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.