Rum, Bum and Mouthorgan and other Indian Army stories

Discussion in 'Indian Army' started by Ray, Feb 20, 2012.

  1. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    Op Vijay and the Feathered Battle Casualty


    ‘Operation Vijay’ had just started.

    8 Mountain Division had been inducted in the Dras - Mushko sector. Part of the Division was still in the Valley.

    The war in Kargil was crystallising and the logistic support was in its infancy. Everything was more of a rough and ready solution to universal problems. The scene was like the World War II movies; lots of beehive like activity with teeth-on-the-edge confusion. Unlike the movies, the pretty women resistance fighters were missing. The other difference was that Op Vijay soldiers shaved, had their baths and they did not eat out of mess tins with broken forks. They also did not sport faces hewn from the Rocky Mountain.

    My General, the GOC 8 Mountain Division looked young [honest and no buttering!] and was as sophisticated as any Delhite could be. Providentially, he was not the nouveau riche variety that is found under every stone of Delhi, talking of their ‘M’rutis’ [Maruti – a popular small car] and ‘Assteams’ [Esteem – a bigger car] but the DPS {Delhi Public School} nose-in-the-air ones, talking of Frankfurt and Disneyland. Of course, the General did not have time to perk his nose in the air as also he was wise enough to know that was not good for his delicate nose as the air was cold, it being High Altitude and winter. He could have had got a red nose or chilblain [‘chillybilly’ as per the jawans]! He was determined to fight the war and not get a Wound Medal via a ‘wounded’ nose.

    It had been a harrowing day [not only for me but for the General]. I had arrived from our Base where I was in charge of ‘pushing’ the non-existent supplies and equipment up to the front. I arrived when it was lunchtime.

    The General was, at this critical moment, huddled in the pathetically pitched tent, masquerading as the Mess with his ‘jungi’ [warlike] lot, looking solemn and sombre, as any war would demand. Interestingly, their war weary looks belied the fact that till then none had the foggiest and all were probing in the dark! They looked as limp as any self respecting aspen leaf. In contrast, I was as buoyant as one could be, after half a day’s helicopter ‘ride’ trying to organise the administrative ‘tail’.

    I was brought up on the bottle. A General or no General in attendance, high altitude or no high altitude, I required my high octane quota of two to three small gins. I was an old Kargil hand [something like the old India hand of the British Raj days]. I had served earlier under combat conditions in the same area where the General and his ‘jungi’ lot were making their abode and planning the war. So, I was more seasoned to the ‘ill effects’ that high altitude and Kargil can offer. The only ill effect I can remember from those days was that High Altitude bestows something that Kushwant Singh [a popular writer having no qualms about writing on intimate encounters] badly needs – a toned down libido. However, Kushwant’s claim of nursing a hyperactive libido maybe residual effects of High Altitude hallucinations, but then I could be wrong! Therefore, two gins were no big deal and Kushwant ‘Pecker’ Singh would salute to it with no ill effect to his fantasising.

    Lunch was served and the Jungi lot attacked their plates [they had no options]. The fare may have appeared on my plate too, but then my palate at the sight of the gruel could not be placated.

    I stood away from the table and ordered and knocked another gin down to develop the courage that was necessary to even politely nibble at the Mess [any Officers’ Mess] food. The unfortunate part was that I, as the Chairman of the Mess Committee, was technically responsible for the tripe passing off as food.

    The chicken came. The General bowed his head and murmured something like the Grace said at school before a meal. I stood aloof. I was savouring the unique singularity of the Indian synthetic gin – absolutely free from such noxious and obnoxious substances like the juniper berry from which gin is supposed to be distilled.

    The General dug his fork and the chicken somersaulted like an East European champion gymnast in the Olympics. A beauty 10 so to speak! It was as if all the guns from Tiger Hill and Tololing had exploded. At least that is what occurred in my heart. Quailing in my combat dress, I adopted the best defence in these types of crisis – the sheepish, asinine, dopey smile. It worked! The General melted but not as much as butter on a hot frying pan. But just about.

    Dutch courage vitalised me to enquire like a steward of a second rate restaurant, ‘A tough cock, sir?’

    The General did not answer. He bowed his head like a pious shaven devout at Tirupati [an important temple all Indian VIPs visit regularly] and went through the murmuring ritual through clenched teeth as if he was the modern Osho [a Godman specialising in liberating the soul do what it wants including free sex]. I never knew the General to be sexy though.

    ‘No, not really, Roy. It is as soft as a rhino’s hide’ said the General, all 32 showing with immense control as if I were a dentist inspecting his molar.

    Curiosity got the cat. I could not but venture to query his sudden religious affliction, since he was no religious man; and, anyway I am wary of these religious blokes. I stood my ground and ventured with the maximum of déjà vu that I could muster.

    ‘Sir, why did you say the Grace before your meal? Has the uncertainty of the War made you a trifle more dependent on God than before or have you turned a devout Christian?’

    ‘No, not all old cove’, replied the General. ‘It is just that I have been taught as a child to respect those elder than me. That’s why’, he hissed like a lost adder in the deserts of Arizona or wherever these lost adders hiss.

    Since I was older than he was, I was flattered. ‘Thank you, sir, but there was no requirement; after all I am your junior in rank’. I beamed. Good old orthodox Indian upbringing. You could not fault the General for manners, both Indian and English. The bloke was sterling silver and better quality than the gold in Fort Knox. I was impressed that modernity or Delhi had not ruined the good old Indian ethos of the General, even though he was a Baywatch [he called it Body Watch] fan!

    That got the General’s goat.

    ‘Who the Dickens [remember, he was from DPS and so he spoke with all these British ‘uupah’ class style of talk] was giving respect to you. I was only respecting the chicken. It is older than Mohanjodaro and Harrappa [ancient excavated undivided Indian towns] rolled in one, damn you!’

    The silence was ominous.

    I beat a hasty retreat, murmuring something about the heavy turbulence for the helicopter at this hour and safety requirements demanding that I left. The speed, with which I left, I am told, proved beyond doubt the veracity of what is known as the Venturi Effect. The silence and the vacuum were loud! There was no option. The General’s mood was as hot as that of a Bofors Gun on heat!

    The next day, the Mess got younger chicken and a new pressure cooker!
     
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  3. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    Arms and the mule

    D K Havanoor
    | Feb 20, 2012, 12.00AM IST

    Having been an infantry officer myself, i am aware of the infantry's ethos and philosophy, particularly the regiment i belonged to, the Sikh Light Infantry. Most interactions with the other arms and services within the army, whenever they do occur, become great learning experiences for all involved.

    Back in the 1980s, while serving in the mountains of J&K as the Rifle Company Commander in my battalion, we had picketed on a hilltop. There wasn't any water source up there. So we were provided with mules to ferry water up from the 'water point' located below the mountain. I remember one particular incident when i was standing outside my bunker with another officer. I saw a jawan running a flame all around the body of a mule. I was confused, to say the least. Noticing this, the officer explained that the mule had just been given a haircut and the flame was being used to burn the remaining hair. I just hoped the local barber didn't try the same trick on us!

    In spite of the fiery aftershave the mules receive, they are loyal animals. In the army, there are several stories of valour, loyalty and courage specifically involving mules. One story goes that a mule was captured by Pakistani troops during one of the wars. The enemy troops probably made the captured mule work for them, but not for too long. The patriotic mule escaped from enemy hands and returned to its parent unit - bringing along a load of rations for its own welcome back party!

    There were detailed analyses by many armymen to understand the reasons for the mule's daring escape. Humans would escape and return to their country not only for patriotism but also to be back with their loved ones. But these army mules don't have family, so why did they return? It had to be loyalty.

    A jawan once gave me the lowdown on mules in the army. There are three types of mules - there is one for general load carrying, General Service. The second is the sturdier type, used to carry dismantled artillery guns called the Mountain Arty. And the third variety is used for riding. Jawans who handle mules are called 'mule drivers' and each of them usually handles a pair. A point to note is that referring to them as "khachchar wale" is considered very offensive.

    Whereas most mules are disciplined, some, called 'badmash mules', are not. These badmash mules toss any jawan who tries to get on their backs. But again, if an officer tries to ride them, they behave themselves! The indiscipline of the badmash mules seeps down to their movements too. Yet when the commanding officer (CO) of the Animal Transport Battalion comes around for inspection, they conduct themselves like the most disciplined soldier!

    All mules recognise their CO; they probably sense authority, or recognise the officers' pips on the shoulders. Whatever the reason, the badmash mules behave themselves when the CO is around because they seem to know he has complete hold over all, man and mule. He rewards well-behaved mules and punishes the bad ones. If the CO has judicial powers of a magistrate for the men, he can also summarily dispose of 'disciplinary cases' involving mules.

    A badmash mule is actually marched up to the CO in his court, for an act of indiscipline. After the latter hears the charge, he reads out the verdict of punishment, which invariably is pack parade for a few days. A pack parade is when a mule is strapped with heavy loads of bricks and sand (heavier than the normal load) and taken around for a long run. What is worse is that when the badmash mules are punished, other mules - who are tagged 'disciplined' - kick them! Clearly, be it man or beast, the army disciplines all.

    Arms and the mule - The Times of India
     
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  4. Bhadra

    Bhadra Defence Professionals Defence Professionals Senior Member

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    Good one Brig. Every mess need younger ones in all genders, shapes and sizes..
     
  5. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    Samne Dekh (Eyes Front)




    I had just joined the Army and had been posted to my battalion. After a few months, the unit went out for its Annual Training Camp. It was my first touch of the “real army”. I was excited as any greenhorn would be. We were exercising and training in an area called Shankargarh, near Allahabad. We were all under canvas and there appeared to have been some flap regarding the field commodes and so the junior officers had to use the Deep Trench Latrines (DTL) with no sidewalls or flaps for cover! Not a pleasant experience, but then who cared? We were in the initial stages of setting up the Camp and so there was whole lot of hustle and bustle with no regular schedule. Life was fine and we were getting used to the regimen and it was but a few days more to go before the real ‘show’ started. Hence, one did not have to wake up before dawn to get cracking. So, instead of awaking before the sun and then going through the morning ablution, it could be done at a leisurely pace without any pressure of a formalised schedule.

    One day, I was a bit late for the “morning routine”.I sauntered to the DTL, and without a worry in the world, sat down to perform. The breeze wafted gently and the birds chirped on the trees just above. It was heavenly.

    The only thing that worried me was that no bird dropping should fall on me. The birds had to show some decorum after all, since an officer was performing and it was not correct to perform together, no matter how high they were above me! I could see in the distance that soldiers were going about their duty for the various chores assigned to set up the camp. They were in the far distance! It was nice, as a greenhorn, to observe the ways of the Army – all efficiency personified!

