The Perfect Road Trip

The Perfect Road Trip
Runners Up Award- Ambipur Contest

Thursday, November 19, 2015


The date was 16 Dec 1971, a cold winter day in Delhi, when the news on the All India Radio flashed that Pakistan Army had surrendered to the Indian Army in Dhaka! A first in the recorded history of India when an instrument of surrender was signed by Pakistan when Lt Gen AAK Niaizi led army laid down arms before Lt Gen JS Aurora the joint commander of Bangladesh India Allied Forces. In a brilliant display of strategy and valor Gen Sam Manekshaw, the then Chief of the Indian Army had had carved out Bangladesh , what was erstwhile East Pakistan in just two weeks of battle! My head swelled with pride like that of any other Indian. My resolve to join the armed forces became even stronger!

General Manekshaw left an indelible impression on my young mind, for his courage, strength of character, leadership, honesty of purpose and his towering personality! He was one of the five children born in a Parsi family of a doctor who earned a living in Amritsar. He passed out with honors from Sherwood College , Nainital and once jokingly said that they had produced two distinguished alumnus  one himself, and another Amitabh Bachhan, many years his junior! On completion of school he wanted to study medicine in England but since he was only 15 years old, his father asked him to study in India till he attained the age of 18! He was so upset that he did not speak to his father for next 18 months and with support of his mother wrote the entrance examination for Indian Military Academy, Dehradun. He enrolled for the First Course in Oct 1932. The rest was history, as he moved places and held key appointments in the Army during his long career.

As a Major, while fighting in Burma against the Japanese during the Second World War he was hit by Light Machine Gun fire in his belly damaging the kidneys and lungs! The doctor attending him asked what happened, and even in the hour of crisis he quipped, ‘I was kicked by a donkey’!  Major General Cowan, who saw him, pinned his own Military Cross on his chest stating that a dead person cannot be awarded Military Cross! In subsequent years he continued as a trusted soldier to annex Kashmir and quell the riots in Kolkata at the call of the then Home Minister Sardar Patel! Before entrusting the Kolkata to Army , Patel asked Sam , how many casualties he expected , to which he replied, ‘around hundred’. Sardar Patel asked him to go ahead and to his surprise not even one life was lost while the army handled the situation and brought it under control!

The Gurkha battalion was led by the British Officers prior to the Independence and Sam Manekshaw was the first Indian commander post freedom. On his visit to the Gurkha battalion he asked one soldier, if he knew his name? The soldier replied, ‘Sam Bahadur’ and thus that became his identity for all time to come!

In Jan 1973 he was elevated to the rank of Field Marshal for the rest of his life for the invaluable contribution. He served on the Board of Directors of fourteen companies post retirement and was loved and respected for his knowledge, integrity and leadership qualities!

I am happy that I too, could contribute my bit by serving the Indian Navy for twenty years, in the traditions that were ingrained by the distinguished Field Marshal. He lived his life by the credo of Baron Chetwode which is engraved on the entrance in IMA, ‘the safety honor and welfare of your country comes first, always and every time. The honor, welfare and comfort of the men you command comes next. Your own ease , comfort  and safety comes last , always and every time.’

PS: This is my entry for Tata Motors/Indiblogger sponsored #madeofgreat contest (

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Call of the Wild

The distant call of a wild boar was interrupted by a squeal of myna that merrily hopped from branch to branch of the tall Sal tree. The huge fireball was setting in the west, as a group of birds flew in the V formation, as if in a hurry to reach home to feed their young ones. A perfect and serene setting awaited us at the Kanha sanctuary resort where we had arrived after more than a four hour ride from Jabalpur! The busy schedule in the office and constant ringing of the phone during the previous fortnight was nerve wracking! A family outing to connect with the Mother Nature was badly needed!

The drive from Jabalpur through the narrow road to Mandla was uneventful and a cup of steaming hot tea with ‘poha’ was a perfect snack to keep us in high spirits till we reached Kanha Kisli. The gates of the wild life sanctuary were being closed. Our appointment with the tiger and other inmates had to wait till next morning.  Just in front of our cottage was a ‘Machan’ about which I had only read in the story books and seen in some documentary films. Excitedly, we all climbed atop to admire the breathtaking view of the dense foliage at one end and a small stream of water just outside the resort.

