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Thursday, 26 July 2012


Sud and I had decided to wait a year before planning a family. When we thought the time was right we excitedly got down to business, only to discover nothing was happening and there was no good news to announce. After a few months went by I began to worry, but was convinced by the ladies who knew it all that these things were unpredictable and I should not stress. "Don't dwell on it" I was repeatedly advised, which just made me want to bop them in their smug faces as it is like saying "If you don't think of a green elephant I will give you a million bucks!" Taboo images are all that keep one preoccupied  - even if it is just the brain working in overdrive to keep visions of exotic animals or in my case babies at bay.
After a year of disappointment I began to do the doctor rounds and everyone I saw reassured me there was nothing wrong with either of us and we should just be patient. I would have my fingers crossed every month and when there was the tell tale sign of 'no luck' I would weep in my husband's arms. We would go out to parties where I would see mothers feeding their tiny tots and come home in depression. My neighbour in Tezpur produced a little girl and I went across with gritted teeth to do the needful 'oohing' and 'aahing', only to be told in no uncertain terms that she would rather I  not pick up the child since I was a sterile 'baanjh' and so might put the evil eye on her little one. 'Baanjh' is a derogatory word used for women who cannot have children.
Then there were those knowledgeable biddies who came up with the most fantastical suggestions of what I should do to conceive. Strange contorted positions were recommended, times of the month and in which direction to face were suggested and I was even given a vial of Sai Baba's supposedly holy ashes to do unmentionable things with. My poor husband went along with all my bizarre requests with a helpless and worried expression, though he stopped short of actually telling me that maybe I was behaving in a completely daft and irrational manner.
The strange thing is that I am not a superstitious person by nature but had got to that desperate stage when I was willing to try anything, anyway, anyhow. When I did finally conceive, only to miscarry a couple of weeks into the pregnancy and was then informed that I could never have children due to complications that ensued, I felt a strange sense of relief that the whole situation was now out of my hands.
The other paradox was that I had never been a particularly maternal sort of person and always preferred puppies to babies. I could  never bring myself to 'cootchie-coo' other peoples newborn bundles, but being told that I would never have one of my own was soul shattering. Even then it was more the idea that Sud would never be a father, or that my parents would be deprived of grandchildren that was more heart breaking than anything else.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Ill Health and Goodbye

The last year of our tenure in Tezpur saw both Sud and me suffering from ill health. He developed a bad allergy, which I was convinced was caused by something in the lush greenery of the countryside. Some folks suggested it might be the cats, but I argued that in the 'basha' we had lived closely with the animals and not faced any problem. It was much later, when I did more in depth research, that I discovered that sensitive reactions have the potential to build over a period of time. My poor husband was in dreadful shape with severe respiratory problems and  had to be put on steroids as a result of which he could not fly. I have never kept another cat since then as he is now so touchy that he immediately begins to wheeze even if a feline is innocently prowling somewhere in the vicinity.
We had started planning a family as well and I conceived only to miscarry a few weeks into the pregnancy. I was admitted to the Military Hospital were the doctors did what they had to do, but I found  the bleeding would not stop and I was running high fever accompanied by a crippling back ache. When I returned for a consult I was told I had an infection and was given the usual antibiotics. I did not feel any better and was in a miserable and weakened condition when news came that we were posted to Pune, to the new MiG-29 squadron that was forming there. I sadly said my goodbyes to Tezpur in a sorry and debilitated state as I followed a silly tradition of my own every time we moved, of making a quiet round of the house saying thank you walls, thank you kitchen, thank you chairs, thank you beds while touching everything one last time.
I decided to take a break in Saraya where it was diagnosed that I had a ruptured uterus. The doctors said I would never be able to conceive as my fallopian tubes had been blocked by scar tissue resulting from the severe infection that I had endured for so long.
It took months for me to recover from this ordeal though I was in depression at the idea of not having children. I was never a particularly maternal sort of person, but once I was told that it was an impossibility, the hankering for offspring naturally and irrationally grew into an obsession. I narrated woe begone dialogues to Sud saying he could marry again or leave me, because I knew he would have made a wonderful father. He glared at me and told me to stop being melodramatic as he claimed he loved me and did not particularly need or want a baby making machine. He was always supportive and understanding, though I must admit I did wallow in self pity for quite a while after and made his life quite miserable.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Dulangmukh, Kaziranga, Shillong

View from the quadrant and the only fish we saw
Once every few months Sud would be deputed to go as the Range Safety Officer to Dulangmukh, which is where aircraft would go for live gunnery practise at the range there. I accompanied him on one of these trips and after flying to the remote and now defunct airfield of Zero and then jolting along non existent roads, we reached the crude living accommodation that was there for the RSO's. We spent a lovely few days where I would go with my husband to the quadrant in the early morning and watch in complete fascination as the pilots did their firing and bombing routine. I remember the thrill of having Amul zoom cheekily low and announce over RT that he could see I was wearing a blue sweater! We took long walks into the dense jungle and along the Subansari river which is the largest tributary of the mighty Brahmaputra. We had enthusiastically carried all our fishing tackle but unfortunately discovered that this waterway was so polluted that only  small dead fish floated along its banks. We  would return to our humble lodgings in the chill of the evening to happily snuggle into cosy sleeping bags never once complaining that there was no electricity, running water or any other kind of  modern day comfort.

