23 May 2018

The ‘Phoenix Song’ Of Goony Bird

Thought I was dead in Nineteen Eighty Five,
made into Prestige pressure cookers at Rs Thirty Five.

But I am now reborn, back at Hindon,
It was a long journey, from grave yard abandon,
My soul is now in a new virile body, all the way from London.

It seems so long ago, that I crept along, in peace and wars abound,
Through dismal rain and darkness, on ground, all around.
My ‘Spanners and Jocks’, some very young, they were professionally sound,
And that kept my body and soul in good state of mind.

At Srinagar, where the frozen winter nights were long,
They double drained the cocks, even heated the cooler.
When battery fumed, they manually turned my props,
All of it lovingly for me to jog along apropos.

At dawn, beyond the clouds and mists of clinging grey,
I would go, destination not well known,
To the midst of the ‘White Mountains’, which the world had not known.

There daily awaited the pregnant loads, ready to be air lifted,
Rations, live goats, ammo or rum, all to be gifted,
North, or North East, right into the hands of the valiant guarding our land,
Which neither had yak, yeti, abominable snowman, nor a dancing band.

Beyond the clouds, and mists of clinging grey, the load had to go,
And by jove, whether the engines quit, I did go,
My ‘Spanners and Jockies’ of IAF, they were the DCO type,
They were freaking nuts, all ‘Go Go’ nuts, with clarion call ‘Load Must Go’.

When my tapestry is unfurled,
Such memories hold my soul content.
If now per chance I’m abruptly hurled,
Backwards in time, there shall be no lament.
Vintage ? Like hell, I am back as sound as a bell.

By an unknown Bard 

9 Apr 2018


This is a 43 Sqn story of 1973 or 74, don't remember, except that I was 23 or 24, a mighty godzila in Indian 'Far Eastern' Air Force.

Then Flt Lt Aroskar (Rozie) had to go to Mumbai on 30 days leave to get married and bring his brand new bride back to Jorhat. He was very worried. ‘How will a highly urban Mumbaikar girl adapt to Jorhat ? How will we get off at Mariani Railway Station and reach Jorhat ?. Where will we stay ? Endless moral doubts that made him want to cancel his arranged marriage and remain a bachelor.

Timmy Mullapudy, the mighty gentleman Adjutant of 43, promptly said, 'Rosie, don’t you worry, Main Hung Na ?'. So Rosie was put under arrest and escorted to the Indian Air Lines Fokker, lest he run off and refused to get married.

Timmy immediately delegated and empowered me to make sure that ' load must go and fall on DZ'. I was the piddly ‘Asst Adj’,  whose only interest was to see that I was on the flying programme. I learnt to type when I was in NDA because only place to find a GF in Kerala was in typing school. So no matter whom our esteemed boss Le-Le, the Flt Cdr desired on the Talk Board, my name was always on the typed flying programme. I was the man who typed and signed the flying programme, fudging everyone's signature.

So Rosie went to Mumbai, got married, and even sent a telegram on rail reservation and time of arrival at Mariani - 2100 hrs.

I forced one of the married officers to go on 60 days leave, with 30 days authorised absence without leave (AWOL) to be regularised in unit routine orders (URO), so that Rosie could have uninterrupted marital bliss for 90 days. I even raised a 905, requisition for an Air Force transport to pick up Rosie from Mariani like Ola/Uber,  three weeks in advance, and made sure that a bottle of  rum was given to the Warrant Officer (Ola/Uber in charge) to prevent sabotage of my war plan to pick up Rosie and his brand new wife from Mariani.

All well laid military plans get laid. When the evening arrived, for Rozie and his wife to arrive at Mariani, there was severe thunder showers, which the Met office did not predict. Being worldly-wise, Timmy knew that CBs & thunder showers also affect scheduled arrival of trains. So we went to the bar and had a few. Filled two batlis with rum & pani and set course to Mariani to receive Rosie and his wife, in a 5 ton world war vintage truck which would start only when Timmy and I pushed.

Mrs Rosie, the Mumbaya girl, had never seen or heard about the Far East, definitely didn’t know where on earth was Mariani or Jorhat. I think she thought that it was a jolly good place to begin a married life. These Mumbaikars, they think the world begins at Colaba and ends at Thane. Mariani was 3400 km away, and involved change of 6 trains including the bumpy Furkating to Lumding section, where newly married are advised by railways to climb into the upper birth and have a god time.

Just as Timmy predicted the train was beset with CBs enroute and arrived at 0200 the next day. By then Timmy and I were quite drunk. What else to do waiting for trains that never arrived in Mariani. Like all newlywed Mumbaya girls, Mrs Rosie jumped off the train in great enthusiasm to start a newly married life.

Mariani had power failure and no lights.
The only ones who got off were Rosies.
There were none else on the platform.
There was a fog.
Like the movie 'Bees Sal Bad', two drunk fellows, wet as Otters emerged. By Bollywood standard both looked like rapists.

Mrs Rosie ran back and locked herself in the toilet.  Sadly we had no IFF (identification friend or foe), even after the war. Luckily she was not carrying pepper spray.

Somehow Rozie managed to activate search and rescue (SAR) and convinced Mrs Rosie that Timmy and I were friendlies and not frontal assault types.

Timmy carried all the heavy boxes on his head, like a coolie. He was the mighty Adjt of 43. Being Asst Adjt I got to carry only hand baggage. And Jesus Christ, Rosie had got dowry, even a Dosa grinding stone which weighed about 250 kg 😂

Mrs Rosie set up house immediately like a good Tantia, there wasn't a day when Timmy was not invited for dinner. I was the side kick, and had to gate crash to claim my name and fame 😂
Rosie and Timmy marched off to Valhalla some years ago. Where ever you are Mrs Rosie, you remain an unforgettable mile stone in my life, the Mariani encounter !!!


Of Ears & Years Gone By.

