- 31-12-2010, 09:24 #131
The Monsoon had descended on Sevoke Road, where I was stationed.
It was still in the teasing caressing mode, the full fury still being a month away. The pitter patter of the rain beating on the window pane lulled the senses and beckoned a further tête-à-tête with sleep.
The steaming cup of bed tea nestled on the bedside teapoy with the fragrant aroma of fine Darjeeling tea was doing the Flamenco in the nostrils. The cigarette lay in the ashtray, the smoke languorous in its ascent in whirling eddies of fine greyish blue smoke.
It stimulated the archetypal mood for a pleasant morning.
The Flagstaff House was cuddled in total idyllic indolence. I, by happenstance of Fate, was the current occupant!
I looked out through the window pane, while still in bed. The ambient light outside was low, though not quite so dark as it could be in full monsoons. The flowers including the tall hollyhocks were dancing gaily in the breeze, almost in symphony to hypnotise the mind. It was almost hallucinatory. The birds, in spite of the rain, chirruped and the occasional trumpet call of a solitary elephant could be heard through the foliage and fern of the Baikuntha Forest that hugged the Flagstaff House. The atmosphere sure had the indication that it heralded a tranquil beginning for the day. Jairam Ramesh, the Environment Minister, would have been in raptures!
I looked at the table clock. It was one of those fancy digital clock giving the time, day and date! That it was a Sunday had slipped my mind. The clock zapped my memory lapse! It was, thus, ideal for a longer snooze, more so since I was no keen Kumar who worked on Sundays for effect or slave drove subordinates to put in overtime on Sundays, as if they were factory labour! No siree, the British were right – no leave in station, full annual leave and no working without pressing reasons in the office and, best of all, no 24 x 7 workday week! The mind required rest and away from office, if efficiency was the watchword. If working like Commonwealth Games labour 365 x 7 was the mantra to feign ‘efficiency’, then it was not my or my subordinates’ cup of tea! And we were an efficient Brigade, even though my GOC, the good man that he was, held contrary view!
As an aside, to illustrate our ethos, I must mention that the GOC did a ‘sneak preview’ one day climbing down from the hills along the Teesta and was horrified to find me practising Golf drives outside the office! He conceded that because I had computerised my Brigade, it was easier for me, but he opined that just for form, I should have been sitting behind the monstrosity of a teak desk and staring into the vacant space, willing a file to appear!
I thought this sagacious advice over. No wonder, one finds redundant and trivial work in the Army transmogrifying into things earthshaking! I realised this even more after retirement when I had the time to see the real world called civilian India.
I looked out through the window pane to see the garden to put me back into a pleasant mood.
As I was saying, I looked at the fancy table clock. It informed me that it was a Sunday! True one could laze around, but then laziness would not do. I, reluctantly, dragged myself out of bed and addressed the cup of tea, now turning cold, took two puffs at the dying cigarette and was bathroom bound. A leisurely walk through the forest attracted me immensely and so before the day turned hot and humid, it was essential that I make haste.
As I moved towards the bathroom, I gave a longing look outside the rain drenched window pane. It gladdened my heart. The flowers in the garden and the hollyhocks were swaying gently in full frolic like lithesome Manipur dancing girls. The Flagstaff Guard, a Gorkha, stood rigidly immobile, like a Madam Tussaud masterpiece, in his sentry box. The stiff and measured movements of the Gorkha soldiers never failed to fascinate me. They were masters in economy in the field of ergonomics, while the rest of us were like birds continuously flapping!
With that scene in mind, I finally entered the bathroom. A leisurely time I spent there, except for a brief interlude when the sahayak (batman or orderly, if you wish) thrust a telephone through the door after much banging to show urgency. In bated breath, he announced that it was the GOC on the line! As if, Yama (God of Death) was knocking on the door to take me Heavenward bound! However, to be fair to the GOC, it was indeed an earthshaking cataclysm that troubled his delicate mind – his Liasion Cell had informed him that some soldiers were visiting Salugura and he sniggered, yes, he sniggered like a young girl, and informed that they were doing ‘naughty’ things!
Wow! Naughty things by naughty chaps that made the issue real knotty!
I assured him that I would have them on the mat in two ticks! Now, I am gizmo guy; I spoke into my Dictaphone. Naughty, was it? Man, they would be hauled over the coals, I informed him.
There went a good beginning of a day like a damp squib!
Bathed and physically refreshed though mentally down in the boots and angry too, I exited from the bathroom. No, it was not that I was overburdened with the naughty boys doing naughty things and make life a knotty issue. It is just that a Sunday was ruined a naughty telephone call aimed at ruining a perfectly good day. It was hardly a matter that the DQ could not investigate and keep all informed! Anyway, I realised that the GOC had a chronic digestive malfunction and maybe his hyperacidity had taken the toll whereupon he seized the opportunity to unburden himself. That perked my mood immensely.
