Noel Ellis's Official Blog

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

Tag: ROADS

CANTTS ARE FREE FOR ALL

 

 

 

CANTTS ARE FREE FOR ALL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

KISMET FATE & DESTINY

[ninja_form id=1]So many innocent children of Kangra have gone to heaven in that one fraction of a second. Some motorcycle suddenly appeared around the bend and the driver swirled the bus to avoid him. The driver could have dozed off also. The road must be bad and the driver was avoiding pot holes. The driver could be over speeding. The brakes of the bus could have failed. The driver could have been talking on his mobile also. No end to conjecturing. Finally, we have to leave it to the lines on our foreheads.

I can just grieve and offer my condolences to the bereaved families. I cannot get that time back just to reverse the bus a minute or two before the mishap occurred. Happy families shattered for no fault of theirs. The complete village would have plunged into darkness.

I am sure the school would have never thought of such an incident could ever happen. The driver would be probably one of the best, as no school would take chances with young lives, when the terrain and weather is known. Was the bus running late for school? The problem is punctuality which is taught in school. You get late and the gates are closed. Whom do we blame then, the circumstances, our values, the safety norms, the driving skills, the road conditions, the government or our destiny?

Will five lakhs promised by the government to the victims be enough to bring back the smile and laughter that kid used to bring home? Can those pranks, love and affection be replicated by money? Is that child replaceable in that amount? I say why double the amount can’t be spent on road widening and road safety. Is there a dearth of money or is it the lack of will? The latter might be the case.

What will be the after effects of this mishap? A committee will be set up to investigate the accident. The school may have to shut down is the most likely option. The findings will be sealed in a file and bite dust. Some road repair and construction work would be visible; some visits of high dignitaries will be executed; some reports will be generated; a monitoring cell would be opened; all schools and school busses will be audited; a new office with furniture and a vehicle will come up for a while and then like all “sarkari mehakmas” they will surface only after the next accident. God forbid it should never happen.

When bodies come home the cries of the beloved ones are inconsolable. A kind of current goes up my spine and my “rongte” (goose bumps) come up every time I think of the tragedy. A kind of shivering sensation passes through me, thinking of the unthinkable. Those children who have left us are now on their next journey but all those who are injured and critically ill, I think the country can at least pray for them.

Compensation to the injured should be even more. Their life time treatment should be free and they should also get a life time stipend to look after themselves. I know the idea sounds ridiculous and governments will go bankrupt paying for numerous accident and trauma cases. Well, that should be the penalty for not looking into the public amenities. This should be the price the governments should pay for the neglect and apathy towards the facilities of a common man. I don’t say accidents won’t happen but to create circumstances that accidents are negligible is also the prime responsibility of every government which represents me and my children.

The day I have to die is already destined but why pre-pone my destiny due to neglect and callous attitude of someone responsible. As it is loss of life in India is no big shake. Trains can roll without an engine. You run over pedestrians and still roam scot free. You call a protest for no reason, a stampede or firing occurs, a few dead here and there is no issue. You can fall in a drain, you can be hit at a red light even when your side is green and die, is as common as anything. It happens only in India.

When are we going to get out of this syndrome of chalta hai? India has to realise that every life counts. The people who run India, if they focus on the people they represent and their peoples safety, then they would be worth the salt they eat. If they have to continue their dharnas and bandhs for the heck of it then we can keep blaming our kismet, fate and destiny. Whom should I thank to be alive, my luck, my God or “Mai-Baap”? I wonder!!!!!!!!!!

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

FAUJI DRIVERS

I just happened to see our RM take a Sukoi ride. I am sure after a hectic 24 hours on our Air Craft carrier Vikramaditya, to fly in an aircraft would have left her flabbergasted. My salutes to you Mam, it needs a lion’s jiggra (heart). What you went through in a sortie or a day at sea, these men in white and blue do it on a daily basis. You must have spent some time with the folks in Olive Green too and I am sure you would have cherished every moment. You can be rest assured that the country is in safe hands. You can bet your life on them. They won’t let India down is now stamped, signed, dated and sealed with your visit.

Be that as it may, moment I saw the SU-30 rolling out with the RM, the first thing which came to my mind is that the Air Force would have put her in the cockpit with the best pilot. In all probability it would have been the Commanding officer. My mind wandered as I was just thinking had she sat in an army vehicle then everyone would have gone looking for the best driver. Reason for detailing the best driver is that he avoids all dhachkas (bumps) while the memsaab is sitting in the gaari (vehicle). In other words the lady has to have the smoothest ride. Saab ke saath, parvah nahin.(If makes no difference when sir sits) Ask the pilot mam, what he must be thinking while you were on board. He would have ensured not a “G” extra. They are indeed the best of best.

This reminded me of my good old days when we were in a place called Lalgarh Jattan. It was so God forsaken that the nearest STD booth was in Ganganagar about 20 kms away. We had just been allotted a house and were busy setting it up. Wife complained of severe back ache one day, probably she might have got a catch, shifting the black steel trunks around. Simple fauji drill I did, took her to the MI (Medical Inspection) room, got medicines and off we went. However, the pain did not subside. The third day she just could not get up from the bed. I panicked and decided to take her to MH (Military Hospital) Ganganagar. Whole night she cried in pain and I could just do nothing about it except rubbing Iodex.

