By Tribhuwan N. Bhan
While posted at Srinagar
in 1947, one of my uncles whom we fondly called Lala, paid a courtesy call at my
house at Karan Nagar. My father Late Pt. Gobind ji Bhan, was always proud of him
and held him in high esteem as a self-made courageous man, full of guts. That
evening, Lala and my father kept talking to each other for a long time. He was
describing to him, the various anecdotes connected with his tenure during the
World War II. As it became quite late and dark, my father asked him to stay on
for dinner. He agreed. After dinner, my old aunt Kakni asked him how he would go
back. Lala replied, " I came by car and shall go by the same car".
"But where is your driver?" asked Kakni. "I don't have a driver.
I drive myself", replied Lala. There was surprise and confusion written
deep on Kakni's face. "Oh my God! It
is pitch dark outside. Roads are deserted. Avoid the ditches and drive slowly.
There are stray dogs on the road. They keep on barking. See that you do not lose
control of your car. Are you a good driver anyway? Please be careful."
Not even for a moment did Lala give her the feeling that he was not
taking her advice seriously. Instead he gave her the impression that she was
giving him the most valuable and timely advice.
imagine the concern shown by an old lady for a young man and giving him
instructions out of genuine love. For Lala, driving a car was just a child's
play, but he accepted her advice with all humility. That was the care and
concern, really felt by elders those days, and that was the esteem and respect
in which the younger generation held the elders. They were taken as the wise
people of the society, whether they had been to any school or not. Whatever they
said was absolute wisdom, to be followed word by word; nay letter by letter.
the person, who was keeping his hands folded together and listening to Kakni in
rapt attention, was none other than Flt. Lt. J.N.Dhar, posted at Srinagar
aerodrome during the 1947 conflict (Qabaili Raid).
the year 1947, Pakistani tribals, so called Qabailies, raided Kashmir. Indian
government came to the rescue of the people of Kashmir by sending troops to
fight back the raiders. Srinagar aerodrome therefore assumed a lot of strategic
importance as it was the only airport where planes could land, carrying soldiers
and supplies. Mr. Dhar was specially deputed to this aerodrome on instructions
of the Prime Minister Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru, since he was born, brought up and
educated in Kashmir and was therefore very familiar with the geography of the
surroundings of the aerodrome, which was so important at such a moment of
crisis. Besides, he had joined Royal Air Force in 1944 and was trained as a
pilot at Kohat, now in Pakistan. One of his distinguished colleagues then was
Mr. Espee Engineer, who rose to become an Air Marshal in the Indian Air Force.
Abdullah: I was studying in
class eighth at Biscoe Memorial High School, Srinagar. Our English teacher was
Mr. N.L.Bakaya. Mr. Bakaya was a very straight-forward man, a strict
disciplinarian and a perfectionist, who brooked no nonsense from anyone. He
called a spade a spade, not a shovel.
day, we had submitted to him our English essay books for correction. After his
correction, he was distributing the books in the class as per the name on the
cover of each book. He came across a book with the name of Farooq Abdullah
written on it. He held the book in his hand and asked the class, " Who is
Farooq Abdullah here?" Everyone was amazed and looked in the direction of
Farooq. "So you are Farooq Abdullah", he told Farooq, "But you
happen to be Farooq Sheikh. According to me, that is your name. Your brothers
have names Tariq Sheikh and Mustafa Kamal Sheikh. Likewise, your name is Farooq
Sheikh." The rest is history.
everyone knows that person as Dr. Farooq Abdullah and not as Dr. Farooq Sheikh.
What has been the motive behind this change? To gain a well-planned political
advantage or just a whimsical fancy?
gesture: Some years ago, I
had been to Taj Intercontinental Hotel, Mumbai to attend a wedding reception.
After the reception, two of my friends and I were walking towards the main exit
door on the ground floor. There we noticed a group of gentlemen talking to each
other in hushed tones. From their behavior, I could presume that they were
waiting for some dignitary. Out of curiosity, I asked one of the attendants as
to who was expected. From him, I could gather that there was a meeting of the
Board of Directors of Tatas at the hotel. The meeting was over and Mr.
