Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Smoke, Drink & Blood - Our way

Stage 1 – 1930’s
My cousin grandfather was working as lineman in Dumdum airport, Kolkata (now Netaji Subhash Chandra bose airport). He was from the 2nd batch of Indians hired to do grounds work at Rs.30/month. This is something he told me two decades back… now he is dead; I don’t know where he is buried but the story he told me then got embedded in my memory and gives me some sense of pride which is easy to carry but hard to share if you know what I mean. 

He was a bachelor then came from his native place to work in Calcutta taking a loan of Rs. 50-60 from my grandfather (his brother). Life had just started for him in the new city but was going smooth he used to send half his salary back home (half the sum to his parents and half to my grandfather to clear his debt) remaining he used for his boarding and lodging in Calcutta and still saving a bit for his pending marriage. That was life in beautiful India then under British rule.

Anyway it was short-lived, came a British from London smoking Camel cigarette he saw my grandfather smoking ‘bidi’ (local Indian cigarette)   and couldn’t bear the stench it was creating within the airport. He called him, took that bidi from his hand & crushed it and offered his half smoked camel instead. Somehow, with his colleagues and other passengers watching the ruckus, my grandfather felt more insulted than grateful for getting some drags of Camel. Nevertheless, he thanked him and asked how long he planned to stay.
Englishman was scheduled to go back in two months’ time and they met again when he was leaving India. Grandfather had taken a leave that day to meet him at airport and gifted him a carton of Camel cigarette! I didn’t ask him from where he bought it or did it cost him an arm and a leg but he told me he didn’t send money home (nor he could for next few months), his marriage was delayed and had a very angry set of parents at home. He also took loan from his fellow workers to buy the carton and they all clapped for him when he gifted it.


Stage II – 1973
Sam Manekshaw retired as Field Marshal, probably you already know about him if not you can find a lot on the web. His one of the famous quotes came on being asked what would have happened had he opted for Pakistan at the time of the Partition in 1947, he quipped, "then I guess Pakistan would have won (the 1971 war)".

My uncle who was in the army then told me about his farewell party. Last day in the office ended early for Sam where he met only the people from Army/defense. Very next day a grand farewell party was organized in Delhi with many high ranking who is who from government and defense attending it. Knowing how punctual Mr. Manekshaw was almost all the attendees came before time to the venue location and were waiting for him to come. 

Mr. Manekshaw because he was not on active duty came with his wife in his Lambretta scooter(his much beloved Sunbeam Rapier car had gone for servicing) creating a very embarrassing situation for all the babu’s and sahib’s present. Once Mr. Manekshaw and his wife went inside the hotel most of the guest came out in ones & twos to call their drivers and have the government cars driven off. They waited till the party got over and Mr & Mrs. Manekshaw had left before calling their drivers again or taking a cab back instead.

Sam Manekshaw died on June 27, 2008 at Military Hospital Wellington, Nilgiris. Mr. Manekshaw was known for his love of scotch. Col. Prasad who was treating him during his last day’s recounts the field marshal had once asked: "Doctor, why can't you have a scotch in my name? My sincere apologies that I just can't give you company for the reasons better known to you."
A week after FM passed away, Col Prasad would have a surprise visitor. The field marshal's grandson, Jehan, dropped by his office in Delhi to deliver a small gift - a bottle of scotch under instructions from his grandfather with the following note: "Col Prasad, FM sent his apologies that he could not drink this with you..."


Stage III – 2002
I met Dharmendra kumar (DD, Dharmu, Dharmu Da) during the 2nd year of my engineering we were not very close because we didn’t share any common aspirations or addictions but he was a brother all the same (I used to borrow his fresh pair shirt and underwear to go for viva exams). Anyway, while DD was struggling with English language and roommate nuisance I was engrossed with my hooligan activity. 

One day early morning, our security guard woke me there was a group of local Muslims who have come to meet me. One of the guy’s wife was admitted in the maternity ward and needed three bottle of blood urgently.
I woke up DD and within few minutes we were on our way to hospital with him still rubbing his eyes. The scene was bit different outside the maternity ward, girl I guess was really serious there were around 15-20 of her relatives waiting there. As a more educated person in that crowd I spoke with the doctor first and was surprised to know the girl needed to undergo C –Section operation urgently and they all were waiting for three unit of blood. I spoke with the crowd half of them shied away saying they were alcoholics or addicts rest were plain scared of giving blood. Parents, siblings, husband… no one was ready.

I suddenly forgot about all the Salaam’s & dua’s and muslim brotherhood and decided to go back. My conscience didn’t allow me to donate my blood… my friends’ blood to someone whose immediate family members themselves were trying to avoid it. But DD was adamant that he will. I called him out for a quick discussion which went for 5-10 long minutes. At times he can be very irritating and stubborn ignoring all logical reasoning, his argument was he didn’t come for any religious brotherhood or for doing a favor to any acquaintance like me but to give blood to someone who needed it.

We went back, donated our three units (two from my stubborn friend). Sadly, I couldn’t see the girl but I told the crowd not to come calling for me in the hostel or to meet me ever again. 

I never met them again and it has been few years since I met DD but that incident is still very fresh in my memory and I hope to keep it that way hopefully one day I can narrate it to my kids.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Too good hubby! I really enjoy reading it.One of my favorite, considering previous ones were about the devil wife!