Kahani by Bobcat Sam Sekhar
W W 1
It was the third of September, a day we ( SAM AND KERU ) will always remember as the day we were denied our fully ops, forced to join the Army and on the way were nearly shot by a FIRING SQUAD.
We had been programmed to do the last syllabus sortie for fully ops, followed by a 2 aircraft and 4 aircraft lead check. This was not to be. At 0200 Hours Murph The Surf knocks on all doors yelling “ The Baloon is up, The Baloon is up Cha Cha Cha. By 0630 Hours all Maruts have flown the coop to a base somewhere in the western sector.
Sam is given a grid reference to report to a Brigadier Arora of the 15th Infantry Brigade and act as his Air Force Specialist Officer .The place was 3 miles south east of the BHAGAT SINGH SAMADI ( HUSSAINIWALA ) near a bend in the canal.
Keru is given a grid reference to report to Gen Brar the Armoured Div Commander and act as a Special Air Force Expert Advisor. This was a canal guest house somwhere near Pagwara.
We are real mad and orders being orders we set course. On the way we decide to check in at the D S O I in Delhi for a few days. On the third evening while strolling on the inner circle of Connaught Place we hear a loud scream and a voice saying “ I have not seen you guys and I do not know you guys “. We turn around and see a tall bald gentleman with a pretty young lady by his side and has his left hand over his eyes. We amble over to the couple and say “ Hello Condi ( ADOLF CONDILAC ) what is all this ruckus you are creating on the main drag of Delhi. He whispers in a trembling low tone that the whole Army and The Air Force has been on the lookout for us and we have been declared A W O L and Persona Na Grata. He begs us to high tail it to 1 T A C immediately. He tells the pretty lass you never saw these guys and drags her away very quickly. We yell after him “ Condi does this mean no drinks and dinner this evening “. His answer is a strange gesture in the form of a middle finger.
We head back to D S O I pack and leave for 1 T A C. We arrive at 0930 Hours in its OPS location. There is a three officer committee waiting to greet us.
Julius Sengupta/Rustus Sinhas/Killer Mathews. Julius is wringing his hands and has a wicked gleem in his eyes and salivating at the mouth. He asks us to step in to his office and puts on his peak cap and solemnly hands over 2 W W’s. In this he states a series of big words like G O A A F D/ A W O L/ M I N A and concludes with these offences during times of war he has the authority to punish us by a Firing Squad. We look at each other and our eyes say man this guy is COOKOO. He asks us to sit down and gets busy on the phone to check if they have 12 Three Naught Three Enfield Rifles to do a 6 standing and 6 kneeling firing job.
Rustus pops his head in and says Julius Chopper 1 is on finals with Gen Brar to pick Fg.Offr. K R Singh his Specialist Advisor and wants him on the Helipad as he is not switching off.
Killer Mathews pops in next and says Julie Baby there is a second chopper 10 minutes out with Brig.Arora on board for his Specialist Air Force Advisor and he wants Fg.Offr.S V R Sekhar on the helipad. Rank out weighs Julius and he asks us to leave his office. At the door we turn back to take one last look and Julius is crying and sobbing and slowly tearing up the death warrants.
Julius was a Canberra pilot and in the mid sixties he was given INTEL by the Air Force SMERSH that he was to do a “ GARY POWERS “ mission over a neighbours field. They tell him that there is no fighter aircraft that can match the service ceiling of the Canberra and so he is safe to take photos of the farmers’ fields. Julius goes for it and is promptly shot down. Let us say he was not very fond of fighter pilots and his one chance at revenge on two F A C Murgas was thwarted.
His daughter on the other hand was/is a good looking chick who married MAL/PRABAL.
W W 2
I never did understand why the Mooli started this D S saga and ruined a whole lot of officers lives. He could have easily had the R A F system or THE I A S system where all course mates got the same monetary benefits and the rank benefits at the same time.
