For all my new friends who have recently started following this blog.....please start at the very is a good place to start to get the full impact of this fascinating tale.

Thursday, 31 May 2012

Preparng for Departure

The news that we were posted to 28 Squadron, a Mig-21 unit of the Indian Air Force in Tezpur, Assam, sent shivers of dread down my spine, but I was trying hard to mentally prepare myself for the move. Large tin trunks were bought for linen, curtains and kitchen items and the local carpenter was employed to measure and manufacture a crate for the refrigerator.
I had never packed a whole household before, so mum would arrive every morning and meticulously put away all our worldly goods. I just lolled around drinking tea and feeling depressed. Every time Sud would make a suggestion of how things should be done, he was glared at and told to go have a beer at the mess or do it himself! This switched off attitude of mine caused plenty of problems once we reached our destination since I had no idea of where mother had put what.  From this experience I did learn that one had to stow stuff in a very organised manner since accommodation was always temporary before getting what was known as a 'status' house. Things that were essential should be easily accessible while the frills that could be done without were put away accordingly.
The couple of months before the move to this remote part of the country found mum and me bursting into tears whenever we met, and both father and Sud would try and keep out of the way of all this high emotional drama. When the day of departure dawned it was Dad who came to see us off at the Gorakhpur station as Mum has never been good at goodbyes.
In 1984 the east was connected to the rest of the country by a meter gauge railway line and we were lucky enough to have a coupe into which I miserably settled after a last outburst of tears when I hugged father one last time.
The journey was painful for Sud as I snuffled and sniffled all the way. At one point he quietly admonished that I was not going to the gallows, just on a posting, which remark did nothing to ease my anguish.
We chugged along for more than twenty four hours to cover the over one thousand kilometres up to Rangiya junction from where we had to change to another train which finally took us to Tezpur.

Meter gauge railway line to Tezpur

Friday, 25 May 2012

Air Force Station - Gorakhpur

The next few months found Sud and me happily playing at house-house. We were allotted a small Flying Officer's accommodation, which I had done up beautifully with all the stuff that we had spent months shopping for. New curtains from Fab India, fancy kitchen appliances and crisp  sheets exquisitely embroidered by the Swedish missionaries in Chauri Chaura, all made our little flat very cosy and welcoming. A part time maid was hired who took care of the boring daily chores which made life even more comfortable. That she stole and wore my sexy lingerie I only found out much later and decided to ignore!
In 1984, a gas connection had a waiting period of over two years so we had invested in a Nutan stove. At home we had always used an electric hot plate and oven so figuring out this strange apparatus was a unique experience in itself. I was fumbling and bumbling in the kitchen anyway, so whenever I got wind of a squadron 'bounce' I would ring up mum who would send the cook by the next bus to prepare a decent meal!
'Bouncing' is an Air Force tradition which always made my heart sink with dismay. A group of youngsters, mostly bachelors, would show up at the door unannounced in the wee hours of the morning demanding food. The lady of the house would have to rustle up sustenance for ravenous mouths, no matter how unreasonable the time! Not being a proficient cook, I would struggle to put together something and would serve whatever I had manufactured with a loaf of bread since I had not mastered the art of rice and 'roti'.
Mum would regularly drive down from Saraya with delicious cakes, bakes and bunches of fresh flowers from the garden and whenever the  lads found out she had come by, they would innocently turn up knowing there would be something special to eat.
When the squadron would go out on detachment, Malini, the flight commander Harish Masand's wife and I would go back to Saraya for the days the men would be away. This ended up causing much resentment with the other ladies, since I was a new comer and she a senior officer's wife, but we shared a close friendship so never ever let the pettiness bother us.
The easy familiarity between the Masands and us has stood the test of time, and we have seen each other through personal and professional ups and downs over the last thirty years. In fact rumours of a torrid affair between Harish and me were the source of much speculation in Air Force circles, and our so called romance is something the four of us and our children have had many a hearty laugh about.
Six months after we were married, we got the news that Sud was posted to Tezpur, in Assam. I was shell shocked, since the idea of being away from my family was too awful to bear and I had conveniently tucked the thoughts of a transfer completely out of my mind. I was terrified of the unknown territory I was heading towards and had many a weep session with mum, while Sud looked on in puzzlement at my extreme reaction to the move.

