Saturday the 18th June, was a much awaited clear day in view of the fact that we were all looking forward to the air display.The good weather was the first thing people commented over breakfast. Having mentioned breakfast though, a brief digression.
Depending on when that first all important bus was departing, the breakfast room generally started getting populated around 0800.
“Good morning. Gosh! After all that partying last night and what with lunch and another party tonight, I am just going to keep light….” was the most common refrain. Practical indeed and wise – but not for the weak-willed. One look at the spread and all inhibitions and resolutions went out the window.
The breakfast tables were also a favourite meeting place to discuss the previous days experience. One finished breakfast and met people coming in for theirs and decided to do some more chin wagging with the newcomers. With one thing and another, an extra cup of coffee was first ordered, then a light time-pass munch on a vada or an idly and then some more new comers! What with having to wait and keep others company, some times an extra egg was thrown in also! The Marut army started its march early and most certainly on its stomach!
Back to our story of the events at the airfield. Excellent arrangements with a bird’s eye view, sitting on a raised platform atop the runway, gave people an excellent view of the display. And it was surely worth it. We were also fortunate that the Chairman HAL, Mr Asok Nayak, between trips to Russia and a forthcoming one to Paris that same day and all the pending work, still took the trouble and time off to be there with us and charmingly welcomed almost each and every individual. Good times apart, it was this warm hospitality that was most touching.
For many, just watching and hearing the jets getting airborne brought back the past as nothing ever could. As someone mentioned, it was playback time, picturing the flight from inside an imaginary cock pit and participating in its flight keeping the pilot company. For the ladies, it was equally thrilling and perhaps evoked many memories of the days of yore. Out of curiosity, I took a sample survey and was intrigued to find that amongst the ladies the Hawk display was the more impressive. One lady wouldn’t play favourites and said all three were grand! After that impressive display, we were taken on a guided tour round some of the complex facilities and the HAL Museum.
What with two nights of partying and two packed mornings of events, by noon there were a lot of weary souls wending their way to the lunch shamiana wanting to just “get a quick bite and then snatch some rest in the afternoon”.
Eventually though, no matter how much the spirit was willing, the body demanded to be heard. A happy group wended its way to the buses sensing that the celebrations were nearing an end. A good rest was a necessity considering the evening ahead. The feeling of being amongst ones own and with memories of the air display still fresh, tired feet and bodies welcomed a few hours of rest. But some were not so lucky. Half way to the hotel came a message for Minnie, Sis and Shashi Ramdas that the vehicle was waiting to take them to the TV studio! Having the dubious privilege of informing them, all I got was a snarl “Already?!!” I certainly didn’t envy them. Oh the trials and tribulations of the great and famous!
Then to the grand finale. We made our way to the ASTE Mess for the last of the festivities. Having attended all the three get togethers now, I can safely vouch for the fact that each one bettered the previous. (However, to me, the first, because it was the first, will always be that extra special one!) Getting off the bus and walking up the driveway towards the lawn, one felt more like a baraati rather than a reveller.
Like many such occasions this one too started off sedately. There was another occasion to be celebrated also – Suree’s birthday – 40, 50 60??, who cared, it was celebration time and a cake had thoughtfully been provided for. Before the official function started the birthday party got going and lasted quite a while.
Once the excitement subsided Pramod, on behalf of all of us, welcomed our guests from HAL and ASTE with a brief but warm speech and a few reminiscences of those wonderful squadron days.
Danny got so carried away he pinned a special medal on our speaker!
It wasn’t long before the party took on a life of its own and can best be depicted through the photographs.
A special mention needs to be made of our mentors and senior citizen group. It was wonderful seeing them, for many it was our first close contact with most of them. Their enthusiasm was in itself a motivator to the rest of us to go out there and have fun. If the relatively younger lot swung the senior contingent rocked. They were there at every event and seemed to be enjoying themselves. Special mention must be made of Wingco and Mrs Chuchu Tilak who came from Australia mainly to attend the celebrations. There was also a small contingent from Canada, Minnie and Nina Menon and Sam Sekhar and the Venkats also made it to Bangalore on Bhushan’s command. They all planned their visit to the mother country to coincide with the Anniversary.
I must admit it has been extremely remiss of me not to have made mention of our very generous sponsors earlier. Many made inquiries regarding their share of the contribution towards the parties on the 16th and 18th evening. The fact is we were twice blessed.
HAL went out of their way, in fact way, way beyond. Besides having made excellent arrangements for our stay and looked after us so well at all their functions, they even went to the extent of holding on to their transport fleet, which they need not have done, specially for us to attend the events of the last evening comfortably and without having to fend for ourselves.
Many, many thanks are also due to Mr PA Murli and Mr Vivek Prakash of United Breweries (UB).
On coming to know about these events from Bhushan, they spontaneously and generously offered to sponsor not just the drinks but also both the evening functions. Not only were their best products stocking the bar and flowing but both events on the 16th and 18th evening were thanks to their generosity.
While the merriment on the dance floor went on unabated it was fascinating to watch those wanting to catch the first bus home. They were wanting to linger on that much longer amongst friends, and yet, slowly wanted to wend their way to the dinner tables. It was an evening none wanted to cut short!
It was a time where old bonds were made stronger, more old tales revisited and every one left with a warm sentimental glow. That is what was so special about the Marut! While talking about the forthcoming Golden Anniversary and our get together, someone asked me as to what was so special about the Marut that I was going on and on about it? Without thinking, I blurted “The people!” They are unmatched. I doubt there has ever been another instance of three similar type squadrons based together living in such harmony. There was intense, healthy competition for sure. Yet there was also a tremendous unbreakable bond – that was what was so special. Not just the wind spirit, it was as much the spirit of those who came together, because of her, that is so very, very special.
And all because they dreamt………….
Please click on the pictures to enlarge