25 Aug 2013


A true story from the midst of madness and bloodshed, the ‘Kargil War’.

            The early morning calm was rudely shattered by numerous blasts that rang out in quick succession. The sound was akin to repeated hammering of a wooden mallet on corrugated, galvanized iron (CGI) sheets. Soldiers sprinted hither and thither to find some cover while Paki artillery shells rained down on them and burst with ear shattering explosions. The intense Paki artillery barrage continued for about half an hour. When it ended, there was sudden silence and troops waited inside their bunkers for another half hour or so before they tentatively emerged from numerous hiding places and went about their routine morning chores.

           The loud explosions woke Brig Jasbir Singh SM (Jas), Commander of a Brigade in the Chhamb-Jaurian Sector, with a start.  He sat up on the bare camp cot coughing and sneezing because of the dust and debris that filled his underground fortified bunker. It was still dark and he groped around for his mobile to check the time. Deep within the bunker he could not hear the whistling noise as the shells went overhead. 

        The Paki heavy artillery bombardment had just taken place on the line of bunkers located on a ‘bund’ (raised ground). The bund ran along the ‘line of control’ (LoC) at Pallanwala. Operation ‘VIJAY’ (Kargil Operations) were in full swing between India and Paki and the intruding Paki forces were being physically removed from the rocky heights that they had surreptitiously occupied in Kargil, at the northernmost end of the LoC. The difficult operations in Kargil and Tololing were in full media glare and a shocked nation watched troops battle it out on the high mountains, on their TV sets, right in their bedrooms. But elsewhere in Pallanwala, in Chhamb-Jaurian Sector, out of the media glare, there was another incredible drama unfolding.

It was a clear morning at the southern end of the LoC where Jas was located. Puffs of a few white clouds dotted the blue sky. After the mortar bombardment ended, he could hear the light hearted banter of his troops. They chatted and joked with one another as they spread their sleeping bags and clothes to dry in the warm sun. Occasionally, a loud peal of laughter could be heard as troops stretched themselves in the sun. The radio sets crackled with the Brigade Net operational natter, the voices sombre and full of static.

 Suddenly there was a yell from inside a nearby concrete bunker, in which a day sentry manned a light machine gun (LMG). He was peering through a loop-hole at the flat land in front of the bunker. The flat land extended for about 200 meters and sloped into Munnawar Tawi River, along the centre of which ran the LoC. The flowing water in the river was only about half a meter at its lowest point.

 On hearing the sentry’s alarm, troops rushed into their bunkers, expecting another round of deadly enemy barrage. Looking through the loop-holes, they were surprised to see the figure of a small boy, 10 or 11 years old,  splashing through the river towards them. Field telephones were rapidly cranked and before the little boy had waded across the river, reports of this most unexpected event was flashed up the ladder from the company and battalion headquarters, right through to Jas. Jas instructed the troops to hold their fire and guide the boy through the mine-field adjacent to the river. The Platoon Commander, followed by some soldiers, climbed to the top of the ‘bund’. They stood in full view of the Paki defences across the river and shouted directions to the child, on how to negotiate the minefield. A wrong step here or there could have blown up the child or maimed him.   Laboriously, as if in a daze, the child followed the instructions with hesitating steps. Soon the child arrived at the bunker’s entrance. He was dressed in a dark-grey coloured kurta-pyjama suit and had his pyjamas rolled up to his thighs. He seemed quite unperturbed though he had a serious expression on his face. He was made to sit under a large tree and gently questioned by the Platoon Commander. In Punjabi, the boy gave his name as Yusuf Mohammad and said he belonged to the large village across the river. When asked where he was going, he shyly related that his father had been extremely annoyed to see his poor Class IV results. He had scolded the boy volubly and even told him to leave the house. Disgusted with his father’s shouting, Yusuf had left the house and walked towards the fields adjoining the village. He had continued to walk through the fields, crossed the river and wandered into the Indian Army Post.


Yusuf was quickly bundled into a ‘Gypsy’ and driven to Brigade HQ at Pallanwala where he met a lanky, affable Sikh with a luxurious white beard, attired similarly in Kurta Pyjama, much like a Pathan.  Jas made him as comfortable as he could on a camp style folding easy chair. Since the boy said he had not eaten since the previous afternoon, Jas offered him a hot meal of rice, dal and vegetables. Jas chatted with him with paternal affection. From the answers Yusuf gave Jas, it became apparent that he did not know he had crossed the LoC. During the gentle prodding, Yusuf proudly said that his father was a retired ‘fauji’ who would soon become lambardar of his village. Since the artillery bombardment had taken place while the boy was walking to the river, he was asked if he had heard any loud bangs as he had approached the river. The observant boy thought a while and brightly remarked that he had passed a grove of large trees where ‘faujis’ were gathered and there had been explosions from tubes placed on the ground. With a smile he added that ‘faujis’ had been scampering about in a funny manner but he had avoided going near them.

When the child was told he had crossed over to India, he become visibly scared and even began to tremble in fear. After instructing his men to look after the young boy, Jas rang his General Officer Commanding (GOC) in Akhnur and told him about the Paki boy who had strayed across the LoC.  Perhaps there were more important things on the General’s mind and Yusuf was quickly brushed aside. ‘Send the rascal back’, the General said gruffly and began to discuss other more pressing military matters. Jas sent the boy back to the Battalion HQ in-charge of the spot where the boy had crossed the river and ordered them to look after the boy, but to send him back to the other side of the LoC first thing in the morning.

            With an unobtrusive guard outside the room, Yusuf was allowed to relax and given a Hindi movie to watch on TV. After he had happily watched the movie, Yusuf innocently told the astonished Junior Commissioned Officer (JCO) who was stationed in the room, ‘Eh picture teh main pehle vekh chuka haan!’ The boy became a subject of great attraction and many soldiers peeped  into the room to catch a glance of the Paki child. As the evening progressed, Yusuf began to miss his mother and tearfully told the JCO he wanted to go home. He was reassured that he would be sent home safely in the morning. After the uneventful night, Yusuf was again taken to see Jas. Jas told him to be a good boy, study well at school and never again defy his father and walk out of home, despite what his father said in anger. Yusuf solemnly agreed with what Jas asked him to do and nodded repeatedly in agreement. He was given a small packet of sweets for his parents, two CDs of Hindi movies and a fountain pen to take back with him. Jas gently patted him on the cheek and asked the JCO to see that the boy was safely sent through the mine-field and to the river. Yusuf was told to shout loudly to the Paki soldiers, while he was crossing the river and then follow the same track through the Paki mine-field across the river.

