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Raj Dutta



Raj Dutta


Looking Through The Prism Of Life

Looking Through The Prism Of Life

9 mins 327 9 mins 327


PRELUDE (1983)

                In Oct ’83 as a young flunky Lieutenant in the mighty Super- Connie squadron in Goa, I was exuberant on being transferred to Coast Guard 700 sqn Calcutta on deputation to operate the Fokkers on lease from IAC…Exuberant, as I’d meet some officer- colleagues who had been with me in Cochin and Goa……My instructor of Connies was now the Senior Pilot of Fokkers…

                 INS Netaji Subhash Wardroom was a fantastic den for the 6 inliving joyous guys (Ambreesh, Ambulkar, Avinash, Chandu, Damien, Raj ) supplemented by some not so happy ones (married) (Dey, Rajiv, Rakesh) who routinely converged into the first floor Bar, post flying and pre-launch for a glass of beer…this used to soon initiate a jubilant session of 3 carder game in one of the offr’s cabin, (Ambreesh had bought a set of counters from chowrangi that he issued to everyone followed by cut for seat,) initiating jubilation that continued non-stop until the duty steward appeared ringing a small gong bell (Ting-ting, ting-ting, ting-ting….) to announce the door closing time for bar and dining hall, interrupting the bonhomie and chatter….”Get 4 beers and close the bar…” was the SOP instruction to the bar steward….”two minutes..” was the quick standard reply to the dining hall chap, as if the gang was preparing Maggi…. In the evenings the gang ventured out into the city of joy, Park street window shopping, Pratt Memorial School where we befriended some lady teachers, keen on knowing the naval knots in the precincts of our wardroom…some Guys were apt at one to one practical demo...ending up with a hot session, of Pav Bhajji opp the Victoria memorial …. Weekends dedicated to long drives outskirts of the city…. This was a regular affair for the happy dedicated professional aviators who enjoyed LIFE to its brim.

                 The wardroom was frequented by TD offers, checking in for a few days primarily in connection with under-construction ships at GRSE…

SCENE-I (1984)

                  One officer checked into this cheerful Wardroom and introduces himself with a smile…Lt Shamsher Singh Bali, NDA 51st Delta… Magic had fascinated him since Birth and would have been his profession had he not gone to NDA…The only cadet in NDA’s history to have performed a magic show in the NDA auditorium…. So, here he was in the midst of us wicked CG rowdies…He performed some impressive card tricks that the 3 patti addicted syndicate was not interested in…and soon the round table conference commenced…This 3 carder is such a tricky stupid game, where-in the stakes pile up if two or more players have high value cards. Not a game of intelligence but intuitive ingenuity combined with pure luck, something that a pilot needs to pull out from an emergent situation……The Magician’s magic spell didn’t work on our rowdy clan and the next day just prior departure, Lt Bali signs a cheque equated to one Gandhi (500) and hands over to me, and also calls for a wine chit from a steward, quickly scribbled the address of Cdr VP Bakhshi and quipped, “Raj, go and meet them when in Bombay, my in-laws nice people, their one daughter in college” …

            After seeing him off, I crumbled the scribbled chit and aimed it perfectly into the waste bin in the corner of my cabin….


         Direct entry Aviation cadets are dispatched for their Sub-Lt courses and watch-keeping quite late in their service career. A lot of water had flown under the Howrah bridge for the past 6 yrs since my CG tenure, FIS, induction of HPT-32 at Cochin for 550 training flight, Subs-courses and presently watch-keeping onboard INS Ranvir. I had consummated 5 months onboard and was due to be presented my WKC* (watchkeeping certificate) in a month…My Mom’s cousin who lived in Thane had called me for our Biradari get together on 04 Mar which I’d ignored as my ship was to go for fleet sailing and return only on 05th…

        Destiny plays some very tricky sport in people’s otherwise dull lives…My ship developed a minor snag and was dispatched back to ‘Bombay’ prematurely… That reminds, when we sailed out in the evening, A Kamov with sono-buoys and a practice torpedo was to embark our ship at the outer harbor but got delayed and came overhead just prior to sunset,

        When the helo joined the circuit, the Capt observed from the Bridge that there was no torpedo slung underneath its belly…The Capt was perplexed, “Where the hell, is the Torpedo”…Me and the NO retorted in unison “Sir, Bombbay”….He was a little disturbed, “Don’t tell me they’ve left it in Bombay!”…The TASO who was on the bridge made his point, “Sir, its concealed in its Bomb bay”… Even as we tried to conceal our smile the Capt with his amused smirk was unable to find a place to look, “Oh ! Bomb bay, yes Bomb bay !”