    Then suddenly footsteps seem to approach in the distance. Even before one could say “Jack Robinson” or “Ram Bharose”, a column of soldiers, with pick axes and shovels, emerged from the left from behind the bushes. They were marching across, ahead of where I was “performing”. I was stark naked to the world and as all could observe, the world was at peace! Lest one forgets, there were no flaps or sidewalls to the DTL to cover my “modesty”. I was nonplussed. I did not know what to do. I could not get up, nor could I cover my nakedness. And yet, as per the teaching, officers had to be ‘on parade’ at all times, especially if troops were anywhere in the vicinity.

    It was a serious quandary! I sat mesmerised. I braced up all the dignity that an officer can muster in total nakedness. I hoped like hell that the column would pass without observing me. But no, the column commander suddenly observed me. Without batting an eyelid, he puffed up his chest in the best of NCO training, smartly yelled, “Party, Dahine Dekh (eyes right!)” and executed the smartest of salutes! The whole column executed “eye right” with total parade ground precision. I sat frozen!

    I squirmed but maintained the required officer like stoic. I wished the earth would open up and swallow me whole. But nothing of the sort happened. True to military training and reflexes, I found that I had stood up!

    All I could do was yell, “Samne Dekh (eyes front)” as per the laid down drill. My military training had got the better of me and maybe that saved the day. I could not salute. I was bareheaded! The moment passed. The military preciseness may have been upheld, but not the Langar gup. It was said that they had caught an officer pants down!
     
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2012
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  6. Bhadra

    Bhadra Defence Professionals Defence Professionals Senior Member

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    Brig I am sure, you would also write on " Dane Dekh" being fर्om a Sikh unit !


    दाणे देख ।
     
  7. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    I am not from a Sik Regt.

    The Arms and the Mule has been written by another person.
     
  8. Iamanidiot

    Iamanidiot Elite Member Elite Member

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    Kargil !

    The Sikh regiment was climbing a hill in the Kargil sector during the war when suddenly from the direction of the summit the Pakistani regiment opened fire on them. The Sikh regiment took cover behind boulders and started to return the firing. The firing continued for a long time and no progress was made so the Sikh regiment's captain thought that since the names of almost all the pakistani soldiers are like yusuf iqbal mustafa etc. he'll call out their names and the moment they react to the call we'll shoot them.

    So he started calling out-"Yusuf" four hands shot up and they were gunned down. Then the captain called out-"iqbal" three hands shot up and they were gunned down this continued for a few more minutes till the Pakistani's got wise and stopped responding.

    The Pakistani captain then thought that at this rate all his men would be killed so he adopted the strategy of the Sikh captain and thought that all Sikhs have names rhyming with Inder like Sukhwinder, Devender, Jaswinder etc.

    So the Pakistani captain started calling out "Sukhwinder" no hands shot up from the Indian side. The Pakistani captain again called out-"Sukhwinder" still no hands shot up.

    The Pakistani captain called out the same name twice again when instantly came the reply that-

    "Oye Sukhwinder nu kaun yaad kar-riya si?" (who is remembering Sukhwinder?).

    The Pakistani commander immediately shot up his hand and said- "Main" (me) and BANG he was shot dead.
     
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  9. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    THE MOVING MEDICAL MIRACLES

    I had gone to Bhopal on a short stint of leave.

    The Corps HQ was located in Bhopal. The Corps Commander knew me and so he called me over to his office for a cup of tea and chat.

    At the appointed hour, I was ushered into the hallowed chambers of the Corps Commander. I was quite apprehensive, not because he was a very senior officer, but because he had a very odd and cutting sense of humour. Therefore, while I may have been delighted to have the Corps Commander calling me for just a chat, as his Colonel Military Secretary put it, I was a trifle apprehensive that this chat would be an exercise in dripping sarcasm of some omission or commission that I may have inadvertently done or not done in my official or unofficial capacity.

    The Corps Commander was most cordial. Coffee was served and he actually was doing small talk about life in general including a gentle reminder of the dinner my wife and I were to attend at his place at 8 PM Indian Standard Time and not Indian Stretchable Time. He continued to chat with the serenity and deadpan of a Chinese Buddha. The emotions of the Indian Buddha, in comparison, could at least be discerned. Therefore, it was difficult to gauge the Corps Commander's thought or his physical state.

    As I was trying to gauge the Corps Commander, he gave a deep sigh. It was as if he was immensely tired and that the onerous task of heading the large Corps was wearing him down. It was surprising since nothing could ever wear him down. He was reputed to be the coolest cat amongst senior officers because he sincerely believed in one theory i.e. if you don't have wings, then why flap ?

    Thus, the deep sigh, was extraordinary; and that too coming from such a person who could go off to sleep during moments of serious business and when asked if he was sleeping, he could calmly state that he was merely meditating, the soft snore being only a metaphysical clash of temple bells with the wail of a conch shell in the truest tradition of the Indian Puja rituals.

    Therefore, I was forced to venture, "Not feeling well, sir?"

    "How did you guess it?"

    "I didn't guess it, sir. You don't look under the weather and so I am surprised that you proffered such a deep sigh".

    "Thank God it was only a sigh. Air can pass through many orifices. By the way Roy, do you know why most of the Major Generals who have just relinquished command like your Divisional Commander [GOC] will become Lieutenant Generals next year?"

    This was a real extraordinary bit of news. Even though I was rather fond of my erstwhile GOC, Major General SP, but such a quick promotion was hierarchically extraordinary. And anyway, the rapid promotion of my GOC had not the remotest connection with any illness of the Corps Commander even if the Corps Commander was not at his pinkest best in health.

    My brows had wrinkled querulously.

    The Corps Commander continued, "I reckon the quick promotion is the order of the day. After all, all Corps Commanders are moving medical miracles and should actually be medically boarded out and be shown the door".

    I was aghast.

    If all Corps Commanders were medically unfit and sick, then why have they been promoted? Also, how come all the present Corps Commanders were a sick bunch? It was indeed a most unusual coincidence!

    "If I may ask, sir, how come that all the Corps Commanders are a sick lot?"

    "Roy, it is like this. Not only are the present Corps Commanders a sick lot, all Corps Commanders, Army Commanders and Chiefs throughout history, like all in high offices in all facets of professional life are or were a sick lot".

    Now, the musing of the Corps Commander was indeed getting amusingly crazier. Ramblings of a genius on the thin red line of sanity?

    "Extraordinary. Would you care to amplify, sir?" Remember, one cannot ask senior officers to explain. They only 'amplified' after the junior made a "submission".

    "It is like this, Roy. All Corps Commanders, like all senior officers in government service, have no spine. Further, they have no guts. Their hearts are similar to that of the chicken and thus chicken hearted, but what is just not acceptable is that they suffer from meningitis".

    Meningitis? Collective meningitis?

    "Meningitis, sir?"

    "Yes, Roy, they all have swollen heads!"

    That really floored me.

    You can't beat the General in macabre wit!
     
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  10. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    THE QUARTERMASTER AND THE BONDAS (Indian Savoury)

    This story was told to me when I joined the unit that I commanded.

    The unit was located in Naushera in J&K and was deployed on the hill sector along the Line of Control.

    The Corps Commander was visiting the unit. This was not a normal event since Corps Commanders are very senior officers and three levels above the unit level.

    Army, being over-reactive about their hierarchical pecking order, such events traumatised the protocol infrastructure and each level of command took hyperactive personal interest in ensuring that the visit went off flawless. None wanted their heads to roll. Each level of the hierarchy ensured so by checking, re-checking and re-rechecking ad infinitum right down to the ground level that all contingencies had been catered for and nothing was overlooked. In short, such visits were a torment to those being visited. Interestingly, Parkinson’s Law always, without fail, did not fail to apply itself during such visits!

    On the momentous day, every aspect of the visit of the Corps Commander to the unit was picture perfect. However, Parkinson's Law, right as rain, applied itself. The Corps Commander, who was to arrive at the unit Tactical HQ by helicopter, could not do so as the weather was foul. Hence, he landed at the Divisional HQ and was driving down to the unit. The drive would take about two hours and so there was ample time to react.

    Everything had been catered for. However, what supposing the Corps Commander wanted to 'wash his hands', after the two hour journey, at the unit Base before commencing the ride up the hill to the Tactical HQ?

    The Commanding Officer {CO} was a man of details and this aspect was bothering him intensely. He was a person who liked preciseness. He wasn't at all comfortable or happy about the departure from the set-piece programme of the Corps Commander with this driving down instead of landing by helicopter at the unit Tactical HQ.

    The Quartermaster {QM} was at the Base. He was a pleasant, happy go lucky, rotund young officer with a bagful of initiative and a 'never say die' attitude. The CO rang him up and told him to ensure that the Officers' Mess, at the Base, was shipshape, the toilet spankingly clean and to keep a safaiwala [janitor] ready at a moment's notice in the vicinity. And of course, some light refreshments were to be at hand that could be served so that the Corps Commander knew that the unit was 'on the ball'. Having ordered so, the CO went back to the practising of his Briefing for the 189th time!

    Parkinson's Law didn't apply this time. The Corps Commander stopped at the Base to 'wash his hands'. There was the usual hustle and bustle of his personal staff, the Divisional and Brigade HQs staff who were accompanying and the Mess staff including the QM. They followed the Corps Commander towards the Mess as if being pulled by the vacuum created in his wake! It is only in the Army that a VIP relieving himself by answering nature's call is given the reverence normally associated with an event of national importance!

    The Corps Commander entered the Mess. He looked at the QM and gave a shake of the leg as if shaking a boisterous housefly off the trouser. Bending at 80 degrees to the perpendicular, the Corps Commander wiggled his little finger of the left hand as if seized by an involuntary twitch and said "Which a-way to the Loo, old boy?"

    The QM had never ever had the good fortune of a Corps Commander speaking to him. He was awe struck! He thought that he too had to answer in a fancy way and so he said,"That a-way sir" and before he could copy the Corps Commander's leg shake which he thought would be appropriate, the Corps Commander, fortunately for all, was on his way.

    The Divisional Commander [next in the hierarchy] was taken aback by what he thought was the cheek of this junior officer to copy the Corps Commander's syntax. He would have been hopping wild had he realised that the QM had attempted the Corps Commander's leg shake. To him it appeared as if the QM had slipped on the water that had by then settled on the linoleum from the clothes of the various personalities [who were wet from the light drizzle] crowding the alley leading to the 'Men's'.

    The Corps Commander had moved into the 'Men's'. The Divisional Commander decided to have another 'dekko' at the arrangements. He stood aghast as his eyes laid on the savouries to be offered to the Corps Commander

    "Bondas?" he asked querulously and fixed a horribly immobile stare on the QM, who was beaming with delight that the Divisional Commander had observed the savoury that he had had prepared for them.

    "Bondas?" echoed the Brigade Commander peevishly on cue as did any other officer worth his salt. All were aghast and all spoke in unison, so much so, the statement resounded like the Onida Bass Surround TV. It was a different matter that they did not understand why the Divisional Commander was horrified and grouchy at the sight of Bondas.

