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.. "