Friday, April 24, 2009

Blogphemia

For over two years I held back from creating a blog because I always thought that there was no point having one when I did not have enough time for it. There was always so much going on and I thought I’d never be able to do justice to it. Then one fine day, I just realized that there is never a good time anyway. Its either now or never. And so I just went ahead with it. And am I glad I did! Just knowing that I have a blog out there pushes me to write. Every ten days my fingers start to itch, the otherwise passive writing pad seems to be calling out to me from my bedside table. Its almost an illness with real symptoms. They should have a name for it - blogphemia, may be. So no matter how much I need to study or how tough my exam the next day is, I just take out some time to write about some random thing. My next post is actually going to be about insects! I have three other incomplete articles too that I need to finish and put up. And I soon will.

Meanwhile I am also watching a lot of old English movies (when I say old, I really mean the nineties) and trying to compile a list of the top ten romantic comedies of all time. I know my Number 1 is going to be Love Actually, but not really sure about the rest (Can’t promise you Notting Hill, Swap ;)) Because I want to play fair and because Hugh Grant has a knack of messing with my head and jinxing me into believing that only his movies are good, any suggestions are happily invited. So long!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Memoirs

I didn’t realize just how much we missed the sense of belonging that that one usually associates with a regiment until we had the dinner party at home, last Friday. Mum and I call it ‘the unit-like feeling’ – it is like having an extended family minus the fights, plus loads of jokes, snacks and drinks (hard, of course). Papa was in one of those moods of his, where he cracks one joke after another and we all laugh till our sides ache. Defence humour is so clich├ęd, yet so endearing. And then there are the myriad anecdotes that nobody seems to be ever running out of.

My favorite one is of mum’s academy experience at MCTE, Mhow. She tells me about how a hundred officers and ladies sat on long wooden tables for dinner. Newly-married and from a non-defence background, mum sat tensed and rigid, surrounded on both sides by high-profile, senior officers and stealing nervous, surreptitious glances at papa. He gave her encouraging nods and got back to his plate, deftly using the fork and the knife, like they were nothing but extensions of his fingers, perfectly oblivious of mum’s consternation. Despite the training papa imparted to her on their use, she nevertheless shied away from taking a helping of chicken lest it rolled off her plate, or worse still, flew off and hit somebody smack on the face. And then there was the problem of speed, and how you had to take the tiniest of helpings of a dish and finish it before the next course was passed along to you (which was a few seconds later), or you didn’t get any of that! So after her fake, put-on dinner on such nights in the mess, mum had her real one of bread and soup back at home. Twenty-two years down the line, and as competent as papa, my mum claims that army life just grows on people, and that she has loved every single moment of it.

Another incident that I can probably never forget dates back to June, 2000 when papa was posted in Baramulla, fifty kilometers ahead of Srinagar. We were devoid of entertainment of any kind, except radios, perhaps, that had cheesy songs playing 24X7, often interpolated with mutterings in Urdu which were, like one uncle claimed, talks of terrorists caught on radio. Whether he was just joking to freak us out, or was being blatantly honest, I’d never know. Anyway, to outsmart the ringing silence of the valley, or the heavy stillness in the air, we often engaged in a little harmless, after-dinner, card-playing. By ‘we’ I mean six officers and their wives, while us kids sat in a corner of the room- reading, playing or just dozing off as our parents’ entertainment night extended to beyond just ‘night’, or as we thought then, normal, humane timings.


Well, it was one such night that our nocturnal gathering was interrupted by gunshots, and the electricity going off. Some uncle, with huge hands (I vividly remember that part because ‘they’ pushed us kids off the bed), commanded in a booming voice that we all ought to lie down on the floor. Our dads, meanwhile, were ready in their uniforms in a trice, and were marching out as we heard the steady resound of gunshots somewhere frightfully close. We were locked in, and I know for a fact that the little kid next to me peed in his pants.

After fifteen horrifying minutes of lying on the cold stone in pitch-blackness, the heart beating so wildly, almost threatening to break through my rib cage and flying out, did our dads walk in. The lights came on too, and we were told that the big stir was a practice session. Just that. Plain, simple, that.

That day, horrifying as it was, was also a reality check. I know it was something they knowingly signed-in for, but we didn’t! For those fifteen minutes that seemed like an eon, we had no inkling if we would ever see our dads again. Their ‘devil-may-care’ and ‘bring-them-on-and-we’ll-show-them’ attitude, their tremendous grit, and their total disregard for their own safety as they calmly walked out of the secure barrack was disturbingly crazy. And that feeling, and ironically enough, that pitch-black night will forever remain etched in my memory.