How does one describe Camelot? Best not try.
Seldom does a walk down memory lane turn out to be better than the memories themselves. Jodhpur in March 2010 was just that, for a group of old sentimental travelers. Some reached there and set off on a tour to visit their old haunts and came back shaking their heads nostalgically at what they saw. For me it was Green Gates, my home for nearly two years. It was there but a mere disappointing shadow of itself. Tony and Sadhna went off to see their old home in the Golf Club Scheme and returned a trifle disappointed at what they finally found, after a great deal of searching. Yet, after that initial disappointment there was the sheer joy of Jodhpur as it is to-day. The old Mess in all its splendour, the wonderful museum towards the rear, the spruce and tidy rooms, a brand new Bar to inaugurate.
Above all there was the gracious hospitality and the willingness with which it was lavished on us, which touched every heart. One can merely say a humble thank you to the AOC, Officers and personnel of 32 Wing, AF. They made us proud to have been part of an establishment that is today in wonderful, capable hands and in great shape. At no stage were we left to fend for ourselves. From the time we got there till we departed, there was always a young smart officer to guide and help us.
The ceremonies started off with a group photo against the Marut backdrop at the museum.
For the old Daggers there was another sentimental trip to the squadron.
There were Squadron Diaries to peruse and old albums to go though and revive the past. And of course there were our ever eager hosts to guide us and be of assistance. As one of the ladies remarked, this was the first time she had ever visited the squadron – something she hadn’t done during her rather long stay with the Daggers 30 years ago. Times they are a changing!
For one who had never been posted to 10 Sqn, it still felt like a home coming and a reunion. That was the one thing that was amazing about the Marut crowd in Jodhpur. I do not believe there ever were three squadrons of the same type on the same station ever, that got on so well and where no one ever felt the difference . Tony recalled an instance when Keru and Koch, both from 31, invited a few 220 guys to bounce a picnic and vamoos with the drinks and eats along with Keru and Koch to start their own picnic! There never was any ‘my dad is stronger than your dad’ syndrome and yet there was such intense healthy competition.
Even here, after the group photograph, it was decided to have separate squadron groups, an exercise in futility. Everyone claimed to be from 31 sqn and refused to vacate their chairs! Finally by mutual agreement the individual squadron photographs were dispensed with.
A quick shower and change and it was time for the grand event, the party on the Mess lawn. The lawn itself wa a beauty and hardly recognizable from what we had 30 years ago. But it was the grand old builing which took one’s breath away. It could just as well have been Rashtrapathi Bhavan on Republic Day.
A brief welcome address by the AOP, AM KJ Mathews, was followed by a minute’s silence in remembrance of the fallen, and the party was on. Again the Daggers surprised one and all with an inspiring Power Point show down through the Marut days, including the 1971 operations. To say it was a thoroughly professional show would be an understatement.
The rest of the evening was spent in individual reminiscences and for a few hours the clock was turned back and it was fun listening to all them stories – funny, sentimental, some tall, some taller, yet all very interesting.
We were also happy to have with us Mr Pushpinder Singh Chopra, the well known historian. He has proclaimed himself the Secretary of the Marut Fan club which has AM Shashi Ramdas as its President. This Club, as Pushpinder told me, was born over a few drinks at the Delhi Golf Course, many many years ago. His affair with the Marut is still going strong! He was also a fount of information on the Marut, some of which he shared with us.He was also generous enough to donate Rs One Lakh towards the Bangalore do. SWAC too most generously donated Rs 20,000/- towards our expenses. Our gratitude to them all. Needless to add the dinner was a continuation of the excellence that we were by now getting used to. Anil Mathur made it even more special, with his having specially orderd the local Lal Maas, which took pride of place at the table for the carnivores. Like all good things this too came to an end round mid night.
Of course this time no one bothered about the old fable of getting posted out after visiting the Fort – except perhaps for this one young gentleman in uniform! We were honoured to somehow be able to reciprocate, in some small measure, our debt of gratitude to the fine young men of AF Station Jodhpur by hosting the squadrons to lunch before we dispersed. In parting, we sponsored an annual rolling trophy, for each squadron, to commemorate our visit. The choice of what the trophy would be for was left to the two squadrons to decide.
The final icing on the cake was a visit by that grand old instituion of Jodhpur, Bhiman, our old barman. Sadly, time has taken its toll on this old faithful. He retired in 2005, but word went round that Keru Saab and his friends were inquiring about him. He couldn’t stay away. A token purse was quickly set up and presented to him. God bless him.
And so the curtain comes down on Johpur, Bangaluru here we come!
I cannot close without making mention of a brief exchange I had with Wg Cdr Siddiqui. I told him how impressed we were with their hospitality and said that at times I felt positively embarrassed. Being the gentleman that he is, he replied, “Sir, you have no idea of what you’ll are doing for us. Seeing your ‘josh’ and spirit, we see our own future in you’ll”. I had a lump in my throat.
Many thanks to Rahul Narang for the excellent photographs. Please click on them to enlarge.