As luck would have it, due to mobilisation practice I was not able to accompany her. My company driver Rajjan Lal was detailed and Major Kandari volunteered to accompany her. I spoke to Rajjan and told him that make sure the drive is smooth. My wife was furious because I wasn’t going along. She said “your office is more important than me” etc. Rajjan gave me the most assured look, half pitying me and said memsaab aap fiqr mat karo (madam you don’t worry). I bade her good bye at about 9 am and at 11.30 Rajjan was back. I asked him what happened as I could see him totally white faced and with dried up lips. I knew something was not right and just hoped my wife was OK.

With a stammering voice Rajjan sheepishly said memsaab theek ho gaya (Madam is alright) and he has dropped her home. I exclaimed, what! How can this miracle happen? Sheepishly he said sir, I was driving very slowly till Khayali Wala (a village), suddenly the road became good and I sped. It slipped out of my mind that madam is sitting behind and I missed a speed breaker. The jonga jumped over it, she said Bhaiya main theek ho gayi, ghar chalo. (Brother I have become OK take me home)

I picked up my bike and rushed home and found she was happily in the kitchen. I asked what happened. She said the sprain (CHOOK) in my back was straightened out by the driver as they jumped over a speed breaker. She landed with a thud and heard a crackling sound and suddenly all pain subsided. I thanked my stars and thanked “Dr” Rajjan. Rajjan thereafter never missed a speed breaker till retirement.

Well, Madam, I don’t know how many of your aches and pains the Army, Navy and Air Force would have removed. However, you definitely need to look into what pains them the most and that is their IZZAT. For every Indian’s tomorrow they are giving their today. Do take a closer look at issues of all those serving and of all those who gave their yesterday too. You will then always be given the smoothest ride. Do you get my point madam? I wonder!!!!!!!!

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

IN CONVERSATION WITH CATHERINE

Catherine and I were driving down to Alibaug over the weekend when we struck up a conversation. I was listening to the stereo and my wife was appreciating the music system and the stereo effects. Catherine was not enjoying the drive at all; actually the same was the case with me. Reasons were many. One was the dilapidated condition of the road and the pot holes. Besides, the village dogs accosting us barking at their loudest and snarling with their dirty teeth. Hens along with their chicks thought the road was for them.  Worst of all was the chaotic traffic jams. Above all the weekend crowd who were pouring into our territory by the dozens. They were blocking traffic in garb of purchasing something or asking for directions in these narrow alleys. Quite a frustrating kind of a drive it was all in low gear.

I ignored her and kept my concentration on driving but there were pieces of the conversation which kept striking me again and again as she asked me the first question. Have you paid road tax? I said yes and that to a hefty amount. After a pause she asked me, why are there so many pot holes then? I had no answer. She told me, Noel, please take me out on a long and majestic drive, where the road surface is smooth, maybe on expressways where the thrill of driving can be enjoyed. It appears that here every time we venture out she is worried about checking out how long will the suspension hold and she told me that this way it won’t take long to give away. I just kept quiet and listened.

The next question she asked me that do you pay toll tax? I told her yes and where ever my ID card works I don’t. She said never mind, you have actually paid life time toll tax by serving the Indian Army, so I won’t ask you again, however, she continued to say that where does this toll money  collected  from the other vehicles disappear. I said I don’t know and continued focusing on the oncoming traffic and the huge potholes.

I was wondering to myself, that last year I saw lot of work going on this road. I used to have a smooth ride but where has the road vanished. This must be happening year after year and taxes which were being collected going down the drain. I again started to listen to the stereo and this time I changed the channel of my choice. I got lost in the music and lyrics as we were getting close to our destination.

Catherine was in a chirpy mood and threw another question at me. She said do you pay income tax? I replied in the affirmative. I am sure that some portion of that must also be allocated to the development of infrastructure in this country. I said surely it must be the case, I am not sure of the percentages. She appeared to be questioning the government head on. She continued to quiz me, see why there are so many accidents on the road? I said reckless driving! She said yes, just then two bikes whizzed past overtaking us from the wrong side and missed hitting us by a whisker. The basic reason is that the infrastructure is not being planned as per our expansion of population she said. I could not agree with her more. Her observation was that our population is exploding and so is purchase of vehicles but government is not making better and broader roads. I said yes. After a while she said, it is time for the government to wake up and I just kept mum.

A little ahead Catherine again poked me. I said now what and she said, you pay income tax, professional tax, GST and all the other taxes which the tax man can think of. I replied to her that it appears that you have got hold of a book on finance. She wanted to know where each and every pie went. I actually didn’t know. I looked at the setting sun from out of the window and thought to myself that yes she is right; over these years I couldn’t even hide one paisa of my income and all my taxes go down the drain, without much of accountability and returns.

At last Catherine blurted, I don’t want to be a dented and painted car for no fault of mine. I told her that I shall definitely convey her concerns to the people who matter. I then requested her to just keep quiet for a while as my wife watched the moon rise from the other side. I switched over to John Denver singing “Country Roads, take me home”, on the car stereo.

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén