Friday, November 13, 2009

Woman Power

Bhavleen Sodhi (nee Bindra) successfully completed the Basic Combat Training (BCT) at Fort Jackson, Columbia, South Carolina recently. She had joined the US army as a specialist (SPC) in linguistics sometime back. She is presently undergoing Advanced Individual Training (AIT) at a US military academy in Texas. Having undergone such rigorous training bears a testimony to the grit and determination of this Chandigarh girl who studied at Sacred Heart Convent and Shivalik Public School. Married to Sukhjinder Singh Sodhi in 1995, they have two daughters, Vargun and Sargun.
Bhavleen with her husband Sukhjinder Singh Sodhi at the Graduation
Sharing a proud moment with daughters Vargun and Sargun
She will be in active service for four years before becoming a US army reservist. It is a proud moment for her family and friends (we studied together at Shivalik Public School). Now that's what you call 'Woman Power'.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Mohali 55

This post is inspired by a poem of Surjit Pattar. The poem is about the affinity felt for the place of our formative years. A major part of my life was spent in Mohali. As a four year old in 1977, I could hardly understand the change we were heading for when we shifted from a rented accomodation in Sector 15, Chandigarh to our own house in Phase I, Mohali (Pin 160055). Mohali is the name of the village on the old Chandigarh-Ropar highway. Giani Zail Singh re-christened the suburb as Sahibzada Ajit Singh Nagar, a name which is seldom used by anyone. In the initial years, our neighbourhood consisted of less than fifty independent houses and just a few HL and HM series Housing Board houses in Phase I. The area beyond Phase IV remained under cultivation at that time. Till as late as 1984, the population of the township was less than 50K.
There were few schools which itself were in their infantile stage. My elder siblings were admitted to one such school owing to the good marketing skills of its owner cum Principal. I also joined the same school some time later. Mohali was our Malgudi, well insulated from the rest of the world; the place had its own living space, own character and its own unique story; a story which will continue to remain dear to me. The feeling can be rather summed like this - "You can take a Mohali-ite out of Mohali, But you cannot take Mohali out of him."
The feeling of being a fish out of water gripped me when we relocated to Panchkula in 1993. My stay at Panchkula remained transistional as I left for the pre-commission training at Madras 16 (now called Chennai) shortly thereafter.
It was my earnest desire to return to Mohali, a wish which was granted to me recently.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Broken Pot - a short story

With a lot of gratitude to the friend who shared this story with me.
An elderly Chinese woman had two large pots,each hung on the ends of a pole which she carried across her neck. One of the pots had a crack in it while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water. At the end of the long walks from the stream to the house, the cracked pot arrived only half full. For the full two years this went on daily, with the woman bringing home only one and a half pots of water. Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it could only do half of what it had been made for. After two years of what it percieved to be bitter failure, it spoke to the woman one day by the stream.' I am ashamed of myself, because this crack in my side causes the water to leak out all the way back to your house.'
The old woman smiled," Did you notice that there are flowers on your side of the path, but not on the other pot's side? That's because I have always known about your flaw, so I planted flower seeds on your side of the path and everyday while we walk back,you water them. For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate the table.Without you being just the way you are,there would not be this beauty to grace the house."
Each of us has our unique flaw.But it's the cracks and flaws we each have that make our life together so very interesting and rewarding. You've just got to take each person for what they are and look for the good in them.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Fauji diary - Army tunes

Army tunes have a very special place in the heart of any fauji. These tunes have a virtue of being in the backdrop of all army memories.In my academy days, I was fascinated by 'Troupe Rajasthan', a classic slow march army tune generally played during guard inspection.Earlier on during college, I had liked 'Amazing Grace' from the movie BRAVEHEART. While searching for some dogri tune recently on youtube,I had a serendipity discovery in the form of a youtube user called ShivKumarBatalvi, who has contributed lots of army tunes on youtube; my favourite one being - Ajj dia ratti (Dogri tune).
My battalion has one of the finest pipe bands in the Indian Army; infact it is one of the few who actually play 'Amazing Grace', an extremely difficult number on the pipes. Our Band Major,Sub Hem Raj had the distinction of having been an instructor to the Mauritius army. It was but natural to show case the talent in a cassette during the centenary celebrations of the battalion at Jalandhar in October 2000. The album had classical English tunes on one side and desi dogri tunes on the other besides an introduction by yours truly ( which I always skip while playing the cassette)

