Saturday, 22 August 2015


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 Connie, (Late) Cdr Gautam Mukherjee was now the Senior Pilot of Fokkers…


                  INS Netaji Subhash Wardroom was a funtastic den for the 6 in-living 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-lunch for a glass of beer…this used to soon initiate a jubilant session of 3 carder game in one of the officer's cabin,(Ambreesh had bought a set of counters from chowrangi that he issued to every one followed by cut for the 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 out skirts 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 offrs, checking in for a few days primarily in connection with under-construction ships at GRSE…


SCENE-I  (1984)

                   One  offr checks-in into this cheerful Wardroom and introduces himself with a smile…Lt Samsher 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,  me 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 consumated 5 months onboard and was due to be presented my WKC*(watch keeping cert) 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 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 !”       Lets 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 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 Samsher 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 Samsher quipped, “Mummy, yeh wohi Raj hai, jiske baarey mein maine apko bataya tha..”…Next, I met  Shammi’s (Samsher’s nick name)  atheletic 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…


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 pleasent 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, Cigarrette 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 a marriage by mutual consent of either 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 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 14 yrs 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 a Jet Airways Cabin crew and 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… remindes 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


  1. succulent reading !!!!!!! crisp naration and a great love story

  2. Thanks lonewoulf...glad you liked.

  3. Wow... it's such a nice one ...

  4. This is a Bollywood style Love story in real life. It has shown me hitherto unknown facets of Shammi's relationship with you and others in his circles.The way you narrated the sequence of event is commendable.Thank you Raj for sharing the whole background and remembering Shammi in such a great episode and with immense love and gratitude.

    1. Thank you Very much Veerji.... Shammi was a great human being, Who lived Life fullest....He was the Life of any gathering/ Mehfil....I wrote this humble tribute to him some 10 yrs ago, in his remembrance...Glad you liked it, Veerji......Regards.

  5. Nice to read. I missed all the discussion, drama and excitement. This article makes up for that. Thank you

  6. Nice to read. I missed all the discussion, drama and excitement. This article makes up for that. Thank you