As I walked out of the bathroom, what do I see?
A Gorkha soldier merrily doing something outside my window!
I would be damned if he thought I was a strip tease artist who could be salaciously observed in a peek show!
I walked across to the window where he was.
I should have worn a bathrobe, but then the mood was not that accommodating, what with the GOC’s naughty boys call!
In my towel, I marched to the window with all the imperiousness a Brigade Commander could muster wearing a towel! I threw open the window. I glared at the man and he blankly, with fluttering eyelids, stared back. A staring competition was thus on!
“Hey Kancha, tum kia kar raha ho?” (Hey little boy, what are you doing?) I asked without thundering to avoid adding to the thunder that God, Himself, was undertaking!
The Gorkha was flabbergasted! He looked at me as if I were some cretin! With his head, he made me follow his movement, to the watering can!
“Thik hai. Batao kia kar raha ho?” (That’s all right. Explain what are you doing?) I asked.
More blink blink on an immobile face!
“Sab, ham paude par pani de raha hun!’’ (I am watering the plants) pat came the reply and with economy of words.
“Lekin, kia zarurat hai? Abhi to barish ho raha hai!” (But why? It is raining) I asked with incredulity mounting by the minute.
“Woh thik hai, sab. Hukm hai kih roj 0700 baje paude ko pani dena hai. Ham pani de raha hun.” (That is right, sir. I have orders to water the plants at 0700 hours every day).
I nearly burst out laughing. Watering plants even when God is the gardener watering! Man, they really could take the cake.
With decorum and without laughing I rushed to the bathroom and broke into uncontrolled laughter which he could not hear!
Naughty chaps they may have been, but damned good chaps they were and totally disciplined! They could always be depended upon!
- 31-12-2010, 13:46 #132
- Join Date
- Feb 2005
Ah Gurkhas! The story of a battalion of Gurkhas invited to re-role as Airborne and being told they would leap from 600 feet always tickled me. Of course, to a man they all volunteered but they looked miserable and finally a British officer asked what was the matter?
"Sahib we wonder if we might jump from say 100 feet?"
"Don't be silly havildar-major...at 100 feet your parachutes would not have time to open!"
"Acha, we are to have parachutes? Then that's fine sahib!"
Men of 153 (Gurkha) Parachute Bn.
Daddy-pig says "Snoort!"
They used to say if an infinite number of chimps typed we would get the works of Shakespeare, the internet has proved this is NOT the case...
- 31-12-2010, 14:00 #133
Hello Rayc, just found this thread, it's brilliant. Thank you for the stories and a Happy New Year to you too.
- 31-12-2010, 14:21 #134
Samne Dekh (Eyes Front)
I had just joined the Army and had been posted to my battalion. After a few months, the unit went out for its Annual Training Camp. It was my first touch of the “real army”. I was excited as any greenhorn would be. We were exercising and training in an area called Shankargarh, near Allahabad. We were all under canvas and there appeared to have been some flap regarding the field commodes and so the junior officers had to use the Deep Trench Latrines (DTL) with no sidewalls or flaps for cover! Not a pleasant experience, but then who cared? We were in the initial stages of setting up the Camp and so there was whole lot of hustle and bustle with no regular schedule. Life was fine and we were getting used to the regimen and it was but a few days more to go before the real ‘show’ started. Hence, one did not have to wake up before dawn to get cracking. So, instead of awaking before the sun and then going through the morning ablution, it could be done at a leisurely pace without any pressure of a formalised schedule.
One day, I was a bit late for the “morning routine”.I sauntered to the DTL, and without a worry in the world, sat down to perform. The breeze wafted gently and the birds chirped on the trees just above. It was heavenly.
The only thing that worried me was that no bird dropping should fall on me. The birds had to show some decorum after all, since an officer was performing and it was not correct to perform together, no matter how high they were above me! I could see in the distance that soldiers were going about their duty for the various chores assigned to set up the camp. They were in the far distance! It was nice, as a greenhorn, to observe the ways of the Army – all efficiency personified!
Then suddenly footsteps seem to approach in the distance. Even before one could say “Jack Robinson” or “Ram Bharose”, a column of soldiers, with pick axes and shovels, emerged from the left from behind the bushes. They were marching across, ahead of where I was “performing”. I was stark naked to the world and as all could observe, the world was at peace! Lest one forgets, there were no flaps or sidewalls to the DTL to cover my “modesty”. I was nonplussed. I did not know what to do. I could not get up, nor could I cover my nakedness. And yet, as per the teaching, officers had to be ‘on parade’ at all times, especially if troops were anywhere in the vicinity.