The cassette cover

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Conflict resolution

We humans always find ourselves facing various predicaments from time to time. The lines 'we are all just prisoners here, of our own device' hold an eternal truth hidden in them. Individual differences leave us isolated in our quest for a perfect solution to our 'personal' problem. Conflict resolution (CR) therefore becomes an important tool for maintaining an overall balance in our lives. Despite increasing awareness levels, a majority of people continue to hang on to the primitive methods of CR like calming the mind by sleeping, physical activity like walking or taking refuge in spirituality but these activities may not provide long term peace. The source of conflict is never internal; at times our expectation from others is the culprit, sometimes drawing comparisons with others distraughts us and worst is when we end up setting our own life goals by what others deem important. Time has a quality of the flowing water, No one in the world can go back in time to make a brand new start but everyone can take hold of the reins of their lives; and make a brand new ending.
Consider this, if you are 35 years old, you have already lived 12775 days of your life and roughly only the similar figure (in days) remains with you to accomplish what YOU think is correct. You can start with - Change what you cannot Accept, and Accept what you cannot Change. To reach an objective conclusion, we NEED to pen down the underlying cause of our concern. We MUST check the objectivity percentage by reviewing it after some time. The quality of our decisions never affect our lives but the timmings of our decisions does; decision has to be taken THIS WAY or THAT WAY.
Among all these, never loose sight of your dreams as dreams are the source of Hope in any situation. And it is only Hope which gives us the Purpose to our lives....

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Fauji Diary - Life at PP4 - Part II

Border firing always left me puzzled for I was not able to comprehend the rationale behind this seemingly wasteful expenditure of ammunition. For the uninitiated, I would like to clarify that unlike the barbed fencing in the plains, the terrain of the international border in J & K cris-crosses over various contours thereby leaving gaps which are easy places of infilteration. Border firing is a diversionary tactics to mask infilteration or to create confusion or at times merely to check the alertness level of the opposite troops.

Being at a considerable height, Kachryal view point becomes an excellent place to monitor the border firing in the area including my post. According to the grapewine,Mughal Empress Noorjehan had spent sometime at this place appreciating the pristine beauty of the view. Due to its strategic location, the place is visited by many senior military commanders and government officials including the IAS probationers for their training. Capt AC could have never imagined the he would meet his would be wife during the visit of the probationer mandarins. Against all 'conventional wisdom' of choosing the spouse from the same field ,the lady from the Indian Foreign Service (IFS) chose to propose the young army officer. Their subsequent marriage has also become part of the fauji folklore.
Love can overcome all odds; the lady is presently posted at Paris(France) and the officer in question is Commanding my unit.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Fauji Diary - Life at PP 4 - Part I

My inning with my battalion started at Pallanwala, near Akhnoor. The battalion after completing a rigourous tenure at Siachen glaciar was moved to this border area. Within a few days I found myself at the forwardmost post called PP4 (Protective Post number 4). Protective patrol is a small force of 10-12 persons kept beyond the main defences to dominate the no man's land,an area interspersed with minefields, in short a place for the cannon fodder. The neighbouring PP2 had been washed away by the recent flash flood in Munawwar Tawi river which translated in some casualities. The approach to the post was by crossing the river through Flying Fox and then crossing the DCB through a trench. The post offered a living space of 5ft x 5ft x 5ft dimension, food was supplied twice a day and the daily dose of firing started at dusk which kept you awake till morning.
The area is the jugular vein of India which Pakistan has seldom failed to press in successive campaigns. The battle of Chhamb Jaurian is taught as a classical case in the military academies world over.Recently I came across a write up on the campaign by one of the fellow blogger Agha H Amin who is an ex- Major of the Pakistan army. Despite having a disagreement on the factual accuracy of some of the events, I would like to congratulate Major Amin on capturing the essence of this military campaign.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Air Crash Investigations - NAT जियो I