We drove to the Kaziranga wild life sanctuary which was about 80 kilometres away on our trusted Yezdi bike and that too was a wonderful experience. We were there  in the breeding season so all the animals had babies and it was thrilling to see them roam free in their natural habitat. Besides plenty of deer and wild elephants we did get charged at by an indignant and protective mama rhino who was looking out for her little one. The 'mahout' yelled blue murder and threw his 'ankush' at the angry creature who put on the brakes in confusion at all the noise giving the elephants time to do a right about turn and move respectfully away. When my mother visited a few months later we made another trip to the game reserve and this time stayed with friends at one of the tea estates. I think that was one of the only times I wondered if maybe I had married a man in the wrong profession!

Waterfall in Shillong and the tiniest baby elephant I have ever seen in Kaziranga

We did the drive up to to Shillong as well which was the longest bike ride I had ever undertaken. I remember my back felt quite broken by the end of the 250 kilometre journey since for some reason I stubbornly insisted on carrying our rucksack instead of listening to Sud's suggestion of letting him put it on the fuel tank in front. I was wearing my dark glasses all the way and was most horrified to see I had got badly tanned except for under the goggles so ended up embarrassingly looking like a raccoon. We only stayed here a couple of days and it was only years later when we were posted to this beautiful part of the country that we could explore it more at leisure.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Life in Tezpur

Lalima, Me, Umesh with Antara, Cooper and Sud  ready to play Holi

In the mid eighties life  in the Air Force was relatively simple. The only ones who owned TV's and VCR's were those who had the good fortune to have done a tenure in Iraq.We bought our first TV just after Indira Gandhi was assassinated in October 1984, as we would have to walk down to the mess to watch the latest news which was quite an inconvenience. I remember looking forward to Hum Log, Buniyaad and the Sunday film which the servants and their kids would all congregate to watch with us. There was also an open air auditorium where we logged every single movie that came, either sweltering in the humidity, huddled under umbrellas in the rain or freezing in the cold.

Sud, Ritu,Mum, KB, Bhanu and Varsha at Tipi

Calling on fellow officer's or bouncing was considered a fun evening's entertainment. Bouncing, as I explained earlier was a tradition when folks would drop in unannounced, usually in the wee hours of the morning, demanding a meal or coffee. The lady of the house would have to rustle up something or the other no matter what the time or mood. I personally was never a fan of this custom but always did the needful whenever hungry faces turned up at the front door. The youngsters would sometimes insist on taking over the kitchen and on one occasion I remember them manufacturing some egg 'bhujiya' which was really tasty. The next morning on opening the fridge I discovered some pork mince was missing and realised with horror that the drunken men had mixed it in with the eggs and cooked it for just as much time as it takes to scramble the 'andas'.

Cawas and Pat
 I was still an introvert and did not make friends easily and it was the CO's wife Rani Bhatia who advised me to try and open up a bit since people were labelling me a snob. This is when I began downing a couple of rum 'n' cokes at get togethers, since I found they helped in loosening me up a bit. Rani took me under her wing and I always think of her with the deepest affection. Unfortunately she lost her husband in a crash a few years later and we completely lost touch.

Amul, Jojo and Don

Seema Mukul was someone who I grew close to as well. We both bought bicycles and would be seen zooming around camp  happily doing canteen and grocery shopping. Amul Kapoor and his lovely wife Chitra always welcomed us into their homes at any time of the day or night. Lalima and Umesh Shastri lived upstairs and we would sometimes organise our parties together. I would make the meat and sweet and Lalima would do the vegetables and 'daal' and then we would exchange half of what we had cooked. We were in different squadrons and always kept our fingers crossed that our guests would not crisscross and discover our secret catering arrangement.
Rani and late MS, Neelu and late Cooper, Ritu and Pakoda, Lily and Aru, Seema and Don, Chitra and Amul, Ritu and KB Singh, Sarita and Polly, Cawas, Pat and Ajay were some of the people who made Tezpur a wonderful place for me! Thank you all wherever you are!