    "Are you aware that the Corps Commander is an Armoured Corps chap? and you have the temerity to offer Indian savouries and that too the type that would be found in a cheap halwai's [sweetmeat vendor] shop?", bellowed the Divisional Commander, a decibel lower than what would reach the 'Men's' where the Corps Commander apparently had nestled.

    "Yes sir. I know that the Corps Commander is an Armoured Corps officer and they are reputed to prefer crumpets and strawberry in cream with their tea. However, sir, I don't know how to make them and also, sir, what could be better than hot hot bondas on a rainy day like today?" the QM said with a radiant smile that annoyed the Divisional Commander no end and even more, the Brigade Commander.

    "Bakwaas [Tommy rot]. You village bumpkin. You are the biggest idiot I have seen. A rum ball with a hot rum punch would have fitted the occasion and the weather; not these stupid, smelly, oily [he was spluttering in anger and had apparently run out of adjectives] bondas. Have you seen the size of the bondas? They are as fat and big as you are. How can he put them ever so gently in the mouth? You have no sophistication. You are a real rustic!" the Divisional Commander thundered. He, it appeared, was by now immensely inflamed and frothing at the mouth.

    The QM cringed. However, Divine intervention saved him from a further berating. The Corps Commander had emerged from the 'Loo' and was looking definitely much relieved. He seemed to be in the best of moods and was genially smiling as he emerged.

    His eyes fell on the Bondas. The Divisional Commander and his 'faithful echoes' froze!

    The Corps Commander took two steps towards the Bondas and stopped abruptly, practically screeching to a halt! A cold shiver went down the spine of the Divisional Commander.

    "Ah, sir" and whatever the Divisional Commander wanted to say was drowned in the shriek that emanated from the Corps Commander. All froze with fear, waiting anxiously for the Corps Commander's inevitable indignation that was expected at this spread.

    The Corps Commander pounced towards the table in what appeared a leap, swiped the largest Bonda, bit a massive chunk and literally gloated, more like a cat which had filched a platter of milk.

    "What a capital idea! Hot hot Bondas on a rainy day. Well done and well thought of, old boy", the Corps Commander was definitely rapturous as his gaze twinkled towards the QM.

    The Divisional Commander and his gang emulated the Corps Commander's leap, swiped the Bondas, and echoed, "A wonderful idea indeed, sir". They too beamed but definitely not towards the QM.

    The broadest smile was on the QM's face.

    He had had the last laugh and damn the strawberries, cream, and crumpets!
     
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  11. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    MY FIRST DAY IN THE NATIONAL DEFENCE ACADEMY

    THE ENTRY INTO DALDA SQUADRON


    This story is about the first day of my military career when I joined the National Defence Academy [NDA] – the nursery of the Indian Army. World War II veterans mistook NDA to be Stalag 17 [Prisoners of War Camp 17] and Solzenytsyn took inspiration from it when he wrote on the evils of the Soviet empire.

    All momentous and landmark events of my life started on 5th of January. Interestingly, each one contributed in a change in my life, but each one was a dirge. Extraordinarily, each one bestowed me with all the honours that any soldier would feel proud of. Mysteries of God, I reckon.

    My army life has been tumultuous. It couldn’t be anything else. The day I was selected at the 19th Service Selection Board at Allahabad in October 1962, China attacked India! So, not unusually, my whole life has been one of interesting battles of [or is it, ‘for’] life.

    I joined the NDA on 5th January 1963. I wanted to join earlier. Nonetheless, John Mukherjee of my school, in whose care my father boarded me on the train and who was a final termer and a Divisional Cadet Captain, strongly discouraged this. Instead, he told me to join my relatives in Bombay and join NDA only on the assigned date. I was most unhappy, but this turned out to be a most valuable advice. When I joined the NDA on the assigned date, I realised the meaning what was meant by ‘dead meat’! Apparently, 1st termers personified the same. By the end of the day, they also were equally malodorous – but that did not discourage the ‘butchers’ that other cadets apparently turned out be.

    On the assigned date of joining, the ‘Deccan Queen’ regally steamed us into Poona, right into the arms of an officer and some over zealous jawans forming the Reception Committee. The rickety military Studebaker truck rattled us past the majestic Deccan plateau and into Khadakvasla.

    The first glimpse of the NDA, was awesome. Vast miles and miles of lush forestry and verdant greenery swamped us into a sublime ecstasy. Majestic buildings unobtrusively dotted the green expanse. The signature dome of pink sandstone, of what we later learnt, was the Sudan Block rose upwards in salute as if in gratitude to the money that had been donated by Sudan for the services during World War II by the Indian Army. The bountiful silence of the forestry calmed us into a pleasant security of a world at peace and order.

    We disembarked; more appropriate would be disembowelled, at the Cadets Mess – an imposing one storey building. We were convinced that there could be no better profession than being a soldier. Our chests puffed up. I am sure we had the cocky glint of the German General, Rommel. Then, amidst the confusion that can only be whipped up by new eager beaver cadets, we, with a flourish, produced our papers to the officer in charge. It was heartbreaking that the officer was not as enthused as us. He was the only discordant item in the joyous, excitement charged environs.

    I was assigned to ‘Dalda’ Squadron. That was my first shock. Imagine, Dalda – hydrogenated oil! I confess that my mother had worked for Dalda with Mrs Ninen as her boss. I distinctly remember Mrs Ninen was not too enthusiastic that Dalda was a good thing for health. So, Dalda did not please me at all. But Tennyson run in my ears – it’s not to reason why…and all that blah blah and more blah blah.

    I had a huge army trunk and a bedroll as luggage. A civilian bearer picked this up and cockily led me to my ‘officers’ quarters [as I had imagined], walking down the slope to ‘A’ Battalion.

    Lo and behold, hardly had I entered ‘A’ Battalion when a chap in khaki half pants with spindly legs halted me. Like a jagirdar talking to his serfs, he ceremoniously told me to carry my trunk – all of its six feet length - on my head! Bloody cheek I thought, especially since he looked more of a village bumpkin. His accent was so unintelligibly dreadful that it took time to understand him. I was from La Martiniere, a reputed public school in India and France and the only school with Battle Honours and here I was to hear some foreign gibberish akin to English! Peter Sellers would have been closer to English than this bloke!

    I was thoroughly baffled, perplexed and odd at ease.

    To the diktat of my carrying the trunk on my noggin, I flatly refused. However, with the start of a menacing growl emanating from this rustic, like a pit terrier, I realised that this was not the time to show valour. I tried to carry the trunk, but being the 90 lb weakling, I crumpled like an aspen leaf under the weight.

    The rustic who told me to pick up the trunk compressed with laughter and I was allowed to wend my way beyond. I felt like a worm.

    A few moments later I reached the portals of ‘Dalda’ Squadron. By then I was quite deflated. I was ashamed of myself that I had wilted.

    At the portals of this magnificent squadron I met Cadet Sergeant Major {CSM} Chauhan. If I can digress, I call the squadron magnificent because it hardened me to take all the nonsense that was doled out during my service in the name of discipline and things ‘not done’. Thus, it was magnificent – a magnificent delusion.

    CSM Chauhan was all sugar and honey and he spoke in Bengali! It was music to the ears [You must remember that one silly bloke at A Squadron had shaken me totally and so anything familiar was great; fie on me to be parochial!]. Under normal circumstances, we from La Martininere don’t converse in the vernacular, but then these were not normal circumstances. These were abnormal hours, to say the least. Notwithstanding the Bengali welcome, I poured my heart out in clipped English. The CSM was impressed but excused himself as he was going for lunch.

    There I was in front of this magnificent stone edifice called the Dalda Squadron. I entered the Squadron to be met by the most hairy thing that I ever saw in my whole life – Corporal Avtar Singh! He was indeed huge and hairy. In fact, it took time to realise that through all that hair, there were eyes peering at you.

    “What are you?” said this matchless thing, which I had mistaken for some exotic South Pacific tropical tree. In a clear voice I replied “SK Raychaudhuri”. Three times did he ask, as Anthony had asked of Caesar, and three times I replied the same!

    This ‘tree’ turned pinker than his natural pink. At least he was turning pink in the areas that could be discerned. “Are you a Bhangi?” asked Corporal Avatar Singh. Now, while I knew passable Hindi that I used at home to talk to the retainers, I was not endowed with such technical Hindi. Naturally, I was confused. However, enlightenment dawned on me.

    I was getting used to the fact that these blokes in the NDA had a problem with their English accent. Therefore, I surmised that most probably he was trying to say ‘Bengi’ as the Anglo Indians in my school called us Bengalis.

    With a radiant smile I proudly said, “Yes”.

    Avatar Singh recoiled as if he had seen the ghost of Caesar. He was incredulous! Keeping a safe distance, thrice [it was his habit of repeating himself thrice in the best of North Indian English] he asked the same question and thrice and I answered the same – thrice.

    “Are you sure you know the meaning of Bhangi?” asked Avtar totally disbelieving.

    “Why not? I presume you mean a ‘Bengali’,” said I.

    Avatar Singh buckled with the mirth of a steam engine chugging away from a station and the wheels sipping on the rails. His belly fat quivered like Pompeii about to spew.

    As his amusement faded like a wailing banshee, he bellowed, “Silly man Charlie bai [boy]. It’s not a Bengali, Bhangi means a scavenger. A sweeper. Are you a sweeper?”

    George Washington could never lie. I too could not and so eating humble pie, I announced that I was not a scavenger. Huge that he was, he showed uncanny gentleness when he said, “You no longer civilian. You now Cadet. Be prod [proud]. You now “Cadet Raychodri” and add ‘Sir’ to all seniors.”

    While I had no objection to being a Cadet, I somehow could not reconcile to the pronunciation of my name since it had an obnoxious sexual connotation. I, however, kept my counsel. It dawned on me that I was no longer a human being and instead I was a Cadet!!!!!!

    I had barely walked two steps when another unique specimen of humanity accosted me. It was a 3rd termer. He went thorough the preliminaries regarding my antecedents like the FBI would of an Al Qaeda prisoner in Guantanamo Bay. I was careful to add the words ‘Cadet’ and suffixed with a ‘sir’. I thought he was satisfied and would allow me to proceed, but much to my chagrin he asked me to start front rolling!

    Catch me knowing what it was. So, I asked him what it was. In the best of military curtness, he collared a 2nd termer for a demonstration. Demonstration done, I exclaimed, “Ah, I see what you mean, sir. A Somersault!” This specimen, from the northern areas of our country and from the Bal Mukund belt {a vernacular school from Kiomandi (clarified butter wholesale market), Amritsar, Punjab}, was furious. He had not understood what a somersault was. His face gave that away. For all I know, he thought it was some special salt that one took during summer and I was being blasted cheeky it being winter now.

    “O getting clavar [clever]? Al-rat [All right], you do five somersaults and eight wintersaults”. Axiomatically that had to be done. In the process, I found that I got terribly giddy because instead of rolling over forward or backward as the case should have been, I wobbled upside down, holding the pose involuntarily in a semi sirshashan [yogic headstand], to crumple as a deflating balloon, with the gas emitting furiously from the orifice, moving to either side in slow motion and returning to the terra firma with an all resounding thud. The sensitive part of my anatomy, in the bargain, felt sorely insulted.