 As a mischievous kid, my dad used to box (pull) my ears three times daily. Some times more often, like milking a cow when it is obstinate.
So as I grew into a monstrous pre-teen, being the organ that was most exercised, my ears grew disproportionately large, till they looked like that of an African elephant.  I could waggle it to and fro too, like the elephant. Instead of shaking my head, I learnt to say Yes or No by waggling my ears, forward or backward. And if I saw a pretty girl, the ears stood up !!
 Years went by.
In boarding at Rimc in Dun, as I grew into a Godzilla teen, my bums grew disproportionately large, to cushion the impact, because of frequent back rolling, a favoured punishment, to take me back into pre-teen years.  
In NDA, at the end of teen age, everything grew disproportionate, due to incessant calisthenics and ‘ragda’ (ragging) of the worst kind, which taxed all parts of the body and mind, except the brain. Maj Bhatia, the catering officer, gave us mounds of delectable food to eat, but only to develop the brawn, to do and die. ‘My sons, you bastards, eat, eat all you can’, he would say. If he had given us food for the soul, we may have tried to reason why, during war that we ran to fight at nineteen!!
In adult life afterwards, I was given grace marks, and thought to be intelligent because of large ears. Like bald men are supposed to be sexy, those with large ears were considered intelligent, especially with a large forehead too. My COs also liked it when I waggled my ears once in a while, like the dog does with its tail, display of ultimate subservience.
During my innings as an instructor in helicopter training school, I would fly three instructional sorties without switching off. While the pupils strapped themselves in, and made themselves comfortable, I would take off my bone dome (protective helmet) and go out for a cigarette and to pee. On return, I would go around the Alouette helicopter to  check that everything  was OK, especially with the jet engine running at full speed at 33,500 rpm, a banshee scream. Day in and day out, the years went by, and so did my ears. I lost 40% hearing !!
Years went by again and again, at supersonic speed. After hearing my wife scream at me for 40 years, high pitched ‘she-screams’, the ears have now retired and quit. I can neither hear too well, nor show sycophancy, by waggling the ears.  I don’t miss the loss of hearing because of ‘ish-speaker phoone’ on my 4 G phone, or inability to waggle wings to indicate radio failure, lack of opportunity, because I have none to show sycophancy.
‘I am loving it’, that I can choose to hear only what I want to hear. But what I really feel sad about, lament, really pissed off, is that my ears don’t stand when I see a pretty lady !!
I wish my dad was still around to milk my ears, just so that I can be a gentleman, and a ladies man !!!!!!!!!!


18 Jan 2018


 In 1989-90, while commanding 104 Sqn, there was great deal pressure on my wife ‘T’ and I to organise an entertaining event for IAF day celebrations in Bhatinda.

It kicked off as a briefing, by then the Station Commander ‘Counta’ Sir, with three months’ advance notice, to my cm Gahlot (then CO 17 Sqn), Gulati then CO of an SU (3 courses senior), and Walia (then CO of the GCA Unit, who was the indisputable darling of the Boss Counta), an appeal to his three musketeers, to make the event memorable to a large audience / invitees from  the army, including  GoC 10 Corps.

At that time my boys and I were extremely busy, 24 x 7, doing AST/OST including air to ground firing at Halwara and Pokran, writing SoPs, war plan, employment doctrine and incredible amount of paperwork including SoCs for KLP, WET, WWR, minor and major works, ATG, and the usual things that happens in a new raising, trying to get ourselves ‘fit for war’ quickly,  very very quickly. It seemed the war was coming, since CIA reported that Pakis were taking out nuclear warheads out of the Kahoota tunnel.

So I delegated the AF day entertainment by 104 to ‘T’. ‘You got controls’, I told my wife, an executive order like the Roman Centurion, ‘Pontius Fuckusall’.

As the days went by, Mrs Counta (lovingly referred to, behind her back, as ‘Counti’) observed that the ladies of 17 Sqn were seriously practising ‘Gidha’ (Punjabi Dance), Gulati’s group, a Gujerati Girbha / Dandia, Walia’s unit practising this or that, but 104 ladies were doing nothing.  Counti complained to Counta, and I was admonished. That evening I gave a severe reprimand to T.

 ‘Ayyao, what can I  do ?, T remonstrated.  ‘Our ladies don’t have any new ideas to do entertainment. I am MA in international affairs, not a bloody nautanki’, she baulked, refused to kiss me or give me dinner. Though the ‘AF Act’ gave me some control over the men I commanded, I had absolutely no control over the ladies, or even my then 9 yr old son. The rascal frequently went to race with his best friend Dhruv, son of my sweeper, on their cycles , on the runway or taxi tracks, when Migs where lined up for take-off.  

All of these didn’t do me any good.

As the days went by, because everyone was doing their bit, and 104 was doing nothing, Counta Sir rightly got the ‘heebies and the jeebies’, because all and sundry VVIPs in 10 Corps had confirmed attendance, inter-service camaraderie at its best. Walia had in addition taken on the catering and the menu / bar was ready to roll. All except 104 who did nothing.

So Counta Sir blew the bugle and marched me into his office two days before the party, to send me to the firing squad, without an SCM.

‘Sir, Shir, Shirjee’, I pleaded guilty, in the most sugary, syrupy  sycophancy that I could muster. I had to make it up to him, because a few days earlier, during the dress rehearsal, my Sqn Doc had hijacked his flag from his car and Counta Sir was convinced, because of my rascally reputation, that it was I who  had done it. 
‘The AF day is falling on a full moon night’, I pleaded.
‘Can we have the party on 31 dumbbell instead of the mess, which has no lawn and gets everyone’s shoes dirty ?’, I requested.
‘Trust me, leave everything else to me’, I pleaded (most sugary, syrupy,  sycophantic tone, like the mewing cat). I was good at pleading like  that, about 18 yrs experience of being in the dock daily !!

Counta Sir had no choice, so he marched me out without SCM and firing squad, but he liked the idea of the party on the runway. After all, the runway and ORP are the epicentre of all activity on an AF station, even nocturnal mischief.