When Bobcat and Cheta joined The Air Force the Fighter Squadron was a warrior outfit. The Bossman was the Chieftan and the two flight commanders were the guardians of the Spirit de Corps and the other pilots were the super warriors who defended THE SQUADRON SPIRIT with their lives. It was good to belong to a fighter squadron even for 2/3/4 years. The Chieftan was the only one who had command over you and no other son of a birch tree. He took on the role of a father/grandpa/big brother/buddy and treated you fair and made sure that the warriors under his command had a good flying term in service.
The two guardians were the real movers and shakers.
When a guy came back with branches under his wings,the Bossman took him up for a dual trip and made him fly as low as he wanted and explained the pros and cons and how to do it with finness.
The Bossman had the pulse of the pilots and could read the body language very well. Most of the squadrons were in remote places where the locals were camels/neel ghais/deer/rhinos. When he sensed a pilot looking low he would ask him to take a couple of weeks off and chill out and do a few oil changes and only then come back.
A Bossman in this era never grounded a pilot. He knew that this was a fate worse than death. It was akin to a thousand stabbings. The jocks were encouraged to fly to the best and beyond their abilities.
We joined on our own accord and we joined to fly and in all conditions and terrains. There is no job better than a jet jocks. You got up every day rearing to go and looked forward to the day as it had aviation. Many of us made the supreme sacrifice in War and In Peace. Many of us had to punch out from hair raising situations. Many of us saved million dollar aircraft by flying them down in crippled conditions . We all went back again to fly immediately. We have the Jet Jock D N A and so there is no fear .
Squadron parties were held in a mega scale and every one had a ball. MANY DARU PEE KAY DANGAS WERE PUT DOWN AS INNOCENT FA KA PA’S AND ALL WAS FORGIVEN.
The fighter pilot station masters were ICONS of SAGES. The Anglo Indian Station Masters had a style of their own. This particular station master on every Saturday at 1200 Hours would park his jeep at the landing dumbbell and inform the A T C on the S T R 9 X that any aircraft rejoining was spotted by him before the undershoot area was to pay for the Saturday afternoon beer session. Any pilot landing after 1300 Hours was to pay for the beer too. No one ever crashed on these rejoins. This gave experience and confidence to the jet jocks.
Then came Mean Sing , Dee Sing and Mooli and the NOT BELOW 500 PLUS 10 FEET STRIKES. These folks commenced grounding jet jocks.
They will have their Maker to answer to.
You never heard them tell an accounts officer you are excused from counting money.
Never heard them say to an A T C officer no A T C duties for you.
Never heard them say to a logistic officer no sorting rations for you.
Never heard them say to an admin officer no admin duties for you.
Because all these officers would do cartwheels and say thank you.
A new hotel opened up in the neighbouring country and it was called the OBEROI SHERITON HYDERABAD. The guests were all special people who came in courtesy the Irving Parachute Company or The Russian Parachute Company. One person arrived there in a Jeep.
These guests did not receive any 5 star treatment and had more or less a barely meagre living accommodations. One guest had been wounded by a rifle bullet and had a badly damaged arm and was in the slow process of healing. He was H N D M F. The elder statesman guest was a person named Bunny Co-Hello. Being the senior most and leading by example like “ DOUGHLAS BADER IN THE GERMAN P O W CAMP WITH TWO WOODEN LEGS AND RALLYING THE PILOTS “ Bunny Co-Hello was a sad state of a leader. H N D M F was a guy in agony and would throw his rank on the Hotel troops to get his due medical treatment. This agitated Bunny Co-Hello. The Red Cross as per the G convention provided letter paper for the P O W ‘S to write to their families. One fine day Bunny Co-Hello calls H N D M F and hands him over a pink letter paper with forget me not flowers on it. The letter is a W W to H N D M F and it stated all the big words G O A A F D and blah blah blah and ended with this was a first warning. This letter is hand written by Bunny Co-Hello and he has hand written a second copy on which he asks H N D M F to sign as having received the original. H N D M F signs it picks up the original salutes about turns and leaves the room constantly wiping his bottom with the warning letter. H N D M F continued to do this wiping in plain sight of Bunny Co-Hello till repatriation day.