It was a serious quandary! I sat mesmerised. I braced up all the dignity that an officer can muster in total nakedness. I hoped like hell that the column would pass without observing me. But no, the column commander suddenly observed me. Without batting an eyelid, he puffed up his chest in the best of NCO training, smartly yelled, “Party, Dahine Dekh (eyes right!)” and executed the smartest of salutes! The whole column executed “eye right” with total parade ground precision. I sat frozen!
I squirmed but maintained the required officer like stoic. I wished the earth would open up and swallow me whole. But nothing of the sort happened. True to military training and reflexes, I found that I had stood up!
All I could do was yell, “Samne Dekh (eyes front)” as per the laid down drill. My military training had got the better of me and maybe that saved the day. I could not salute. I was bareheaded! The moment passed. The military preciseness may have been upheld, but not the Langar gup (Cookhouse yarn).
It was said that they had caught an officer pants down!
- 31-12-2010, 17:00 #135
- Join Date
- Feb 2005
Chota hazree or burra hazree? Always a difficult question Rayc!
Daddy-pig says "Snoort!"
They used to say if an infinite number of chimps typed we would get the works of Shakespeare, the internet has proved this is NOT the case...
- 01-01-2011, 09:45 #136
- 06-01-2011, 00:05 #137
- Join Date
- Nov 2003
Wonderful reminiscences Brigadier Sahib. Happy New Year.Hey surr, thae bastards urr firin ball!
- 17-01-2011, 19:02 #138
PAGAL KHALSA (The Crazy Sikh)
It was a very tiring day.
Waking up at the crack of dawn, catching a flight from Calcutta to Delhi, changing planes to reach Srinagar and then by road to the Battalion located near Kargil via ZojiLa and Dras. That was not all. There was a long wait in Delhi as the aircraft had a snag. All this was exhausting.
Yet, all was not lost.
Salvation visited me on landing at the Srinagar airport – the liberation from the heat and dust of the plains! Yet, there was still a languor in the heart – my annual leave had come to an end!
Enduring the the usual and unnecessary hustle bustle that greets a CO (Commanding Officer) returning from leave, I entered the Jonga (Nissan Patrol). We were Transit Camp bound, when I did the unforgivable. I told the driver to hop it straight to the Battalion and the acclimatisation mandatory for units in the High Altitude be damned! Not a great example for a CO, but then the heady civilian lifestyle acquired on leave seemed to have charged me with a sense of déjà vu. The driver was not too pleased that I was breaking procedure. His long innings with me seemed to have given him a proprietorship over me, as one would for a loving dog! Yet, he had no options. I was, after all, the CO!
My Battalion, located in the Kargil Sector was something like a circus. All and sundry, irrespective of rank, visited it to get a feel of ‘war’. It was, after all, the only active combat area of the Brigade and daily exchange of fire was the staple.
The daily firing had no routine. The Pakistanis resorted to heavy and relentless firing, mostly at night, with all their weapons. The intensity increased when we moved, at night, the small donkeys (local breed) through the predictable and only tracks available, carrying replenishment and defence stores. The Posts were still being constructed and we were under their direct domination since the Pakistanis were on higher ground along the ridges. Unique defence work along the routes and using of gravity feed pipes, laid at great risk, ensured that the Pakistanis merely wasted their ammunition. All this was way before the famous Op Vijay (Op Badr, as named by the Pakistanis) and before gravity feed became the rule than the exception in Siachen. Movement by day to the Posts or within the Posts was impossible in most places. Morale, nonetheless, was high.
I wanted to take charge as fast as I could.
Driving through the night, I reached the base of the mountain where my unit was located and climbed to the Battalion HQ.
My 2IC (Second in Command) and the Adjutant met me at the crest of the hill. The former was very sleepy and not too pleased. With sadistic delight he dropped the bombshell that the next day the new Brigade Commander would be arriving at 0900 hours to get an operational briefing!
A good beginning I must say.
Briefing the next day? Well, the next day had already become today!
‘’Ah well!’’ said I, ‘’what difference does it make? It is a circus here and we brief all and sundry and so it will be no great shakes’’.
Turning to the Adjutant, I said, ‘’Just have the briefing paraphernalia ready and send me the updates by 0600 hours and hey presto! we shall give him the very best!’’
Having said so, we went off to our bunkers. I was tired, but since it was a habit I never slept at night since the firing was at its zenith.
I stayed awake. I will admit that I was dozing off.
0600 hours and the updates came and having gone through them, I was ready, come rain, hail or high water.