Last couple of days provided me an opportunity to follow a very nice series on Air Crash Investigations at NAT GEO. In addition to the excellent handling of the subject, the series offers great insight into flight operations,role of Air Traffic Control (ATC) and the importance of ground duty staff. Indian air traffic has seen a decent growth in the last two decades with the mushrooming of a number of new players in the field. The growth in both international and domestic traffic necessitated the infrastructural and capacity upgradation of a number of airports, but is everything on the air safety is in place is a million dollar question. We continue to have callous individuals at our airports manning the various gadgets; they are the people who live under the illusion that their gossipping on the job can hardly affect their performance of duty or maybe their gadgets require no human intervention and work like the magic wand.
The two instances of air safety violations involving indian planes being covered on the program are - the suspected bombing of IC - 182 (Kanishka) and the hijacking of IC - 814 to Kandhar. These two events of air disaster which are recreated by the channel by compiling first hand accounts and material evidences,are a bone chilling and hair raising stuff. While the mid air explosion of IC - 182 (Kanishka) is attributed to a maliciously checked in baggage in Canada to further the political cause of the terror dealers, the IC - 814 hijacking is outrightly outrageous act in the sky. The indian government failed to get cracking on both the occassions and got exposed as a vulnerable and soft state.
In anyone listening......

Friday, May 15, 2009

Our trip to Los Angeles Part II

Since Mariott does not have an Indian menu, arrangements were made for our meals from indian restaurants like India's Tandoori , Gill's Indian Restaurant and Tanzore (Beverly Hills). On the first day, we were pleasantly surprised by the saag ( north indian dish) in the dinner delivered to us from India's Tandoori. When we went for lunch the next day to the restaurant, I complimented the restaurant owner, Gurmeet Multani for the 'pleasant surprise'.
We were booked for the Studio Tour of the Sony Pictures Studio starting at 10:00 AM but due to the traffic we got late by a few minutes and were told to take the 2:00 PM tour instead. To make the best use of the time at hand, we decided to hit Beverly Hills, the up market shopping place in hollywood. Unlike other shopping places in the US, Beverly Hills is one place where price tags on the items is on request.

In the studio tour we were conducted around the entire Sony Corporation including Columbia Pictures, MGM (Metro Goldwyn Mayer) and explained the nitty gritties of film making. Infact it was only when we entered the building of the Columbia Pictures that I came to know that Oscar Awards is just another name for the Academy Awards. The awards are neatly showcased in the main lobby of the building and the indian presence in the awards is in the form of film 'Gandhi'.
The success in the production of a film depends on three factors - location,budget and time bound completion of the project. To overcome the constraint of shooting on different locations, Sony has made improvisations in it's premises. Post 9/11, shootings at airports across the US have been banned. As an improvisation, Sony has made an airport like building as its office.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Fauji Diary - Keeping in touch

Sometime back I had created a group on the internet for all my army coursemates to remain in touch with each other. It was'nt very long ago when we used to write letters, send greeting cards on new year, raising days or send first day covers (release of special stamps in the army to commemorate a special occassion) but with the advent of mobiles and internet, the world suddenly seems like shrinking with no need to 'keep in touch'. Social networking utilities have further made the task easier. Among all these new age activities, some special bonds continue to stimulate and delight you even with their age old charm, 'happy hour calling' being one of them.A few days back, I received a 'happy hour' e-mail from one of my friends. The e-mail brought back memories which had almost faded in my memory.
A few years back,while myself and my friend (writer of the e-mail) we were on board 'Goa Express', sharing a berth both being in RAC. Our common destination was Belgaum, where we were heading to attend the Commando course. In the evening, while the dinner was being served, one of the waiters stumbled and the dinner plates fell on our seat. Expecting a cleanup, we waited for sometime.Since the waiter wanted to complete his assignment of serving the dinner first, his priority to the cleanup was low. My friend went to the Pantry Car to look for the waiter who was busy cooking with the turner (palta). Infuriated at his callousness, my friend tried to take the turner (palta) from him. To his bad luck, the turner accidentally hit the waiter and a pool of blood filled the forehead of the waiter.
The staff of the Pantry Car made an issue of the entire episode and halted the train at Pune station, some of them even lay on the track in protest. Goa Express is the chariot of the students studying in Maharashtra and 'donation colleges' of the south. The presence of so many youngsters in the train further aggravated the situation. Without bothering to find out the reason, some of the students again bashed up the pantrycarwallahs. It was commotion all around till the matter was solved in a fauji style by one of the army Major who was also travelling in the train. He just said that since the pantry-car men are not letting the train to move, officers please take out your guns from the trunks to ensure that the train starts off from the station.
The Pantry car wallahs quitely sat in the train and the journey could be resumed.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Welcome to Thiruvananthapuram - Part 1

