Scene By Scene
(Long Story and Hence Only Selected Scenes)
I was posted at Navy’s Leadership School at Agrani (to be pronounced as ug-ruh-nhi meaning ‘Leading’; and not as something that is translated as fire-queen that everyone mis-pronounces it always) from 1978 to 1980. I met Lyn for the first time in Coimbatore wherein INS Agrani is situated. Her charming ways touched the chords of my heart and the tinkle of heavenly music they created hasn’t stopped resonating even now. Her smile was and is the sound of glockenspiel; her talk breathlessly exciting; and she was and is simplicity personified. Once when I teased her for being fat, she pointed to a buffalo and asked, “As fat as that, is it?” Her naiveté readily disarms any attempts to show her down and I stopped doing it even in jest long time back.
We had been talking on the phone and seeing each other as often as we could. In Jan 1980, we went by train to Palghat and spent an entire day at the dam picnicking. By evening, we returned by train to Coimbatore. At the exit, a railway official wanted to see our tickets. I proudly exhibited our return tickets. It came out that those tickets were for passenger trains whereas we had returned by an Express. Even though I showed my Navy I – Card too to the official, he fined us all of 100 rupees (a large sum during those days). He made out a receipt for the fine in the name of – hold your breath – Lieutenant and Mrs. RPS Ravi. We still possess that receipt as the first ‘official‘ acknowledgement of our intent.
She was apprehensive of my leaving her in 1980 to attend the Long C (Communications) course at Signal School, Cochin. But, I made up for it by visiting her as often as I could. I had bought a Yezdi 250 cc, KEE 438, from M/s Tharakan & Co, and I not only visited her on this mobike (in later years we called it ‘donkey’ since it not just carried us but many other household things including cooking gas cylinders), but also took her to Coonoor on it whereat we spent an entire weekend with her aunty Daisy (who was a teacher to Vyjayanthimala). Everyone thought of us as a married couple. And this at a time when people still looked down on love – marriages. As an aside I can tell you that recently one of the TED Talk Speakers in my company Reliance sent me a link to his talk on how to discover uniqueness in yourself. I wrote back to him that I must be a living example of uniqueness: I chose my own name rather than family name; I chose my career (Navy) as far removed from parental expectations as possible; I chose my own religion (I was born a Sikh); I chose my own life-partner. When our children came into the family, I helped them discover their own uniqueness (Read: Diminishing Dad).
After the Long course, my posting came to INS Talwar in Bombay. There were no cellphones during those days. She had, therefore, communicated by letter her apprehension that as physical distance increased between us, I would forget about her. So, on 24th March 1981, I took the morning train from Cochin to Coimbatore whereas the rest of the coursemates travelling to Bombay were to travel by evening train passing through Coimbatore at 10 PM. Good friend AS Bajwa took her and me to a temple where the priest married us – me a Sikh and she a Catholic but married in a Hindu temple. In the afternoon, we went to the district court and got our marriage registered.
In the night before the train pulled out of Coimbatore station, I asked her if she was apprehensive of us anymore. She knew she had a gentleman to spend the rest of her life with.
I joined the rest of my course mates in the train on my wedding night and gave them sweets. They wanted to know what was the occasion. I told them I had got married. No one could believe it. One or two of them even suggested that I was pissed even before having a drink with them.
It took me six months to get a temporary accommodation in Naval Coastal Battery (NCB) Worli. And then I called her over to Bombay to join me.
I had nothing with me. I went to Indian Naval Canteen Service (Gol canteen) and bought the following on IPP (Instalment Payment Plan):
Six steel dining plates.
Six steel side plates.
Six each steel spoons, forks, knives, bowls and glasses.
One twin burner gas chullah.
One plastic bucket and mug.
One frying pan.
Two other pans.
Two steel pateelah.
One 165 ltr Godrej Gold fridge.
Three plastic containers to keep sugar, tea and salt.
Six pearl-pet bottles.
