Tuesday, April 22, 2014

                             THE OLD MAN AND HIS OLDER REMINGTON

 The other day I was at Tees Hazari , Delhi in connection with some legal matter and was required to submit  an application post haste.

Bereft of the support of a Computer /Printer I looked around, searching for some one free and unoccupied   from among  those busy   in the innumerable,   miniscule open cubicals   displaying Court Marriage, Affidavit and such sundry jobs  on small  boards, lining the  narrow road.

The  heavy traffic plying  in both directions, making walking  across  on my wobbly legs a dangerous proposition, still I make  slow haste towards one, who appears to be free and without business, hoping to get the job completed quickly.

 Next to his seat, under the same shed, a Court Marriage was being solemnised. The  young couple, the bride in her finery, possibly, self made-up and dressed, as there was no one accompanying  them,  were  setting up   on a journey,  with hope and love ,  in un-chartered waters and  an uncertain future : what are their aspirations and worries, forgetting my on immediate concern for  a moment , I wonder. I did congratulate her as they rushed past, possibly too involved in her own thoughts, to be aware of the surroundings, thee was no response.

He  happens to be an old man with an even older Remington typewriter, possibly a family heirloom handed down  from generation to generation,  on rickety table, next to it  is   a stack of files, possibly containing templates  of the various  legal documents in demand for typing.  Both are an aberration, in the company of young operators, with computer/printers, around and stand like a sore thumb.

 Distracted briefly, by the happenings nearby, I quickly draft the required matter, in my nearly illegible hand and  not only    have to dictate but, due to his rudimentary knowledge of English, also spell most of the words.

 Despite his age, his typing skills appear to be that of a beginner, with no delete /insert facility and apparently no whitener available, I have to be content with what ever he could and did  produce.

A wise man nonetheless, with the going rate being per typed page, I notice, he has typed in double space, trying to stretch the matter on as many pages as possible.

 The typed page now in my hand I query

“How much”

“Rupees Twenty “he replies.

 With the business settled amicably I leave wondering as to how many such Rs 20 he will earn in the day to subsist upon

Sunday, April 13, 2014


From the 25 C, the isle seat of the GOINDIA Airbus flight from Delhi to Chennai I can see right up to the far end to the flight cabin. In the near vision is 25 DEF and also, with a slight twist of the neck 26 DEF.

 There is a group of Marwaries men, women and children, as learnt later, on a tour of various religious places, noisily trying to settle down in their allotted and also the unoccupied seats

 I, twist the neck and  look back and what do I see: before fully settled the lady in  26 E has already unwrapped a packet of Snacks from her bag  and is busy dipping in  it and  offering  from the same to  those  seated near of the group..

 Even before the plane has started its takeoff run she unties the knots of the cloth bag revelling, a stack of Aloo Puree, GOINDIA is a low fare airline and food is available on payment at exorbitant rates, wise people bring their own food an drinks on board, soon starts the distribution of the Aloo Purees,   served    on plastic plates up and down the isle to the other members of the group.

  I slight hungry, having   missed breakfast due to the early flight, am reminded of   our train journeys as a child, when Mother would bring the Aloo Puree and mango pickle for the journey and even before we had settled in the compartment Father would ask mother   to   serve the goodies, so bidden she would start with giving two purees, a dollop of the potatoes and a slice of pickle to each one of us..

 The setting is  the same, except it is  the   aircraft’s AC  cabin of  the plane flying at
25 000 feet at 800 Kms per hour  instead of the Inter Class, hot or cold, depending on the season,  railway  compartment of East India Railway  chugging along at 25 Miles per hour, with   mother no where to serve the Aloo Purees,  that   I covertly watch in the hands of  others in s nearby seats ,   while waiting  for the trolley  being trundling  up the isle bringing my prebooked  and precooked, tasteless, Paratha Rolls while  savouring, with nostalgia,    the wafting aroma from the Aallo Puree being devovered with  relished around me.

Friday, April 11, 2014

:                               THE HOME COMING WITHOUT A HOME TO

 I was coming to Mhow, kind courtesy of Lt Gen Pant, Commandant MCTE, Who had invited me to deliver a talk on ‘Signals in Sino Indian Conflict of 1962 as it effected me.’ and also join the planned get together of SODE 41, as the   Faculty Commander during the tenure of the Course in FCE.