             Yusuf was taken ahead of the forward defences once again in a Gypsy. Here, he alighted from the vehicle and carrying the small bag containing his presents. He walked back the way he had come the previous morning. The JCO and others watched the small boy move slowly along the narrow foot-track in the minefield till he reached the river bank. At the river bank, Yusuf stopped and bent over to roll up his pyjamas. Before he stepped into the cold waters of Munnawar Tawi, the Paki child turned and waved at the Indian soldiers waiting near the Gypsy. They smiled and waved back at him, silently wishing him luck. In such a short time a strong bond had developed between the child and the Indian soldiers. Perhaps they were reminded of their own children at home, and they hoped the boy would safely complete his hazardous return journey and re-unite with his parents. 

                 The soldiers watched Yusuf’s slender figure get smaller and smaller as he crossed the flowing waters and went further towards the Paki defences. All the while they could hear loud shouts from the boy to warn the Pakis of his approach so that they did not open fire. Soon, they happily saw Paki soldiers come out of their bunkers and get atop their ‘bund’ to guide Yusuf through their mine-field. Then Indian Army soldiers returned to their defences and reported to Jas ‘mission accomplished’.

 After allowing enough time for Yusuf to be interrogated by the Paki soldiers and moved to rear areas, it was back to business for the Indian Brigade. Jas ordered a devastating barrage of mortar fire on the enemy’s gun positions hidden in the grove beyond the Paki forward line of defences. Soon the complete grove was obliterated. It was business as usual for the two opposing armies, each trying to kill the other with everything they had. That night both sides re-laid the minefield where the boy had crossed, the clear passage through the minefield which the child had crossed had been noted by either side.

Jas soon forgot about Yusuf and immersed himself in his routine operations, trading bullet for bullet and shells for shells. Barrages of mortar bombs exploded among the defences, while ambushes, raids and intense small arms fire caused numerous casualties. The wounded were promptly evacuated to rear areas while machine-gun fire swept the line of defences, on both sides. Soldiers hid in their bunkers or used crawl-trenches to move about. Climbing atop the bund was akin to committing suicide and it became an activity of happier times of the past.    

 After a few days, Jas got a call from the GOC. The GOC told Jas that Yusuf was son of a retired Paki Army JCO whose ex CO was then the Paki Director General of Military Operations (DGMO). When the ex JCO and his wife failed to find the boy, they had enquired from villagers. They were shocked when they came to know that Yusuf had been seen fording Munnawar Tawi  and walking towards the Indian defences. In sheer desperation, the ex JCO rang up his old CO (the Paki DGMO) and narrated his tale of woes. The Pak Army General had sympathized with his old JCO, as any General would, and amidst the numerous daily telephone calls related to the ongoing operations in Kargil, he had informed his Indian counterpart DGMO about the lost child. The Indian DGMO had informed Northern Army Commander and the information ultimately trickled down to GOC of the Infantry Division holding Chhamb-Jaurian Sector.
‘Where the f*** is that Paki rascal ?’, he asked.
‘Hopefully back at home with his ruddy parents’, Jas informed him, matter-of-fact.
Soon the information was relayed back from one DGMO to the other. 

Amidst intensive firing across the LoC a few days later, Jas received a strange message from one of his commanding Officers (COs). The CO told him that a forward post commander had reported that the Pakis, just 25 meters away, had yelled over the sound of firing and asked for a temporary cease-fire to deliver a letter for the Brigade Commander. They had been told to await further instructions. Jas overcame with curiosity ordered the CO to accept a temporary ‘cease-fire’ for 10 minutes and to accept the letter from the enemy side. The CO reported to Jas that the Paki soldiers had tossed across an envelope affixed to a small stone with a rubber band.

            The letter was brought to the Brigade HQ and opened by Jas. The letter from his Paki counterpart, said that he had been directed by his GOC to convey sincere thanks for returning the little boy in a safe and sound condition. While Jas was reading the letter, he heard a distant rattle of machine-gun fire. The sharp sounds came from the direction of the IA Post where the letter had been thrown across the LC. He smiled wryly to himself. He hoped that Yusuf by now would be safe at home with his parents. Hopefully, one day Yusuf would remember his brief sojourn with Indian Army and grow up to be a fine young man.

 Jas cranked the field telephone, got across to his Brigade Major (BM) and ordered 100 rounds of retaliatory fire with the heaviest calibre artillery weapons that he possessed. It was not for him to reason why Pakis and Indians fought continuously, but to do and die. An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. But Yusuf, well he was not an enemy. He was a young child just like all children, the future of Paki. Jas hoped that one day Yusuf would grow old enough and be a better man, perhaps help stop the madness and bloodshed that still continues on the LoC.

Post script

Jas is a Rimcolian (R 62/66), 37th NDA (Hunter) and 46th IMA, commissioned into 4 Kumaon in 1970, the same battalion in which his late father Brig Balbir Singh MC did incredible things to the Japs with a bayonet in the 2nd WW ( Jas’s book ‘Escape From Singapore’). Jas is the tail ender of a long illustrious family spanning 5 generations of hard core soldiers, each of them more illustrious than his predecessor. Jas was commissioned at 20 and immediately sent to fight the B’Desh war. For 35 yrs afterwards he fought every Tom, Dick and Paki. At the height of his military career, he was the National Security Advisor to Rwanda, where he stopped a bloody civil war, wrote their constitution to turn it into a ‘Republic’, supervised elections, installed a Govt and ensured peace and prosperity in that impoverished country, all of it single handed in just 22 months. And what did he use for doing all these ? Just a silly foot long ‘Malacca’ cane, his baton of authority !!! So it came about, that ‘a stick is better than the tongue’, and that a soldier is as adept at making peace, as he is in making war.   

 As my best friend for 53 yrs, Jas continues to inspire me, ………. daily.




6 Jun 2013

Life Of ‘Pi’

This is an Enid Blyton type of story, follies of my youth in a boarding school RIMC (erstwhile Prince Of Wales Military College, now Rashtriya Indian Military College) in Dehra Dun (1962-66), after which I joined the National Defence Academy (NDA).