Having bathed and all that, I placed myself on top of the hill where the track would bring the new Brigade Commander. As an aside, it would be prudent to state that though it was the only active area in the Brigade and a novelty for all and sundry to visit the Battalion HQ to get a ‘feel of the war’, it was safer than the Posts. This was so since the Pakistanis, for some good reasons that were a national secret in Pakistan,used only their AD guns and HMGs at the Battalion HQs. It was effective but not as it were on the Posts. Only once, had they toppled a Field Flush Latrine, giving the poor chap inside a heart attack of his life and nothing very life endangering!
I was stationed at the top of the hill awaiting the new Commander.
A few minutes before 0900 hours, I saw a mule coming up the track from the base of the hill with someone sitting on it and another holding onto the tail, gasping for dear life. To gasp was not unusual, for after all, we were in High Altitude and air is rare. Yet, I was most unhappy at this spectacle. It was hardly a time for the ‘all and sundry’ to want a ringside seat for the war extravaganza!
The mule, the man on top of it and the man following had come closer and one could make out to some extent the features. Shock of shocks! The man astride the mule was none other than my neighbour at the Battalion Support Weapons Course at Mhow. He was the very studious chap who rarely came out of his cabin and so we had named him ‘Pagal Khalsa’ (Crazy Sikh). He was otherwise a good chap and always helpful and he did top the course. He was a VrC (the third highest gallantry award) to boot! A solid soldier indeed! And an educated one too!
Pagal Khalsa or no Pagal Khalsa, friend at the course or not, I could surely not entertain him the way I should, for the sake of good old days, since the new Brigade Commander was coming to visit us and get a briefing; and who knew what type of a pain in the anatomy the new Commander would be!
“Oi, Pagal Khalsa, what are you doing here?’’ I yelled, letting the breeze carry my words. “The new Commander is to visit me and who knows what type of a pain in the anatomy he is. So, hurry up and I will send you to the Post and later we can chat up. We have laid a good breakfast for this new cove and so you can tuck in merrily. Got that Pagal?”
The rider just looked up, gave a wan smile and nodded his head. The man behind was furiously huffing and puffing and oddly, rubbing his finger on the lips, as if to check if the cold air had parched it! Maybe he wanted water and his lips had got parched. I turned to the Adjutant and told him to have the water ready, lest the chap conked off!
I thought Pagal Khalsa had not understood the urgency. I used broken Punjabi, the best that I could muster, so that the urgency hit home.
“Pagal Papaji, cheeti kar. Sade navi Commander athey aiye shartly. (Pagal daddy O, hurry up. Our new Commander is expected here shortly)”. I even used the Punjabi accent for ‘shortly’ so that there would be no error in understanding and anyway, I had no clue of the Punjabi equivalent of ‘shortly’.
There was no perceptible change in speed of the mule. It plodded on as leisurely as possible. I yelled again, “Oi Pagal chheyti kar, rub de waste (Oi Pagal, for God’s sake hurry up). Notwithstanding my consternation, the mule and the rider and his follower plodded along with the follow up chap desperately doing the finger to the parched lip drill. I looked behind and was pleased to find that the water was near.
I was at my tethers end. Pagal and his friend behind the mule had taken no heed of my urgent pleas.
They reached the top. I was delighted to see him. He was perched high on the Mule MA (mountain artillery) and we were in a dip in ground.
“Pagal, its great to see you here. Maybe you could re-site our Mortars and all those other stuff you are an expert on. Now, this crazy coot of a Commander, who has just been posted, has decided to visit us for a Briefing and to imagine, I arrived only after midnight! These senior officers have no sense! Anyway, I am ready as always, for the main weapon of war in our Army is English and I am well armed!” I blurted all this in one breath. Pointing to the post about 100 meters away, I continued, “Why don’t you go and make yourself at home there and have a hearty breakfast?”
Pagal burst out laughing.
“Roy, you will never change. You say the most atrocious things.’’
Having said that he leaned forward and wagged his shoulders with a mischievous smile.
The Ashoka Lion and the three stars burnt right into my eyes. Pagal was my new Commander!
That really got me!
I gulped once or twice, the Adam ’s apple moving vertically vigorously.
My ears were burning with embarrassment.
“Yes, Roy, wonders never cease.”
And then he delivered the coup de grace – “And to imagine that you made it to a Colonel”!
“Touché, what? That’s for calling me publicly Pagal Khalsa!”...........................“Now, let’s see your best weapon in Action – the Briefing and could we have it in Hindi?"
Now, that was cruel since my Hindi was the butt of the jokes during the course!
Last edited by Rayc; 17-01-2011 at 19:12.
- 17-01-2011, 22:44 #139
Superb stuff Rayc. I can't get enough of it. Your stories deserve to be printed in a book.You -My office NOW!!!!!!!!!!!
- 17-01-2011, 23:01 #140
Brilliant Rayc. Got any stories about the antics the bands got up to, just for comparison?