      Let's get shipped to Bombay on the morning of 04th Mar, a day prior to the scheduled return…I rang up my Thane wali Aunt from the QM landline and noted the address of the Goregaon Biradari Milan…. I was still in two minds of launching myself for this venture amidst strangers….Had I listened to my other mind, life would have been different today…

 SCENE-II (04 Mar 90)

                 So here was I at the entrance of a Biradri Sammelan at Goregaon, totally befuddled amongst strangers welcoming you with folded hands and artificial smiles… I was contemplating on executing an about turn to return to the ship when my uncle spotted me and escorted me inside at the reception to fill up my personal data and a Questionnaire….It was then I realized that one of the aim of this Biradari get together was ‘match-fixing’…. One could see marriageable boys and girls in their best attire being escorted by their parents…My uncle and aunt introduced me to various people of ‘Mohyal’ clan, the descendants of the Saptarishis… Just then a gentleman comes and tells me “Bali Saheb is looking for you”…. Bali Saheb? who ?....Where is he ?.... “there at the race tracks…”… When I went there, saw some ladies engaged in a three-legged race, amongst ppl cheering them…there I saw, OMG! Lt Shamsher Singh Bali, who after having read the incoming register had been enquiring about me…On seeing me his face shone with a broad smile as he embraced me, “Oye Raj, where you had been all these years”…He then introduced me to his mother-in-law, Mrs Bakhshi, a smiling simple middle-aged lady…I did pari-pona (a tradition of feet touching, as a mark of respect ), even as Shamsher quipped, “Mummy, yeh wohi Raj hai, jiske baarey mein maine apko bataya tha..”…Next, I met Shammi’s (Samsher’s nickname) athletic wife sweety , who had just won the three legged race without any perspiration…Just then chirrups Shammi’s MIL, “Oye Sweety, Moti kithe ?” ..there appears a nice looking girl, who is introduced by her Mom, “Raj, yeh na Meena hai”…I greet her with folded hands, “Namaste”…She reciprocates exactly the same way…Me and Shammi roamed around together, I introduced him to my uncle and Aunt…

3 pm End of briefing… and departure.

SCENE-III (06 Mar 90)

Two days later self and Lt Bali rendezvous at the lawns of WNC bar, his temple that he has been visiting regularly…He orders drinks for both of us… With a smile, he dips his right-hand little finger into his glass and shrugs out a drop with a ‘Hari Om’ chant…I’m impressed…During the pleasant session, he asks me, “Tujhe maine wine chit pe ek address likh ke diya tha, yaad hai ? “…I give him lost looks, that Calcutta incident wiped off my memory… He then narrated as to how he proposed about me to his MIL aka Sholay style , “Mummyji, Maine na Moti (Meena’s nick name) ke liye ladka dekh liya hai..”…….MIL ,”Achha, kaisa hai ?” …“Bilkul mere jaissa hai, Sharaab peeta hai, Cigarette peeta hai…jua bhi khelta hai…par ladka badda shareef hai, Mummy, maine usko apka address diya hai , apko milne aayega”……MIL, “ Tu apne kol hi rakh avenje munde nu… agar aaya toh maine usse darwaaze ke andar nahi aaney dena” …

       Fortunately, uss baat ki naubat hi nahi ayee…God is great, so I thought… After a couple of pegs, he asked blowing a ring of smoke, “Yaar, sach sach batta, tujhe Moti, er.. sorry ..Meena kaissi laggi”…. “Sach sach…?” I laughed…as I put some ice into my next peg… “Haan, sach sach..” he slurs… Just then an ice piece slips from the tongs by me… “Look the Ice has broken on the floor…Let me break the ice to you too… How would you like me to be your relative ?”…Shammi’s Face brightened with a broader smile like it does at the culmination of each magic trick that he performs in public…His Magic had worked on me…He had taken the revenge of one Gandhi (500) cheque presented at Calcutta.

   As the Bar closed he took me to his home, H block, where his in-laws also happened to be there. I met Cdr VP Bakhshi, one of the first diver of IN a towering personality, but a gentle human being …I had told Shammi particularly “Do not disclose our talk, till I leave for my ship..” …But that excited Magician couldn’t hide it at the dining table, “Mummy, Raj ready hai” and put me in an embarrassing position in front of everyone, I didn’t know where to look… I don’t know what transpired after our Goregaon biradari meet, but I feel I might have impressed Shammi’s MIL with that Pari-pona trick….

           We met on 04 Mar 90 for the first time and got married on 02 May, two months later on the terrace of Ashok Van, where my FIL settled after retirement…. Here was a case of Love being arranged into marriage by mutual consent of both parents, by a Magic trick performed by the Great Magician, my Friend, Philosopher, and Guide…We felt the absence of Cmde Ramesh Kumar, my second co-brother (who was in the USA for his EW specialization) along with his wife Nishi (Meena’s elder sister) during that period.

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P.S. - This article is a humble tribute to late Cdr SS Bali, whom we lost 10 years ago due to a Cardiac arrest…May his humble Soul Rest in Peace in Heavens above… His wife Kunj Bali (Sweety) is a PRT in KV-I colaba. Elder son Arjun is a Professional Diving supervisor. Younger Nakul, is an Ace golfer..    

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 Today after 29 years Looking back through the prism of life, and how fate is destined for each one of us… reminds me of these lines….

 Kitabon ke Panne Palat ke Sochte hai,

Yu Palat jaye Zindagi to Kya Baat hai.

Tamanna jo Puri ho Khwabo me,

Haqikat Ban jae to Kya Baat hai….Anonymous

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