Thursday, 17 May 2012


Breath taking view on the flight to Srinagar

While glancing into Sud's bag to see what he was carrying on our honeymoon, I was horrified to discover a pair of 'long johns'. I stared aghast at the offending undergarment and glaring at my new husband in a threatening manner, growled that it was either the 'long johns' or me that would accompany him on the trip! He tried to explain that Gulmarg was freezing in December and he was susceptible to the cold, but seeing my unsympathetic stare he sputtered out of excuses. I rummaged some more and came up brandishing a monkey cap, but all nasty comments were bitten back when I saw a very pleading face looking back at me. I decided the headgear I would be able to put up with, but the 'long johns' I just could not abide.
For those of you who have never encountered a pair of 'long johns', and  good old 'fauji' issue ones at that, it is difficult to explain what an unromantic piece of clothing it is. In those days we had none of the soft warm inners that are available now. LJ's were obscene looking, thick, scratchy, poky things in a nondescript yellowish creamish colour that bulged obscenely in all the wrong places. Definitely not the most flattering or conducive piece of clothing for a honeymoon.
Once these technicalities were sorted out we left on what we thought was a ten day trip to Gulmarg in Kashmir. The flight was beautiful and staring out of the aircraft window at snow capped mountains was an absolutely breath taking experience. The plane was full of honeymooners, since December is a popular month for weddings. The other new brides were all resplendent in shiny clothes and 'chudas', whereas I was in my normal raggedy jeans with the only similarity bonding us being a parting full of 'sindoor'.
After spending a night in Srinagar we took a taxi up to Gulmarg where we stayed in five star comfort courtesy a gift from my father. The first place we checked out was the bar where I excitedly decided to experiment with exotic cocktails. Sud grimly stuck to his beer and it was only months later that he admitted he was worried about the finances and each drink I was indulging in was ridiculously expensive!
Gulmarg had just had its first snowfall and was quite magical since neither of us had ever seen the soft powdery flakes before. Sitting and gazing out at the scenery, very much in love, my darling whispered tenderly that we would be back every year, same time same place to celebrate our anniversary. I snuggled up contentedly and agreed it was the most wonderful idea.
After just three days of bliss we got the news that Sud was needed back at the squadron since they had to go  on an important detachment.  We had to abruptly cut short our honeymoon and get back to reality much sooner than expected.
I must also admit that it has been twenty eight years since then and we never did get to make it back!
Me, Sud and monkey cap!

Friday, 11 May 2012

History Repeats

When we got home after the wedding ceremony, my new husband and I were both too exhausted to think of anything but diving into bed and getting a good night's sleep, since we were leaving for a ten day honeymoon to Gulmarg, Kashmir early the next morning.
I disappeared into the bathroom to change out of my wedding finery and literally let my hair down. The beauticians had stuck hundreds of tiny pearl studded pins  into my coiffure and getting them all out was quite a chore. With my arms raised above my head to find all of them, I glanced into the mirror and was horrified to discover the colour from the sari blouse had bled  and stained my armpits a deep pink. I was too tired to immediately do anything about the problem, so Sud and I had a chuckle over this weird phenomenon before finally tucking ourselves in for the night.
When I next spoke to my mother on the phone I joked with her about my brightly coloured body parts, and said I was surprised that she had never mentioned that  the colour of the original cape which I had converted into my blouse, would run. She burst out laughing and told me the same thing had happened to her on her honeymoon in 1954.
She only noticed the arm pits the next morning and when she self consciously asked my father why he had not mentioned anything, he mumbled sheepishly that he thought it might be some strange Indian  custom for fertility, or some other tradition to ensure a happy wedded life, and  had not wanted to appear foolish or ignorant by bringing it to her attention.
Mother and I had a good giggle over the way history sometimes repeats itself in strange and unforeseen ways!


Friday, 4 May 2012

The Wedding

New beginnings
The months before D-Day flew by and before I knew it we were back in Delhi for the big event. We again stayed with Shelley and Bunny Majithia as they had offered to host the marriage in their beautiful house.
The seventeenth of December found me quite emotionally numbed out. I could hardly believe that after all the troubled times in my life I was actually getting married! The beauticians had been called to the house and I remember staring at my reflection in the mirror while they were dotting up my face, and thinking that may be I could still call it all off. My mother assured me that doubts and fears were normal apprehensions to feel at this point of time, since it was an unknown and different life that I was heading towards. I insisted on wearing the same exquisite sari that she had worn at her wedding to my father in 1954. She had sported a gorgeous matching cape with her ensemble twenty eight years earlier, which I had cut up to make my blouse.
We had arranged for the registrar to do the needful at the house itself and a strange little man  showed up punctually on the dot of six. The 'baaraat' was also thankfully there on time and we began the practical ceremony that entails a civil marriage. We were each asked if we were over eighteen years of age, if we were related in any way and if we were of sound mind and body. Then we had to sign the legal document and were declared husband and wife! 
My mother-in-law's only request was that we exchange 'jai-malas' after the ceremony, to which we happily obliged. After that was the usual round of photographs, hugs, kisses and congratulations as  the evening went by in a surreal blur. The Sud family was and is a large and complicated one, and meeting every one was a completely confusing experience. In fact it took me years to sort out who belonged to whom and how they were related.
I must admit when it was time to leave and I hugged my father goodbye I promptly burst into tears. That at least was what a good Indian bride was expected to do and I followed this custom before climbing into the car and waving goodbye to everyone as Mrs Eva Sud.