Taking off from my earlier post 'The day I received my transfer orders', which was written in August last year. The transfer order disappointed me for the place of transfer was more than 3200 kms from my house. At some level I also felt victimised for eversince the start of operations in the Bank's office at Thiruvananthapuram, no officer from such far off place had been posted there. The air connectivity is there but no low cost carriers. The fastest train 'Rajdhani' takes three days to hit Delhi. My wife was also visibly upset for the logistics as her father just had a kidney transplant not very long ago. I had already exhausted my resources for seeking a change of place of posting.
Among all these we had gone to the Naveen market in the city. I was rather quiet and uncommunicative that day. As I entered the Hindustan Store, the owner of the store gave us a very warm welcome. He was very happy to recieve us and conducted us well. While coming out she said that this is what you have earned from this city, the respect and admiration from the people. From businessmen to salesmen, from vegetable vendors to paani poori waala, you are the one point representation of your Bank. During the course of discharging my official duties, these were the people I came across; more so during the coin crises in the city, I intend writing about it in another post for it is classical example of failure of systems in our country.
The next day I booked myself on a connecting Kingfisher flight to Thiruvananthapuram as it reaches before the Indian Airlines flight. On landing at Bangalore where I was to change the plane, the heavy rain had caused some disruption in airport activities. By the time I took the next flight which was an ATR, I was sick of the ' ooh la la la' which is the signature tune of the airline.

Monday, April 13, 2009

धूर्त समागम

धूर्त समागम is a classical Sanskrit play written by Jyotirishwar Thakur. The hindi adaptation of the play was staged in our college in which yours truly played the role of the leading protagonist Sanatak (Duracara in the Sanskrit play). The play was directed by Prahlad Agarwal who is a well known personality in theater circles. The play had all male cast and was staged in 'स्वांग शैली' , an art form used by the people in UP and Bihar. The play had erotic undertones which was probably the reason of jam packed halls whenever it was staged. The play revolves around Ganika ( Ananagsena in the Sanskrit play) who floors everyone including Snatak and his guru by her charm. She keeps every man in a state of limbo. The play is a gripping narration and never looses its momemtum due to its contemporary theme.

Receiving the 'Best Actor' prize in the Youth festival from Rani Balbir Kaur. Also in the frame is Dr Attar Singh, Principal of the college.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Taking the INSCRIPT exam

The Rajbhasha department under the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India conducts proficiency examinations for skill in INSCRIPT typing in Hindi. INSCRIPT (meaning INDIAN SCRIPT) keyboard empowers you to type in any of the indian languages provided you are aware of the phonetics used in the particular language. Though there are many sites through which you can type in vernacular like Quillpad and Lipikaar, INSCRIPT helps to fine tune your skills. This January I had appeared for this examination which was conducted at Vikram Sarabhai Space Center (VSSC), Thiruvananthapuram and qualified the exam with 91% marks.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Fauji diary - A Salute to Capt Omkar Nath Rao

Omkar Nath Rao was a second generation soldier and the only son of his parents. We met at the Officers Training Academy, Madras (now Chennai) where we were coursemates. I don't remember how and when we became good friends. I have known Omkar from close quarters, we continued to remain in touch even after leaving the academy, did the young officers course together at MHOW in 1997. He was always looking for a meaningful contribution to the uniformed life so he opted for a tenure at Siachen glaciar. By the time he completed his tenure at Siachen, his battalion was in a field area. He chose to be with his battalion in the Uri sector.
the days at Academy
young officers course at MHOW'Dil chahta hai'- at the Mandu fort
Brother in Arms
Capt Omkar Nath Rao was lost to his family and friends in a exchange of fire at the Indo-Pak border on 11 March 2000. He was given 'Sena Medal' for gallantry (posthomously).Homage can be paid to Capt Omkar Nath Rao by clicking here.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Valentine boy turns Five

