Remembrances of Air Force days

Remembrances of Air Force days

Shashikant Oak

*Cpl Pandey G.S.

Remembrances of Air Force life…

Part 1

Please pronounce Cpl as कॉपल ‘Kopal' / 'kɒp(ǝ)l/ not as C.P.L.

Some persons enter in one's life and create an imprint of their personality forever. One such person in my life was Corporal Gouri Shankar Pandey.

It was 15th August of 2000, to be precise. I was one of the invitees, as head of accts department, for Bada Khana function in one of the Airman Messes of Air Force Station Pune. Routine affair for us to attend special lunches hoisted on National Holidays.

I was drawn to a beautiful decoration and thoughtful quote written in most attractive manner. I could not stop to find who was behind this floral arrangement and Calligraphic display. There came Cpl Pandey in the most polite manner to greet me. Later, on behalf of Airmen (Nowadays they are named as ‘Air worriers') living in the billets, he received a gift of six Rum bottles for the good work they displayed. I was impressed with his humble nature and immediately asked him to report to Accts Section next day for making some displays, I planned in the entrance and waiting hall etc.

‘Sir, I will certainly come, but I am already handful with some commitments given by my commanding officer.' He said. ‘Plus my duties are in shifts if it is ok with him and you, I can come at night and do what you want me to do. I study in Spare time. I am a student of Abhinav art College in Pune city.' He did not turn up next day in my office. Later I found that his boss did not allow attending any jobs besides his squadron's own, on and off duty hours!

Months passed. We never met. On 26th Jan 2001 Bhuj and many parts of Kutch-Saurashtra trembled like a castle of playing cards with severe earth quake. Pune Air base station became very busy in handling causalities and tons of dispatches from all quarters. I remember past Chief of Air Staff, (the then Group Captain AKN Browne as Chief Ops Office) handled the situation on war footing admirably well. Aid started pounding at Air Force Station from all over national and International levels. Everyone was sad and deep in grief. Moreover, Air Force Station Bhuj was badly damaged. The building of hangers and workshops crumbled. Runway needed huge repairs. Many a causalities of Airmen, Officers and their families were reported. Day and night sorties started shuttling when the only runway was made serviceable by surviving MES and Air force-Army Jawan staff. Injured were being admitted in Army and other Hospitals. No one was strictly permitted to board Aircraft to meet dear ones in Bhuj Air Force Station. We were working on three shifts for the newly allotted duties to tackle emergency call.

My office was just a few meters away from parking bay of AN 32s. I was overseeing the loading of material reached from huge international cargo flights. There in the twilight, I received a smart salute. Greeting him back, I asked, ‘Yes Cpl, what do you want?'

‘Sir, Do you remember me? I am Cpl Pandey. I could not do your office work. Sir, I am sorry. Orders were not given to report to you, Sir. I am really sorry for that.' Voice was a sincere apology.

‘Ok, what are you doing here in this hell of a time?' finding him standing near to the aircraft, where no one was permitted to be without specific duty. I was harsh in my tone. The starting of plane engines created a deafening effect. In that condition, He said, ‘Sir, I want to go in this Aircraft to Bhuj!' Barely could I hear what he said, but more than that I could not understand his requirement to go to that god forsaken place unless someone personally related was to be attended.

‘Why?' Don't you know the plight there? What makes you go there?' My voice was loud and clear for him to know. ‘Sir, I know, therefore I want to go for rescue affected people.'

‘ No need. Our staff is there to look after our families.' I said firmly.

Meanwhile, the air craft started rolling and soon got out of sight. Looking at that Cpl Pandey took a deep breath. Shaking head in negation, he said, ‘There is no one belonging to me. I need not be a burden to our station staff. They are capable to handle the situation there. I am sure.'

Shaking his head in disgust he uttered, ‘Sir, Do we need to have only blood relations to go for rescue? Who so ever, every one, shattered and weathered humans, are they not ours? Who will look after them? For them, there is no Air Force to help. If I do not reach to them now, what is the use of my living? I will go for them, make my body and soul available. Which way, I don't know. But some ones need me there. I cannot sit tight and work in these sedentary duties. Call of the hour is great to everyone. Well to me, it is life and death situation. I want to go at any cost.'

His harsh and touchy words made me shiver in my uniform. Never ever I thought like this. Hundreds of dead and wounded on roads and under debris were like me, human beings. Were they not my relations? Merely blood and ritually connected are the only mine? How come I don't feel hurt and aggrieved about unknown fellows? Well If my mind set is not so sensitive, what I could do this fellow? Was it possible for me to at least comprehend his call for? Caught in the puzzle, wordless in the mouth, nodded and with tears in eyes. ‘Cpl Pandey you are wasting time here. Go at once.'

‘Yes Sir', looking in my moist eyes, in most obedient manner, He pleaded, ‘ Sir, I have taken 15 days annual leave. Got sufficient money by borrowing from friends and colleagues. Have a costly camera to shoot places where no one likes to go. Sir, I know, you are Station Welfare Officer too. Seeing you standing here, I could not help but reach out to you. Even though, you may not have a good opinion about me due to last time. I am sincerely praying for you. Please somehow put in the next possible rescue aircraft. I promise you sir; I will not let you down this time!' My hand gestures were not so firm and resolute. I said, ‘Cpl Pandey, I don't know how but let me try. Meanwhile, another air craft crawled in. The door of the cockpit opened. Crew members started climbing down. Fatigued and worn out by constant gruelling travel, some of them felt dry and thirsty. Waiting for Air crew van to take to rest room came to for help. ‘Sir, horrible is the word, Witnessing from the height there is hardly any house or dwelling which is not affected. Our station is in shambles. Ferrying since early morning, feel tried.' Known crew member greeted me with a salute and jumped in crew van waiting for him.