J.R.D.Tata would be coming down soon. As we had never seen Mr. Tata at close
range, we decided to wait and have a glimpse of this great man. He came
accompanied by few others, exchanged smiles with everyone and shook hands with
all. He stood at the glass door waiting for his car. All the while, I tried to
be as near him as possible. The grey Mercedes car drove up to the steps. The
driver came out. He opened the rear door for Mr. Tata to take his seat. But to
everyone's amazement, he spoke to his driver these words, which I can never
forget. "It is quite late in the night. You have been driving almost the
whole day. By now you must be tired. Now I will drive home myself. You sit
was the care, compassion and consideration this great man showered even on the
most humble being in his organisation. This one incident speaks volumes about
the personality of Mr. J.R.D.Tata, the uncrowned king of an industrial empire.
By taking the driver's seat, he no doubt enhanced his own stature, in the eyes
of the beholders. Mr. Tata's qualities of thoughtfulness and empathy were indeed
unparalleled and are worthy of emulation. In this world of 'sorry scheme of
things entire', it is only when one is fortunate to have memorable experience
involving humane people like Mr. Tata, that one realises; there are still some
beautiful nooks and corners here.
in solitude, I reminisce the noble gesture of that wonderful man, affectionately
called JEH by his colleagues, a tear runs down my cheek.
Thread: For a Brahmin, the
most important event in his life is the 'Thread ceremony' called Yagneopavit.
The ceremony involves shaving the head of the boy followed by a Yagna
accompanied by chanting of Vedic mantras by a group of priests. After all the
rituals are over, the sacred thread is put round the neck of the young boy. A
Brahmin has to have this sacred thread on him till his death. It also acquires
special significance on various momentous occasions like birthday, marriage,
engagement etc. On these occasions, certain pujas are performed wherein the
sacred thread is partly round one's neck and partly covering the open palm of
the person. The priest sprinkles holy water on it, starting from the palm, and
carries on the process till the whole thread is partly wet. This is repeated a
number of times during any important puja in a Brahmin's life.
was married in May 1962. Not used to wearing the sacred thread and knowing that
I will be required to have one on me during the pujas at the bride's house, I
took care to acquire one clandestinely and started wearing it a week before the
wedding day, so that I could get used to having it on me as a part of my outfit.
Every now and then, I would feel it to make sure it was safe in its place.
the day dawned, I left my house with the Barat for bride's place. After the
customary welcome at the main gate of the house, I was supposed to stand at the
inner entrance to the main house, where I had to have the eldest gent of my
family by my side. Here, the priests from groom's and bride's side encircling
us, had to perform the puja before entering the house. Naturally, I was the
centre of attraction. The puja commenced. I was told by one of the priests to
take out the sacred thread called Jenou and keep it out on the arm.
Confidently, I put my hand under my shirt collar to display it to the priests. I
took my hand round my throat and neck several times but could not locate the Janou.
It was not there! It was missing!! A hush descended on all and sundry. I felt as
if the floor was giving way under my feet. Blood froze in my veins. I must have
turned death pale. More than myself, my old uncle who was standing by my side
felt shamefully embarrassed. More so, because he was known in the society as a
deeply religious man. That was the only time he was immensely upset with me.
Very angrily, he whispered in my years, "You have put me to shame. It is
all right for you since you do not know the value of being a Brahmin, but you
have put me to absolute shame." Quickly, one of the priests succeeded in
acquiring a Jenou for me and I put it round my neck. The puja continued.
All the rituals like going round the sacred fire seven times were over.
Accompanied by my bride and others, I returned home at Karan Nagar. I went to
the bathroom to have a wash. And there I found the wonderful Jenou, which
had put me to the worst embarrassment, hanging from one of the pegs on the wall.
With a mixture of feelings, I gazed and gazed at it deeply. It seemed to laugh
at me with sadistic delight and tell me, "The day you acquired me, you took
a pledge that you shall always keep me on you, round your neck and we two would
be inseparable. You broke that pledge. The helpless situation in which you found
yourself today, is the retribution you rightly deserved".