    More blokes arrived. I was something like a new addition to a Zoo. I was about to say “Take me to your leader” as they say in the comic books when Martians land. But then, they didn’t give me chance.

    “Hop and Rotate.” What, in the name of Dickens, was that? My blank look encouraged a senior to collar another of the demonstration species – the 2nd termer. The demonstration was executed. It was asinine. No options could be asked for surely it would not be given. I hopped and rotated like some mentally deprived frog with a sexual fantasia since I am sure such a pose would be in the Kamasutra, but for frogs only.

    I thought I could now go, having qualified, not for the Gemini Circus, but for the very best – Ringaling Brothers of the USA! No way. The next lot came.

    This was like the Korean War repeat of Chinese human wave attack tactics – one wave after the other…... They had watched me hopping and rotating and the way I was at it, I thought I could have won the figure skating in the Olympics for frogs and other deprived species! However, this new lot had other preferences. They wanted music accompaniment. I, therefore, found myself hopping and rotating, singing my name in 27 different tunes. Why 27? Ask these mental morons.

    New ‘murgas’ [chicken: male and of the 1st term variety] arrived. They lost interest in me. God, where were you all this time?

    The bearer [remember him? He had carried my luggage] read a list and ushered me to a ground floor room [later I learnt that they were known as ‘kebin’, which in English stands for ‘cabin’]. I still remember the number. It was 18 and two 3rd termers, ‘Goofy’ Vohra and ‘Pain in the Backside [a polite term being used]’ Agarwal flanked my cabin on either side. If they were pains, I had still not met the Mother of Pains i.e. Sarin [2nd termer] who was on the far end of the corridor but was always available like a cadaver eating vulture looking out for 1st termers to satiate his power hunger. There was also this chap Upadhyaya, who later when he became a Corporal, had a spot at the corner of the Mess dedicated as Checkpoint ‘Charlie’, named after his pet name given by his juniors, to catch juniors and punish them. The Geological Survey of India has by mistake annotated this point on the map since they thought Upadhyaya was another immovable object and hence a landmark suitable for compass fixes!

    Hardly had I entered my cabin and put down my things when Avtar Singh surfaced. I was hauled off to his ‘kebin’. I was finding the North Indian English accent odd and they were finding my accent odder and hence I was becoming an object d’ art. In Avtar Singh’s cabin I found Cadets AS Jamwal and Rathore [both my coursemates] were already there. They were convoluted in the ‘murga’ position [squatting on one’s haunches and putting one’s hands under the knees and holding the ears!]. I was awfully amused. The NDA was indeed an exciting place where they could convert normal human beings into gymnasts of the highest order and yet Indians never won in the Olympics!

    I was asked if I could sing. I could. Avtar Singh beamed. He barked that I should sing ‘Do hanso ka jora, bichar gaye re’. Funny guy, this Avtar Singh. I told him that I could only sing Elvis and Pat Boone.

    “Bone? No picking of Bone. You sing. You bladi mane”. I could never fathom even till the time Avtar passed out of the NDA as to why he ended all his sentences with ‘Bladi Mane’ [Bloody Man]. Even ‘good morning’ had this appendage.

    Seeing my consternation, he relented. I could sing in English. He was dissatisfied with my effort because he found my rendition of Jailhouse Rock as very noisy. Imagine a Sardar finding Jailhouse rock noisy! I wonder if he had heard the Punjabi song ‘Main choot bolia koina, something kufartoliya koina, balle balle ….broooooo. Surely that is not melody, it was pure, unmitigated roar of an avalanche in the Himalayas ! In fact, it was sheer cacophony! The temerity to call Jailhouse Rock noise!

    By this time, Rathore and Jamwal were allowed to resume the vertical position and were in boisterous unison singing Avtar’s favourite – Do hanso…., even though both these boys were more like wet murgis by then; forget about being hans [swan]!

    After inane questions on our sex life and other mundane nonsense, we were allowed to go. We peeked out and seeing the coast clear tried to scamper to our ‘kebins’. But whom do you find waiting? It was none other than Mahender Singh Ruhil. We didn’t know his name then but later he was as indelible in the memory as Hitler is to the Jews!

    We walked into Ruhil’s metaphoric embrace……………… but then it’s another story.
     
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  12. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    MY FIRST DAY IN THE NDA

    GERMAN UNDERWEARS


    Corporal AS had been regaled with Do hanso ke jora and Jailhouse Rock. We (Cadets J, R and me) came out of his ‘kebin’ [cabin]. We peeked out and seeing the coast clear tried to scamper to our ‘kebins’. But whom do you find waiting? It was none other than MSR. We did not know the name of this horror then.

    He resembled the figure that symbolises ‘Death’ with the scythe. Such immobile eyes and that too with the shades of slate upon a background of pale white! His face was a motionless wonder. He resembled an upright, wiry corpse. His complexion was as white as chalk. His demeanour discouraged any meeting by day, let alone in a pitch-dark night. Fortunately, the sun was still up even if the day looked bleak

    He beckoned us to follow him; and near his cabin, he said, “Anter”[Enter].

    We shuffled into his cabin, crazed with fear.

    “Lags up. Hends don” [Legs Up. Hands down], said this stereotype of the Lubinka gas chamber attendant. I was about to cry out, “Sir, I am not a Jew, a gypsy or a Communist”, but his glass eye stare choked me in a worse way than that which gas can do.

    So, there we were the three of us, in this ridiculous position with our legs on his cupboard and hands on the floor. And the cupboard was high!

    “What’s my naem [name]?” There was tomblike silence. Actually, none cared what his name was. He was just another bum like the rest of the seniors. Yet, not knowing the name of this ‘great soul’ holding us hostage, bestowed on us the ‘privilege’ of a press up with each syllable of his name as he spelt it out. Extraordinarily, this ‘soul’ [since he was from the nether world] sincerely felt it was an honour that he was bestowing us!

    I reached ‘Mahen….’ (part expansion of his first initial) and my legs fell off the cupboard……my arms had given way. J stoically reached the end of this wondrous name and R, the toughest of us, pressed along gamely till ‘Singh’ (MSR’s second expanded initial). He too gave in to nature and gravity thereafter.

    Actually I benefited being the weakest. I had collapsed the earliest and had to wait till the others carried on. R suffered the most. It was only after he dropped that we had to repeat the process over and over again. We built muscles along the way since the biceps has swollen up and indicated no inclination to maintain status quo ante. Did we experience pain? We had crossed the Rubicon in the feeling of pain!

    MSR got bored. All sadists do. Ask the Jews in the Holocaust. His eyes suddenly glowed like the embers of a totally dead fire. A brainwave had struck him.

    “What be size my underbear?” No, even though I thought NDA was a Zoo, no bear had assailed it as yet or at least we did not know. He was not talking about any pet bear under him either because we didn’t see any. It was just that that is how the North Indians pronounced – ‘underwear’. I was getting used to the North Indian accent and thus understood some of their ‘English’.

    I was at my physical end. I was fed up. I had enough of this silly NDA. I didn’t want to be an officer if being an officer meant this insane stupidity. Before others could answer, I snapped in clipped English, “if one goes by your behaviour, I don’t think, sir, you wear any underwear. You actually must be using a gunny bag! And by Jove, Sir, I did not have the privilege to be a coolie at the railway siding unloading sugar and so I just don’t know”.

    Ruhil was thunderstruck. He was livid. He spluttered and spittle sprayed out like a hesitant fountain. ‘I’ll show you what I wear’, he thundered in an evil menacing way. He did not show us what he wore below. He showed us things which were even more forebearing!

    Our life for the next hour was hell. All forms of physical punishments ruled the day and boy, was he not a sadist! I am quite sure Ruhil must have held Hitler’s hand as Hitler committed suicide. Ms Eva Braun would have been only the second best in Hitler’s heart.

    After an hour of most ‘imaginative’ punishment, we staggered out. It was not that Ruhil had a change of heart – it was that he required going to the toilet for a pressing anatomical obligation.

    It was my desire to observe his underwear and measure the same, lest he punished me again on this burning issue of the century……. but then I reckoned that it was better to let sleeping dogs lie.

    Thus, God had intervened.

    Ruhil’s requirement to release natural pressures, released the pressures he conjured on us!
     
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  13. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    FOREWORD

    Many would pick up this book for its queer title – Rum, Bum and Mouthorgan [Harmonica]!

    The title is indeed thought provoking. However, the rationale lies in the fact that the Armoured Corps or the Tank boys, the world over, are the ‘glamour boys’ of the Army. They are associated with Wine, Women and Song. We, the poor bloody Infantrymen [PBI] as we are called, are on the other extreme side of the social and worldly spectrum. We have to make good with just Rum, Bum and Mouthorgan [naturally, in a metaphoric way]. And, I am an Infantryman! Thus, the title of the book.

    I have had a chequered career in the Indian Army. There can be no better a profession, or, as I would like to remember, a calling. The Army is a fabulous organisation. It works 24 hours of the day. Yet, we can squeeze in a round of golf [the senior ones] or a game of basketball with the troops [the younger lot] in between. That not being all, we have to be still our chirpy best when doing the rounds of a social evening; or when going through the dreaded regimen of a dinner night, where one can hardly eat lest the clatter of the cutlery ordains a hoofed out exit as it would be blasphemous to the protocols of the voodoo rites involved in a dinner night that was bequeathed to us by the pagans of the dreary, wet and foggy island of Rani Liz, nestling between the spud eaters [Irish] and the frogs [French].

    There is a misconception that being disciplined is to be in a straightjacket. The Army is not a lunatic asylum. It is merely a gathering of intelligent folks, brainwashed into believing that the senior [Boss?] is ALWAYS RIGHT. I say that with authority since I have a rather long innings in this organisation. There is also an Archie’s poster that, with mathematical logic, analysis and precision, concludes that the Boss is but only the human orifice that is used daily every morning to emit bodily waste. There maybe truism of this adage. The Army Bosses, however, don’t think so. And, in the rank that I retired, I qualified as a Boss. However, I reckon all Bosses in all fields of life would agree with the Army Bosses, since they too qualify hook, line and sinker. Ask any subordinate.

    I have a funny bone. An eye and a penchant for the ludicrous is my forte. That’s why I have this ‘affinity’ for the Bosses of the Army. My Bosses have not always appreciated this ‘affinity’. Therefore, it is not surprising they feature more regularly in this book. Lest I forget, I must mention that this Book is a collection of the funny side of the Army, as I saw it. I have enjoyed its funny environment where all are kept on a tight leash by hilarious principles of ‘I am the Lord of Tartary’ and ‘Sir Oracle’ lent a hand by the funniest law of the century called the Army Act where a person can be dismissed just because the President is ‘displeased’ and no reasons assigned why he took umbrage! Lest the reader misunderstands, I have retired honourably and claim the rare privilege and possibly the only one in the Army to claim that in all ranks I saw combat in some form or the other!

