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Sit Back & enjoy 😍

The Major raised his glass, " to the great Indian Air Force ". I raised my glass," to the great Indian  Army ". " CHEERS ". Our glasses clinked. I took a sip of the XXX Hercules rum as I leaned back on my chair savouring the bitter sweet taste of my favourite drink. 
" Tell me Bajpai " asked the Major popping a few peanuts into his mouth, " What does a fauzi need to be happy? "
I was stumped. 


It had all started with me bumping into the Adjutant on that fateful Friday. 
" Ah Bajpai !! Just the person I was looking for ", he exclaimed with a beam. 
I looked at him suspiciously. Generally, if your unit adjt calls you out with that sadistic grin, rest assured you are heading for an unpleasant task. 
" You have to do a Pay Officer's duty ", he said in a suspenseful voice. Ahh.... no big deal. " No problem  sir ", I smiled feeling relieved. 
" Well, there is a  catch ", he became conspiratorial, " have you heard of a place called Jaswantgarh? "
"You mean the place near Tawang, across Sela pass? "
" Precisely ", he nodded. 
" So, what about it? " I asked cautiously. 
" You have to do the payment there ", his grin returned. " You are privileged to have a free road trip to explore the exotic and scenic beauty of Arunachal Pradesh ". His grin widened further. 
As I packed my suitcase that night, I wondered about the trip. The route was etched in my memory, having flown to Tawang multiple times. I visualised the road journey..... Tezpur to Bhalukpong in the plains, then climbing up the mountains to about 6,000 feet...... descending into Tenga valley, again climbing up to 8000 ft to Bomdila pass, then descend into Dirang valley...... start climbing again to Sela pass at about 14000 ft followed by another descent towards Tawang for Jaswantgarh. Sounded exciting after all. 

How naive I was. 


" Bomdila aa gaya hai saab ", the Lance Naik said looking at me, probably hinting at a tea break. He was visibly uncomfortable. He probably never had an officer sitting next to him while driving that rickety 'Meat van'.
" Chalo chai peetey hain ", I looked at him and smiled. He relaxed and returned my smile shyly. 
We resumed our journey to Dirang Dzong, descending on the other side of the ridge after the tea break.
I, with my suitcase and cash bag, was dropped on the roadside, near the Army camp gate in Dirang Dzong. The driver wanted to drop the meat in the Langar before dropping me at Officers Mess, which was fine with me. 

As I sat on the chair at the roadside, thoughtfully provided by the sentry, I reflected at the turn of events during the past two days. I was given a seat in one of the Army jongas as part of the Army convoy from Tezpur to Bhalukpong, a small village at the foothills of the Himalayas. After spending the night there we resumed the journey as part of another convoy to a place called Rupa in Tenga valley, HQ of one of the mountain divisions of the Army. The convoy ended there so I had to stay the night in the Officers Mess there. The only occupant ( it being a family station), a young 2nd Lieutenant, was happy to have a company and looked after me well. 
" But tomorrow being Monday, no convoy will ply in this valley. You will have to wait till Tuesday ", he said after listening to my story. 
" I have to finish this task ASAP. Can you please arrange something for me ", I pleaded. 
He pondered for some time, " Oh yes! There is a vehicle going to Dirang Dzong tomorrow but its a 'meat run ", he looked at me apologetically. 
" It will do, it will do", I exclaimed with relief. 
I looked up from my reverie and found an army jeep come to halt on the road. It backed slowly and stopped in front of me. 
"AM I SEEING THINGS", the Major boomed with an exaggerated gesture of rubbing his eyes and staring at my flying overall and aircrew jacket. I quickly stood to attention and saluted. 
" What is a blue overall doing on the ground instead of touching the sky with glory? " He asked with a broad friendly grin. 
" Good afternoon sir, I am on my way to Jaswantgarh to....."
"Ok ok ", he cut me short, " I will hear your story on the way.  Hop in".
We had started climbing through the winding roads towards Sela. 
" Hmmm.....", he exhaled loudly after listening to my story, "so you are going to Jaswantgarh carrying cash for disbursement and you have neither a vehicle nor an escort. Air Force is great ", he said with a teasing smile, " agar army nahi hota toh tu kya karta re?" He looked at me with a twinkle in his eyes. I nodded sheepishly and we both laughed. 
" I am going to Baisakhi, slightly short of Sela. In any case it will be dark by then. You stay put with me for the night. Meanwhile I will make arrangements with Jaswantgarh for your pick up tomorrow." I nodded gratefully. 
"Do you eat eggs punditjee?" he asked. I nodded again, suddenly feeling famished. 
" You must be hungry.  Dinner won't be ready  by the time we reach Baisakhi. I will ask my batman to prepare 'ande ki bhujia' while we freshen up ", he looked at me with a kind smile. 


I looked out of the room through the window, feeling relaxed and rejuvenated after the hot water bath. It had started snowing outside. The undulating landscape of hills and valley had turned white with a tinge of electric blue in the twilight. The whole scene was surreal. I turned my gaze inside the room. It was nice and cosy with a friendly warmth. The 'dhup dhup' sound of kerosene drops falling inside the bukhari was music to the ears. The friendly Major was a great company. The aroma of freshly prepared scrambled eggs, mingling with the flavour of the rum was soothing and heady. Ahh...... life was wonderful. What else could I ask for? 
"C'mon Pilot Officer, you haven't answered my question", he goaded, " What does it take to make a fauzi happy??"
" Doh large rum aur doh ande ki bhujia ", I blurted out.
Time stood still for a moment.... and then... the room reverberated.....


"Kya hua?" my wife rushed in looking alarmed. 
"Aaah ! Nothing....... bas yoon hi", I smiled and winked. 
"Day dreaming again", she muttered. 
A lot has changed since that snowy evening in Baisakhi ages ago but the feeling of utter bliss is still fresh in my mind. I am sure we all have had our own "doh large rum aur doh ande ki bhujia" moments when it didn't matter what rank or position we held, how big or small our house is, what material wealth we have acquired, etc etc. All that mattered was a good soul companion, mental peace and a clean innocent heart filled with joy and happiness. Maybe we have tucked such moments somewhere in the back of our minds and forgotten about them. 

"HELLO. Sun rahe ho?"
"Haan.... bolo"
" I am ordering pizza for dinner. What will you have? "
"Doh large rum aur doh ande ki bhujia".
"Tum nahi sudharoge", she shakes her head resigned. I close my eyes and stretch on the recliner smiling inwardly. 
Kaun kambakht sudharna chahta hai😊

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