It was   a home coming for me, unfortunately without a home to come to. Our home, where we had lived during our last stint at MCTE, some time during 19 79-82, a Second World War Hutment on Generals Road existed no more It gave me no joy to see that the dilapidated hutment that we had moved in to and over time with love and effort    nurtured it into the most coveted dwelling of its type on Generals Road.. had been   razed and in its place had sprung two modern characterless looking bungalows.

 It was with a late evening Air India flight from Delhi   that I landed at Indore, with the city lights glowing all around.

 Indore  at  night appeared to be a stranger, my eyes  kept roaming , desperately and fruitlessly searching for some old land marks to anchor on , what I could see was a mass of new  buildings with  glass façades,  illuminated sign boards flanking both sides of the broad well metalled road from the Airport to the City. Strangely, though it was early night, the traffic on the road was rather sparse, possibly every one was glued to the TV watching the on going India Bangladesh ICC 20 20   match.

 The car took a turn   and hit the road to Mhow and then the nightmare began: there was hardly any road left  with  diggings  on both flanks, for flyovers under construction,  on going development  for new colonies, shopping centres   and what have you,  living little space  for the heavy two way traffic  of trucks, passenger busses, cars  and the ubiquitous motor cycles ridden  by daredevil riders, zipping  in and out of the non existing gaps in the chaotic  traffic on the now single lane of a road..

  The torture, from  blaring horns, head lights on full beams  making one blind to the oncoming traffic, lasted for long and ended only  when  the car crossed the toll barrier near Mhow and the   sailing  became  smooth  with the drive  now on   the reasonably good surface road  with  sparse traffic.

 Mhow Cantt at night with brightly lit roads, flood lit  prominent buildings, approach gates, sign boards and even some trees was shinning,: power appeared to be available in plenty .

 It appeared as if    the town   was awaiting   the arrival   of some VIP. However, for the time being it had to be content with me, a non VIPs’ arrival.

Nearing the portals of MCTE,  it was a different world altogether,  what was visible of  MCTE from the car window was shining like a new bride,  even the iconic tree  of HQ Mess appeared   much younger than it’s age.

Passing through and by a plethora of new constructions the car drove into the guestroom complex where I was received by Lt Col Preetal, the SO of FCC. Till now, in my retired life, I had   come across Captains and Majors of the other sex; It was for the first time that I was confronted by a Lt Col of their elk.

 Looking around I could see bright lights all around, what especially caught the eye was a brightly lit complex in near distance that proved to be the sports complex of MCTE.

 I had nagging feeling that I was in a different place and not in the Mhow of yore.  The place had changed drastically in the last ten years, from my last visit to Mhow.

 Mhow  Cantt by day  wore a different look,  still shining  bright with liberal application of Garu Chuna,  replete with massive,  characterless, new construction sadly interspersed with old bungalows with large compounds, in advance stages of disrepair,  with roofs fallen and grass growing through the  now gaping holes.  Surprisely, a few, though equally derelict, still occupied by some adventurer minded, diehards, unmindful. of the possible danger to life and limb.

 A  round   of  the MCTE Campus evoked a mixed feeling: the old buildings  that of  FCE, that I had commanded, the old mess barrack, where we as YO’s  had dined  for six months, the  dreaded  Commandant’s office complex  appeared to have lost their aura now downgraded   with  current   lowly ranked  occupants., the glamour,  power and authority having shifted    to  modern  and swanky abodes leaving history behind.

 The Passing out Parade Demo by the cadets was impressive and drew prolonged applause.  The following High Tea provided me a unique opportunity to interact with the cadets.

 The time spent with the SODE officers and their wives brought flooding memories of   my tenure as Faculty Commander where and when I had made a large number of enduring friendships.

  My presentation to a packed house, based on the question answer session, appeared to have been well received.

 The Dinner in Ashoak Vatika was an unforgettable experience.  the  soft lights dotting  the vast expense of the lawn , the typical  Malwa  evening breeze blowing mildly,  the myriad trees around, festooned with multi colour lights, swaying in the breeze the  old favourites being rendered  by   the   Gazal Singer in the back-ground, combined to make the setting memorable and  the mood go soft, albeit sadly  reminding  me, now alone, of such  Mhow evenings  of distant past spent together, with Jeet, my late wife.

 On a visit to FCE,   so different from that of yore, now located in the renovated/rebuilt Raman Block,   with Brigadier Bhatt   apprising and updating as to where the Corps has arrived technologically and also of venturing in the yet unexplored field of Robotics.  The Corps that brought in Computers has always been forward thinking and pioneers in new fields.