    These stories are true stories. The names have been changed. It is not to protect the identity of the characters involved, but to protect myself from their wrath. Can’t face the wrath of the enraged. Remember, we can’t let them have the last laugh with their invoking the funniest of law of the century, the Army Act, can we? After all, the senior is always right.

    The senior is always right. This, in itself, is weird. Biologically, the brain cells wither, as one grows old. However, in the Army, the brains cells grow with age to such an extent that civilians associate this phenomenon as ‘fat head’ with a touch of meningitis [swollen cranium].

    To the Army reader, I tender my apologies in case some of the detailed explanations of army’s pagan rituals, customs and drill encourage a yawn. These are for the general public who will be regaled with our rites that make the Klu Klux Klan customs appear Kindergarten material. Remember, they also serve who stand and wait…..for the next War to be shown on the TV! Remember Kargil?

    I thank all those who have helped me with this book, especially the characters in the stories and Bill Gates for his Microsoft office. But for them, this Book would not have happened. I also thank my parents [for not counselling me on other professions that I could have undertaken and thereby losing out on a better hilarious platform than the circus or the IAS [Indian Administrative Service or ‘I am Sorry’ Service] or the best platform – politics!], my wife [for not nagging], my children [for not being pains and keeping me busy with their homework and thereby making me not see the humorous side of life] and the Indian Army itself. Without them, I would have been a ‘nobody’. I also thank my countless juniors who were subjected to read my stories under duress and also the publisher for his courage to extend Bush’s war on terrorism! I thank you, my reader, for glancing through this book without buying and my gratitude to those who have actually bought this book with their hard earned money!

    I wish you, my reader, Happy reading. Tighten your seat belt and watch your stomach. Either you will throw up or your stomach would be wobbling like jelly custard with mirth!
     
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  14. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    THE QUARTERMASTER AND THE BONDAS (Indian Savoury)

    This story was told to me when I joined the unit that I commanded.

    The unit was located in Naushera in J&K and was deployed on the hill sector along the Line of Control.

    The Corps Commander was visiting the unit. This was not a normal event since Corps Commanders are very senior officers and three levels above the unit level.

    Army, being over-reactive about their hierarchical pecking order, such events ‘traumatised’ the protocol infrastructure and each level of command took hyperactive personal interest in ensuring that the visit went off flawless. None wanted their heads to roll. Each level of the hierarchy ensured so by checking, re-checking and re-rechecking ad inifitum right down to the ground level that all contingencies had been catered for and nothing was overlooked. In short, such visits were a torment to those being visited. Interestingly, Parkinson’s Law always, without fail, did not fail to apply itself during such visits!

    On the momentous day, every aspect of the visit of the Corps Commander to the unit was picture perfect. However, Parkinson’s Law, right as rain, applied itself. The Corps Commander, who was to arrive at the unit Tactical HQ by helicopter, could not do so as the weather was foul. Hence, he landed at the Divisional HQ and was driving down to the unit. The drive would take about two hours and so there was ample time to react.

    Everything had been catered for. However, what supposing the Corps Commander wanted to ‘wash his hands’, after the two hour journey, at the unit Base before commencing the ride up the hill to the Tactical HQ?

    The Commanding Officer {CO} was a man of details and this aspect was bothering him intensely. He was a person who liked preciseness. He wasn’t at all comfortable or happy about the departure from the set-piece programme of the Corps Commander with this driving down instead of landing by helicopter at the unit Tactical HQ.

    The Quartermaster {QM} was at the Base. He was a pleasant, happy go lucky, rotund young officer with a bagful of initiative and a ‘never say die’ attitude. The CO rang him up and told him to ensure that the Officers’ Mess, at the Base, was shipshape, the toilet spankingly clean and to keep a safaiwala [janitor] ready at a moment’s notice in the vicinity. And of course, some light refreshments were to be at hand that could be served so that the Corps Commander knew that the unit was ‘on the ball’. Having ordered so, the CO went back to the practising of his Briefing for the 189th time!

    Parkinson’s Law didn’t apply this time. The Corps Commander stopped at the Base to ‘wash his hands’. There was the usual hustle and bustle of his personal staff, the Divisional and Brigade HQs staff who were accompanying and the Mess staff including the QM. They followed the Corps Commander towards the Mess as if being pulled by the vacuum created in his wake! It is only in the Army that a VIP relieving himself by answering nature’s call is given the reverence normally associated with an event of national importance!

    The Corps Commander entered the Mess. He looked at the QM and gave a shake of the leg as if shaking a boisterous housefly off the trouser. Bending at 80 degrees to the perpendicular, the Corps Commander wiggled his little finger of the left hand as if seized by an involuntary twitch and said “Which a-way to the Loo, old boy?”

    The QM had never ever had the good fortune of a Corps Commander speaking to him. He was awe struck! He thought that he too had to answer in a fancy way and so he said, “That a-way sir’ and before he could copy the Corps Commander’s leg shake which he thought would be appropriate, the Corps Commander, fortunately for all, was on his way.

    The Divisional Commander [next in the hierarchy] was taken aback by what he thought was the cheek of this junior officer to copy the Corps Commander’s syntax. He would have been hopping wild had he realised that the QM had attempted the Corps Commander’s leg shake. To him it appeared as if the QM had slipped on the water that had by then settled on the linoleum from the clothes of the various personalities [who were wet from the light drizzle] crowding the alley leading to the ‘Men’s’.

    The Corps Commander had moved into the ‘Men’s’. The Divisional Commander decided to have another ‘dekko’ at the arrangements. He stood aghast as his eyes laid on the savouries to be offered to the Corps Commander.

    “Bondas?” he asked querulously and fixed a horribly immobile stare on the QM, who was beaming with delight that the Divisional Commander had observed the savoury that he had had prepared for them.

    “Bondas?” echoed the Brigade Commander peevishly on cue as did any other officer worth his salt. All were aghast and all spoke in unison, so much so, the statement resounded like the Onida Bass Surround TV. It was a different matter that they did not understand why the Divisional Commander was horrified and grouchy at the sight of Bondas.

    “Are you aware that the Corps Commander is an Armoured Corps chap? ……and you have the temerity to offer Indian savouries and that too the type that would be found in a cheap halwai’s [sweetmeat vendor] shop?”, bellowed the Divisional Commander, a decibel lower that what would reach the ‘Men’s’ where the Corps Commander apparently had nestled.

    “Yes sir. I know that the Corps Commander is an Armoured Corps officer and they are reputed to prefer crumpets and strawberry in cream with their tea. However, sir, I don’t know how to make them and also, sir, what could be better than hot hot bondas on a rainy day like today?” the QM said with a radiant smile that annoyed the Divisional Commander no end and even more, the Brigade Commander.

    “Bakwaas [Tommy rot]. You village bumkin. You are the biggest idiot I have seen. A rum ball with a hot rum punch would have fitted the occasion and the weather; not these stupid, smelly, oily [he was spluttering in anger and had apparently run out of adjectives] bondas. Have you seen the size of the bondas? They are as fat and big as you are. How can he put them ever so gently in the mouth? You have no sophistication. You are a real rustic!” the Divisional Commander thundered. He, it appeared, was by now immensely inflamed and frothing at the mouth.

    The QM cringed. However, Divine intervention saved him from a further berating. The Corps Commander had emerged from the ‘Loo’ and was looking definitely much relieved. He seemed to be in the best of moods and was genially smiling as he emerged.

    His eyes fell on the Bondas. The Divisional Commander and his ‘faithful echoes’ froze!

    The Corps Commander took two steps towards the Bondas and stopped abruptly, practically screeching to a halt! A cold shiver went down the spine of the Divisional Commander.

    “Ah, sir…….” and whatever the Divisional Commander wanted to say was drowned in the shriek that emanated from the Corps Commander. All froze with fear – waiting anxiously for the Corps Commander’s inevitable indignation that was expected at this spread.

    The Corps Commander pounced towards the table in what appeared a leap…. swiped the largest Bonda……. bit a massive chunk….. and literally gloated, more like a cat which had filched a platter of milk.

    “What a capital idea! Hot hot Bondas on a rainy day. Well done and well thought of, old boy”, the Corps Commander was definitely rapturous as his gaze twinkled towards the QM.

    The Divisional Commander and his gang emulated the Corps Commander’s leap, swiped the Bondas, and echoed, “A wonderful idea indeed, sir”. They too beamed but definitely not towards the QM.

    The broadest smile was on the QM’s face.

    He had had the last laugh and damn the strawberries, cream, and crumpets!
     
  15. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    THE CORPS COMMANDER AND THE GASPING FISH

    The Corps Commander had come from his HQ in Bhopal to be ‘in situ’ for the Army Commander, who was visiting our Division, for the first time.

    As per the custom, a cocktail was organised in the Divisional Officers’ Mess to host the Army Commander and his wife. The Divisional Officers had been called and about 40 odd individuals and their wives were ‘gracing’ the occasion.

    The Corps Commander arrived about five minutes before the Army Commander since protocol expected that he arrived before the Army Commander, who was, as per the Army pecking order, senior.

    We received him and the General Officer Commanding {GOC} asked me to escort him to the lawn where the remainder guests were. I was the second senior most officer of the Division and so I was expected to ‘look after’ him. The Corps Commander had not come with his wife since she was away in Pune.

    I got him a Campa Cola since he did not drink, which he immediately put it on a side table. It was a most unusual action. Observing my unease, the Corps Commander informed that he had put the Cola ‘off the automatic’ ’.

    A Cola off the automatic? How crazier can the world get?

    “Didn’t get that?” the Corps Commander queried. Not waiting for a reply he continued, “It’s the Ali Baba ‘khulja sim sim ’ (Open Sesame) syndrome that afflicts my Colas whenever I finish it in a hurry! No sooner I have finished one, another one appears with the waiter. How many Colas can I drink in an evening?” That was true. There is always a waiter who looks after the VIPs and an officer is always most obtrusively around to ensure that their glasses are always ‘charged’.

    The Corps Commander’s attention was engaged by the many officers who surrounded him. I, therefore, moved off to see that the other guests were also being looked after, since I was also the ex officio Chairman of the Mess Committee and hence the organiser of the ‘show’.

    After some time, having seen that the others were being looked after, I returned to see how the Corps Commander was faring. His Campa Cola still adorned the side table some distance away from where he was surrounded by his ‘fans’. They were talking while the Corps Commander, who was a man of few words, listened with his characteristic deadpan sage-like expression.

    Seeing me, he beamed. It was the same dazzling beam as would Rapunzel, locked up in the tower, on seeing the Prince, who had come to rescue her, have beamed.

    “Roy, just come here.” Obviously I went.

    “You know chaps”, he told the rest of the gathering around him, “Roy is the guy who has ensured that all offices in the Divisional HQ have an aquarium. His GOC was giving me some theory of Japan that Roy must have confused him with – that it relieved stress because of the mobility of fish in the water and things like that.”