I went back to  my office in blast pen 19, a lonely agitated man.
I rang up the Col Q (late ACA Pundir, my nemesis in NDA but good friend afterwards)  in 10 Corps,  with SoS for this or that.
I then called my best friend, my Flt Cdr (2 i/c)  Bupi (Sablok). We were slated to do night flying as usual that night. I asked him to invite all ladies to visit us on top of the blast pen 19 while we did night flying.
I had 4 NCEs trained as exceptional cooks by Miss Harinder Singh, then Dir F&B in Hyatt in Delhi. Out of air crew ration and Titar which got ingested into  the Ogives (air intake protection of the engines), they usually produced the famous mouth-watering ‘250 kg keema bombs’, our Sqn speciality.  We had a lovely party.

‘Pat’, I told Pathania, ‘Go contact the Punjab Police and see whether you can borrow a set of police uniform, the khaki shorts, riding puttees, pagri and a 303 DP rifle from the armoury.  You are going to be a Hawaii Sepoy’.
‘And you, Rajbir, you are going to  be Meher Singh, go find some loose fitting old flying clothing, wrap a bed sheet around  your head that looks similar to what he wore during air lift to Srinagar in 1947’.
‘Ashu’, I asked him to take my wife T to 17 Sqn and find her a G suit that fit her, as also a bone dome and pressure breathing mask. I also told him that he was my ‘Subroto’, the day he took over as chief in 1954, and to dress like him.
I asked my EO ‘Venky’ to go to the fire section and borrow the silver coloured fire retardant protective suit with mask and be Rakesh Sharma, the space man.
Every one of my 24 officers were asked to dress and behave like someone from AF history, with Bhupi as master coordinator, to dress up like ACM Dilbagh.
Avnit,  Rajbir’s wife who was the smartest lady and who spoke very well, was made MC. I wrote a brief script of IAF history for her and asked her to edit and adapt it as she liked, and add humour. I asked for suggestions and offered to shave my head, colour my face red, and be ACM Moolie, who was like an angry carrot all the time when he was the chief. But unanimously my team told me to dress just like CO 104, just as I was. I think they felt I fit the role of ‘Ravan’ like a glove !!
Alam my STO was to coordinate positioning of spot lights, PA Syst,  Mig-21s, Mi-35s and SAM-IIIs, bombs, RPs, all  the arsnel in the bomb dump, right there on the dumbbell, touching distance from the guests. He was given all the odd jobs along with the youngest, EO PO Bhupender, who was to dress like a newly inducted airman in 65 war, chasing parachutists at Ambala with a 'Danda'. The ladies were told to look through old albums and dress like their grandmothers when they were young. 

In bright full moon night, about 80 offrs/wives of AF Stn Bhatinda and about 300 invitees including the Corps Cdr assembled on 31 dumbbell with sofa and chairs laid out in a semicircle by Col Q Pundir, who also provided shamiyanas and field toilet – food stalls, outdoor party kit including a tandoor, with manpower, generator and subdued lighting, all under the supervision of Alam. NDA camaraderie at its best. The party started with Gidda, Girbha, Dandia dance, and unpalatable skits & PJs by Walia, while gentlemen hit the bar like a frontal assault at Hajipir Pass.  

My NCEs provided the snack of the day, ‘250 kg bombs’, Titar Keema and its equivalent of Potats for Vegetarians, tandoori stuff, mini samosas, iddali fried, exotic  snacks that Harindar had taught them in Hayatt, dressed in spotless whites like Hyatt chefs. Liquor flowed like Ganga and Yamuna. There was live army band, and dancing, mostly Punjabi Pop,’Tootak, Tootak, Tootia’,  favourite of Counta Sir.

And when the clock struck nine, Avnit took over.
104, put up a ‘Son et lumière’ of ‘AF down the ages’, with absolutely no practice. Out of the dark came a ‘Hawai Sepoy’ (Pat) doing a Dhawakar at Wazaristhan, followed one by one by the venerable characters from AF history, wearing the many AF uniforms of the past,  with their wives dressed like their grandmothers, holding hands, spot lights by Alam  tracking them while they strolled about the dumbbell, with Frank Sinatra belting out ‘Strangers in the night’, quite a change from ’Tootak, Tootak, Tootia’.

Venky outdid ever one else. From behind a Mi-35, which looked like a lunar vehicle in the moon light, he came bunny hopping in slow motion, defying gravity, like Neil Armstrong during his moon walk, to a thunderous ovation. The show stopper was T. She marched into the centre of the dumbbell wearing a G Suit, with the bone dome and oxygen mask. T stopped in the centre of the circle with her hands on her hips. Avnit announced that this is the fighter pilot of the future. T bent forward,  took off the bone dome in one swift motion, shook her long hair loose in one flick of her head as she went back to the hands on the hip stance.

There was thunderous applause and standing ovation from the army. 

Afterwards, Counta Sir gave me the ‘bamboo’ in his office, for stealing his flag. Though I didn’t do it, it was my pleasure and duty to own up for crimes done by my equally zestful rascals of 104. I was their team leader, wasn’t I ? Good thing he didn’t order a firing squad. Otherwise I couldn’t have written this silly story.

Counta Brar & Counti Brar, both are jolly good fellows, so say all of us.


15 Jan 2018


Thank you, all those who wrote to me, or left comments.
You make my day.

The war story (Dragon Strikes Again),  an expanded version with much more content, is being published as  a book, on the persistent advice of many of you. So I took this story off the blog. Shall advise when the book hits the stand hopefully within  next 3 months.

The 2nd story on the blog (‘Hindustan’), about life and times leading to  the first Punjab war, 1844-1846, is also going to the publisher to be converted into a book. That hopefully should hit the stand by end of 2018. So that is also off the blog now.

There is a 3rd one, about two protagonists with completely opposite character and ideology, but with some romantic inclination (a woman terrorist of sorts and an Army Officer, both modeled after real life events and characters known to me) during the cataclysmic Marxist revolution in Kerala in mid 50s, which brought EMS Namboothiripad and  Communist govt in Kerala. That was not put on the blog. I have yet to decide how and when to launch that story into a book. Perhaps mid 2019.