A visit to the ongoing exercise of YO’s  being conducted in the faculty premises convinced me of the new challenges to be faced  by Signallers, both present and future, of managing  the complex networks, providing voice and data, while not forgetting the requirements of logistics and man management.

The Dinner the next evening on the rear lawns of HQ Mess provided a unique opportunity to interact with young officers of different ranks and length of service and    renew friendship with old friends staying in Signals Vihar.

Preceding the dinner  we were witness to a unique function: a quiz on Corps Domestic Matters: organized by the Young Officer  and conducted under  a dynamic Quizmaster from staff, where along with    the  competing teams   the more mature audience also got a chance to participate, some times silently at others vocally.

The unique feature of the evening, apart from the lavish spread, was being serenaded   by a Saxophone player: a welcome change from the Bagpiper of yore.

 To catch the   returning flight from Indore I had to start early, with the morning Sun yet to emerge from the horizon Mhow Cantt, was still shining bright and had some early walkers already on the road. Surprisingly there were also some health conscious, unaccompanied, ladies also out.

Mhow happily was safe for ladies unlike the other not so lucky places in   the Country.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014


Where are the villages of yore? Driving on the short stretches of smooth roads, shorter patched of mirror smooth roads and long stretches of road sections under utter disrepair we hit the Chutmal  Pur Mohand section on way to Dehradun and soon come to a grinding halt at the tail end of a massive traffic jam.

Long wait and no progress possible Ranjit turns the car off the road and to a track leading to the village on the side, with high hopes of bypassing the

Surprised in find missing the villages of Yore: no mud house, replaced with brick ones, cars parked in the courtyards where once the pride of place was generally occupied by the two wheeled carts, the water logged lanes with paved ones, in much better state than the N H we had just left behind and the ubiquitous DTH dishes adoring the rooftops of every house..

We hit into a marriage party: with the local beauties decked in the latest fashion, thanks to the access ads on TV and wonder of wonder even a mobile repair shop, possibly doing good business, with a mobile in each hand.

Prosperity has come to the villages in a big way following progress.

We did manage to by pass the traffic jam by a circuitous but good track. and after an hour's drive hit the Chaos of Dehradun Thanks once again to progress and prosperity.

Sunday, March 23, 2014



VERY TIME THERE IS AN ADVERTISEMENT for   Body Odour or Perfume cylinders with or without gas, targeted at the minds of the impressionable youth, creating a delusion of their potent effect on the female of the specie, on the TV screen and these are many  and frequent, I am reminded of the dreary room in the VIP ward of the RR Army Hospital.

 I had been running a low temperature, especially in the evenings, progressively loosing energy and becoming weak in addition my gate was getting prone to loosing balance and     falling down.

The Specialists  of the local Kailash Hospital despite advising   tests after tests, all   giving   negative results,  had not been able to provide any succour, Even a desperate visit to the local Homeopath did not help.

As a last resort I thought it better to get admitted in R R Army Hospital, where they could   conduct research on me, diagnose and hopefully treat me back to health...

 With the ECH cover now provided to the retired personnel of the Services getting referred, to RR is a bit tricky.  However, I did manage and landed in the Neurology Department OPD.  After a long wait, with the department chockfull of patients, my number flashed and I was wheeled in the consulting room by my son, Ranjit, where a young Lt Col recorded my case history in detail. I was also made to walk in a straight line and do some twists and turns, a few question were thrown at a me regarding my various faculties,

After a short consultation among the Head of Department and the junior doctors it was decided that I was a fit case to be admitted:   for research leading to the advancement of medical science. And that is how   I landed in the dreary room with two of the three beds already occupied.

Apart from the routine   blood and urine tests   soon started  the daily trips  to the more exotic X rays, ECGs, EEGs  and  MRIs  and other   labs with State of Art equipment, recently acquired requiring testing  and practice  on the recently acquired patient.

 I was subjected to electronic pin pricks, on my legs,  calves, on my forehead ,temples and many more places, by transducers  connected to shiny boxes with knobs, dials , flashing lights and flat panel displays, adding their own electronic hum and crackles, coupled  my sighs and ouches  uttered at each prick,   to the  hum of the Split AC.

It was every day a new lab, every day a new box, some so recently acquired that the test was conducted by the supplier’s engineer, and a new instrument of torture for me.

What these test revealed or did not, was the result   negative or positive I was never made privy to: a National secret or an RR secret, except the usual assurances by the doctor on his daily morning rounds.

  Coming back to the room, and the main story, with thee beds occupied by  so called VIP patients in  various stages of disrepair, all in a state of flux moving in and out of the room to and back from laboratories, Operating theatre, ICU  or getting discharge as the case may be.