W W 3
Air Force Station Hakimpet, Jet Training Wing and it was the fourth week of September 1988.The dates for the two passing out parades each year were planned out a year plus in advance and all the dignitaries were informed well in time to make themselves available. All systems were go always and we the instructor jet jocks had to deliver come rain or high water. C F I Sam Sekhar gets the twelve instructors in his office and tells them the current Pilot Course is behind schedule by one month of flying time and so we have to fly twice the number of hours in October to be at par. He tells them this would mean each of us would be flying 100 to 130 hours in October and so lay off any casual leave. On any given day you might have to fly the 5th sortie of the day and so before you take off tell me it is the fifth on the radio. The D N A of all the jet jocks being the same all are happy to oblige. Come November 1st the pilot course is one week ahead of the flying schedule.
Sam Sekhar leads the pack with 125 hours/Kadian is next at 110 along with Rao. Nath/Bal/Upot/Thomas/J Thomas/Singh/Otter and the rest are close behind between 105 to 109 hours. The pilot course passes out on the scheduled date.
The Chief Instructor is Maniac Madam and he has about 20 hours on type ISKRA. The Station Master is Fighter Pilot Mal Hoot Ray who started life in an Otter aircraft and moved on to Daks.He did the F I S course on H T 2 and Harvard aircraft. In due couse progress overtook him and so he got time on the H J T 16. I believe he became an A 2 on H J T 16 and somehow got posted to Hunter O C U as a DOLO pilot on the trainers. In due course of time he was allowed solo on the Hunters.
On taking over as Station Master of Hakimpet he lands up in my office and asks me “ Sekhar what is the most exciting sortie in your life on a fighter.” I tell him that all sorties are exciting as far as I am concerened.
Fighter Pilot tells me “ One day in Hunter O C U i flew as No 2 in a 4 aircraft low level tactical sortie with RAMAS as the leader. On reaching the L F A all we did was Hard Turns and Reversals. OOOOOOHHHH it was the most exciting sortie of my life.
I excused myself from my office went to the hedge and threw up.
Training pilots had to given a lot of written material during the course. This was done with the trusty cyclostyling method. Put in a proposal for a Mega Photo Copier and soon it arrived. The Training Wing Orderly Room did the cyclostyling for the course and Venkata Rao was the operator of the machine for 20 years. He was trained by the Photo Copier Company and was adept at his job. Fighter Pilot Mal decides one fine day that this machine cannot be operated by a civilian. He takes the photo copier and installs it in his office. Maniac Madam becomes the photo copy operator.
Third week of December 1988 and all are busy closing shop for a weeks leave before the next Pilot Course arrives in January. Maniac Madam calls Sam to his office and hands him a W W. In that it is stated that I had violated T G O A A F D and endangered the life of myself and 12 Q F I ‘S by flying over 100 hours each. I was being warned for poor leadership and Blah Blah Blah. Sam tells him that he is quitting the I A F in two months and with this letter in his records the chances of getting any pension is slim. Maniac assures him it is only for records and to keep his tail clear. Sam asks for ten minutes to consider and walks out of the office. He goes to his office and shows the W W to the 12 Q F I’S and takes them all up to the T W A’S office and seats them.
Sam goes back to Madam’s office and tells him the following:
“ Sir I refuse the sign the W W. I want a court martial and want to plead guilty of endangering my life and the lives of of 12 Q F I”S by flying over 100 plus hours in October 1988. I wish to state that on 12th September 1988 I was asked by my C I if he could use my office for his A 2 written exam writing. I agreed and Flt.LT. Avtar Singh “ OTTER “ assisted by Katti and Kadian wrote the answer paper for Maniac Madam. Fighter Pilot and Maniac flew two sorties on the ISKRA and Maniac Madam was awarded his A 2 Q F I rating by means not adhearing to G O A A F D. ( CHEATING )
Maniac Madam defecated in his pants and asked me to leave.
I never received a official farewell party.