Here it goes……….

 The ‘Hole In The Wall’ gang (1962 batch in RIMC) from Ranjit Section moved into senior dorm around 65, I think. It was an exciting and momentous event, moving from middle to senior dorm, like attainment of Nirvana. We had come of age.

 End of the boarding school life was almost in sight. I was at last beginning to get public hair, just a single curly black strand, an event that I had been aspiring for, and hence looking down at, on daily basis, right through junior and middle dorm days. There was also news of a war and great excitement in RIMC. PT, Parade and Classes, our nemeses,  were excused for couple of days and we were asked to go and dig ‘5 men trenches’ (FMTs) all over RIMC, everywhere that we were likely to be day and night. Each FMT had to be dug by the same 5 people who were to occupy it if a Paki aircraft came to bomb RIMC cadets, the future of the Indian armed forces. Those days we really believed that Ayub Khan (old boy from RIMC, generally called a Rimcollian) would have assigned PAF to include RIMC as a priority target for Paki Air Force to bomb. We believed that Ayub may have said, ‘Nip the ruddy Rimcollian buggers in the bud, so that Indian Army will have no future’. We were the ruddy future of the Indian Army. That was our perception and endeavour back in 1965.

So we went and dug FMTs all over RIMC with zest, meticulously supervised by Subedar Limbu, whom we unjustly referred to as ‘Subedar Nimbu’ behind his back. Sub Limbu was a very smart and absolutely soldierly gentleman who walked around wielding a ‘Pace Stick’. A pace stick, is a wooden device like a school boy’s geometry box ‘Divider’, the one that you use to measure distances of lines that you draw. The pace stick whose jaws, when opened fully, point to point, was 30”across, the length of each step that we were expected to take while marching (it was the bane of our subsequent life in NDA). However, it was a treat to watch a ‘Drill Ustad’ in RIMC, walk along with you, twirling the extended pace stick, each point placed against his heels precisely as he marched alongside.

‘Lamba Kadam, Cadet’, Sub Limbu used to command.

NDA mein ja kar, Drill Ish-Quare pass karna hoga’, he would say.

Now at 64, Limbu still whispers in my ears and I still walk 30” a pace, digging my heels like a Prussian soldier and swinging my arms to and fro, full 1800 swing. A lifetime habit taught by Sub Nimbu. Makes me a laughing stock when I go around for my morning walk !

The pace stick had other uses too, nasty ones. To smack us in the ass if we were slack on parade, to poke us with if we blinked or moved while standing at attention on parade (‘making loose motions’ as Nimbu used to say).  But the ultimate imaginative use of the pace stick was to measure the FMTs. Nimbu insisted that the width of the trench had to be precisely 30”, (5 x 30 x 2) 300” long and 60” in depth, all of which Nimbu would measure with the pace stick with one micron accuracy. We were told that the measurement of the trench was calculated by old Ramanujam the mathematician to prevent a Paki bomb from skipping and falling into the bloody trench, like the bomb from ‘Bomb Buster’ 16 mm black and white WW-II movie that we had seen in the auditorium (now Bhagat hall)  while we were in middle dorm. But the ruddy pace stick was the ultimate weapon of soldiering, at least those days.

So that is how we dug a FMT adjacent to the Ranjit Section Senior Dorm  ‘Box Room’. When facing Ranjit Section, the room on the extreme right was the box room (a place where we did terrible things). On it’s right was a narrow gravel path (those days) leading from the Mess to the ‘Academic Building’ (there was no covered passage those days, just a gravel path). My FMT was across the gravel path, in line with the dorm, say a distance of around 25 feet away, right next to the path on a grassy patch of garden with hibiscus bushes around it.

 We had many air raid drills all through Apr – Sep 65. The brass bell (the original 150 years old one, now stolen) used to be rung very vigorously, continuously and rapidly at odd times, day and night. We would then run and jump into the closest FMT with great expectations and glee of imminent bombing by the old blighter Ayub Khan, and his ruddy Air Force. Sometimes at night, we jumped into the trench half naked, sometimes one on top of each other, mostly on our backs looking out for the Paki aircraft and hoping to see the bomb fall on our heads. Such an act, contrary to the air raid drill, (instruction to lie on our stomach and keep the head down), it was meant to augment our courage and valour for future soldiering. If an alien (not part of the original 5 owners of the FMT)  jumped into the FMT with us, we used to box him and kick him out. On one of those drills, Jas and I discovered that there was a terrible P smell emanating from the trench. After some IB like ‘Jasusi’ and persuasion, ‘Fatty’ confessed that he is scared of ghosts and that at night, all alone, he was scared of going to the toilet all the way to the opposite side of the building. Hence, Fatty said that he stood on the veranda next to the box room and did it into the trench, 25 feet away.

 Ja Ja Bekoof, Sala Jhoot Bolta Hai, you can’t pee that far’, we said to him with incredulity.

We challenge you to do it again and show us how you do it’, said Jas, our undisputed leader of the ‘Hole In The Wall’ gang.

Fatty was a man of high integrity, honour and self-esteem.

If he said it, he would do it, whether it was five goals in hockey, eating 25 toasts with 2 cutlets, or jumping up to hit 6’ 4” HS Vaid on the nose.

 So Fatty went to the end of the veranda, pulled down his ‘jamees’ and shot a squirt without any warm up whatsoever. He did not even clench his teeth or compress his six-abs. He simply fired a short burst from his MMG. In the moonlight, his tracer fire arced high in the air in a parabolic flight path, till gravity began to get hold of it, bent it downward. The squirt fell precisely into the 30” mouth of our FMT, 25 feet away,  right through the opening, without even touching the walls. It was an Olympic performance that left us speechless. There was the silence of the lambs, absolute incredulity and disbelief, for 10 sec.

I now challenge any of you to do it’, Fatty said with a smug smile and no guile.

All of us tried. The best field of fire that I personally could manage was 5 feet. I think Jas managed 12 feet. The best that anyone could do was 18 feet by HS Vaid, who as a 6’4” tall Sardar, had a proportionate organ. He had a 105 mm field gun in his pants. But none could do a sterling performance of 25 feet, right on target like Fatty. And to rub it in, Fatty did it again and again, giving us lessons for improving field of fire and accuracy.

 That is how the highly secretive ‘Inter Section P’ing competition’ and ‘Life Of Pi’ began in Oct 1965, at the close of that war.