The  one I  am currently working on, ‘Aapatsu Mitram’, is a seminal work of  historical   research, the real life exciting pioneering of  military helicopter pilots &  engineers during 1954-1965. Next one on the agenda, is an untold interwoven real life story of five of my NDA course mates, then of the rank of Major, in the bloodiest killing field in Sri Lanka (early IPKF days).

The autobiography of the most inspirational Sub Maj Kanshiram, half done, is on hold. I  didn’t get an opportunity to travel to Hamirpur / Pune / Village Demi, to meet his widow, two sons, and a few old colleagues from 3 Dogra, as also look into NDA archives.  Besides, the story was to have been co-authored with my best friend Brig Jasbir (in a wheel chair) who hasn’t been keeping too well.  I will try and complete that story too.

By the time I finish doing all the above, Cyclic would have overshot the dead line of 70, and become senile. You wouldn’t want to read Cyclic stories anymore  !!!!!!!

Keep smiling.
Fond regards


23 Nov 2017

'Goodman Di Laltaen’ and ‘Tunde Laat Di Phauj’

 Since this is Punjabi folklore, fable, I should  perhaps write this in Punjabi, with seasoning, to get the flavour right.

However, Punjabi seasoning like ‘your pen’s ink’ (Teri Pen-Di Ink) and ‘your mother’s dal’ (Todde Maa-Ki, Dal) are to be only whispered under the breath, with stiff British upper lip, in the hallowed portals where Gorillas congregate (the parliament). So, I shall try and tell this ancient Indian story in civilized language. ‘Civilized’ is a very vague word, in the ‘Crae-jee’ mumbo-jumbo of the Indian ‘Mantri-jees’, who are to be found only in the jungles of Lutyens’ Delhi. I  am told that they secretly congregate as parliament, once in a while, usually at night, to bash each other on the head with broken chair and microphones to govern India, all the time muttering TPD, TMK, BC and MC in unadulterated Punjabi. Lest I be deemed less civilised than our parliamentarians, I will try and tell it in Queen’s E, which is India’s national language, reason why ‘April turned May’, or is it June,  asked the British to ‘Brexit’ and bugger off, to come and re-conquer India. What a good, I am loving it like Sub-Way sandbitch.

All inspirational Indian folklore has to have some British and rest Punjabis in it, so does ‘Goodman Di Laltaen’ and ‘Tunde Laat Di Fauj’ .
The folklore goes  something like this.

About 185 years ago, at the eastern and western ends of India (‘Law-hore’, now in Pak Land, and the black hole of ‘Kol-Kota’, now in Mamta Land), there lived two illustrious gentlemen, who had quite a few things in common. Both were great warrior chiefs, who had left behind body parts in the battle field.

The truth is that the eye of the former was lost due to small pox in Gujranwala and the hand of the latter went into a wagon wheel somewhere between Crimea and Caucasus. Since I can’t tell it like it was in Punjabi, I need to tell it like Shekhar Gupta, with man bite dog sound-bites, a few lies here and there to make this interesting. Besides I don’t want to offend God Man ‘Baba Ram Rahim Insan’ and make him issue a fatwa from jail, because my story lacks the sex appeal of his muse ‘Honey’, who made money. So I will start the story again. About 185 years ago,………….

In the west, Punjab under the parliament of the ‘Punjabi Subha’ at ‘Law-hore’, captained by Maharaja Ranjit Singh, was a very prosperous and well governed country, because the Maha Raja had a laissez faire Nelson’s view of governance. He didn’t promise good governance like Modi, but flogged the tax men Gulabh Singh and his dubious brother Dhyan for deviations in GST and De-Mon.

In the east, the East India Company (EIC) at Calcutta was a very prosperous and well governed company, turned great country called ‘Yindia’, sorry India, governed by a ‘secret conclave’, captained by the Governor General, Lord Edward Law, 1st Earl of Ellenborough. He too flogged the tax man, Lord Osborne, once in a  while threatening to cut off his gonads because EIC was bankrupt because none paid sat tax and CST, excise Duty, countervailing duty, death tax, living tax, breathing tax and so on.

Despite their physical handicaps, both team captains could hit sixes at every IPL like Gawaskar, though they never had any India-Pak matches, at least till the super-shitter, sorry supper-hitter Maharaj Ranjit was still around. That was because their bats were not Kashmiri Willow, but two armies made of iron men. The Maharaj had a French deserter turned Englishman  Jean-Francois Allard as army chief, and Italian turned Teri Pen Di Jean-Baptiste Ventura  as army commander. In the east, the pearl, sorry Earl, had a blind man turned Field Marshal, Hugh George, 1st Viscount of Gough, as the Centurion Pontius Buggerusall, as commander of the Indian army. This story is not about the clash of the Titans at Mudki and Soberon in 1846, but about  ‘Goodman Di Laltaen. and Tunde Laat Di Phauj’. So let me begin again. About 185 years ago,………….

Britain was suffering from plague and the British, sorry ‘Britishers’, they were doing Brexit, without Lords Peel, Macauly, or Mumbaikar Meri Lele, egging them on like ‘ Jan to Dec’, sorry May, definitely May. Seeing the prosperity and business opportunities offered in the region, amongst the many who did Brexit, and ran to make a buck in India, was young teen aged entrepreneur David Goodman. No, he was not the Guajarati who ran to  Uganda at the same time.  When every British entrepreneur scurried into the rat holes in the interiors of ‘Yindia’, sorry India, Goodman went east on an elephant till Duliajan. There, his elephant got bogged down in slush and mud and he had to  hire  several elephants to  extricate his ‘Hathi Mere Sathi’. The Hathi is a leading item number in his story with  background score by Beethoven of Madras.