Our son Aryaman turned five on 14 February. This smile was captured while he bought the cake to me.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Our trip to Los Angeles Part I

Been informed of being the lucky winner of the Sony Big Bond Prize by the end of November 2008 ( Refer my previous posts God tussi great ho ! and Sony Big Bond Prize.) we were really looking forward to this trip. The trip to Los Angeles was organised by Sony India Ltd from 17 February 2009 20 February 2009. The travel arrangements were made by Carlson Wagonlit Travels. The Thai Airways flight originating from Mumbai to Los Angeles via Bangkok took us to our destination. Even when we had landed at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) , I was still under the impression that it must be a trip for a group of people who have won lucky prizes from Sony. We were pleasantly surprised to meet Andy, the driver of the Limousine which was sent for taking us to our hotel - Hotel Mariott Downtown LA. Andy was carrying with him the itinerary for the next three days which was handed to us very curteously. The itinerary was handled by India USA Hospitality and besides other details it included a visit to Sony Picture Studio,tour of Culver City, Hollywood, Dinner at Beverly Hills and a day at Disneyland.

At one of the rides in Disneyland

The guests are recieved at the entrance by Minimouse herself.

Friday, February 6, 2009

..continuing the Mumbai story..

If one were to make a comment on the security, safety of citizens in our country, a one liner would be - "सवारी अपने सामन की ख़ुद जिम्मेदार है " The government takes no responsibility for the same as it has its own global aspirations and pretensions, as commented in FORBES magazine by Tumku Varadarajan. Years back in school I learned a poem by श्री रामधारी सिंह 'दिनकर' , the lines of which I still remember and keep quoting here and there; but now I think it is time that our political leadership gets back to learning the basics once again.
क्षमा, दया, तप,त्याग,मनोबल
सबका लिया सहारा,
पर नर - व्याघ्र सुयोधन तुमसे,
कहो,कहाँ,कब हारा
क्षमाशील हो रिपु समक्ष
तुम हुए विनत जितना ही,
दुष्ट कौरवों ने तुमको
कायर समझा उतना ही
क्षमा शोभती उस भुजंग को
जिसके पास गरल हो ,
उसका क्या जो दंतहीन,
विषहीन, विनीत सरल हो
तीन दिवस तक पथ मांगते
रघुपति सिन्धु किनारे
बैठे पढ़ते रहे छंद
अनुनय के प्यारे प्यारे
उत्तर में जब एक नाद भी
उठा नहीं सागर से ,
उठी धधक अधीर पौरुष की
आग राम के शर से
सिन्धु देह धर " त्राहि- त्राहि "
कहता आ गिरा चरण में ,
चरण पूज, दासता ग्रहण की
बंधा मूढ़ बंधन में
सच पूछो तो शर में ही
बसती है दीप्ती विनय की ,
संधि वचन संपूज्य उसी का,
जिस में शक्ति विजय की
सहनशीलता, क्षमा, दया को
तभी पूजता जग है
बल का दर्प चमकता उसके
पीछे जब जगमग है

Thursday, January 29, 2009

10 years together

Meenu and I completed ten years of marriage on 27 Jan.

A picture from the early years

A recent sketch taken at Timber Trail
In love, nothing exists between heart and heart.
Speech is born out of longing,
True description from the real taste.
The one who tastes,knows;
The one who explains,lies.
How can you describe the true form of Something
In whose presence you are blotted out?
And in whose being you still exist?
And who lives as a sign for your journey?
- Rabia Al Basri

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Fauji dairy - Remembering Atul Ghildiyal

