Honesty : Army Style

By -

AK Ahlawat,19 July 22.@ Fauj Ka Safar Nama.

They protected thirsty pilgrims on their way to the tiddly temple.Generations of faithfuls of the military order went to them with parched throats after a hard day's grind and never returned disappointed.They were legends of their time and their domain ranged from the kingdom of the Old Monk to the empire of Peter the Scot.

My paltan was in Meerut in 96 and I was a rookie in friendship of Bacchus.The club building was ice white with Byzantinian doric pillars.A wide green lawn added splendour to the clean straight angles of the Wheelers Club.I walked into the spacious mahogany panelled bar room that looked like an old worlds' tide washing into the new.All the charm of bygone ages whispered from the paintings and plaques.A tall man stood behind the bar counter.He was wearing glasses and was rather thin.He stood there with a calm look.I walked to the bar and said,

"One rum old monk please."

The tall man looked at me as if woken from some private contemplation.

"Sir you don't drink whisky?"

The barman spoke in a clipped English accent.I looked at him closely now.He was a tall and good looking old man around 75 or 80 years of age.

"Okay give me a whisky then."

"Sir will Peter Scot do?"

"Yes it will do."

He poured me a peg with trembling hands.A part of the drink spilled into the saucer in which stood the peg measure.

"It is your first time in this club sir?"He again spoke in fine English.

"Indeed it is."

"My good sir,rum is only tobe drunk by officers during war."

"And why so?" I asked.

"It's a drink of rage and passion."said Ramchandra ,the head barman of the club.

All the overspill of bar service drinks of the evening was collected in a 380 ml chalice and was auctioned to the highest bidder.The tradition was that the officer who purchased this "Lovely Peg" would gift it to the headbarman.The headbarman would share it with his staff.

When Ramchandra died,the Wheelers Club was closed for one day in mourning to him.

A few years later I went for the junior command course to Mhow.It was the last day of the course.We had paid our mess bills and cleared all accounts.In the evening we went to the DSOI club.There was nothing else to do since the stickler type duty officer had said that the student officers would only get their movent orders after 12 am midnight.

I gave some currency notes to the barman and he served us our drinks.He was a very light skinned man of medium height.He was immaculately dressed in a white shirt and black pants.There was an unusual dark spot on the skin on his forehead as if he he rubbed his head on the masjid floor with undue severity.

When it was around twelve,I and my friend realised that it was time to go and collect our movement orders from Colonel Blimps' unrelenting paws.At twelve o clock midnight,the duty officer handed us the printed and stamped sheet of paper and grinned like a wolf and said,

"There are still thirteen seconds left for it tobe twelve am."

So at dot 12 am we had our document and we went to our rooms and slept.Lfe continued and after almost a decade I again found myself in Mhow to do the Senior Command course.One evening I happened to go to the DSOI club.The same barman was there.Medium build,fair,neat and spruce.His box mark on the forehead was also there.I went to the bar and asked for a drink.He looked at me ,at first with a blank look.A sea of itenerant officers come to his bar every year on courses.I was being too vain to expect him to recognise me.He had picked up the bottle to pour me a drink and I saw the light of recognition in his eyes.He kept the bottle aside and said,

"Sir I will not make your drink till you do the old hisab kitab."

I wondered what he was talking of.I had come to this place after ten years.He took out a dog eared plastic covered pocket diary.He thumbed through it and read from it.Then he opened his cash drawer and kept Rs 323/- on the bar counter.

"What's this?"I asked him with a bit of puzzlement.I didn't understand why he had kept the money.Surely he was confusing me with someone else.

"Sir on 21 sept 2001,you and one more para officer had come to the bar.You had come to do JC course and it was your last day of course.This is your balance amount left out of the money you had given me."

"Now I will pour you your drink sahib." said Abid of the honest eyes.

I have seldom come across such an example of disarming honesty in all my life.

Xxx Xxx

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