Memories – Venky

Then and Now _ Slim Jim (Click to enlarge)

žI remember the first day when two of us reported to 10 Sqn.  It was some date in Oct 1975.  Sqn Ldr S Bansal was the Flt Cdr.  Wg Cdr KK Bakshi Vrc was the CO.  Somehow, my course mate got hold of some rule which mentioned that on arrival from leave one could report upto 12 PM.  I used to see him cramming books on Service subjects in KKD and he had cleared his Promotion exam “Part B” in the first attempt, so I presumed he would know.  This rule if it ever existed (I never found out , obviously didn’t apply to young pilos on their first sojourn into an operational squadron).  It was close to 1100 when we entered the squadron premises with peak caps on. Some one directed us to meet the Flt Cdr and we saluted him smartly. ž”What time is it now? he growled….”What time were you supposed to be reporting?”…I was sure we had goofed up…My course mate summoned up enough courage and had the temerity to quote some obscure rule, which Doda Bansal had never heard about….”I Will kick your greasy A***s if this ever happens again” he yelled…..What a start I said to myself…. Rule I : You can’t quote a rule however authentic to your Flt Cdr….That was our first baptism into a Squadron.

žThere were many outright hilarious instances during the period, but I will single out one incident.  It was probably in the year 1979.  There were some in the Marut fleet known for their notoriety and would never let go of an occasion if they could pull a prank……..220 Sqn went to Jaisalmer on a detachment for range firing and came back with some goodies and stocked it in their fridge….No prizes for guessing what this may have been……And they refused to share the booty with the other two squadrons….One Saturday night, two guys from the other two sqns, went to base ops, drew the squadron keys went across to 220, and swiped the fridge clean and stacked it in a friendly neighborhood.

žOn Monday, when work began, all hell broke loose….The Flt Cdr of 220 went across to Stn Cdr and complained that some Chocolate/Cheese etc from the fridge got whacked.  Surely everyone in the station knew who it could be, but it had to be proved….So, promptly a COI was ordered.   I happened to be a member of the COI.  The presiding officer was Sqn Ldr AB Bhave……He called the night guard at base ops and grilled him like one would grill a convict in Tihar Jail.  “How did he look”?  “Was he tall?” or “Stocky”.  “How were his ears?” “Were they flushed or did they stand out like Airbrakes?”.   That last clue suddenly lit a lamp in the guards head and with a great sense of relief he said….”Yes Sir he had ears like this” and  promptly twisted his ears outwards……Surely Bhave knew he had his man.  This went on for two or three days and Bhave seemed to be enjoying this.  He told me that before joining the Air Force he used to work in Income Tax…..I surely knew where his instincts came from…..

žBy the third day the noose was surely tightening on one suspect (There were only two in the entire fleet who had their ears standing out…One was Ujjal Biswas, barely into his third year of service) and the other a seasoned veteran…..I realised that very soon the cat will be out of the bag and went across to an adjoining building to make a call.  I called up the veteran and told him, that before it becomes official he might as well take a walk to the adjoining Sqn and own it up.  I had no doubt that all will be forgiven…..Sure enough, that was the way it happened….We all had a good laugh….The COI was called off…The cache which was stacked in a safe house had become inedible in all this melee and had to be disposed.

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