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.

Friday, 31 August 2012

Labouring On

Sandip at the FCL graduation while I laboured on (literally) on my own

Once we got home and spent a couple of hours excitedly discussing what the unexpected news of  my pregnancy meant to us, I found I was overwhelmed with the most awful feeling of nausea. I struggled through the rest of the day with a pukey face and Sandip laughingly teased that he was not looking forward to seeing this afflicted expression for the next few months. As it turned out those few hours were the only time I ever felt the dreaded morning sickness, so I presume it must have been more psychological than anything else.
I was warned by all that I might have complications because of my past medical history so was advised to  take things very easy. Inspite of everything I was one of the lucky few who never had any problems besides the constant craving for "chumchum" - a sweet I never had before or after those nine months. I would sit at the dining table and devour a kilo at a time, then gaze pleadingly at a very bemused husband and demand "More chumchum!"
I planned to go back to Saraya for my delivery and Sandip said he would like to be with me in the labour room, an idea that did not sit well with my father, since he was of the old school of thought that certain goings on are best left unobserved by the male species since they can get quite gruesome.
Six months later we got the news that Sandip's name was one of those chosen for the prestigious FCL(Fighter Combat Leader) course run by TACDE (Tactics and Air Combat Development Establishment), that was conducted in Jamnagar, Gujarat which was considered to be the Top Gun school of the Indian Air Force. I was initially quite dismayed since that would mean he would be nowhere around in my final few months, but when he volunteered to refuse the course I straightened out my depressed face and assured him I would be just fine.
It was at this time that my parents had come to Pune, since father had to undergo a hip replacement surgery at the renowned Sancheti hospital. It was decided we would all travel back home together once he had recovered from the operation and let  Sandip go off to Jamnagar, where he would be for the next six months.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Could it be?

This is one of those few pictures in my album which I kept only because I remember my exact thoughts at the time it was clicked!
"Is it possible I might be pregnant?"
Me, Harish Masand, Ruheene, Ingita Kothiyal, Lily Raha, Sandip and Malini Masand and someone whose name I can't recall
I was a few days late with my period, which I thought was a bit unusual since I was normally quite punctual in such matters. When I was ten days overdue I began to chew my nails in tension and after two weeks apprised Sandip of the situation. He gently admonished that I had been told by the doctors that I could not conceive, so should not get my hopes up unnecessarily. I waited another forty eight hours then hesitatingly asked if we could go into town and have a pregnancy test done, just for my own peace of mind.
In those days we did not have any kind of instant home prediction kits and so we drove into town on the bike looking for a lab which would do the needful. We spotted a sign  atop one of the buildings on Main Street and trudged up three flights of stairs into a dingy and seedy looking room.The technician gave me a bottle and when I handed him my sample he disinterestedly told us to come back in a couple of hours for the results. I was so anxious that I told him we would rather sit there and wait. The young man must have sensed our tension because in half an hour he waved us over with the outcome of the tests.
He handed the paper over to Sandip and I found myself concentrating on my husband's expression instead of looking down and reading the report for myself. I saw a strange smile break over his face as he looked up at me and announced "Its positive!" I could barely believe what I had heard and we stared at each other in shock at the unexpected good news. Once we had gathered our wits we started down the stairs and I had a very concerned voice in my ear telling me to walk slowly and carefully, as he guided me down the steep steps with a protective hand under my arm.
After driving home at a snail's pace we sat in silence for a while letting the enormity of the news sink in. We also decided not to make any public announcement until we were sure all would be well. Memories of my miscarriage were too fresh in our minds to take anything for granted at that point of time.