Afterwards, in the cesspool created by the trampling hip  shaking elephants during item number, Goodman noticed a crude black oily, very viscous substance, floating on water. He syphoned out some, put it in his tea kettle and boiled it. Nothing much happened till  the kettle cooled. ‘Viola’, Teri Pen Di, the viscous crude substance split into two parts. A less viscous waxy solid ‘oliphant’ (it is a chemical name, not the poo of the poor elephant) and a base layer of highly viscous tar ‘asphaltine’ (not related to Horlicks or Ovaltine).  It was an earth shaking discovery, but at that time Goodman had no idea what to do with it. His ‘Chinese’ green tea and the ruddy kettle were ruined, but he brought some of it  back to Kol-Kota in Mamta Land in the tea kettle, and set about wondering what to do  with it, while he paid 10 Pounds as licence fee to grow tea in 100 hectors at Duliajan, in Ahom land (erstwhile ‘Chutia’ kingdom – no this is  not obscenity, but early historical name of territory in upper Assam !!). Goodman took  a while to clear the Chutia jungles  and plant Chutia tea instead of Chutia coffee. But being a brilliant businessman, he discovered that he could make a buck making hitherto unknown candles with the Chutia stuff in the kettle, if he threaded a wick through its backside, without offending the puritan missionary Bishop Cotton. Immediately he paid another 10 Pounds to East India company as licence fee to set up a company called ‘Lamp Black’ in Duliajan and to  exploit the mineral resources of the Chutia kingdom. All this is documented history and I didn’t cook it up, I swear to God.

‘Goodman’s Candles’ from Lamp Black produced more smoke than light and got extinguished if there was a wind. So he invented, designed and manufactured what he called ‘Goodman’s Lantern’, which sold like hot cakes on all continents on earth,  along with his ‘Goodman’s Candles’. It not only lit homes, but also streets, ships, light houses, horse drawn carriages, and enabled cattle class to go  early morning to defecate in the fields with nary a care for ‘Swach Bharat’. ‘Goodman’s Lantern’ went where ever God said ‘let there be light to show the heathen the way, drive the fear and darkness from their hearts’, even in Punjab. Bishop Cotton, a shareholder of ‘Lamp Black’, preached hell and brimstone to promote  ‘Goodman’s Lantern’. Goodman became very  rich, like Ram Rahim Di Insan, almost godly, all over the Indian sub-continent. In Punjab it was pidginised as ‘Goodman Di Laltaen’ (Goodman’s Lantern). Lantern became the symbol of good, brave, illustrious deeds of a good man, like the political  symbol of Ra Ga Congress, ‘Sonia Ki Hath’.  Goodman  Di Laltaen eventually became an adulatory adjective, an award like Bharat Ratna, which carried rewards of jagirs, large tracts of land that made recipients a  Jagirdar, Jilladar or Tahasildar, depending on the area of land that was bequeathed to him as ‘Goodman Di Laltaen’.

That was in Punjab.
Piche Mud, look east now. About 185 years ago,………….

In a world of sycophancy in ancient Hindustan, art of survival under a thousand  years of occupation, ‘Laat’ was a tribute paid  to a great man (not to  be confused with ‘Lath’). ‘Laat’ was complimentary, but ‘Lath’ derogatory (as in Lathon Ke Bhoot;  bad people who  deserved a kick). A Raja was referred to as ‘Laat Saheb’ (big Lord), an emperor a ‘Jangi Laat’ (master of the world). When  British came  to rule Hindustan, the Gov Gen was nicknamed  ‘Jangi Laat’. However, when  poor Edward Law, 1st Earl of Ellenborough, came to rule East India Company, in Punjab he was derogatively deemed ‘Tunde Laat’, the emperor with no hands or legs, like a kebab with no NFU. If someone didn’t perform in Allard’s army, he was ridiculed as a ‘Tunde Laat’, a handicapped soldier with no allegiance,  camaraderie or  valour, a disgrace.  Strangely Ranjit Singh was also referred to by peasants as ‘Kana Laat’ (one eyed emperor), but with great affection and reverence. Funny people, these Punjabis, like Paki CoAS, Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, who says  ‘Balle Balle’ while doing unspeakable things to Jangi Lath Nawaz Ki Aawaz,  that he is Bilkul Sharif . Ok back to the story.

After Ranjit Singh died in Jun 1839, Punjabi  Subha went berserk, in an internecine political war, palace intrigues, loot of treasury and murder (like 8 Indian non-functional  PMs,Tunde Laths’ with erectile dysfunction,  who came and went after Rajeev Gandhi was assassinated). Ranjit’s last of  36 concubines, the daughter of a kennel keeper, Jindan (Junda Kishore) and her lover Labh Singh (a Sikh Tahasildar),  rose to political power with the help of Dogra Gulabh Singh, who  coveted the biggest salt mine  in the word at Khewra, as well as, to be ‘Jangi Lath’ of  Jammu & Kashmir.  The Punjab army (not Pakis mind you) stood in the way. And since they were not  being paid regularly, started an OROP like agitation. Soon they were banished to south of Satluj as ‘Badmen Di Laltaen’, to Soberon facing the English garrison of Firozpur, and a diversionary deep penetration strike further east at Mudki, with the aim of blowing up  the large British ammo  and gun factories at Philour. The Punjabi army was put  under command of ‘Goodman Di Laltaen’ Labh Singh, a Dogra. It precipitated the first Anglo-Sikh war in 1846. Punjab’s mighty army that maintained peace and prosperity for 40 odd years, was written off. Punjab surrendered and became a vassal state of the country called Reliance, sorry East India Company.  Sob, Sob.

Our ‘Goodman Di Laltaen’, the modern Indian armed forces, were made ‘Tunde Laat Di Phauj’ after Pakis responded to exercise Brass-tacks, with ‘Zorbe-Moimim’, the doctrinal  ‘Act Of God’, nuclear détente. When Chinese come to proclaim  ‘Dhoka Law’ in Chumbi Valley, all the Tunde Laat Di Phauj could do was the ‘Lungi Up’ manoeuvre and offer Jappi,  Pappi and Chumbi.  I feel very sorry, no not for the army, but our ‘Jangi Laat’, sorry Tunde Laat, sorry  Modi Laat,  because of ‘Zorbe-Moimim’ which gives him finger trouble, to press N Button.

