The other day when I put up here yet another post about our staff course (I think the post was ‘The Great Wanderlust In Staff College’, one of the ladies mentioned that I must bring out a post regarding the parallel ‘staff course’ that goes on in DSSC (Defence Services Staff College). This one involves the ladies, that is.
His name was Selvaraj. Before long many of the DHs (Desperate Housewives) had enrolled for his baking, cooking and chocolate making classes. Initially, after the ladies tried their hand at it on their own at home (that is, without the baker cum cook cum magician showing them how to), we would get bread that could be used to drive nails in the walls. However, gradually, they improved. In the end, if you can make out a psc (passed staff course) officer by his penchant for making simple things complicated, pssc (passed Selvaraj’s staff course) ladies can be made out from the excellence of their baking and chocolate making skills. So years later when an officer and his wife (“good lady” as our Army counterparts call her!) invite you for dinner and you get the distinct aroma of home-baked breads followed by chocolates after dessert, you are bound to ask (directing the question neutrally between the two of them): “When did you complete your staff course?” Post dinner conversation then would assuredly be about Selvaraj and his varied skills.
I hope the Staff College has honoured the services of Selvaraj (that have made significant contribution towards the grooming of “good ladies” of the army and (possibly) wicked ones of the navy and the air-force) by erecting a small memorial shaped like a chocolate wrapped in shining coloured paper tied with golden or silver thread or ribbon.
Anyway, let me get back to the narrative.
We were out for about ten days for FAT (Forward Area Tour) to the North East. At one time it used to be towards J&K but then, our “friendly neighbour to the North West” (that is how we used to refer to Pakistan during Staff Course! As I mentioned, we excelled in making simply things complicated) decided to ‘bleed us by a thousand cuts’; and it was decided that going closer to our “friendly neighbour to the North East” provided us with greater hope of returning alive. We took off from Coimbatore (A&EHU (Aircraft and Engine Hauling Unit, Sulur to be exact) and landed in Bagdogra. As soon as we started negotiating the NE hills, we became familiar with one land slide or the other and many a times, life did hang from a thin thread. For example, we were stuck on a precipitous road because there was a land-slide ahead. And then a huge rock decided to dislodge itself from the hill and came down on our convoy (if you recall from a previous anecdote ‘Bridging The Gap In Staff College’ our foursome was busy at Bridge when this happened). As per eye-witnesses’ account, it is only at the last-minute that the rock decided to alter course from directly heading towards disrupting our Bridge game and our lives and pass precariously between our one tonner and a three tonner behind us. It was, as you say so often in the armed forces, touch and go.
Here is a picture of some of my pals during the FAT:
So with these kinds of hair-raising experiences, we were now headed back to DSSC and the talk started about “lady wives” or “good ladies“. One of the Army course mates (he is an excellent singer) broke into: “Chala jaata hoon kisi ki dhun mein…” (I keep going singing her tune….) and we all joined in. One of the stanzas is translated into:That world will be so differentWhen she’d come near me, I swearShe would, at times, try to free her arms from mineAnd then, at times, she’d embrace me;She’d come into my arms, holding all kinds of dreams for me.
We were young and honestly the thought of reuniting with our loved ones was becoming stronger by the moment. One of the Army officers started painting the scene of his reunion distinctly: “She’d be clad in her best saree, with large vermilion bindi (dot on the forehead), holding a pooja thali (prayer plate), waiting for me at the door itself…..”
And then we disembarked from the buses and headed home with our rucksacks and bags. I can patch up the story of others later; but, here was the scene at my home:
Both Arjun and Arun were at home watching Micky Mouse cartoons on the telly and our maid Regina was busy in the kitchen. But, there was no sign of Lyn. A & A said she’d be returning home any time (it was seven in the evening) as she was wont to do almost everyday.
After Lyn returned at about 9 PM (late for a hill-station like Coonoor), then the story came out.
Most of the ladies in the ‘Staff Course’ of Selvaraj’s cooking and baking classes had formed a group. Every evening, one lady by rotation would invite all the others to demonstrate her newly acquired culinary skills. The ladies had a feast every evening for ten days of our FAT. They knew about our return that evening and hence had organised a valedictory feast and that’s why it continued till 9 PM. Sorry, she said, but most often than not flights and buses arrived late and 9 PM wasn’t that much of a waiting for the men.
Next day, as we compared notes, all the other officers confirmed that they went through similar waits.
And that included the army officers whose “good ladies” were imagined to be waiting for them with pooja thalis, in red sarees and vermilion bindis.
Thankfully for Selvaraj we didn’t meet him on that night; else, we would have taught him a thing or two about cooking and baking.
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