Atul Ghildiyal had a child like innocence, sage like maturity and an iron like will. He was my immediate senior in the battalion. There was a very strong bond between us. At some level I felt as if we were like brothers from different mothers. The fond memories of serving together at Jalandhar are still fresh in my mind. He had an enthuthiasm which was contagious and a spirit of adventure which broke all parameters of sanity; it was only Atul who could keep a variety of pets from pigeons, hens, cockerels to aquarium fish, and it was only he who could dare to drive all night on his mobike from Jalandhar to Dehradun!
He was passionate about everything that he did, whether it was professional army competetions, weight training or playing squash. Comradierie was never bettter personified; we invariably bought identical things,had similar opinions,likes/dislikes, had almost the same attitude.
After the tenure at Jalandhar Atul was posted to 20 RR in November 2000.( RR tenure is a counter insurgency operations). His wife Urmila was carrying their son Anirudh and Atul was saving his leave to be with her at the required time. No one could have imagined that he will not be able to reach his wife and son. While chasing insurgents in a operation, he was hit by enemy bullets.

From right- 2/Lt Atul Ghildiyal, Major Parladh Singh and 2/Lt Ashwani Saini (self) at MFFR (Rajasthan)
The young brigade of the Mighty Third during Centenary Celebrations(from left)Lt Kailash Bisht,Lt Arun Chaubey,Capt A Bannerjee (RMO),Capt Ashwani Saini (self),Capt Atul Ghildiyal and Lt Vinay.

Major Atul Ghildiyal laid down his life fighting insurgents on 18 January 2003. He was awarded 'Sena Medal' for Gallantary (posthomously).Homage can be paid to Major Atul Ghildiyal by clicking here.

Sony Big Bond Prize

Yesterday I was invited at Sony World, Thiruvananthapuram where I was presented the certificate of having won the Sony Big Bond Lucky Contest. The certificate was presented to me by Shri Gautam, Managing Director of Sony World.

Friday, January 2, 2009

ਖਾਲਸਾ ਮੇਰੀ ਜਾਨ ਕੀ ਜਾਨ...

This post is an outcome of a suggestion by my blogger friend, Mampi to introduce my friends in the video clip of the preceeding post.I was posted at Kanpur from Jan 2003 to June 2008. Our stay at Kanpur was truly memorable in more than one way - firstly, my job in the Bank preceeded a spell of being out of job for a few months( reminding me that tough times don't last tough people do!), secondly, we were blissed with our son Aryaman on the Valentine Day of 2004 and most important of all, our meeting with bhaaji's family.It would rather be an understatement to say that I am yet to meet someone as spiritually and mentally as evolved as our bhaaji. Unconciously at some level,I often try to analyse as to why we feel proximity to a person without having the probability of any common ground between us.

Our Bank's Kanpur office is an old and huge establishment by infrastructure and employee strength.During the first World War, the Controller of Currency chose to have his Headqurters here. I could not have met bhaaji at the office had the Flat alottment officer not been on leave on the particular day. My initial solace on meeting a turbaned sikh was that I can excercise my vocal chords in Panjabi with him. My memory fails me in recalling the early incidents or their responses, common excursions (for there were far too many) on birthdays, anniversaries or just like that. I don't remember if I had food anywhere else when my wife had to go to Panjab for work or visit which was often, bhaabiji and my wife Meenu were regular companions for a daily walk upto Chowk gurudwara. When our son was born and my mother could not make it as she was abroad, bhaabiji voluntarily looked after him; infact he was always their favourite.

Bhaaji and bhaabiji assumed various roles all these years,-friend,father,brother,guide,spiritual teacher,marriage counseller and much more. The second half of the Kanpur tenure was rather stressful at the office and tackling it would not have been easy without their support. At times I have felt that they have been sent by God to protect us.The parting with them was rather painful and hard to bear.It is an emotional chord which still binds us.

Their children, Inderdeep and Sarabjeet, who were in school at our first meeting have also established themselves in their fields. I remember one incident when bhaaji was undecided on sending his daughter for a particular competetive exam and when she finally gave that exam, she secured an all india first postion. For Sarabjeet I would say that he has topped so many times in last few years that I have become used to seeing his pictures in the newspapers and Bank magazine.

We wish the family all the happiness in the coming years.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

..a year that was...

This clip was prepared by Inderdeep ( who also features in it) and presented to us on our transfer from Kanpur to Thiruvananthapuram in June 2008. My thanks to her for this beautiful gesture to piece together in one place the memories of the five years spent together.