The ‘Goodman Di Laltaen’ are quite happy doing socially useful and productive work (SUPW) holding a broom instead of a rifle to do Swach Bharat, sweep everything under the carpet. Or go save children in bore wells, act as National Disaster Relief Force or build over-bridge in Mumbai. All that Tunde Laat needs to do,  to become Jangi Laat, is to teach his arthritic fore finger to do yoga, to push the N-button, turn our N-doctrine  from NFU (no first use) to ‘teri pen di’ first use, like Kim Jong-Un. After  that just watch how the Indian armed forces  turn colour to ‘Goodman Di Laltaen’ instantly from current Tunde Laat Di Phauj .

Mr America, the penultimate Jangi Laat, has  given ‘Modi Laat’, our PM/She Em,  Jappi, Pappi and Chumbi, while he only shook hands with Mamnoon Hussain and Xi Jinping. Their hands are dirty, while our ‘Modi Laat’ is a very clean man, very huggable and kissable. This is the right time Modi Laat Ji, to get rid  of arthritis on your fore finger. What is the problem, let us collectively  say ‘Booooooooo’, a new war cry, and see if Pakis and Gen Bajwa run off to Dubai with their ‘Zorbe-Moimim’ Ki -Pen-Di doctrine, saying Balle Balle.  

Cheers to ‘Goodman Di Laltaen’ and ‘Tunde Laat Di Phauj’


6 Nov 2017

The Gorkha

This is a forward that tickled my cockles early this morning.
Don’t know whether it is fact or fiction, I don’t  care.
It is a heart-warming story, well told. You can hear bag pipes play while you read. Perhaps the tune is ‘Jaya Mahakali, Ayo Gorkhali’.
Cheers to the Gorkhas.
Unni Kartha


 "This was sent by a cousin who was a planter all his life. First in the Darjeeling Hills and then later in the Annamalais.
 In this time of pain for all my Darjeeling family, a short story of what our forefathers have been through:

 CIRCA 1968: It would be cold for at least another hour. Then, when the Sun peered over the hill and warmed the frozen earth, the frost would thaw and begin rising off the ground like sepulchral mist. 
 “It will be nice to feel the sun on my back,” thought Harkadhoj Limbu, for the winter months on Sukvah Tea Estate were long and cold.

 The thousand acre property, which the British sahibs used to call a Garden, looked directly across the valley at another Company property,the Pahar Tea Estate. Pahar was not as pretty or as productive as Sukvah, and it did not face the magnificent Kanchenjunga Snow Range. The disadvantage of this majestic view was the cold wind that continually came off the mighty Himalayan massif. It filtered through the flesh and chilled old arthritic bones; bones long since splintered and mangled. 

 Harkadhoj Limbu's body had faced more than its fair share of privation and hardship. The cold water he splashed on his face now forced him to inhale sharply. One of these days, he thought wryly, he might inhale so hard there might not be enough strength left in him to exhale. Yet, it was a routine he had followed all his life. There was a short interruption because of the war, which had kept him away from this little rivulet but that was many, many years ago. 

 His wife Kanchi was alive then. So alive and so petite! His heart raced, as it always did, when he thought of her. He smiled a forlorn smile and pictured again that last time he saw her. She was radiant in the throes of early pregnancy, with little Birbhadur in her belly. A son for whom she gave her life for without medical attention in her village, she had died at childbirth.

 He had left the country resplendent in uniform and a salute that served as farewell. Removing his cap he had kissed Kanchi full on the lips before leaping into the military transport van filled with grinning Ghurkha soldiers bound for lands across the Kala Pani but before that they would be taken to the nearby temple first: a Priest’s blessings were essential before their Hindu beliefs allowed them to cross the Oceans and Seas that lay ahead.

 His thoughts turned to his son, Birbhadur, who grew to manhood without the benefit of a mother. What a mother Kanchi would have made! Apity she wasn’t there when Birbhadur suffered rejection at Sandhurst, for colour-blindness was unacceptable at England's prestigious Military College. But spoiled by the blinkered love of a devoted father, Birbhadur took for granted the many sacrifices Harkadhoj had made to put him through College and architectural training abroad. He finally settled down as a fully qualified architect in Nepal, never to visit or acknowledge his father again.

 Harkadhoj knew that his son was ashamed of him and that was fitting. He was, after all, a mere estate labourer while his son now mixed in exalted company, where Royalty and the Palace were not excluded. He still continued to enjoy his father's pension. It had been essential when he was a student but although he didn't need it anymore, it was there for the taking. After all, what wouldhis father do with all that money?

Thinking of Birbhadur made him smile again. Harkadhoj was proud of his son. It was a pity that he couldn’t have become a Ghurkha officer. How smart he would have looked in uniform, marching to a militaryband… he could still hear the strains of bagpipes, from a bygone era, playing ‘Cock Of The North’ and his thoughts strayed to distant battlefields before returning to the present.

 Today the Chairman, Peter Ross, would be visiting Sukvah tea garden. Peter Ross, a retired Ghurkha officer was also the Managing Director of the company. He would have liked to meet him but that wouldn’t be possible. Old folk, past the retirement age and kept employed out of sympathy, would be tucked out of sight from any visiting dignitary. Instead they were to sickle weeds on a remote boundary bordering a tea field that had been hard pruned.

 Pruning was an art. It was a job that Harkadhoj had been comfortable with in the old days. He had a natural ability with a knife. Most Ghurkha’s did but he could, with a flick of the wrist, slice through a two-inch diameter stem of tough tea wood leaving the cut clean and smooth. It was essential that it be smooth, without those visible marks made by less skilled pruners whose hacking would leave rough protrusions to serve as entry points for bacteria. Bacteria caused excessive die back on the pruned branches and sometimes even killed a hard pruned bush.

 Now it hurt to even think of flicking his wrist, with or without a knife in his hand. Involuntarily flexing his arm, he remembered the shock on the face of a large German soldier when his kukri had severed the head of his bayonet charging comrade in the thick of battle. Hand to hand combat was the forte of the Ghurkhas and even now his heart raced to the cry of ‘ayo gurkhalli’ as they charged into pitched battle, their kukris held high… and then the blood, dripping down shiny steel blades.