    I felt uncomfortable with what he was saying. The Corps Commander had a weird sense of humour. It was always ‘loaded’ with ‘inner’ and not often comfortable meanings. Therefore, my tentacles were up.

    I listened more carefully.

    “I, too, like fish, but not to relieve the stress that seems to build up in this Division”, the Corps Commander continued….. “I like the fish because they keep opening their mouth and closing them.”

    “Really. Sir?” chimed the coterie around him in total awe, as if the Corps Commander had cast pearls before swine.

    “Yes. They are my favourite……..because the gasping fish are the only unusual creatures amongst God’s Creations including humans and Army officers. They are the only ones who open and close their mouth………… and don’t ask for either a favour or for money!”

    That really left the fawning fans around him gasping…… not unlike the fish in the aquarium!
     
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    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    THE TELEPHONE AND THE ‘WHORE’


    The biggest curse of modern life is the telephone. Alexander Graham Bell, if he lived today, would have been lynched by quite a few of us.

    The telephone conversations in the Army are quite unique. It follows a set pattern. The syntax is mostly Punjabi, since the majority in the Army are from this community and their cultural invasion permeates the military fabric. Extraordinary is that South Indians, who have no clue of Punjabi, are prone to speak in this language, remaining delightfully untutored of the nuances of this unique language. I, too, though not a South Indian, am in their ranks.

    Like it or not, Punjabi is the ‘national language’ of the Army. The Punjabis are also polite fellows. In conversation, they like to build up bonhomie with a personal touch before coming to the point, more so when favours are required.

    One day, I was in the office of a South Indian friend when a telephone call came.

    “Colonel Nellakipalli Parambil Balakrishnan here”, said this friend of mine. He was also known as ‘Bala’ to friends. Bala was pathological averse to North Indians calling him a South Indian. He repeatedly, ad infinitum, corrected all and sundry that there were four different communities in the geographical entity called South India and that they were as similar as chalk to cheese. He informed that he came from what was known as ‘God’s own country’ – Kerala and that it was derogatory to club them with all and sundry from the South.

    I couldn’t hear clearly what the caller said since my friend was holding the earpiece glued to his ear as per the instructions on the ‘Use of Telephones’, issued by the Corps of Signals.

    “What do you mean you are fine? I never asked you about how were you. Please be to the point.”

    I realised that the caller had replied ‘I am fine’ as per drill since the first sentence normally was a ‘How are you?”

    “Why are you asking how my Mother is? I don’t think you know her. And anyway, she is dead.”

    There was a long-winded question from the caller as the next reply took some time. Colonel Bala was looking at me like a fish that had just been landed would gasp, when out of water as it slowly died!

    “My father? How is he? God Bless the old man. I really don’t know. He has already entered the Pearly Gates of Heaven. Since you have enough time at hand, as I perceive, why don’t you contact God instead of me?”

    “What? My dog? Well, my dog is fine. Anyway, how does it matter even if he has had a touch of rabies? I say, can’t you come to the point? What is that you have rung me for?”

    “What? You want a vehicle? Well, I am not dealing with vehicles. And anyway, if that was what you wanted, then why the hell did you want to know about how my dear departed family was doing and that too when you didn’t know the folks? You Punjabis are the limit. To get something out of a guy, you really do anything to be folksy and familiar. May I recommend that you do your homework first? ”

    “OK OK. I am not being angry but I have work to do. Also, to be frank I don’t know Punjabi and so it took me more time to understand what you were talking about.”

    “What? A whore? What do you mean calling me a whore? I can’t give you a vehicle since I don’t detail vehicles. But I must ask you to have a civil tongue in your head. There is no need to be offensive and call me a whore. Even there you are wrong. I am a man so I can’t be a whore.”

    “OK. OK. So, ‘whore’ is actually ‘and what more’ in Punjabi? Great. You guys up North can really confuse issues. If I asked you ‘more’ I am sure you would have thought I was taking about a peacock (in Hindi a Peacock is called a “More”). Boy, you guys are rare! Thank God I am a Keralite. We at least have a sensible tongue to speak and understand.”

    Having said that, Colonel Bala hung up. I could see he was livid but I thought he was being a trifle unfair.

    So before he started haranguing me, I quickly said ‘Malayalam [his language] is also queer, Colonel Bala. You say ‘Sari Sari’, when you mean neither a ‘Saree’ (the dress Indian women wear) nor an Indianised “Sorry”; and instead actually meaning, ‘Correct’ in Malayalam. So, I reckon all languages are funny if you interpret it in another language.”

    That stumped Colonel Bala. As I left his office having said it, I saw that he was still gasping for words like a fish landed out of water!
     
  17. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    THE BLACKBEARD


    I had just been posted to Secunderabad.

    By the virtue of my rank and appointment, I was a one of the senior officer of the Station.

    My looks were, however, deceptive.

    I had not greyed and I had firm skin. I was slim and lean and I always correctly attired, befitting my rank. In fact, I was the only officer who wore a hand tied bow always and every time. And most importantly, I had the confidence that should come with service.

    Yet, I had a problem.

    My contemporaries were stouter; they were either grey or balding and most were conscious of their rank and position.

    My ‘young’ looks caused the perennial problem of being mistaken for a junior officer. The problem was compounded since Secunderabad was a military college town and there was a surfeit of young student officers. The positive side of my mistaken “youth” was that it led to hilarious situations.

    It happened soon enough.

    A Major General, celebrating his marriage anniversary, invited my wife and me to his private party at the College Officers Mess. He, too, had been just posted to Secunderabad and had not yet been allotted official accommodation. Therefore, the venue.

    The environs of the party were magnificent. The Officers’ Mess had an immense cascading waterfall at one corner duly illuminated. Inventive lighting had enhanced the effect of the area of the party and added to the ambience.

    There was already a sizeable gathering when we arrived. The General and his wife received us at the entrance. Formalities over, we moved on and circulated amongst the guests. This party was an ideal opportunity for us to meet a large cross section of the officer community of the Station.

    I spotted a friend, and, between the sumptuous hors d’ouvres and drinks, engaged him in conversation.

    It was then that I spotted a slim, well dressed Sikh officer in one corner of the lawn. He had an arresting presence that possibly was contributing to the large gathering around him. Obviously, he was an accomplished conversationalist since huge guffaws intermittently, though regularly, emanated from that side.

    I meandered to the side where this Sikh officer was regaling the crowd and since that was where the action was.

    One could not be brazen and so while I did not join the group, I remained on the periphery, hoping to spot someone I knew and then join the group.

    On close quarters, the Sikh officer looked younger and slimmer than me. His beard well tucked in the beard net and arrestingly black! Though young, the officer carried himself well and with immense confidence and was smart. It always pleased me to see young officers who knew their beans and carried themselves with confidence. This was one such officer.

    Having ‘sized’ the ‘centre of attraction’ of the group, I went across and joined them discreetly, still staying in the periphery. The conversation centred on the shopping malls of Secunderabad. Edgewise, I could discern the Sikh officer was ‘sizing me’ up. However, I did not join the conversation. Instead, I awaited my time to put my two-penny bit when the time came.

    The Sikh officer got impatient and so he edged himself towards me. He looked even younger now since I could see him better with the garden light falling full on his face.

    “So, young man, enjoying yourself?” the Sikh officer asked of me.

    This was rich. Once again, I was being taken as a youngster, especially by a chap who was much younger than I was. Further, even if I were not enjoying myself, it was more than apparent that I did not appear ‘in mourning’, to solicit this question.

    “Yup, old fellow. Bless your heart, it could not have been better”, I replied.

    It was perceptible that the young fellow was taken aback with my answer. However, he did not express anything to indicated so.

    “What brings you here?” asked this officer. I was, at this juncture, distracted and besotted by a housefly that had settled on his rather aquiline nose playing a housefly rendition of hop scotch.

    So, unwittingly and without realising, I said, “By car.”

    It was a foolish answer I must confess and I did not grudge him asking it, irrespective of the fact that he was obviously a junior officer acting cocky. He looked rather cross at my obtuse answer. But then, wasn’t it obvious that I would not have walked since there was no residential accommodation within 4 kms and no one, not even a fitness freak, would walk this distance to a party and arrive smelling like a pigsty with sweat!

    “Obviously by car you came. I just wanted to know if you had been invited and if so who are you?”

    Now, this was rather cheeky for a youngster. More so, he did not even know me!

    “Look, son. I am the Deputy General Officer Commanding around here and obviously, it would not behove my rank, service and appointment to gate crash. Got that? Further, if you have too much of a problem about my antecedents, do drop in at my office for my further explanation and don’t forget to take an appointment from my Personal Assistant or else you may be disappointed.” I had no desire to be there any further and so I continued, “It was nice to have known you old fellow.” With that said, I departed.

    I helped myself to another drink from the passing waiter and as I was pouring the soda, I heard someone say to me, “Enjoying yourself?”

    I thought it was another of those confidence bubbling youngsters and so I swivelled around and replied with the Americanism, “Yup’.

    I found that it was my host.

    “Oh yes, I am thoroughly enjoying myself, sir. A great party”, I said.

    I was dying of curiosity and so I continued, “By the way, sir, who is that young looking Sikh chap out there?” pointing to the Sikh lad whose company I just forsaken.

    “Oh him? He is no young chap. Should be around 59 years of age, I reckon.”

    That was crazy. This Sikh guy was young. I was sure that my host had seen the wrong man. So, I pointed out the officer once again.

    “Yes, I was talking about him’, replied the Major General, my host. “He is a Lieutenant General. He is the Commandant.”

    No wonder the Sikh chap was cocky! I had made a real bloomer! I had to make amends.

    I went back to the Sikh chap.

    He was not too pleased to see me.

    “So sorry, sir. I am new around here and I didn’t realise you are the Commandant. You looked real young”

    The last part of the statement got him further miffed and it showed on his face.

    It is then that I saw, under the full glare of the floodlight that had been lit to show the path to the next lawn where the dinner had been served, that the hair, tucked neatly into his turban, was WHITE – whiter than the snow on Mount Etna!

    Marvels of the cosmetic industry will never cease!
     
  18. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    BLADDER BEDLAM

    This is about the interesting ‘chemistry’ between Major J, Brigadier N [my Boss] and the human Bladder.

    It happened in Ferozpur, a one-horse frontier dusty town in the Punjab. The period was in the late 1980s.

    Major J was one of my Company Commanders. He was massive, fat and immensely swarthy. Shakespeare’s Othello, near bred to the burnished sun, was fairer in complexion.

    Major J had a fetish for wearing things in Black. This may have been a fallout from his days in the ranks {Sepoy} when possibly he did not have time to wash his clothes and it was practical to wear black; black rarely looked dirty. The Tamil politicians, who wore dark glasses [‘cooling glasses’ as they call them in the South] even at night, could have also influenced his fetish for black. He was also known as the ‘Midnight Cowboy’ by the irreverent.