Thursday, 16 August 2012


Rajiv Gandhi with Harish Masand and Sud in the background at the induction of the MiG-29
28 Squadron moved lock, stock and barrel from Tezpur to Pune in 1985 as one of the units chosen to convert to the newly acquired MiG-29 aircraft. The high tech fighter was shrouded in mystery with no one being allowed to see it until it was officially inducted by Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi later in the year. We ladies had discovered a vantage point on the main road to town where we managed to sometimes catch a glimpse of the lethal looking machine as it was taking off and were thrilled by its menacing hooded appearance which was different to any of the other jets we were familiar with.
Harish Masand was the first Commanding Officer of the squadron and his wife Malini and I quickly took up where we had left off in Gorakhpur, much to the initial puzzlement and later resentment of the rest of the crowd who had no idea that our friendship was an old one.
Once the fleet was officially part of the Indian Air Force life got extremely busy for the officers who were out of station on temporary duty for most of the next year. We ladies had to manage  on our own for most of that time, which was not too difficult as Malini ensured we were well looked after. Not that the husbands were not sorely missed, especially in crisis situations - a couple of children went into hospital and were discharged, a few bones were broken and healed and one of the ladies even had a baby, while our magnificent men showed off their flying machines over the length and breadth of the country!
I was in a happy place until someone would ask me when we were planning to start a family. I would always react with a nonchalant shrug and calmly reply that we were not in a hurry, but these casual remarks had the ability to really depress me. I had not felt the need to confide in anyone that the doctors had told me that I could never have children and was still trying to come to terms with the inevitability of their diagnosis.
And then one month I was a few days late with my period.....

The ladies of  First Supersonics 28 Squadron with some of the young officers - Malini with the big handbag next to me in the white kurta with little Ruheene ( Malini's daughter) in front of us

Friday, 10 August 2012


Banyan trees on Poona streets

When I had recovered from the physical and mental aftermath of the miscarriage I joined Sandip in Poona, or Pune as it is now called.
Much as I had loved the three years we spent in the wilderness of Tezpur it felt good to be back in civilisation. The Air Force Station in Lohegaon was on the outskirts of town and we found ourselves back in temporary accommodation. This time it was one large room which served as drawing, dining and sleeping quarters, with a narrow passage attached where I unpacked the essentials to set up my kitchen.
Poona had a strange old fashioned quaintness to it. Many of the houses in the cantonment area had been built by the British and  maintained their original charming facades. These were heritage constructions, built on spacious grounds, surrounded by well maintained gardens. One of the very first things that I found fascinating were the majestic banyans that lined almost every street, with their gnarled trunk like roots dropping down to the ground. These trees take years to attain this magnificent size so I am guessing most of them would be over a hundred years old.

One of our favourite haunts for a quick bite was Marz-O-Rin, a timeless landmark which people have been returning to since it was first set up in 1965. The chicken sandwiches and cold coffee were to die for and I have many a time tried unsuccessfully to replicate the unique flavors of these simple items. The aroma of freshly made Shrewsbury biscuits wafting out of Kayani Bakery on Main Street lured me in to buy a box every time I was in the vicinity.The exotic cheeses from ABC farms quickly became a favourite indulgence, and was the first time we experimented with new and exotic flavors being familiar with only good old Amul till then.The Place was where we went back time and again for a vast choice of the most succulent sizzlers.

Shopping for fresh vegetables and choice cuts of meat in Shivaji Market was something I also enjoyed immensely after the rather shrivelled up produce we used to get in the east.My favourite lady vendor, much to my dismay, was convinced that I looked like Indira Gandhi and always greeted me as such! Chandan stores was where I did all my more fancy grocery shopping much to the disapproval of friends who preferred the older and more staid Dorabjee's.
The weather in Poona was also a welcome change from the humidity we had lived in for the past three years. The climate was moderate and except for April and May when it was bearably hot, the monsoons arrived and cooled things down. 'Kissing Rain' was what my mother described the constant gentle drizzle that brushed one's face as, which is particular to the rainy season in this part of the world. We did not own an air conditioner and never felt the need for one, as however warm the days might be the evenings and nights were always pleasant.
We stayed in our temporary lodgings for only a few months before being allotted a flat and the usual opening up of familiar household knick-knacks made it into a cosy home. I was lucky enough to inherit a wonderful maid Sabira, so all in all was very content in my new environment.

Saturday, 4 August 2012


The secret regions of my heart are filled with a strange unrest -
     making the harp strings of my soul strike discordant notes
     that send meaningless messages to my brain.
My eyes keep their eternal vigil on shabby crumbling milestones
     that flicker by with terrifying speed - shabby milestones
     that mark the countdown of my inane existence.
I look for you along the way but I know - I know
     that the roads I take
     are not roads that you would care to travel by.
So I hurtle around my own crazy orbit
     regardless of the cold bleak galaxies and vast spaces
     that surround me -
Not yet quite realising that I am lost - back where I began -
     filled with unrest -  striking discordant notes -
     hearing meaningless messages -
     and left blind by my futile vigil.