 After Tashkent Indo-Pak pact, in Oct 65, we were told by Nimbu to close and seal all trenches and obliterate all signs of the FMT. Our ‘Life of Pi’ and the  ‘Inter Section  P’ing competition’ seemed destined to die a natural death. But Jas was a very imaginative person. He went and put a whitewashed brick on top of the closed FMT, as a marker, precisely at 25’ distance. It became the new target for the P’ing competition. Jas then tuned a bookie. ‘Double your money if you can ‘P’ 25 feet’ – that became an irritable challenge to all at RIMC. Many from Pratap and Chandra Gupta sections came, but lost their bet. Fatty could hit bull’s eye every time and they could not even manage 10 feet. Pratap were decaled the ‘worst pissers’. The ‘Hole In The Wall’ gang became richer because of the betting. We amassed a great wealth of around Rs 4 or 5 which was spent immediately ‘cutting bounds’ to Paltan Bazar to drink milk shake or to see Asha Parekh’s incredibly large ass magnified on a 70 mm screen in Odeon Cinema.

 Our serious challenge in the P’ing competition came from Shivaji section.  They meticulously researched the art of long distance artillery firing, the angle of the dangle, length of the barrel, explosive propulsion as a result of the contraction of the six-abs and the muscles of the rectum, both simultaneously, blowing and bulging one’s cheeks (just like Pranayam and Yoga). They practiced day and night and shortlisted their champ, a most unlikely chikoo, a thin, scrawny Sardar – CSL. They also insisted that the umpire will be a man of high integrity and had an eye for the fine sport, from Shivaji – venerable Mamu.

 So it was that Mamu was placed near target area in a rain coat and everyone else gathered on the veranda on a moon lit night in Dec 1965 for the ‘Inter Section P’ing Competition - Finals’ with double or quits, 10 Rs bet on CSL hitting the target like Fatty. Shivaji section, being cheaters, believed that ‘means justifies the end’ and had force fed CSL with 10 ltrs of water half an hour earlier, to arm his piddly 303 DP rifle that was expected to shoot 25 feet, right on target. With great aplomb, CSL undid his ‘jamees’, took out his rifle and was ready to shoot. Everyone including Mamu wearing a rain coat was completely focussed on the target area, the white brick.

That is when venerable KK Kumar, house master Chandra Gupta section, a short jolly person, decided to come around the corner from behind Ranjit Section Box Room.  After 1800 hrs, he was usually drunk.

Every one froze.

But CSL could not hold fire and so he fired, with utter abandon.

The tracer arced high in the sky in a parabolic arc. CSL’s six abs and rectum squeezed with a 10 ton force. The Yoga and Pranayam was at it’s best.

Mamu dived behind a hibiscus bush.

We hid behind the pillars on the dormitory vernada.

 Mr KK Kumar, oblivious to the great inter section competition – ‘Finals’, walked right past, under the field of fire, the tracer going high above his head. I think a few drops fell on his head because I saw him looking up at the cloudless moon lit sky, and shaking his head in disbelief.

None one saw where CSL’s fire fell. Unfortunately we did not have Air OP spotters those days (though afterwards, Tota who became an Air OP Pilot, got an award as a bird who flew too much -more than 20,000 hrs).

 KK Kumar disappeared behind the kitchen and all of us came out of hiding.

Mamu went to inspect and declared that ‘it was no fire’ (like no ball in cricket).

CSL was really pissed off. He said he would do it again (I think he still had 9 ltrs ammo left in his bladder magazine). So despite our remonstrations Mamu gave him another chance. Mamu overruled all our objections like a Supreme Court judge. A 10 bucks ‘double or quits’ was a very serious issue. Shivaji had their honour to upkeep.

 So it was that CSL shot again with his puny 303, a long burst which didn’t seem to end. All 9 ltrs was punched out with an incredible force of 11 Tons squeeze, 6 abs and the rectum muscles, using Pranayam and Yoga, his cheeks bulging out making his face look like a monkey. The tracer was a long yellow streak, bright and discernible against the moon lit sky. It went high in a parabolic arc, right over the trees and disappeared behind the Principal’s (present Cmdt’s) office, beyond 2000 feet. There was much cheering by Shivaji and a pall of gloom over Ranjit. CSL was crowned undisputed firing champ and given the title, ‘Top Gun’.

Mamu came around to collect the winning, double or quits, Rs 20. Despite our going around begging in all dorms in Ranjit, we could only collect 20 Annas. So we settled with an IOU. I am sorry to say that we never did pay the IOU.

 CSL went on to become the Cadet Captain in our final term in RIMC in 66, for sterling accomplishments and leadership qualities, one of which was his unbeaten record as ‘Top Gun’. He was a just and sagacious Cadet Captain, popular as well as effective. He helped control the Homos as well as Sapiens, by giving the former an inferiority complex and the latter a reason to be proud. With his prowess at the firing range, the Homos could not rise up to the occasion and the Sapiens like us just followed him about like a puppy !

During our visit to RIMC in May this year, Jas and I went to take a look at the FMT site. Sadly there was no sign of it, or the target brick, not even the hibiscus bush. Mamu was there, but not wearing the rain coat. He now wears a hat to hide two feet long hair. After he retired, he retired his barber too.  CSL does not visit RIMC and is hiding in Dubai, lest someone asks him to show his 303 DP rifle or repeat his Top Gun prowess. Fatty went missing in our 2nd term in NDA. HS Vaid never joined NDA. Tota is still flying in Dubai, as all Totas are meant to do.  There was just Jas, Mamu & I. We no longer live the Life Of Pi simply because none of us can now target the Pi for more than six inches, even after Yogic practice of squeezing the rectum and bulging out our cheeks, we now restrict ourselves to close quarter battles. All that is left from our days, Life Of Pi, now is the platform, at the end of the Ranjit section veranda, awaiting another ‘Hole In The Wall Gang’ like the 62 batch, the Rascals.


18 May 2013

'Dragon Drools in DBO’

Beijing was smothered with early morning smog, most unusual for 1st May, the Labour Day holiday. Despite the breathless atmosphere, the black made in China Geely GE, copycat Rolls-Royce, sped past the Tiananmen Square and the entrance to old forbidden city, past the monument to the ‘People's Heroes’ and headed for the south side entrance to the ‘Great Hall of the People’, to the office of the President of the Republic Of China. The conscientious Chinese traffic police recognised the peculiar car and it’s single occupant and waved their batons to let the car speed past the red traffic lights unhindered. ‘Geng Huichang’, generally known as ‘Hoochy Character’ sat at the back speaking on his mobile phone.