    On the other hand, Brigadier N, the Brigade Commander, was a polished person, but a trifle officious and highly conscious of his rank and station. Notwithstanding his polish, he was still nonetheless, a ‘true blue’ from the Land of the Five Rivers (Punjab)!

    I had just recently taken over the Battalion and I was totally at sea. I had come from a ‘pure’ Mahar [one class Maharastrian composition] unit while the unit I was commanding was an All India mix. The ethos obviously was different. My new unit did not do anything in half measures. Everything here gave the impression that the Moguls were back in business. Providentially, the harems were not.

    Brigadier N enjoyed parties and if his social rota was unoccupied, gentle hints by his staff ensured that the evening became ‘occupied’. One such evening was organised by my unit. I really do not know the reasons why it was organised, but then the President Mess Committee {PMC} must have had his ears to the ground and so he played by the nose! I was still finding my feet in the Battalion and did not want to upset the ‘style’ of the unit. The army man management pamphlet had wisely advised us to ‘Take it Easy and look Busy’!

    N, I was informed, liked good food, exquisite liquor and rather expensive though ‘light in tar’ imported cigarettes. I was ‘educated’ by the PMC that such delicacies were always available with the unit and the Mess and that the unit was trained to ‘know their onions’. He added that as per the traditions of the unit, COs {Commanding Officers} were never bothered with the mundane; one of the ‘mundane’ issues being when parties are to be organised. The CO was expected to merely arrive and ‘grace’ such occasions!

    Since I was never to be bothered with the mundane and instead had to only ‘grace’ such occasions, I decided to be just another guest. In my previous unit, the CO was not just a ceremonious figure. Although I wasn’t too happy, it was too early to enforce my views.

    I was living in a room adjacent to the Mess as my wife had not yet joined me. To be in time for the Party was no great shakes. The dress code was to be ‘Shirt and Tie’ [trousers were assumed to be worn] and the time given was 7.30 PM . I was in a position to saunter in, just before the brigadier arrived and simply ‘grace’ the mundane, such as the arrival of the Brigadier!

    I got ready and considering that I had time to kill, I was halfway through a whisky in my room, when the Intelligence Officer, Lieutenant SP Singh arrived to inform me that the Brigadier had just left his residence and would be at the Mess in exactly three minutes! This was interesting. Such was the ‘taped up’ drill of the unit that a minute-to-minute progress of persons who mattered was always available! I thanked him and as casually as I could, I walked out of my room. SP Singh followed in my wake with the deference of a tug in the wake of QE II entering the New York harbour.

    As I walked out, I saw the red dome light of the Brigadier’s vehicle flashing on the roof as it passed along the wall of the Mess. The car entered the gate. I took up my position as nonchalantly as I could, to receive the guest. I tried to remain cool as a cucumber since it was but the mundane that I was experiencing, namely receiving my Boss! This, in any walk of life, would have been an important matter of protocol, but in this unit, it was mundane!

    The MP {Military Police} opened the car door and the Brigadier’s bulk descended on the porch, beaming from cheek to cheek in a most controlled, though uppity manner, of contrived bonhomie.

    The party was organised both in the lawns and in the Mess. I would have preferred the lawns since Ferozpur could be very stuffy in summer. I reckon the Brigadier preferred the better-lit anteroom, perhaps to make sure that he was being served whisky that had been matured in oak in bonny old Scotland - the traditional offering that he was used to being proffered at parties in homage and tribute. Since he did not offer the same at home, I realised that this was not his preference under the domestic portals. I wanted to make him ‘feel at home’ especially since the Officers’ Mess is supposed to be a ‘home’. So, I instructed the PMC [much against his counsel that it was tantamount to sacrilege] to offer a good old Indian whisky, preferably Peter Scot, which in those days was considered a premium whisky.

    This must have got the Brigadier’s goat. To be fair, he never insisted on Scotch. Nonetheless, with the first sip, he made a face as if he were choking on cyanide! His lips had become so contorted that it seemed a swig of Tik 20 [a cockroach killing pesticide] might have elicited a more pleasant reaction.

    “Interesting whisky”, said good man. It appeared that he had no intentions to take that horrible grimace off his rather huge jowled double chinned face. Possibly, he felt that sewerage gutter water had been served. He wore a look as if he was waiting anxiously for a slow death or something equally horrible and painful to strike him.

    I cared to ignore the Brigadier’s curled lips and contracted stomach. I was in no temperament to use the magic antidote i.e. Scotch on the rocks or on salt petre, if you wish or whatever.

    “Ah, yes sir. Jolly interesting. It is Peter Scot and I am told that it is the best Indian whisky. One must try the Indian stuff. Be Indian, Buy Indian and all that. Keeps the national economy in fit shape. What ho, sir?” said I, with a straight face. In fact, I was pleased with myself for having invoked the Nation to my rescue. It always worked. Army blokes may be odd fishes, but their loyalty to the Nation could not be contested.

    “Yep”. He had this penchant for Americanism. “Is the Nation having some hassles?” he asked. As though he could do anything about it on the measly pay we got!

    “Fledging economy. Third World and all that. Things can always get better. All of us have to tighten our belts, sir” was my reply as if I were an MP {Member of Parliament and not Military Police} speaking to the media. Vague stuff, but very hard to dispute.

    The waiter arrived as if on cue. A ‘555’ or maybe it was a ‘B&H’ cigarette that was offered to the good man. Whatever it was, it brought some cheer and untwisted, to some extent, the huge body till then convulsing in ‘excruciating pain’. The ‘555’ sop must have convinced him to imagine that I genuinely wanted him to try Indian whisky to shore up the national economy. Fortunately for me, he, as a rule, did not read the newspapers enough in detail to know if the economy was in dire straits or not.

    Alcohol is a great social leveller. With the dosage being imbibed, the party got happier by the hour. All, including the Brigadier, appeared to be enjoying themselves.

    Then, suddenly the lights went out! Whether it was load shedding or an electrical short circuit, one does not know.

    Coincidentally, the band was playing the song, ‘The lights went out in Massachusetts’. I thought this was another of the deliberate mundane acts that I was not supposed to be bothered with. The gimmicks were getting my goat since it was contrary to the way I had been groomed in the Army.

    SP Singh came into view on cue. ‘The Ferozpur electricity has failed’, he whispered in his sombre best.

    There was a controlled pandemonium. Some officers ‘unobtrusively’ rushed to get the standby generator started. Others were generally taking it easy but looking busy, taking full advantage of the ensuing darkness to be their actual self, except when they spotted me, their Commanding Officer, in their vicinity.

    Those in the lawn had moved in since some candles had been lit within the Mess.

    I gravitated towards the veranda with the fervent, though irrational hope, that by moving out I could somehow ‘will’ the generator into operation.

    Suddenly there was a yelp, the tenor being more of astonishment than hurt. It came from the far corner of the lawn, where there was a large mango tree. In the darkness, I could vaguely discern that something large had fallen on the lawn.

    I hotfooted towards this site to investigate.

    The Brigadier and Major J lay sprawled on the lawn.

    It transpired that the Brigadier tried to take advantage of the dark and use the lawn as a public toilet. Being immensely full of bladder, he took the easy way out, rather than grope in the dark for the toilet. Swift in his pursuit for instant relief and determined to find the ‘corner’ and possibly a trifle disconcerted by this illegal methodology for relief, he must have been less than aware of his surroundings. Thus, there was this immense collision with the gigantic Major J, to lie crumpled in the horizontal on the lawn with all his blubber bouncing in mighty glee!

    J had been ‘invisible’ to the bladder crazed Brigadier because of his natural hue [those repeated dabs of powder were in vain] and his Zorro outfit!

    The Brigadier was ‘mighty’ angry obviously having been ‘caught in the act’.

    So, because J was in black, I felt blue the next day, when I was summoned to the Brigadier’s office!

    Such is the burden of command!
     
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  19. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    MADHO AND THE BBC

    It was in Kerimarg, near Rajauri, where my Battalion was deployed on the Forward Defended Localities [FDLs] or ‘Posts’ along the Line of Control {LC}. The period was just before the 1971 war.

    The Commanding Officer was Lieutenant Colonel K. He had an aversion to anything that was not British. He had been commissioned into the Army when the British influence was still quite pervasive.

    On the Posts, the only means of communications was by field telephone. This was notorious for bad speech reception since the WD Cable was laid over long distances. Our Battalion was spread over 16 kilometres and there were deep gullies between the Posts. This increased the reckonable spread of the unit. It took 6 hours walk on treacherous mountain tracks to reach the Tactical HQ from either end of the Battalion’s Area of Responsibility. To make matters worse, the WD cable had repair patches at regular intervals, having been cut quite frequently by trees or branches falling on them or by the swaying in bad weather. The cable was also very old and much frayed.

    The comprehension of speech was further convoluted as officers had regional intonations while speaking in English; and English was the only language that K would allow to be spoken since that was the language for officers; Hindoosthani was for the troops! The Punjabi officers were the most difficult to understand because, as per the CO, they had this fetish to drop the articles like the ‘the’, ‘a’ etc at will. Thus, ‘CO come, go’ would mean that the CO had come and gone. He forgot that if that were true, then it had an added advantage – one didn’t have to ‘scramble’ the speech for security!

    Extraordinarily, for Lt Col K, a shaven Sikh, it was difficult for him to understand us! Maybe it was because he was of the British vintage, who knocked down gins in the afternoon and got pink in the face. To be fair, I don’t know if he took gin in the afternoon because I confess I never saw him sporting a pink face.

    To obviate the problem, it was decided by K, the CO, during one of the rare congregations we officers attended at the Tactical HQ that all the officers were to listen to the BBC so that we improved our English accent and learnt to make complete sentences. He ordered that we religiously listen to the BBC News, amongst other BBC programmes. All India Radio was a congregation of kalus [native Indians] as far as K was concerned.

    We started listening to the BBC since we were quite sure, knowing K, that he would ask us about the programmes we listened to on the BBC. Initially, we were also enthused about improving our accent and so we listened to the BBC conscientiously.

    Being Indians and being the stubborn characters we are, no matter how much we listened to the BBC, not much of England washed off on our accent. To be fair, we started pronouncing Bangladesh [which was in the news but only as a concept, it being early 1971] as ‘Bang-la-daash’, Pakistan as ‘Pack-his-sten’ and Lahore as ‘La Whore’. Beyond that, we remained the Indian regional characters that we were. The CO was still not happy with our effort since he still had problems understanding us over the telephone!

    After a month, we were called to the Tactical HQ for a conference.

    The conference went on for quite sometime. It was an important conference since the influx of the East Pakistan refugees was creating problems for India and Mujabir Rehman was being a thorn in Pakistan’s flesh. The CO felt that there could be some sort of a backlash from Pakistan and so we were being instructed on the manner how to ensure that they did not surprise us and how to contain the situation in such an eventuality, without escalating the tension.

    BBC, that day, was nowhere on our minds!