 The sun was beginning to paint the enormous mountain. Starting from the very peak, it began turning the ghostly ethereal snow into vibrantcrimson; an enormous backdrop of blood. Beautiful as it was, Harkadhoj had seen enough blood during the war years to last his lifetime. He turned away, a sickness of old gnawing at his stomach.

 The Sun completed its masterpiece and then began the earnest business of warming the frozen earth. The first rays of sunshine took the chill out of Harkadhoj's body. He shivered as the clawing cold released him but each day it seemed to retain a little of his spirit. He knew that soon there would be nothing left to give.

 With the warmth, blood began circulating. Tongues loosened, and amidst the soft chatter of his companions, arms moved rhythmically wielding sickles in constantly changing arcs. Weeds cut down were left where they fell. It reminded him of the past. Everything reminded him of the past: then it was men who were mown down, to be left where they fell.

 The mid-afternoon sun silenced the earlier drone of bees and arrested the chirping of birds. Such was the silence that Harkadhoj could hear faint voices from a mile away. There was little doubt to whom they belonged – the put-on airs of the Manger, John Benson and the softer cultured accents of the Chairman. Something was wrong. He couldn't put a finger on it until he realised that the voices were coming closer. But the visiting dignitary should not be coming in this direction.

 It was soon apparent that they were heading for this work spot. Perhaps the Chairman had insisted on following his instincts rather thanbeing guided by John Benson. 

 "Very sensible", thought Harkadhoj, "if that is the case."

 But this was not so. Benson, overly keen to impress the Chairman, had got so carried away with boasting about his achievements, that he had taken the wrong path through the Tea bushes and was soon at the last place he would have wanted to visit with his Chairman.

 The work here was never up to standard. The old folk were no longer capable of whetting their implements to the required degree of sharpnessand to bend that low, to cut grass and weed just above ground level, was impossible. It was already too late when John Benson realised his predicament and he had nobody to blame but himself. His recourse predictably was to express astonishment and then rage at the poor quality of work.

 "Yo ekdam naramro kaam ho!" He thundered. "Belight ma ... " Continuing in chaste Ghurkhali with a British ‘Lord Haw-Haw’ accent he said, "In England such work would be unacceptable. It is a pity that none of you have been to England. Little wonder then that India is in this sad state!"

Carried away by his eloquence, Benson thundered on, "You people have not seen good work. You never will see good work because you have never been to England!" The haranguing continued for some time.

 His glasses glinted and his moustache bristled as fiercely as the noonday sun. Surreptitiously glancing at the Chairman to see what impact he had made, he glared defiantly at the workers. Dropping his sickle Harkadhoj straightened, bringing his weary mutilated body to attention. Barefoot, in old torn khaki shorts and a shirt full of patches, he took a deep painful breath and addressed himself to Peter Ross, ignoring Benson. 

 Benson's face was suffused with blood. His whiskers drooped a fraction and his outrage was manifest. How dare the natives usurp centre stage like this!

 “Chuup gar, you damned impertinent savage!”

 "I have been to England." Harkadhoj stated. His dead pan voice cut through the hushed assembly as he continued. "I have been to parts of England that you have never been to, or will ever be allowed into!" 

 "Which parts of England are you referring to?" Asked Peter Ross. His voice was gentle and there was a hint of mirth that indicated he wasprepared to enjoy what was to follow. Peter Ross knew the Gurkhas. He knew them well, for through the war he had served with Ghurkha Regiments as had his father before him.

"I have been to Buckingham Palace,” said Harkadhoj, sticking his chest out even further as he stood to attention.

 Benson was about to splutter about the absurdity of that statement. A mere common labourer on a Tea Plantation – at Buckingham Palace indeed! The Chairman waved Benson into silence to ask:

 “What were you doing at Buckingham Palace?”

 "I was the Queen's personal Bodyguard for two years."

 This spoke volumes for the man since the Bodyguards were normally changed annually. To have been retained an extra year must have significance. Ross was immediately curious.

 "Which Regiment were you with?" He asked.

 "I was with the Seventh Ghurkha Rifles."

 "You were in Tobruk, El Alamein and Monte Casino?" Peter Ross was now fully engrossed and concentrating hard on the features of Harkadhoj.

 "Hazoor! Yes Sahib," confirmed Harkadhoj.

 Were you decorated?" 

 Almost everyone Ross knew, who emerged alive from that arena, had received some award.

 "I initially got the Military Cross. After a few months I was informed that a Bar had also been added. After the War I received the 'Nepal Tara' or 'Star Of Nepal' from King Mahindra." 

 Then reluctantly, almost ashamedly, looking at the ground he whispered:

 "I was cited for the Victoria Cross."

 The silence became electric.

 That night Harkadhoj was the Chief guest at the party held in honour of the Chairman. Peter Ross had especially asked that Harkadhoj bepresent and that I, who was the junior most Assistant Manager in the Company, see to it that Harkadhoj present himself in full Military regalia. This had been difficult. 

 I put his un-ironed trousers under the mattress to be pressed. The coat had to be darned in a few places. The Military Cross, the 1939-45 Star, the Italy Star and the War Medal, along with some attendant Oak Leafs, which signified dual awards, had to be affixed to a piece of cardboard placed under the shirt. This was done to keep the weight of the metal from tugging the fabric askew and thatwouldn't have done at all.

 The Star Of Nepal was attached to a blue ribbon left over from a Christmas present wrapping, and put around Harkadhoj's neck. Shoes? Well he couldn't fit into my size twelve’s with his five and a half size feet but a khaki pair of sneakers, belonging to my butler, served the purpose.

 "Harkadhoj, what was the citation for?" Asked the Chairman.

 "Near El Alamein, a German Panzer division surprised us at dawn. They came over a low hill and we were caught stranded in the middle of the desert. Many of us were killed instantly. Most were able to flee to nearby dunes and escape. One British Officer was caught in the middle. He was alive but a bullet in the spine had paralysed him. I was close by and managed to drag him to safety."