It had started getting dark but the excitement of the solitude was overpowering. Occasional cries of wild animals would break the prevailing calm. A giant lizard with fiery eyes stared at the firefly on the adjacent bush. We were told by the resort manager that we could sleep on the ‘Machan’ at night if we wanted. The proposition was accepted by a voice vote. Soon there was darkness all around and except for a solitary lantern on the ‘Machan’ there were no lights except the twinkling stars and a half moon! I do not remember, when I had last witnessed such a gorgeous spectacle! Back in Delhi it is difficult to see a clear sky any day as the skyline is immersed in the radiance of neon or the envelope of dust in the air!

We kept cracking jokes and watched every move of stray animals that could be seen at a distance hoping to see the fiery eyes of a tiger! Since the buzz of insects became overwhelming we climbed down and decided to sleep in the room below the ‘Machan’.

At 4.30 in the morning we were woken up by the watchman and within half an hour we were ready to undertake an adventurous trek and ride an elephant in the jungle. We saw plenty of birds, the Golden Oriole, Red Munia, Flycatcher, Spotbill Duck besides, Langurs, Barasingha and a Neelgai. After about 45 minute of ride astride an elephant we saw the fresh pugmarks of a tiger but the animal remained elusive!

It was a memorable stay as we packed up for Jabalpur later in the afternoon after having a fun filled memorable time in the lap of the nature in midst of a jungle!(

Monday, October 19, 2015

So long, Farewell !

The bike ride to aunt’s place through the streets with father is still vivid in my memory! I had just been admitted in one of the public schools despite the meagre income which my father earned. I had purchased a new pair of shoes to attend the school and the moment I reached her place, I announced, see my shoes have not broken! Everyone had a hearty laugh.

To me like most children my parents were my world and like Lord Ganesh who once was asked to compete with this brother to circumambulate around the three worlds, I too would have gone around them thrice to have won the race!

I learnt the art of being self-reliant from him and he not only preached but practiced what he believed in. When we were still kids we would see him help mother in cooking and at times prepared things that surpassed our mother’s cooking! Once when one of his friends visited us and asked who cooks at home, in all innocence, I said, mostly ‘papa cooks and sometimes, mother cooks’ which sent them in peals of laughter and for many years they oft repeated this anecdote when visiting us! There were times when he stayed alone but never did he depend on anyone to cook even a single meal for him. On the contrary, if someone visited while he was alone, he would treat them to a full meal or snack depending on the time of the day!

He learnt many things just by observing people at work and could take on any task from mending clothes, stitching his pajamas, washing his clothes, ironing our clothes when we attended school, so that we never go out shabbily dressed. Having served with the British Army personnel during the Second World War, he was always punctual for everything, be it attendance in office, morning and evening walk, yoga session, timing for meals, social events and even time to go to bed. One could almost set his watch looking at the routine in action! He remained a teetotaler and vegetarian with very simple way of life. There are countless memories that drift like a cloud on a windy day as I look at the void created by his absence.

I was the lucky one who got to stay with him till the very end which came just a few days after he celebrated his 90th birthday. He was confined to the bed for 15 days before he breathed his last, on the midnight when the Father of the Nation was born, 02 Oct! On 04 Oct in the wee hours of the morning at 4.45 AM both  my wife and I lay on the bed, slowly talking when we were startled by a gleeful cry of a small child! We both simultaneously, climbed out of the bed and looking at each other asked, ‘did you hear it’? We looked at our mobiles thinking there was a prank but they were silent like the rest of the house! May, be it was god’s way to tell us to move on in life, something father had always believed in and taught us!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Zero Dark Thirty

I would get up in the middle of the night and like a US Navy seal on a mission to hunt down Osama Bin Laden, and tip toe in a crouching position towards the bathroom hardly 2 meters away and return back to the bed holding my calf muscle to fall back on the bed as if hit by a volley of  bullets groaning in the bed! The torturous night would somehow pass leaving me gasping for breath till the pain subsided and beads of sweat dried. During the day the things would start returning to normal as the sun rose in the east spreading all its glory and warmth. I would prefer to stay in the curled up fetal position fearing a wrong turn would bring back the stabbing pain.

During the day I would hobble around on one leg like the sailor in Treasure Island , singing ‘Fifteen men on the dead men’s chest, Yo Ho ho and a bottle of rum’. Sometimes memories of the game of ‘ Langri Taang’ returned, that I played in childhood with my friends where one had to catch the other players while scampering on one foot, but this time it was for real!

