Sometime in 2006/7 Ahlu and Steve, who were in Chennai, first proposed a get together of the Marut Clan. I expressed my inability to attend, I don’t even remember why.
Like me, there were many regrets and only about six or seven accepted – the plan was shelved. With hindsight one can say – it was just as well. That one failed plan was to set everything else in motion. The failure bred more ideas.
It was Ahlu and Steve who kick-started the whole process that culminated in Bangalore. Perhaps it was just as well that they failed!
Almost two years later, around Sep 09, five good friends got together at the US Club, Mumbai, and the idea of the Marut get together was revived.
They were dreamers. They dreamt big.
One of them suggested they follow through on the idea of a Marut get together in Mumbai and finally land up in Bangalore to celebrate the Golden Anniversary of the first flight of the Marut. From what I gather, they were determined, that if all else failed, at least the five of them would meet in Bangalore on 17 Jun 11. It was their courage to dream boldly of the future, that got us all to Bangalore to keep them company and commemorate a great moment – one that marked our lives and our professional careers.
To set the ball rolling, they decided to first call a gathering at Mumbai.
Here again, they were determined – if no one turned up they would gather by themselves and chalk out a plan for the future. So Ravi provided his good offices and ‘clout’, Su provided the ideas and co-ordination, Shanta maintained records and kept track of who was coming and who was not and why, Eddie did the donkey work and Suree provided the encouragement! The team rolled up its sleeves and got down to business.
And so it was that Pavanika came about on 19 and 20 Dec 09. We were about 35 or so in all. Su put up his idea of celebrating the 50th anniversary which was met with full-throated approval. The dream began to unfold.
The thrill of catching up with buddies was the perfect icing on the cake of a celebratory dinner and a game of golf followed by brunch at Ravi’s place on 20 Dec 09. A rollicking time was had by one and all.
In order to enthuse and involve more of the family a second get together was also planned then. After much debate whether it should be Bangalore itself or Jodhpur, it was decided to meet in Jodhpur, which was more central and would enable people from the northern parts of the country to make it easy to attend. It was also the Marut mother base that had its own appeal for us.
It was then that the idea of opening a site to get people together and exchange views and news was suggested by Su. On returning from Mumbai, Marutfans was set up on 22 Dec 09 and has been functioning and gathering support ever since.
The onus of deciding the when, what, how of Jodhpur was left to Max. For reasons, that are well-known, he summoned us to Jodhpur on 20 and 21 Mar 10 after having made the preliminary arrangements. And that too came to pass.
The same five got busy and such was Max’s aura, that when we got there it was as if the Gods had descended on Jodhpur.
Here again the proposal to take all this further to Bangalore was thrown up and again heartily approved with no discordant voices.
Then followed an evening of nostalgia and merriment – but age had begun to show – we were homeward bound well before mid-night. The highlight the next day was a visit by that grand old man of the Jodhpur Mess, Bhiman, the bar man, long since retired. He made a public appearance, nattily dressed in his whites, following a special request.
Bangalore Here We Come
With over a year to go, it seemed there was plenty of time and people pondered on how to go about it. Volunteers were aplenty – with Bhushan being the first. It was finally left to Groupie Kapil Bhargava, who took advantage of the visit of the CAS to Bangalore. It was suggested by Groupie that since the Marut was a totally indigenous baby – conceived and delivered by HAL – it would be prudent to officially ask HAL to be a part of the celebrations. This was promptly acted upon by the Chief and to the credit of the Chairman HAL, Mr. Ashok Nayak not only did HAL agree to join the celebrations but they also very magnanimously offered to host the entire event!
By the last quarter of 2010, the seeds of organising the event were planted. With a preliminary meeting called by the Chairman HAL, the dates were agreed upon. By an amazing coincidence 17 Jun – the actual date of the first flight in 1961 – was a Friday and with the week-end available for the festivities there was a perfect match. The fiftieth anniversary would be celebrated on exactly the precise date – 17 Jun 61 to 17 Jun 11. It was a good beginning.
An Organising Committee was formed under the Chairmanship of Mr NC Agarwal, Director Finance, HAL, along with Sqn Ldr Baldev Singh (Retd), Chief Test Pilot and Executive Director, HAL, Wg Cdr Sanjiv Poojary (Retd) representing HAL and Gp Capt Kapil Bhargava (Retd), AVM Ajit Lamba (Retd), AVM KP Sreekant (Retd) and Sqn Ldr Bhushan Narang (Retd) as the members. Over a series of meetings things began to fall into place.
While the strategists did their bit towards thinking and planning out every eventuality and occasion, it was left to the dynamism of Baldev and Bhushan to screw the nuts and bolts into place.
Having been in constant touch with Bhushan, out of curiosity, during those days, one just marveled at his energy and enthusiasm. It was left to Mr Agarwal, Baldev, Groupie Bhargava and AVM Lamba to decide over conducting the function at the HAL and selecting speakers for the presentations with Sanjiv Poojary keeping administrative arrangements on track. Bhushan went full throttle organising our parties and overseeing arrangements from our side – literally a one man army.
A special thanks here to Sudhir Batra, who most willingly volunteered to keep a track of who was coming and how and when. He maintained a most meticulous database, containing everyone’s details and demands! There were also a constant stream of phone calls and emails to those who were fence sitters, coaxing, cajoling and sometimes threatening to be there or else!! His workload can well be imagined, there were as many 17 amendments to original plans right up to three days before the event. He got it all right and ensured that everyone got to Bangalore! Whether you came by road, rail or air and whether you or your wife ate fish or not, who wanted to share a suite with whom – Sudhir had it all on his database and he made sure it got to the right person – in this case Sanjiv Poojary. He was the eager beaver on the other end. A big thank you to Sudhir and Sanjiv is in order.
By the time we got to The Paul, Bangalore, on 16 Jun, this well oiled machine was ticking over ever so smoothly. I got out of the aircraft at Bangalore to see a missed call from the reception centre asking me where I was! Everything just worked and worked exceedingly well.
To the non assuming Mr NC Agarwal, all I can say on behalf of all of us is “Sir, we are indeed grateful”.
Hardly were we in our rooms and unpacked when it was time to prepare for Bhushan’s evening escapade.
The Banquet Room looked festive and it was sheer joy catching up with old friends. In my case it was wonderful catching up with my Green gates neighbours in Jodhpur, whom I had known as a gentle, demure, newly wed couple – Gracie and Steve – whom I had last seen in 1981. Many faces had changed, and there were whoops of recognition after taking a second close look, but in every case the spirit and twinkle was still there in the eyes.
The first hour was spent in just greeting long-lost buddies, a special mention here of Neelu Kapoor who was there with her son. She had come determinedly from Chandigarh to once again revive old memories and acquaintances.
It wasn’t long, however, for the beat to pick up and we soon had Pappu Bakshi ‘crooning’ and some began to shake a leg or at least put them in motion!
Considering that there were two hectic days of festivities ahead, most called it off relatively early, some die hards, however, had no such qualms. We were here to enjoy ourselves and enjoy we would!
And all because they dreamt, we were starting to live out that dream.
Please click the photos to enlarge.
To be Continued………………