Lo and behold, I had a functional house going! In the next one year I paid all the instalments! Bajwa was promoted to become a LtCdr on the day before she arrived. So we drank and drank to celebrate his promotion as also to signify the end of my bachelorhood six months after our wedding. At one O’ clock in the night, Bajwa and I went to Oberoi hotel to have coffee and that’s when I told him that when I would take my wife home, I couldn’t even offer her tea since I had neglected to buy sugar. So, Bajwa spread a paper napkin on the table, emptied out the hotel’s sugar pot, bundled the napkin and gave to me. I then told him that I was going to receive my wife and I hadn’t got any flowers. He convinced me that buying flowers from the hotel’s shop would ruin my plans for the first month of marriage. He, with great ceremony, took out the single rose from the table vase and handed it to me to receive Lyn with.
And that’s how we went to receive Lyn at Bombay VT at 6 AM.
Our one room house in NCB Worli!
My dad hadn’t given his consent for the wedding. So one day I wrote to him about how we got married. The last line of my letter read: “We haven’t got much; but we ain’t poor.”
As my mom read out the letter to him – and my mom told this to me later – he thumped his chest with pride and said, “That’s my son. No one in our family was ever poor and no one would ever be.”
On the 12th of Dec 1982 we were married (again) in Kandaghat in the manner in which dad and mom wanted in front of our larger family.
Here is a picture of the reception on the night of 12th Dec 1982:
In Aug 1983 I was to go to Rome for the second year in succession to accept an Electronic Warfare system. And, I told Lyn that I would take her. She said we didn’t have money (we never had). I told her I would apply for a loan from my DSOP Fund (Defence Services Officers Provident Fund) on the all encompassing clause, “Urgent domestic requirement necessitating inescapable expenditure”. It is another story how I got her passport made, visas for Italy and France done and ticketing done in less than a week’s time. It is yet another story that she nearly travelled alone (she was to travel from Bombat whilst I was to join from Delhi after obtaining government sanction and the babus there nearly botched it up). But then all’s well that ends well and we visited Italy, France and England for three weeks on a shoe-string budget of just Rupees 20000 including her two way fare. In Paris, for example, we stayed in a Youth Hostel at equivalent of five dollars per head!
Arjun was conceived during this trip and born on 14th May 1984. On 1st of May, my world crashed; my father died in a jeep accident on a morning when in the evening, he and my mom were going to travel to Bombay to be with us for Lyn’s delivery. There was a tussle between him and I as to where the delivery would take place. He insisted that the delivery should be in Lady Reading hospital Shimla performed by his trusted doctor Mrs. Anita Sood whereas I had told him that it would be in INHS Asvini. In the end, in his death, he won. It was as if when one candle was snuffed, another was kindled in the same family.
Arun was born in even worse conditions. I was posted on Ganga and remembering the traumatic circumstances of Arjun’s birth, we planned Arun’s birth during the period when Ganga would be under a short refit in December. But then The PM Rajiv Gandhi and his wife Sonia decided to visit Andaman and Nicobar islands and the ship selected to take them there was Ganga. My CO said he couldn’t spare me during this period. Lyn therefore went entirely on her own (helped by Mrs Kohli and other ladies) to Asvini, quickly delivered Arun, and returned home to also look after Arjun who was barely two and a half at that time. We were on the 10th floor of Meena building and we prayed that the lifts which frequently broke down, would function for her going to hospital and return. I saw Arun a month after he was born. But then, I had seen my wife six months after we were married.
Despite my dad consenting to get us married, I refused to take anything at all from him. Lyn’s parents were too poor to help us. But, we not just managed; we lived – you have guessed it – rich. On our 20th anniversary, 14 years ago, on this day, we bought us a gift from Archies: a wooden plaque with the inscription, “We don’t have much; but, we have each other”.
However, we were, are, and will always be rich. As my dad said no member of our family will ever be poor. As long as we are together, the flowers will grow and we have the riches of precious memories:
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