Last one month has been one of the most non- happening period in recent times! Actually it is difficult to explain as one fine day a thunder bolt like cramp seized the left calf and what followed was a temporary retirement from all active life.

The child hood returned in more than one ways as the food would be served on bed and all responsibilities transferred to the better half to run the show. Even the grey matter decided to take a rest and no creativity would emerge despite endless wait and staring at the ceiling at the rotating fan! No books and magazines appeared interesting!

Thankfully the agony seems to be coming to an end, to once again go back to a normal life. We take so many things for granted which becomes a part of daily routine. The god has designed our body so well that no matter how bad we may feel the nature does restore us back to once again to enjoy the benefits of a healthy life. I could not read many of the posts that my friends wrote nor was able to comment during this period.  Now, I once more look forward to return of happy days, as who does not like to hunt with the hounds and run with the foxes?

PS: Image kind courtesy Google

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Is Book Reading Dying?

The love for reading books is gradually dying and has sounded a death knoll for many a book stores across the country! Prominent book stores that once flourished and had steady clientele have steadily dwindled and some are on the brink of closure! The railway journeys were incomplete without books as companions from the Wheeler stalls!

Most of us know of the reasons, namely the new alternatives now available in terms of the ever increasing reach of media, entertainment, reality shows, social networking sites and the boom of internet! Those who still love to read prefer to download the books in e-book format now on their ‘Kindle ‘devices and can read these at convenience.
There is excitement which never seems to abate in today’s world, unlike in past where spicy stories came out only once in a while and life, otherwise moved at a slow pace! There was always enough time to listen to music or read books and magazines in a leisurely manner! One could choose the books of liking be it a romantic, adventure, horror or cult stories! These days the newspaper is always full of stories of intrigue, ransom, murder, mayhem, terror on almost every page! The same is true for media like TV where just by a flick of channel similar stories in more graphic details are available instantly! Why should one spend money or make an effort to walk to the bookstore to search for books! Block buster stories are available 24X7 on the go on smart phones too!

If one is looking for quality reading then subscription to online magazines, is available at the fraction of cost of the print media! Unlike in past, most of the places of residence have shrunk.  Also, with increased mobility, the storage space is depleted to an extent that keeping a personal library of books is tantamount to luxurious living!

Children are very rarely told stories by parents at home due to pressure of time. In most metro cities they are brought up in crèches, so how can they develop love for reading! They get hooked to video games at an early age even as toddlers. In many cases their love for instant gratification is best met by gaming devices as they grow up. The characters of Hanuman, Tenali Rama, Grimm’s Fairy tales, Charles Dickens, Perry Mason, James Bond, Sherlock, are now easier to watch than read!

In a recent survey it came to light that most of the English teachers in schools do not know the spellings of some very simple words and the reasons for same do not need much explanation! The widespread use of abbreviated SMS language has eroded the culture of reading well written English, though thankfully most formal correspondence still requires use of grammar. Life is all set to change at a pace much beyond our imagination and even though there are many alternatives, the book reading will continue. The whiff of new pages in the book and glossy covers will continue to entice the new generation of readers!

PS: Image Kind courtesy Google

Friday, August 21, 2015

Internet@Speed of Lightning

Every user of internet wishes to see a glitch free browsing, access mail, video and movie downloads and playing interactive games while on the move. The prophecy of Bill Gates more than a decade ago has become a reality today, even in India where the mobile internet has been a recent phenomenon. In his famous book Business@The Speed of Thought, written in 1999 ,the fifteen predictions related to mobile internet, various applications and smart devices, came true in less than ten years. In India the major mobile operator Airtel has been on the forefront to make these dreams come true for every Indian by launch of the 4G or LTE ( Long Term Evolution )Services across the country!

The erstwhile challenges of latency in the network, the poor user experience, frustration of not being able to download at decent speeds will now be a thing of past. I recollect the times when the modems used to be connected to a 2kbps telephone line and after a great struggle the modem would connect to the network and before anything substantial happens, the line got disconnected to start the process of reconnecting the computer all over again. Mobile internet was a distant dream but thanks to fore sighted operators like Airtel, who took the ‘bull by its horns’ and evolved the network. From TDMA( Time Division Multiple access),GSM( Global System for Mobiles, 2G), GPRS( General Packet Radio Switching- 2.5 G), EDGE(Enhanced Data GSM service, 3G), UMTS( Universal Mobile Telecommunication Systems- Up to 10 Mbps) to finally 4G( 90 Mbps download and 10 Mbps upload speeds) the journey of evolution has been remarkable! This has also accounted for the mobile subscribers outnumbering the fixed line users.