 Ching Chang Shu, Rat Chandni, how do you do?’, he barked into his mobile phone (English Translation : I don’t care, pack up the mother f***ers in their underwear and bring them to the meeting on time. I want them there).

 As Minister Of State Security, Hoochy Character was the most powerful man in China. He had the power to arrest or send to the gallows any man in China including Hu Jintao or Wen Jiabao, the ex President and Premier of the Republic of  China. Hoochy could not fathom why Xi Jin-ping or Li Ke-qiang, the current President and Premier wanted them there in the meeting in the first place, Hu and Wen were already history. Sometimes, Hoochy just obeyed orders without asking Hu, Wen or Why. He had been asked to also get hold of the Chief of the Guoanbu 2nd  Division of the PLA GHQ, who was responsible for collecting military information. He could quite guess why Gin & Tonic and King Kong wanted them there for this early morning meeting. ‘It could only be to screw Fang’, he mused. The Govt Of India had given the ‘De Marche’ orders to the Chinese ambassador in New Delhi, but he had refused to march off. Five silly tents in Daulat Beg Oldi was too ‘Oldi’ a matter to take any serious cognisance in Sino-Indian relations.  

 ‘7 O’clock on a May Day, Jesus f***ing Christ’; when Hoochy was exasperated, he switched to American slang, a lifetime habit inculcated from monitoring the CIA on the Great Wall of China as well as his frequent reciprocal trips to the promenade on the Golden Gate Bridge. When the CIA ‘walked the talk’, the Chinese liked to do the same. Just to spite the politicals and Fang, Hoochy had also ordered the heads of the 3rd as well as the 4th Division of the GHQ, both of them ‘Shang Jiang’ (4 star Generals) who technically had very little to do with the meeting, they were simply the eves droppers, or the ones who monitored the telecommunications and collected ELINT, the ‘Peeping Toms’ who loved to monitor the sex life of orang-utans in everyone’s ‘Parliament’ .  The others that Hoochy had summoned to the meeting on the orders of Gin & Tonic were Xi Jinping (Chairman Of the Central Military Commission), Chang Wanquan (Minister Of National Defence) and lastly the venerable ‘Yi-Ji-Shang Jianng’ (5 star General Of The Army, equivalent to a Field Marshall) Fang Fenghui (Chief Of PLA General Staff).

‘That bugger, Fenghui is going to bare his Fang over Daulat Beg Oldi’, mused Hoochy as he ran up the steps into the cavernous innards of  the Great Hall of the People.

It was just quarter to seven, but Hoochy was a punctual man and he wanted to be there when Gin & Tonic decided whether to go to war with India over five tents in DBO.   

 ‘Kiska Naam Chin Chin Choo, Are Baba Chin Chin, Choo, How Do You Do, Helen, Howrah Bridge 1958 ?’, barked Gin & Tonic directly at Yi-Ji-Shang Jianng Fang Fenghui (English Translation : Who the f*** told you to induct troops into Daulat Beg Oldi ?).

 Fenghui as expected bared his Fangs, smiling cordially and pointing at King Kong with his chin and goatee beard. ‘Raat chaandni main aur tu, hello, mister, how do you do? Meraa naam chin-chin-chuu, chin-chin-chuu baabaa chin-chin-chuu, raat chaandni main aur tuu, hello, mister, how do you do? Waah waah, waah waah, waah waah $%#@*&’, Fenghui let fly a long diatribe.  (English Translation : ‘I have been advocating a forward policy for decades, but none of you f***ers U, Hu, or Wen found time to listen to me, we need to keep the f***ing Indi and Hindi in their place and the best place to shove a bamboo up their ass is at Daulat Beg Oldi, it is a bung hole any way’).

 Baabuji main Cheen se aayi, Cheeni jaisaa dil laayi, Singaapur kaa yauvan meraa shaanghaai ki angdaayi, Baabuji main cheen se aayi’…….they argued.

Dil par rakh le haath zaraa, ho jaaye na paagal tuu’,…….they pleaded

Meraa naam chin-chin-chuu, chin-chin-chuu baabaa chin-chin-chuu’, they reiterated.
Raat chaandni main aur tuu, hello, mister, how do you do?’ Fang thumbed the table with his fist.
Meraa naam chin-chin-chuu, Chin-chin-chuu, baabaa chin-chin-chuu, raat chaandni main aur tuu, hello, mister, how do you do?’, placated Jumping Jack and Hoochie.
‘Wah wah, wah wah, wah wah’ ………. They debated between themselves - Hu, Wen, where, what, why, Gin & Tonic, King Kong, the Generals, the Field Marshall, and of course my contact in China, the Hoochy Character.

 As soon as I can translate all that what happened above into English, tonight after 2 L St OM, I will be right back. The situation is not good. Repeated ‘Wah Wah’ is an indicator that the Fang’, the Chinese Field Marshall of the PLA, he wants UP & Bihar in lieu of the tents at DBO. I think all the top notch politicals in Delhi, including some of the femme fatals, they are all catching the first flight to the US for organ transplant – to get their balls removed. Only the lady on the elephant has agreed to go to China. It is quite possible that all 3.3 billion Chinese may come running to India when she goes there, even the Chinese cannot stand her.

In the meanwhile our fishy smelling Salmon, the ‘Mogambo Khush Hua’ fellow, has thrown up his hands. He has promised to stop eating Hakka noodles and has switched to American Chopsuey. The Chinese seem to have made incursions and set up tents in other places too, in what is being referred to by foreign office in South Block in Delhi as the ‘tent diplomacy’. The South Block guys, the ones from Ministry of External Affairs have brought themselves ‘Chinese Commodes’ and given up ‘Western Commodes’. The Chinese one is an upgraded version of the WC, the Indian weapon of mass destruction, it helps catapult crap all over DBO.