    Suddenly and totally out of context, the CO looked at Captain Mahado, one of our Company Commanders and asked, “Madho, are you listening to the BBC?”

    While earlier during the CO’s discourse, Pakistan held our rapt attention and BBC was in the oblivion, it suddenly became our total focus. K was capable of sending us on a ‘padyatra’ [a long haul around the Posts in a stipulated period of time, the time allotted being immensely less. It required practically moving on the trot].

    Each one of us quickly wracked our brains at lightening speed for the details of the programmes we had listened to and the excuses that we could trot out in case K remained unsatisfied. I, fortunately, had heard ‘Outlook’ just the day previous and was not very perturbed. Majors Shammy Singh and GS Singh looked definitely disconcerted.

    “Yes, Madho, I am waiting. Did you listen to the BBC?” asked K rather testily.

    We all looked apprehensively at both K and Madho alternately. Madho was a decent chap but he was a ‘be Indian, buy Indian’ chap. Being patriotic is one thing and facing K’s wrath was another!

    “Yes, sir”, Madho answered most blandly. His slightly Mongoloid features gave him an almost Buddha like beatification on his face.

    K appeared unconvinced!

    “Good. Which BBC programme did you hear last night?”

    “I heard the BBC,………………… but the Hindi BBC, sir!”

    The anticlimax was too much. I burst out laughing.

    Madho returned to his Post. I went on a padyatra.
     
  20. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    MADHO AND THE BBC

    It was in Kerimarg, near Rajauri, where my Battalion was deployed on the Forward Defended Localities [FDLs] or ‘Posts’ along the Line of Control {LC}. The period was just before the 1971 war.

    The Commanding Officer was Lieutenant Colonel K. He had an aversion to anything that was not British. He had been commissioned into the Army when the British influence was still quite pervasive.

    On the Posts, the only means of communications was by field telephone. This was notorious for bad speech reception since the WD Cable was laid over long distances. Our Battalion was spread over 16 kilometres and there were deep gullies between the Posts. This increased the reckonable spread of the unit. It took 6 hours walk on treacherous mountain tracks to reach the Tactical HQ from either end of the Battalion’s Area of Responsibility. To make matters worse, the WD cable had repair patches at regular intervals, having been cut quite frequently by trees or branches falling on them or by the swaying in bad weather. The cable was also very old and much frayed.

    The comprehension of speech was further convoluted as officers had regional intonations while speaking in English; and English was the only language that K would allow to be spoken since that was the language for officers; Hindoosthani was for the troops! The Punjabi officers were the most difficult to understand because, as per the CO, they had this fetish to drop the articles like the ‘the’, ‘a’ etc at will. Thus, ‘CO come, go’ would mean that the CO had come and gone. He forgot that if that were true, then it had an added advantage – one didn’t have to ‘scramble’ the speech for security!

    Extraordinarily, for Lt Col K, a shaven Sikh, it was difficult for him to understand us! Maybe it was because he was of the British vintage, who knocked down gins in the afternoon and got pink in the face. To be fair, I don’t know if he took gin in the afternoon because I confess I never saw him sporting a pink face.

    To obviate the problem, it was decided by K, the CO, during one of the rare congregations we officers attended at the Tactical HQ that all the officers were to listen to the BBC so that we improved our English accent and learnt to make complete sentences. He ordered that we religiously listen to the BBC News, amongst other BBC programmes. All India Radio was a congregation of kalus [native Indians] as far as K was concerned.

    We started listening to the BBC since we were quite sure, knowing K, that he would ask us about the programmes we listened to on the BBC. Initially, we were also enthused about improving our accent and so we listened to the BBC conscientiously.

    Being Indians and being the stubborn characters we are, no matter how much we listened to the BBC, not much of England washed off on our accent. To be fair, we started pronouncing Bangladesh [which was in the news but only as a concept, it being early 1971] as ‘Bang-la-daash’, Pakistan as ‘Pack-his-sten’ and Lahore as ‘La Whore’. Beyond that, we remained the Indian regional characters that we were. The CO was still not happy with our effort since he still had problems understanding us over the telephone!

    After a month, we were called to the Tactical HQ for a conference.

    The conference went on for quite sometime. It was an important conference since the influx of the East Pakistan refugees was creating problems for India and Mujabir Rehman was being a thorn in Pakistan’s flesh. The CO felt that there could be some sort of a backlash from Pakistan and so we were being instructed on the manner how to ensure that they did not surprise us and how to contain the situation in such an eventuality, without escalating the tension.

    BBC, that day, was nowhere on our minds!

    Suddenly and totally out of context, the CO looked at Captain Mahado, one of our Company Commanders and asked, “Madho, are you listening to the BBC?”

    While earlier during the CO’s discourse, Pakistan held our rapt attention and BBC was in the oblivion, it suddenly became our total focus. K was capable of sending us on a ‘padyatra’ [a long haul around the Posts in a stipulated period of time, the time allotted being immensely less. It required practically moving on the trot].

    Each one of us quickly wracked our brains at lightening speed for the details of the programmes we had listened to and the excuses that we could trot out in case K remained unsatisfied. I, fortunately, had heard ‘Outlook’ just the day previous and was not very perturbed. Majors Shammy Singh and GS Singh looked definitely disconcerted.

    “Yes, Madho, I am waiting. Did you listen to the BBC?” asked K rather testily.

    We all looked apprehensively at both K and Madho alternately. Madho was a decent chap but he was a ‘be Indian, buy Indian’ chap. Being patriotic is one thing and facing K’s wrath was another!

    “Yes, sir”, Madho answered most blandly. His slightly Mongoloid features gave him an almost Buddha like beatification on his face.

    K appeared unconvinced!

    “Good. Which BBC programme did you hear last night?”

    “I heard the BBC,………………… but the Hindi BBC, sir!”

    The anticlimax was too much. I burst out laughing.

    Madho returned to his Post. I went on a padyatra.
     
  21. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    WHO SAYS A ROSE IS NOT A ROSE AND ONE CAN CALL IT BY ANY NAME?


    Corps Commanders are Lieutenant Generals and they are in seniority just below the Army Commander. Army being a narrow pyramid like organisation unlike other government services, those who reach such heights are generally competent. However, most such men forget that they are also endowed with an immense amount of luck to have reached these ranks! As the days go by, they deluded themselves that it was by their sheer brilliance alone that they earned the dizzy heights. As a consequence the majority get afflicted by an elephantine ego that almost nudges God off the mantle. Notwithstanding, the most unfortunate part is that the wives of such personalities acquire greater delusion that the Queen Mum was not the last Empress of India.

    Paradoxically, we had a Corps Commander who was immensely humble. His uncomplicated simplicity made one wonder if the high rank embarrassed him. There was none of the hoity toity air that went with the rank, nor did he appear overly enamoured by his rank that offered him the luxury of feeling he was the Lord of Tartary and king of all that he surveyed! His wife, though sophisticated, was down to earth. She was busier with her personal affairs than with the imperial missives expected of such senior wives that upset lesser mortals. Her name was Jyoti.

    An interesting event happened. It happened at a party held in the honour of the Corps Commander and his wife when he came visiting our Division in Secunderabad.

    The party was being held in the Division HQ Officers’ Mess large lawns. The breeze was balmy, the stars were twinkling in the sky above and the sodas in the whisky were winking at the brim, in the hands of officers, on the lawns below. This party was being held after a long time. In short, all were enjoying themselves with a carefree attitude, especially since it was common knowledge that the Corps Commander was a person who preferred solitude and his own company; hence, a man of few words. Consequently, there was no requirement to fawn around him and fan his ego. In fact, it was definitely a dangerous thing to do. The Corps Commander was also famed to have a dry, cutting wit which pierced like the sabre of the Three Musketeers with the addition of the sharp precision of the Hindi film heroes, who even if they swiped totally into thin air, somehow got the villain! Thus, a witticism directed apparently at someone, also encompassed the large majority. The worst part was that it took time to understand that ‘one has been had’!

    Given the characteristics of the Corps Commander, he was generally surrounded by the mandatory group of senior officers, who had no option other than ‘being had’. The senior officers good humouredly accepted the ribbing since options was non existent. One or two bold juniors ventured to be in the earshot to enjoy the wit and watch the senior officers around the Corps Commander squirm with immense discomfort and yet put on a façade of total enjoyment! Indeed, it was a great spectacle to watch.

    The Corps Commander’s wife, who was equally witty, however was not cutting in her wit. Hence, naturally she had a larger group around her. In this capacity, she acted like the Huguenots who were reputed to be the ‘ears and eyes of Cardinal Richelieu’. After all, the fastest means of ‘news’ travelling is – tell-a-woman and not telegraph or telephone. Cardinal Richelieu, in this case, was obviously the Corps Commander.

    The Corps Commander was nursing his Cola, since he was a teetotaller. The senior officers around him, including me, were with stuff that was more potent. The conversation was getting interesting. The Aide de Camp [ADC] was in the group that was in the close vicinity to the Corps Commander and within earshot and call.

    Interrupting his conversation with the officers around him, the Corps Commander suddenly leaned out and asked of an officer in the ADC’s group, “Why, is my wife no more?”

    We were all thunderstruck.

    It had no bearing on the conversation the Corps Commander was having with us and we had not the foggiest of what the officer being addressed by the Corps Commander had said. Further, we had received no news to the effect that something so horrible had happened as the Corps Commander’s wife having breathed her last!

    We anxiously and most gingerly swung our gaze to the group where the Corps Commander’s wife was. We spotted her. She appeared hale and hearty and seemed to be enjoying herself thoroughly. At that moment, it appeared that a fantastic joke had been cracked in her group since the guffaws were loud and prolonged. This confused us more, especially since it was very difficult to fathom the Corps Commander. We were confident that he could not have a second wife who had expired, since bigamy is a Court Martial offence!

    “No sir, she is very much alive. I was just checking her name and spelling from the ADC for the invitation card for the lunch tomorrow”, said the hapless officer, now being subjected to what is known as ‘dirty stares’ of senior officers. Dirty stares of senior officers, by the way, are worse than being shot at dawn!

    “Oh, I see. Sorry old chap. I thought you said ‘Jothi’”, said the Corps Commander.

    “Yes sir, that’s what I said, Jothi, which the ADC tells me is her name.”

    “No my friend, she is not ‘Jo-thi’. She is Jyoti, pronounced “Joe-ti”. Thank heavens that she is not dead, as I first misunderstood you having said. Remember to be careful of your pronunciation; she is ‘Jo Hai’(who is there). And so I reckon, she is Jyoti jo hai [Jyoti who still is there] and not Jo-thi [the person who is no longer there]!”

    The officer asking for the name was obviously a South Indian. They add a ‘thi’ to North Indian names which have a ‘t’. Thus, Lata is La-tha, Jyoti is Jo-thi and so on.

    Hence, the Corps Commander’s wife had nearly become a ‘has been’. A close shave indeed for her!

    And for us too!
     
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