This has not been a mean achievement as the 4G networks require a large investment in capital costs to upgrade the existing networks on a new frequency domain including upgrading a host of other components. Airtel has put all its might behind to ensure that India does not lag behind the rest of the world in getting state of the art technology          .

Those who have the device that supports 4G can approach Airtel to get the new 4G SIM to replace their current 3G SIM at no cost, delivered at the door step. The users can get the lightning speed of the 4G network instantly! Those who need for business can opt for unlimited plans ranging from Rs 999 to Rs 2999 per billing cycle with varying data usage in range from 3GB to 15 GB! Currently many cities in 12 circles have been covered by Airtel 4G network and more are getting added  to increase the footprint ! No wonder Airtel( is among the big league and currently the fourth largest mobile operator in the world!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Thanking the Brave

A few unrelated incidents in last couple of days has left a sense of disquiet and cast a shadow over the festive spirit of the Independence Day. A day for remembering the brave and also a nation expressing the gratitude to countless martyrs who laid down their lives so that we can breathe in freedom!

One of them was roughing up of the ex -servicemen by the local police at Jantar Mantar who have been protesting for the delay in implementing the long promised, One Rank One Pension (OROP) and another incident when an army soldier was killed by ruffians who were stopped to molest a girl in Meerut! In the first case, those responsible cannot be forgiven, as how the people, who have protected a nation by giving the best part of their lives in inhospitable terrains and fought wars, suddenly become a threat on the pretext of security of the city! The lack of sensitivity in handling situations by the so called think tank is evident! In the latter case, the growing cult of hooliganism and quite often, also patronized by the political parties is responsible for the sad outcome!

The same day there was a photograph of the Israeli prime minister kissing his son as he prepares to join the armed forces like every citizen in that country!A typical prayer offered by orthodox Jews for well being of Israel Defence Forces  all over the world reads as follows:

Prayer for the Well-Being of the
Israel Defense Forces

The following prayer is recited by observant (Orthodox) Jews in Israel and all over the world during the morning Shabbat prayers, after reading the weekly Torah portion:
May He who blessed our forefathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, bless the soldiers of the Israel Defence Forces, who stand watch over our land and the cities of our Lord, from the Lebanese border to the desert of Egypt and from the great sea to the verge of the wilderness, on land, in the air, and at sea. May G-d strike down before them our enemies who rise against us. May the Holy One save and spare our soldiers from all forms of woe and distress, of affliction and illness, and may He invest their every action with blessing and success. May He vanquish by their means those who hate us, and may He adorn them with a crown of deliverance and a mantle of victory. Thus may the verse be fulfilled: "For it is the Lord your G-d who marches with you to do battle for you against your enemy, to bring you victory." Now let us respond "Amen."

 We reap the crop as we sow the seeds! Rarely does any politician's son ever joins the armed forces in our country so they never understand the harsh life that lies ahead! They are just waiting to take over the reins and are busy in building their own empires with mostly ill-gotten wealth!

The partition of two nations India and Pakistan in 1947 has been a cause of acrimony between them and has caused immense amount of blood shed and mayhem in the continent ever since. With the passage of time the technology advanced and the weapons became deadlier and their usage even more bloody! After the African continent, perhaps the Indian continent continues to lag behind on almost every parameter of human index, be it poverty, lack of hygiene, mass unemployment, gender equality and a host of others!

The defense budgets of the two countries have continued to swell leading to an arms race which is unparalleled elsewhere in the world. The weapons of mass destruction possessed by the two nations can annihilate either of the two countries in no time, in case of a nuclear conflagration. With the passage of time the proxy wars and terrorist activities continue to increase with loss of lives and property on either side.

In such a scenario, the need to keep the men in uniform motivated is very important. Mr  Ajit Doval the present National Security Adviser had in one of the addresses mentioned that one of the reasons why British were keen to leave India on 15 Aug 1947 was the fear of military uprising which the British Empire was incapable of handling!( )

A grateful nation knows how the men in uniform come to aid of civil authorities to handle catastrophes and even civil unrest. Independence Day is the time to express solidarity and support them and their families when they are defending the nation !

PS . The prayer for IDF kind courtesy