 The Army HQ has asked MOD procurement wing to immediately tender for one lakh whistles and flags of different colours to wave and whistle at the Chinese. The tune of whistling is being changed to ‘Auld Lang Sang’ to confuse the Chinese who are singing ‘DBO Sang’, the Tibetan national anthem. All Madrasi regiments are not to be issued with flags. They have been ordered to take off their Lungi and wave it with reverence. I believe the COAS has an alternate plan to blow the ‘Last Post’ on the trumpet to remind the Chinese that ‘we shall overcome’, every border pillar is the COAS’s Longewala. The Army HQ NBC cell has alternate plans too. They plan to feed our troops with Mahabali Tiffin Room (MTR) freeze fried ‘Moolie Ka Paratha’ to make them all into ‘Chemical Ali’ from Bagdad and make them fart at the Chinese, mustard gas, worst chemical warfare since WW-I.  Lastly the COAS plans to use the strategic weapon, the fly swat, and get rid of the Chinese flies in DBO. Army HQ and the COAS, as also other service HQ and their chiefs are not supposed to piss or shit without asking the MOD, ‘Sir can I pee, can I crap ?’. The MOD unfortunately maintains a stoic silence of the lambs and marvel the Chinese Commode technology to fling crap at OROP. The Defence Secretary has told the services, ‘Yours is not to reason why, but to fart and die’. 

 I think ‘People Of India’ a very patriotic TV programme run by Bakra Dutt has plans to invite the Chinese to come and pitch their tents next to India gate. Bakra Dutt has promised that buggers will get ‘Shiela Ki Jawani’ Dengue and become more yellow. Perhaps the Chinese will go home sneezing, ‘Chin Chin Choo, Are Baba Chin Chin, Choo’ (English Translation: ‘Crazy f***ing Indians’, velly velly bad, even their lice these days is not Basmati).

 If I can get hold of An-Thony, I will try and ask him to hoist his lungi at half-mast and go to DBO to give a ‘General Salute’ to the Chinese. His 0.22 rifle may upgrade to a 105 mm field gun if someone blows on it. Perhaps he could give Yi-Ji-Shang Jianng Fang Fenghui the PLA Field Marshall a scare of his life if the 0.22 rifle turns to a 105 mm field gun. Everyone is asking ‘Where are Mana Mohana and Sonia Ji ?’. Personally I think they are hiding in the Nuclear Bunker because elections are due. Neither have balls to face the Chinese. They require organ transplant like me. What a good.

 Cheers, St OM is in a plastic bottle now and the bloody thing tastes like crap. What a bad.


14 Feb 2013

Book Launch - Camphor Avenue


 Who hasn’t spent a memorable reunion with schoolmates guffawing over stories of schooldays, the night goes by and it is only the chirping of birds that remind how time has flown by - just as the years in school did. As a boarder in RIMC ( Rashtriya Indian Military College ) in the early 60s and 30 years later as the head of my alma mater for about 8 yrs, I have always wanted someone to pen these hilarious stories for students, teachers and parents. The reader will find that she/he is sent back to school and the innocence of childhood comes alive once again.

 A team of four, of which the three were together at  RIMC  in the 1960s and the fourth, the anchor of the enterprise (born much later), has come together with this narration. They go about telling the stories in a most engaging manner that brings back a flood of memories.

 Of the three old boys – Jas and Unni are my course mates while Chander was about two years younger, we are thus contemporaries. I have been a witness to some of the hilarious tales that they recount here and vouch for them being most authentic - some places a little masala maybe. Interactions with Sidharth started after I came back to head the school in 1997. He is the quintessential editor, who must have the edition meet the deadline.

 This gang of four have done their best to recall the often exciting time we had at our boarding school.

I hope that students of then and now will find it a thoroughly enjoyable read and hopefully some of them may feel excited to pen a sequel.

This book, though about Rimcolian childhood, is highly recommend for all, even children; it helps to bridge the generation gap, bring good cheer and a smile on your face.

Col Arun Mamgain (Rtd)
Feburary 2013. 

 To purchase this book, please contact
a)     Brig CS Thappa  chander_thapa@hotmail.com 
b)     Mr Sidharth Mishra sidharthmishra@hotmail.com  + 91 98102 67451

I am Unni referred to above. I shall appreciate if a few, or all of you, purchased a copy of this book and also gave it some word of the moth publicity. You will love the stories, make you and your children laugh. The proceeds of the book will go to charity.

 best regards,


19 Jan 2013

Eggs Shipwrecked

Eggs Shipwrecked, Angles On Horseback & Dhatikara On A Stretcher

 Lights, cameras, actors ………..Action.

Here is another story of my exciting youth.

 In 1971, while the mighty Indian Army was going about liberating East Pak, there was great fear that the US 7th Fleet was sailing into the Bay Of Bengal to mess up our plans for total victory. We were quite young then, air warriors whose skill in the art of fighting, in the air or on ground, was at best the unarmed variety, the kind of things that happened between boys and girls. My contribution to the war effort was therefore to strategise and start rumours on the latest position of US 7th fleet, and possible targets that they were likely to bomb. I became so good at it that Chennai, Bangalore and Hyderabad had air raid sirens and blackouts, which further increased my ability to do night fighting in all these cities where I had GFs.  Because of the blackout, they did not complain that, ‘Somebody is watching’.  Those days we were busy either gun running to Dhimapur,  evacuating causalities to all the hospitals in Chennai, Bangalore and Hyderabd, where I had GFs, and the GFs were helping the war effort by helping me to fire my front gun with soldierly zest.     

 Amongst the large brood of such young villainous night fighter air warriors in 71, all of them like randy bulls fed with hourly doze of Viagra, the strongest and most fearsome was an incredible hulk, a Sainik School Kazhakoottam Malayalee (Mallu) product PU, who sailed through NDA with 36th course without learning to speak a word in Hindi. PU had a very high sense of camaraderie and spirit de corps, he was very muscular, strong and protective fellow, generally the bouncer of the pack, ever ready to start a fight with his fists, with friend and foe alike, especially if the gang did not do what he told us to do. Fortunately PU did not speak much, he was the silent type, the best friend one could have. He was a famed ‘Navigator’ of the Dakota, an aircraft as dumb and non starter as I, it too had no clue what to do, or where to go on it’s own, just like all of us.

