eat soup with a fork, elbows off the table, hands on your lap, keep mum while you chew, swallow whatever you have in your mouth and then answer, how to drink water without that glug-glug-glug sound, how dishes were excused (means you could not eat them even if they were served), how to break bread and chapatti, how to split a toast, which hand, spoon and fork to use for which item. Thank you for giving us privileges for breaking a few slices of bread in the porridge. They also taught us how to chew 32 times (buggers used to count) and the list is endless. The only concession we used to get was exchanging our veg cutlets for eggs. Well, it was only in sixth term I ever had lunch in the mess on Sundays as they served fish. Most of NDA never turned up for lunch.

Mom used to be very particular when I used to get back from NDA on holidays. Bhindi and Aloo were the only things vegetarian I used to tolerate. One morning she gave me the left over non veg gravy of previous night’s dinner and a few fried eggs. I must have chepoed four solid lachhedaar parathas with it and asked for more. She said beta should I make more eggs, I said no give me the vegetable in the pot. She said you won’t eat, I said who says, and told her to make a few more parathas. NDA taught me the value of food. I could eat anything which moved or didn’t move. My mom said beta in the last 17 years this is the first time you have ever eaten karela. I didn’t have a heart to tell her that my appetite is so much that even if she adds poison to this karela I will eat it.

Unit was fun, one could eat whatever, but on non-veg days, I used to be twenty second down the line on the table. So the poor chicken either had only broken wings or mashed necks. Mutton used to be just bones. How hard our waiters Jagjit, Laalu & Gabbar used to try but could never manage a leg for us. In a couple of years I had many juniors so the fight used to be for roti’s then. I remained a vegetarian after getting married as far as fauji rations were concerned. In peace stations meat on hoof and chicken on paws supplied were never up to my liking.

In high altitude eating tinned tuna or dal-tarka made no difference as the smell of your farts and the shrillness in its noise never changed. I got on to catching trout in the Lukung River which falls into Pangang Tso. Lovely times we spent up stream, fresh trout, fresh yak, love and fresh air was the only way to survive. The pinjas made lovely thuppa, a meaty clear soup with noodles. In case they were in the mood then one could get freshly made sausages. Otherwise tinned milk, tinned veges, and tinned fruit soaked in that surgery sticky syrup used to be ultimate. The huge pooris called “phu-amcho” which actually meant and resembled “donkey’s ears” were a substitute for pooris in the morning. I considered them non-veg for obvious reasons. Come evening the fresh catch of the day was my meal.

While in the deserts, I have had 17 meals continuous, breakfast, lunch and dinner of partridges. Dry in the morning, gravy in the afternoon and as snacks with chota-chota in the evening. My .22 & fishing net were standard accessories on my numerous reconnaissance missions. All the lakes, canals and ponds were GPS fixes. Navigation to these places could be done blind folded. Early morning partridge shoots were ultimate. Jonga’s front wind shield down for better visibility, even in coldest of winters and thick fog. Spotters on the lookout, driver trained to halt the vehicle with the right angle to fire. By the time the sun used to be up, we used to have enough in our kitty and on the way back the shoot used to be for the officers of the Unit. Injured animals of the Gujjars and Bakarwals in Srinagar made us dependent on leopard’s daily kill. Most of my boys were from hill tribes, so cooking up a non-veg dish was like making anda bhujia at short notice. Good old days, guys you can’t think of it now.

Now I am in a coastal area, if yogiji will come here and see then he may ban the vegetables also, leave alone the illegal unlicensed butcheries. Here one will find a goat hanging in a straw hut, with a huge tree trunk on stilts with flies humming nosily drowning the sound of chop-chop. The only thing you can ask for here is “pure meat”. Well that doesn’t mean hygienically pure or the rest of the meat is impure but is without much bones and fat.

The only vegetarian thing I enjoy most is “Bhains ka doodh” with the finger thick malai. I am happy I am not is UP and yet to taste Tunde kebabas, so let me keep enjoying varieties of fish which are available here besides all forms of pure and impure meat. I have no dilemma whatsoever that I shall continue to stick to “Mar jana but dalia nahi khana” Any one joining me? I wonder!!!!!!!!!!!!!

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

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