24 Jun 2011

Operation 'Golf Serra'

Sometime around 1977, there was a lot of RT natter between Tezpur and Chabua, on VHF, mostly between Migs and the bloody MI4s, concerning ‘Op Golf Serra’, which more or less had the potential to become the ‘Bap’ of all  Samba scandals.  Large number of Migs getting airborne from Tezpur used to seek permission during routine sorties to change over to Chabua and yap with MI4s in code.
‘What is the latest on Golf Serra ?
‘Phase -1 complete’,  the MI4s of 105 used to respond.
MI4s would change over to Jorhat frequency and ask Daks flying in Nagaland, ‘request update on Op Golf Serra ?’
The Daks in turn would ask AN12s in Chandigarh over Morse code, and they in turn used to patch into tele-printers in the met section to yap with Coimbattore or Barrackpore. The former was infamous for ‘Madras Mutiny’ of 1794 and the latter the ‘Sepoy Mutiny of 1857 (Mangal Pande).
After a few days, another Mig would ask, and be told that Phase –II was complete.
This went on for some time, till Op Golf Serra became super critical mass and reached phase 6.

There was then a wireless experimental unit called 42 WEU next to AF Stn Chabua (in Chabua village about 6 km from the airfield) whose job it was to monitor HF&VHF transmissions in Tibet (under the auspices of RAW). Since the only sincere bugger in 42 WEU (Plt Offr Anjit Bose) was a 46th course ex NDA fellow (Admn Br) who pined to be a pilot, he often tuned in to the VHF instead of HF just to hear his old course mates, pilots, talking to each other. Anyway, he probably had no clue what the f****** Chinese were talking about in Tibet.  The RT log also went to the CO of 43 WEU, a signals officer, who was at that time trying to find a way to get out of a 4 yr long punishment posting. So from the RT logs the CO of 42 WEU came to hear of ‘Op Golf Serra’, which he diligently reported to the LU (field intelligence unit of Eastern Air Command) to gain brownie points. The LU perceived this to be some kind of a mutiny or national purge during Emergency – possibly a coup d'Γ©tat being hatched by some individuals in Tezpur and Chabua. The highly imaginative CO of 42 WEU also suggested to LU that Golf Serra may have something to do with large ‘Gold’ shipments that MI4 chaps were trying to do, like the Hump Air Lift that USAF did from India to China in 1945. You would remember how paranoid everyone was those days during ‘Emegency’.

When Rao reported that Op GS had reached phase 6, I think the then C-in-C EAC reported it to Air HQ who in turn reported it to IB and I believe IB mounted an operation that had no parallel in history. One day, late in 1977, a large posse of officials from  Provost, LU, IB and RAW.....they all landed up in Chabua and started rummaging around in bachelor quarters. They turned up a mountain of porn, love letters, and unwashed undies, but nothing on Op GS. I believe a similar exercise in TZ had very similar results with the Mig guys (especially Ghaseeta who had stuffed unwashed socks under his pillow). Mind you, we guys in MI4 always washed our socks and cocks diligently for reuse in Nagaland, a service privilege only granted for the ardous exercise of flying MI4s  J 42 WEU was asked to do data analysis to figure out  who were making the transmissions. There were large number of perpetuators of this intrigue and scheming crime, but out of the main lot they noticed that James in TZ and Buster Bains in Chabua were the main culprits. The ‘Big Yappers’ of Op GS.

By then Plt Offr Anjit Bose who wined in with us every evening in 105 had confessed to us MI4 guys about the investigations on Op GS. Like it was in the east, guys were full of mischief and hence it was decided that we will play along with the charade. First Buster was marched up to Chimpy Chaks who was then our Stn Master.
‘What is Golf Serra ?’, he was asked.
‘Don’t know Sir, it is in cipher’, said Buster.
’Who is the ring leader ?’, Buster was asked.
‘Cyclic’, he said.
‘Who is Cyclic ?’
‘Don’t know Sir, I think it is Durga the barman ‘. 

They went and interrogated just about everybody in Chabua, including ‘Ravan’ the doctor.
Then came my turn.
‘Are you Cyclic ?’, I was asked.
‘No  Sir, I am Kartooooos, but I want to be Cyclic’.
‘Why ?’.
‘Because I like Dosa Sir’.
‘Who is Dosa ?’, they asked, thinking Dosa was the side kick of Haji Mastan, an infamous crook of  Bombay those days.
‘Dosa is Dosa, like Chota Shakeel without the Imli in Sambar Sir’, I said, and got more kicks from the burly IB man.
‘Tell us about Op Gold Serra ?’, they demanded.
‘Oh you mean Golf Serra, Mrs Suku’s Dosa ?’, I quizzed right back at them with much glee.