 Steer 039’ 45”.........., PU the Nav would command some times, if he knew where to go. If I the non starter pilot steered 040 even for a second, PUK would punch me on the nose for disobedience and lack of discipline.  ‘We will drink Che Large each’, PU would announce after we landed somewhere, where we had no intension to go. And if the crew did not do as told, PUA would flatten our nose at bar closing time and pour it down our throats. As I said, PU was the best friend to have, he even gave firemen’s lift to six of us at the same time and carried us to bed afterwards. PU’s only flaw was that he could not count, especially in Hindi. At dinner time, he would start counting the heads, ‘Yek, Do, Sath, Pachis, Nau, Thera’..........so on,  few words and numbers in Hindi that he could remember in alcoholic stupor, and even if there were only six of us, he would order for ‘Chavalis Yanda’, all of which he would sign for and make us eat. If we complained or did not eat the whole thing, God bless us all.

 Usually the AF mess served ‘Dhatikara Bhujia’, in the honour of venerable Air Mshl Dhatikara, whose preferred meal three times daily was a terrible concoction of barely cooked gooey eggs with lots of fried onions and extra green chillies, with a generous sprinkling of Haldi. In reverence to this famed gentleman, the Air HQ had issued a war time routine order to all the cooks that only ‘Dhatikara Bhujia’ was to be served on extra-messing, it was meant to augment the virility of the pilots and  improve gunnery skill in one to one combat. We were already a deadly threat to the female population. With the Dhatkara stuff added to our diet, we did not need 7th Fleet, we were constantly firing the front guns night and day, even when there was no blackout.

 ‘What is that thing that the Doctors use ?’, PU asked me one night in Yelahanka dining table after he had made me drink ‘Gyara’ large, all of which he signed for. It was my 21st birth day.

‘Stethescope ?’, I anxiously volunteered, lest he punch me on my nose.

‘Che Che, not that one, ..... the thing that they simply use to carry younded people ?’, PU asked quite seriously.

‘Oh, you mean a Stretcher ?’.

‘Yes, Yes, how do you say that in Hindi ?, he asked.

‘PU, I have no idea, I think you call a stretcher a stretcher in every language, even in Malayalam’, I suggested. After 11 (L), I don’t think I was coherent.

So he turned to the waiter and ordered, ‘Yikkis Yanda, bring  Dhathikara on a bloody stretcher’.

The waiters and cooks were very intelligent people those days. Somebody had to be intelligent combatants in the ‘Transport Command’ of IAF those days, the pilots were mostly drunk. The waiter brought 21 ‘Eggs On Toast’ and PUA made me eat most of it. I threw up most of it on him while he carried me to bed. PUA never complained, he was not a man like that, he was a very good chap, it was really not necessary to learn to count in HIndi.

 Next morning, PU and I were detailed along with a very senior and comic Sikh pilot (late Sqn Ldr Dhaliwal) and some others to go look for the US 7th fleet. While I was saying tearful good bye to my GF in the next door infirmary (a very cheerful Mallu lass in white uniform who usually gave a helping hand to fire front guns to all young pilots) PU went to the Nav section and got himself copies of a whole set of million maps that covered all of Asia. Laboriously PU stuck them together, matching the corners which the map maker (Lambert) had predicted as an impossible feat, the corners were not meant to match. But PU was a very resourceful man. He could match any one and anything including Lambert’s maps.

‘Come, I want you to see what I have done’, he grabbed me by my collar and dragged me into the corridor. There, spread from one end to the other end of the corridor and spilling half way to the dispersal was Asia.

‘Do you have a long scale, I want to draw tracks on the map’, PUA asked me seriously.

‘Try a Mosquito net pole’, I suggested to PU, pointing towards the duty officers room. PUA took everything that I said very seriously. He was an incredibly loyal friend.

So it was that we went looking for 7th fleet, with an Asia ‘Million Map’ map which PU had folded like a Chinese fan, with 8 feet long Rhumb line tracks drawn with the help of a mosquito net rod which had a few bends here and there. We then flew like mad crows going off track simply where the mosquito net rod line was bent.

 After searching for around 7 hrs, all over an empty Bay of Bengal, which was just a blue coloured nothing on PU’s map, Dhaliwal  got very frustrated.

‘7th Fleet, 7th Fleet, Me Kya 7th Fleet, where are you ?’, he called repeatedly on the radio, there was obviously no response, they were still in Manila Bay and had not paid any heed to my rumours.

 So we diverted to Vizag and landed up at the Naval bar, where else ?

A smartly dressed and very courteous Chief Petty Officer (CPO) with a chest full of medals saluted and welcomed us to the Navy Bar, speaking in very friendly, respectful, chaste Malayalam. He stood at attention in reverence to the two IAF Mallu stalwarts in stinking overalls which had not been sent to the Dhobi at least for two months. In the IAF those days, the pilots and Navs had great attitude and a terrible smell. PU completely ignored the chaste Malayalam of the CPO. He would have none of that. In SS Kazhakoottam, in the heartland of the Mallus, PUA had been told that an officer must speak to PBOR only in English or Hindi, preferably the latter.

Tera Large Rum‘, PUA ordered without batting an eye lid, there were just two of us at the bar.

The CPO poured us a drink each.

Eye want Tera Large Rum’, PUA commanded.

‘Sir, I am here all night’, the CPO replied in perfect British accent, ‘In the Navy, the bar never closes, Sir’.

Yo Ke, Yo Ke’, PU stuttered. ‘Yar you sure, you will not close the bar at 2100 hrs ?’, he asked incredulously.  We were used to the bar closing at 2100 hrs in the IAF and it was already 2030 hrs.

‘In the Navy, the bar never close Sir’, the CPO repeated in a baritone parade ground voice.

 So we started the serious conduct of nocturnal business, bending elbow with practised ease.

‘What would you like to eat with your drink Sir’, the CPO asked politely after we had rapidly depleted the tall Naval glass that looked like a smoke stack.

Cahubeees Dhatikara On A Stretcher’, PUA ordered.

The CPO gulped. He stuttered, and he stammered. He turned to me for advice, ‘No cannibalism allowed in the Navy Sir’.

‘Eggs on bread’, I suggested to placate the Navy.

‘Oh you mean Eggs Shipwrecked, on the raft ?’, the CPO smiled with supercilious relief.

‘Yes’, PUA confirmed.  ‘Cahubeees Yanda, ship wrecked and I want them put on the raft properly with Onions and Green Chillies’.

 While we sat and drank up  the Navy’s rum and chewed our way through the shipwrecked messy stuff on soggy waterlogged rafts, we heard a bell ringing somewhere far away.