 "My God! So it was you. I was there but frozen with shock. That was my cousin you saved. He has spoken about you ever since. Struth! But you were riddled with bullets. I saw the dust come off your shirt. You shielded Andrew with your body. He owes you his life!"

 "Sahib, it was he who helped put my son through College in England. He has done enough for me."

 This was obviously not enough for Peter Ross. But Harkadhoj refused any monetary help and a saddened Chairman went back to England stilldetermined to do something for this gallant soldier.

 Six months later the Victoria Cross was awarded to Harkadhoj Limbu for Bravery Above And Beyond The Call Of Duty. It was posthumous. Harkadhoj had died a week before the award was made. 

I think he would have preferred it that way.. "

16 Oct 2017

Load Must Go

Before 71 war, and for a few years afterwards in 43 Sqn at Jorhat, flying Daks, when I was a ‘Pitot Tube' & afterwards a Godzilla 'Fying Officer’, none had ever heard about the strange secretive group called ‘Directorate of Flight Safety’ in Air HQ.  They were like Free Masons, recognised only by code words and by hand grips, when they caught 'nones' throat and said the pass word, ‘Goch Ya’, to send the 'nones' to  the firing squad.  

The clarion call in Jorhat was, ‘The Load Must Go, and  fall on the DZ’. The  load to be dropped was decided by some unknown person, or thing, called 'Raso' which at that time none knew was the Rear Airfield Supply Organization. The nones only knew that it was the mighty  Raso  who decided what, or how much, was to be carried, to where daily, day in and day out, all days of the month. Every squadron had a monthly impossible target set by Raso on how many tons of 'thingamado' were to be dropped in a month. If someone didn’t drop it on a particular day as Raso dictated, for whatever reason, others had to go and do double time to do it or die, ‘the load must go and fall on the DZ’, was an inviolable order given by this secretive thing, Raso .

Raso were a union of mysterious men in the twilight zone, much like Dte of FS in Air HQ. The load for the Dak could be anything. Usually Aatta, Maida, Sugar, Rice, etc in 55 kg  double sewn jute bags, Kerosene or Rum in Jerry cans, live goats and chicken in wooden cases attached with parachutes.  Yes, there were also coins in a boxes, Dalda Tins, all attached with parachutes. The jute bags, piled one on top of the other, 6 at a time, were kicked out of the open door of the Dak  and generally fell on the Dropping Zone (DZ). Rum and Coin boxes were jury rigged with parachutes that had its vocal chords cut, or detached,  never failed to not open, smashing itself into the ground silently in inaccessible valleys. There was no effort to check why the parachutes didn’t open. The load was usually loaded when the air crew lined up for their traditional piss under the wing, and hence had no clue of what was the load, they simply signed the manifest. It wasn’t our reason to ask ‘how, why, when, where or what’, but simply to  drop the load where Raso told us to ‘go do it and die’, mostly in deep interiors of NEFA or in Naga Land. 49 Sqn did the same things in other parts of North East, all the way south to Chura-Chandpur, where there were very pretty girls. 

Though we had only 10  Daks in 43 Sqn, we had around 150 odd pilots, even those guys who refused to go back after 71 wartime mobilization, because of temporary duty allowance and free rations, specially rum at 1 ½ Rs / batli (coke at Rs 3/batli) and salary of a Pitot Tube Rs 315 / pm. Of these, only 15% pilots believed in the motto, ‘load must go & drop on the DZ’. These were the ‘Us’ kind, the DCO kind (Duty Carried Out). The rest were ‘Them’, the DPCO kind (duty partially carried out) or DNCO kind (duty not carried out). We had an authorisation book to keep track of 'Us & Them'. 

Obviously the flying programme, which was an A3 size cardboard covered with talc sheet, scribbled with China Graph pencil,  was tampered with daily by one of us rascals, to ensure that only ‘Us’ flew and ‘Them’ stayed happily on ground.  So the 15% were the kind, who with utter disregard to personal safety, or that of the crew or that of the meagre supply of irreplaceable WW-II Daks, went and did it just to write DCO in the authorisation book. That was our raison d'etre. None wrote citations for medals for the ‘Us’ type of nones, though lots of citations for medals were written by the ‘Them’, mostly by themselves. 

Because of the  DCO mentality, we went through bad weather, extreme turbulence, single engines, over load or bad loading with no ‘bill of lading’, bad navigation that got the Dak lost inside one way valleys, a horde of reasons that led to increasing fatal accidents. Around 1974/75, the fatal accidents rose to alarming levels and one day the Free Masons descended down from the sky over Jorhat, grabbing our juggler and saying the pass word, ‘Goch Ya’. 

The result was that I was made a Flt Safety Officer (besides o i/c piggery), both were never seen or heard species in the wild life of the Eastern AF. I had no  clue  of what is to be done, either to the pigs or to make flying  safe, unless the ‘Us' turned to 'Them', the DNCO/DPCO kind,  and sacrificed our bounden duty to DCO and die. 

Among the many things I was asked to do as newly minted Flight Safety Officer, to prevent accidents, I was also asked to draw cartoons and invent catchy slogans, and paste them everywhere, to augment Flight Safety.  My first cartoon had a Dak sitting on its belly with a caption, ‘Fly Safe’. I was asked to tear it down immediately and put a more tearjerker story board. So the next cartoon I drew was a coffin, with a caption, ‘Claim Free Airfare Home’. 

I was removed as Flt Safety Offr forthwith and never had  to cross the floor from ‘Us to Them’ for the rest of my career in IAF. Quite frankly, I still don’t know  anything about flying safe, it was a dangerous profession, for which we got 6 tins of condensed milk and 4 cartons of Amul Chocolate every month. They made me very popular with all the girls in Jorhat and Dibrugarh, and helped acquire the most sought-after chutzpah, even without  wearing a wing or regalia on my overalls !!.

I wish I  could do  it all over again !!!