 When Suku went from TZ to Coimbattore to get married, he got a large, ungainly, conventional, manual Dosa grinding stone as dowry. Mrs Sulu was so possessive about it that Suku was berated to take it with him to TZ.  Pragmatic fellow that he was, he went and gave it to (late) Paddy Padmanabhan in Sulur with a request to despatch it to TZ somehow,  by air. Those days we believed that it was our privilege to do such things.

After she settled down in TZ basha, the indomitable Mrs Suku pined for her Dosa grinding stone. However, after six months of unrelenting correspondence on pink inlands, in code and cipher to avoid censoring, Suku and Paddy were unable to shift the grinding stone even an inch.
‘Get me my grinding stone and I will make you lovely Dasas’, the incredibly affable young Mrs Suku would promise all the bachelors, whoever called on Suku.
It got to be so repetitive that Mrs Suku’s Dosa phobia became a problem for everyone in the ‘Eastern AF’. Now mind you, us the MI4 guys were the smartest, the most enterprising fellows, most adept at Rum smuggling from Nagaland. We also smuggled shawls, dhaos, and sometimes young girls from Churachandpur, all in the tail boom of the f****** MI4 J   So, Op Golf Serra (Grinding Stone) was handed over to us in Chabua, and it was our endeavour to appease the bachelors of Tezpur so that they could go and eat Mrs Suku’s Dosas. It was our herculean endeavour  to airlift the massive 150 kg grinding stone from Sulur to Tezpur, over 3800 miles,  in six or seven stages, from Coimabattore to B’Lore, to Nagpore, To Delhi, To Cal, to Barrackpore, Kalikunda, Hashimara,  Jorhat and finally to Tepur, using Daks, AN12s, Carribous, MI4s, MI8s, and an Otter, with Migs and MI4s acting as airborne FACs. It has only one parallel, the great ‘Hump Lift’ that the US did with ‘Big Boy’ in 1945, the N Bomb from US to Philippines.
Mrs Suku did get her GS and I believe the guys in Tezpur had delicious Dosas every Sunday morning, but the buggers neither invited us the MI4 guys for B’fast nor said ‘Thank You’. I still have a grudge, though the very gracious Mrs Suku was kind enough to feed me her formidable Dosas many years later, I think in Hakkimpet . She still had the same GS with her despite the advent of more ergonomic electrically driven one – you see it was her family heirloom, the only dowry that Suku got, very sentimental stuff  J Those days we were made of very senti stuff, just like all you good guys out there J

Buster Bains was, and continues to be, my hero. Though he pretends to be a simpleton and quiet type of unsocial individual, to my mind, he was / still is one the most intelligent, well informed, cultured, mischievous, affable and humorous persons that I have ever known. He is a brilliant sports person, and like all such sporty people with extraordinary psychomotor skills, he is a very gifted pilot. Along with his inseparable ‘ Judwa’, late Solly Solomon, he was the heart and soul, King of my Chabua bachelor-dominion. He regaled everyone at the bar with his incredibly funny repertoire of mischievous stories, performed impromptu magic shows, made fun of himself and the establishment, fixed drinks, rolled your fags, took Panga with one and all, and he was the most sincere and dependable person that one could ever hope to have as a friend. So looking backwards, Buster is the real hero of most of my Cyclic stories, I just pretend to be Cyclic,  I have always wanted to be that kind of Cyclic, like Buster Bains, my hero.  


  1. that was cool.And so entertaining.Can imagine a story like this regaling everyone at the bar.This is story telling at its best with the grain of truth so important to make it interesting

  2. Ithis was so hilarious, I was laughing all the way thru'. Wonder I'd that dosa GS still exists! Padmini

  3. This operation was OPS HM (Hernia Machine) Airlifting of Grinding stone from Combatore of one of the officer undergoing Admin course Airlifted by a Dakota to Jorhat and to chabua by Heicopter
    The QFI from Dindigul later was posted to Tezpur and enquired on R/T to Chabua
    Most of it is true except Suku is wrong and there were no MI4 at Tezpur

  4. HAHAHA, wonderful storytelling it is.Amazing that a writer made a gridning stone "gold serra'.

  5. Wow, putting whole country into action, those were the days with limited resources and no communications, still it was enjoyable, very well written.πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ˜ΉπŸ˜‚

  6. Dear Sir

    If I say that I am impressed by your write ups it would be understatement . The one on Joe was a very heart wrenching article , through your write up we could feel what Joe must have endured. Keep it up hope to see more from you
    Ravinder Singh
    Echo 58

  7. Dear Sir

    If I say that I am impressed by your write ups it would be understatement . The one on Joe was a very heart wrenching article , through your write up we could feel what Joe must have endured. Keep it up hope to see more from you
    Ravinder Singh
    Echo 58