‘What is that’, PUA asked with immediate suspicion. ‘Are you going to close the bar ?’. It was a conditional reflex, a paranoid AF habit because the barman ran away at 2100  hrs.

‘That is the 9 bell Sir’, the CPO smiled with reassuring confidence.

‘Yar you going to close the bar ?’, PUA did bottoms up and pointed to his smoke stack, just to  be sure.

‘In the Navy, the bar never close Sir’, the CPO repeated in a baritone voice, pouring us another drink.

‘In that case, eye haaa-ve no problem’, PUA remarked. The CPO and I obeyed. PU was not a man to mess with.

 We kept bending our elbows as if there was never a tomorrow and out talk was about how lucky our course mates were, the ones who joined the Navy. At around 0100 hrs next morning, PU announced to the world at large and to the CPO in particular, ‘Yenough, now we will haaaa-ve dinner’. We had a thoroughly enjoyable evening because of the very zestful military service by the CPO.

 ‘No Sir’, the CPO suddenly became hostile, ‘No dinner for you’, he announced.

PUA caught him by the collar. I caught PUA’s hand before he could throw a punch. The CPO stood at attention.

‘In the Navy, the bar never close Sir’, the CPO repeated in a parade ground voice.  ‘But the dining hall closes at Nine Bells Sir’.

 Three burley Naval Police men, all six feet tall, about same amount in the girth of their chest, escorted us to bed. I was most grateful to PU, that he did not know to count in Hindi. We did not sleep on an empty stomach despite the dubious and unkind ‘Nine Bells’ and the ways of the Navy to deny us dinner. ‘Cahubeees Dhatikara On A Stretcher’ was quite a cannibalistic meal by itself, even if it was pretending to be ‘Eggs Shipwrecked, On The Raft’. I slept a peaceful night, dreaming of ‘Angels on horseback in white uniform with chest full of medals (the Mallu CPO), and about my GF in white uniform who gave me a helping hand to fire front guns.

Those were the days, my friends, Yugg was the saviour of the man in uniform  .................

Is ‘Baba Black Sheep’ A Recognised Poem ?

After the war was over, we went back to dropping goats over NEFA, while the goats dropped their things on us. Little pellets and squirts of yellow juice that would never go away even after rubbing oneself with a whole bar of Hamam soap. I think that was the only reason why we were not allowed to visit the MNS mess. The matron there was very particular, she deemed us ‘Dirty Bastards’, I wonder whether that was to do with what went on in our mind, our attitude, or the terrible smell. But the girls, well they were welcome guests in the AF officers mess next door, though they had to scale the wall to reach us there. I think we smelled of pheromones !!!

 Gradually we grew up, even PU.

One day he came back from leave and announced ‘Eye Yam Married’.

Jessy his wife, a delightfully cheerful and unaffected lass from the heartland of Mallu Land was the best thing that happened to PU. She put a noose through PU’s nose and led him about like a meek randy bull. Dutifully she produced bouncing babies every year, as tough and zestful as PU.

For the first baby PU consulted with the priest who in turn consulted the Bible and came up with a  Biblical name – Aabu. We immediately commandeered the priest and introduced him to the apostle St Old Monk, lest he corrupt the mind of PU with other apostles. The priest was so enamoured and overwhelmed with the new apostle that he came to befriend him daily at the AF Bar, ‘bar bar’. We even wrote sermons for him, especially to corrupt the minds of the MNS girls who went to’ Charch’ every Sunday. ‘Come forth my children, let not the walls of your mess bind you, for your destiny is to be found in the pants of the Dakota pilots’, was a favourite theme of the priest on Sunday morning mass – I told you, St OM was a very nice apostle !!!

So afterwards, the priest would consult with us on what to name PU’s babies and we in turn consulted the apostle St OM. So it was that PU’s two babies were christened Aa-Bu and Baa-Bu.  Jessy fortunately stopped it at two. Otherwise the names that we had suggested for PU’s further children were Bu and Ooooh (just the alphabet U to be pronounced as Ooooh). Aa-Bu, Ba-Bu, Bu and U (Ooooh) – we ran out of imagination on what would happen if PU produced a whole cricket 11, which he had all intensions to do if not for Jessy’s firm ‘NO’.

 When Aa-Bu was around 2 yrs old, Jessy like all good mothers started to teach him nursery rhymes.  It perturbed PU, he had grown up without learning any of those stuff. He felt Jessy was teaching the child all the wrong things. So one rainy day, when we were not flying, he forced me to climb behind his scooter and took me to a bookstore in Jorhat.

‘Give me a Govt approved book on Nursery Rhymes’, he demanded.  Marriage and fatherhood had changed PU to a very nice law abiding citizen.

The shop keeper searched about and produced a small booklet, printed on what looked like recycled paper. We recycled everything those days, because a Cycle was an incredible procession and embedded on our psyche.

‘You read it and tell me whether it is a Govt approved book’, PU ordered me.

So I opened the first page and read aloud. ‘Baba Black Sheep, have you any wool ?’.

‘Ayyo, it has black sheep in it’, PU grumbled.

‘PU, it is a nice nursery rhyme’, I assured PU.

 Frankly I too had never learnt any such nursery rhymes and had no idea whether it was nice or not. The one that I had learnt on my own (my mother had tried teaching me vedic mantras which I refused to learn), the one that I learnt on my own was ,’ABCD, Muri Bidi, Kathichappo Puka Chadi (A, B, C, D, I lit half a Bidi, and smoke came out).

PU called the shopkeeper back, pointed to the passage that I had read to him.

‘Where does it say that Baba Black Sheep is a Govt approved poem ?’,  he asked in all earnest.

‘All  balls, we are teaching our children bad things about black sheep’, he said and walked out of the shop.

 That was the only time I disobeyed PU. I quietly purchased the book and surreptitiously presented it to Jessy without PU’s knowledge.

I think both PU’s sons Aabu and Babu grew up like normal healthy children, not like PU and I.  

We grew up with stupid Commy Kerala Govt approved nursery rhymes, about Bidis and Rum.

There was another nursery rhyme in Kerala back then, the one when translated from Malayalam went, ‘Let us join the Army, and drink Rums from tins’ !!!!!

No wonder we were Govt approved odd balls, there was even a quality control ISI mark on our bums !!!