 “We are near the diagnosis,” was the usual refrain; with me eagerly awaiting the Final Diagnosis. That did come on one morning...

“You have Tubercular meningitis”

T B was a dreaded word, remembered from child hood, as dreaded then as Cancer is now.

I took the announcement bravely and with out betting an eyelid  

“What Next “I asked

“Now we treat you”

“How did you come to this conclusion? ’

“We did a Lumber Puncher”

So started the long and slow treatment, a number of capsules taken couple  of times a day, I remained in the hospital for a few days more   till the  fever was brought under control.

On discharge, my son drove me to our flat in Greater Noida, where there was no help waiting   to look after and  provide support , this onerous duty falling in the willing hands of Ramjet ,  by default, but that is another story to be told some other  time.

 The treatment which could be effective, partly effective or totally ineffective, this I was told much later on one of the review visit to the Hospital., by then I had progressed well on the path to recovery  and possibly considered in   a fit mental state   to  be apprised of the severity of my affliction and possible consequences.

Reverting to the main thread of the story, when in room,   I become a silent spectator to the comings and goings around me. Visitors arriving with broad grins,   move straight to their near and dear ones ignoring the others like me. The wives, soon on arrival getting busy with setting house from the various carry bags, brought along, moving items from one bag to other from the bag to the cupboard top and back in the bag, a frantic activity to keep the mind busy and occupied.

Friends narrating   stores from old times, while in service and sharing their own ailments and nicks, hoping to cheer up the disinterested patient albeit making him tired, who has to,  Wily Nelly,   suffer  them, with a wane smile in addition to his own predicaments of the moment.

  The bed next to me is occupied by one not only with medical problems but also   burdened with other more pressing issues. His diatribes, soliloquies and angry mumblings have the poor wife a suffering and silent listener.

 The two daughters, one of them unmarried, hover around.   The   son -in- law, not part of the inner circle, with a deadpan expression, a bit distraught, a bit fore lone,  there but not there,   stands slightly away..

 The junior sisters who tend and look after us watch us with compassion and curiosity. The senior sister, a Lt Col, a bit of a battle axe, is there to keep every one, the staff and the patients included, under   control and check with her sharp tongue.

There is also a young ward boy, meticulous in his grooming, shrouded in an envelope of liberally doused with one of the sprays being advertised on the TV.   Not too welcome but always hovering around and over zealous to tend to the patient behind the cloth screen, in the process creating additional tension in the mother, and the married daughter.

He, smitten with the young daughter is under the illusion,  thanks to the  suggestive power  of TV advertisements, convinced of the power  of the  perfume cloud  enveloping him,  that he has made a mark  on  her and has some thing going for him: possibly a small smile,  a long eye contact   had   acted as a  the trigger, or may be there was   really more   than some thing gong between them .

One day he looses his object of desire, the daily visits come to a stop as the father is discharged to home.

What happened to his short lived romance, remained one sided or was responded? Did he stalk her or set up a vigil at her house on his off days? I wonder.

 The social gap, between the two, that was too large to bridge or did it get bridged?

Who is to be blamed : the barrage of  suggestive advertisements on the TV  showing  a gaggle of lissom ladies in various stages of undress, getting  willingly entrapped in the cloud of the perfume spray or the gullible  youth  of  today getting misguide and  away from the reality of life..

 But that  the real  charm of youth : experimenting,  without fear of the outcome   and consequences,  having  immense faith and confidence in self,  ever  willing to experiment, taste  and enjoy. Hang the consequences. Live life,   Live for Now.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014


Braving the bright evening sun of early March, I am deep in the U Tube story “The Beast with a Million Eyes” carried in the current issue of TIME, when I am distracted by the piercing sound of an electric horn.

 A bit annoyed, I look down from the balcony  trying to identify the culprit, where I notice  a couple : husband and wife, lap top across shoulders, a working couple, back from work, alighting from the Motorcycle, who have distracted me.

 I also see a toddler, waddling towards them as fast as he can on his baby short legs, whom I had earlier seen playing, in the lawn below, under the watchful eyes of an elderly lady, possibly the grand mother.

 The beep of the horn was the signalling   the child that the parents were back home.

 The excited mother, possibly also under  the burden of guilt, with open arms, steps forward towards the child, who totally ignores her  and  continues  moving towards the father, standing net to the bike, in the process  he stumbles and   falls.

 Lifted from the ground by the father and made to stand once again, strangely the child ignores even him and has eyes only for the bike, in the mean time the disappointed mother, hiding her hurt feelings, retraces her steps and joins them.

 The father picks up the child and places him on the fuel tank, the mother, once again, is back on her perch on the small seat, the father kick starts the engine while the child gropes for the horn button and gleefully gives a long beep and the trio take off.

 I keep hearing the frequent tweets of the horn till they disappear round the corner.

 I am saddened, to release how times have changed:   a child prefers a horn button to the embrace and cuddle from the mother and father in that order.  In a contemplating mood, I return my attention back the Beast with the Million Eyes, staring at me in the TIME Magazine


  We had an invite from Girgila, who lives in Janalk Puri for lunch.

 Prudence demanded that, even   though  among the five of us, Bajajs, Hari Aggarwals, only Bajajs had  earlier experience of travelling by Metro, we  decided  to take the Metro, rather drive down all the way to Jank Puri  to avoid the  heavy traffic on the road,

 Girgala, excited about our visit, has been on phone many times passing instructions on how to reach his place.

 Deciding against taking a cycle rickshaw to the Sector 18 Metro station, only a short distance away, we decided to walk it.

 Atta market, that we had to traverse, remembered from past, always in chaos, has overtime become worse. Traffic of all genre and type, bus, car, push cart rickshaw, cycle plying on road, haphazard road side parking, traffic converging  from all directions,  foot path taken over by vendors and their customers, soon the short walk became a nightmare for our wobbly legs.

With the staircase looking too daunting to take, choosing the lift up   to the station, we landed in altogether a different word: swanky, clean, and managed it was:   a virtual haven   from the real hell below.

 I was still lost as what to do and where to turn. Mrs Bajag had in the mean time rushed to the ticket window, collected the magic, black discs, the tokens to allow us entry to the platform. Each of us got one with instruction, at our own peril, to keep it safe as   the disc had to be dropped in the slot of the barrier at the destination to allow one to exit.

 On   to the platform I was left wondering and amazed at the organized chaos, the cleanliness,  the digital scrolling displays, the announcements in a soothing voice, unlike the squeaky, irritating and incomprehensible announcements on suffered at Railway Stations.

 The Dawrka Metro whooshed in, dot on the time on display and came to a stop, the doors open automatically and we are swept in along with other passengers.

The past veterans   of the Metro quickly find vacant seats, leaving the first time novices like me standing.

 In side the compartment there is crowed but no chaos, commuters, those who could not find a seat, stand holding to the over head handholds all the time looking around for the seat likely to get vacated at the next stop, those sitting appear lost in their own thoughts, some playing with the smart phones other on the mobile involved in some animated conversation. The over keen continue hanging next to the door despite the aural warnings against the risky practice.

Surprisingly the young do vacate the seats for the elderly and I soon become the benedictory of the courtesy.

 I keep watching the goings on in the compartment, at each stop a few   commuters get down and another lot gets in, however at Rajive Choak, the exchange station, it is a different story: a mass exodus replaced by an equally large contingent to and from other lines.

 We anxiously keep watching the display, accompanied by the audio announcement   indicating the next stop till we see Uttam Nagar East on the scrolling display and star gathering near the exit

 A pleasant surprise awaits us in that Girgila is there, to receive and welcome us,   standing right opposite our compartment.

He shepards  us down below  and we are in  back  once again  in Bharat and the accompanied  chaos: buses, both of ancient vintage   and the newer, low floor ones, cars, rickshaw, road side vendors, with their push carts, all vying for the limited space on the track of the road: we are truly back in Bharat.

 On way to Girgila’s place we have to struggle against the surge of humanity from opposite direction, consisting mainly of the young; the youth in a hurry.

 I am surprised to note that it is youth everywhere on the road and more so in the Metro that we have just left.

  As I walk through the swarm of the young, some with backpacks, others with buds in the ear or laptops on the shoulder and mobile in hands, seeing them in such numbers gives me a feeling of high: the young generation, our future also it is a bit frightening with a daunting thought at the back of the mind as to what is going on in their young minds, what are their aspirations, hopes and value system and more impotently what are the opportunities and openings available to them. I do wonder as to how this source of energy is gong to be harnessed.

 We struggle forward , short of confidence, guided by Girgla,  on our  wobbly legs,  with our heart in mouth  some how mange to cross the road, with fast flowing traffic, and reach Girgila’s place for a warm welcome by Kamal, a resident of Arizona whom I meet more often on the Facebook than in person and others.