Looking towards Cpl Pandey, I said, ‘You wait here. Let me talk to Captain of Air craft.'

‘Yes, Sir. I will bring my hand bag' he said cheerfully. He disappeared in the crowd of the persons getting down slowly. I came back to my office, lifted the phone. Ring cranked and voice said, Crewroom Sir', ‘

Please call for Captain of AN32 just landed. I waited for some time. ‘Hallow', husky voice said. ‘Well, I am Wg Cdr Oak. Narrated him in short, listening carefully, he said, ‘let me try Sir'.

‘Thanks, I will leave him to you', saying I dropped the receiver. Lifted side cap, looking at the watch I slowly walked towards my car. I saw Cpl Pandey standing near ladder entrance for crewmen. I showed ‘thumbs up'. He saluted from long distance. While driving home felt satisfied that this boy should be on the plane soon.

But it was not to be!.....

continued…

Cpl G.S. Pandey

Remembrances of Air Force life part 2.

Next day on reaching the office, I tried to find what happened to Cpl Pandey?

‘Sir, there was much commotion yesterday; One Cpl trying to sneak in the Aircraft was caught by Air Force Police staff in the round. He was brought down and the aircraft got delayed for about 15 minutes. Don't know the name but he may be in Guardroom cell.' Voice was curt and sharp. Guardroom Warrant Officer In charge when contacted by my staff said, ‘I joined the duty just now. Will let you know soon.' Puzzled about his whereabouts, I became more curious. I asked my staff to find out his office attendance. I sent one living in Airman from his billet to search his bags and other luggage. Both places got negative reports. Cpl Pandey was missing!

Leaving the issue at that, I got involved in my office work and additional task of supervising of rescue air crafts. Days passed. Weeks went by. One day Cpl Pandey was on my office door! A bit surprised and annoyed, I said ‘Where were you, the young man for all these days?

‘Sir, Sorry, I could not keep in touch with you and had put you in grief for nothing. After reporting for duty, I have rushed to your office, for only you will understand my feelings'.

Looking at my office desk, files piled up and often phone bell ringing and meetings at hand, I had no other option but to tell him, ‘not now, come some day later'. But my mind was lingering with his thoughts. I could not have waited for more days. What happened to him? Did he reach his destination? Was Air force harsh in dealing him? Was his AWOL( Absent without leave) period regularized? Did he succeed in his mission to rescue persons he felt they were waiting for? Thoughtful of the events, I did not bother to look him up. Sipping a hot cup of tea, I put my head on the issues needing my attention.

‘Sir, Can I meet you at your residence?' Voice was familiar but came from the other door which my staff used. That was Cpl Pandey again! ‘Sir, Please allow me to come to your quarter. I cannot wait for more. Sir please…'

I too felt that was a good idea. Agreeing to request, he was in my 91/B quarter by sharp 8 O'clock. A friend of him brought him on a bike. He was introduced to family members. Seeing Airmen had come to meet Dad, children were not so happy. Wife Alka sent out tea tray by a servant. But tea went cold when he started narrating, ‘Sir, I was removed unceremoniously. But that captain of the Aircraft winked at me and said in a hushed voice, ‘Fella, be here, I will carry you next time.' After dinner, I waited behind your office in darkness. Around wee hours the same Aircraft returned. When the crew came back for final take off, I suddenly went to Sir, Salute him. ‘Are you still here? He looked puzzled. He then told me to go in his cockpit cabin and squeeze. Let us hope you don't get caught this time!' Cpl Pandey said, ‘I kept wondering how come strict crew was so kind to me? When Air craft reached the certain height, the second pilot took over charge and Captain looked at me closely and asked what is inside of your overcoat? Embarrassed, I opened the button, took out a water bottle and offered to him! Having a sip he said, ‘how many?' When I showed other seven water bottles stitched tight to coat, he could not believe his eyes! I felt you never know, someone may be thirsty, hence I went to billet and stitched at night and got ready for your call Sir'.

‘Ya, very clueful of you! Alright, be here, get lost when we get down.' Before going back to his seat he said, ‘Oak Sir told me about you. Last words he said hit me. He said, ‘Your mission of carrying tonnes of aid material is futile if this single soul does not reach Bhuj'. From that, I could get why he was so kind to me!

Changed Scenario!

Cpl Pandey's friend's hands were holding all the time something. Asked what is it? He said, ‘Sir, Pandey had taken 300 snaps! This is the album of it.' And many stories started unfolding. Cpl Pandey started narrating, in his own style, ‘Sir, Look in this snap, at some remote village place, the name I don't know, full houses collapsed. The rescue team had not even reached. The bodies were covered with flies. I managed to call one person who came in search of his relatives. Both of us recovered a couple of lives still struggling to survive.

Holding another snap in hand, Cpl Pandey said, ‘Sir, here I lost my purse! I went to buy food for someone on road side. The purse was left on opposite side of his Thela. Meanwhile, some other people came and bought and went away. On realizing, when I went back to thelawala the purse had vanished! Along with money, I lost I card. For that, I had to undergo Court of Inquiry!

Sir, this one has some background. When I went after losing money and I card to other places. Seeing me empty handed and without money, they started abusing! ‘Look this fellow; he must have eaten the aid given by the people and governments.' When I told them with folded hands, ‘I had lost my purse and had not eaten for many hours.' They took me to their tents and provided milk, water and biscuits. Then I took some young lads for rescue around places. There one camel was wounded and desperately trying to stand on its feet. Some boys called more persons and with help of long planks, the camel could move with great difficulty. Realizing impossibility we took water to its mouth. She drank some sips and took last breath. Sir, there I witnessed, how the death takes place! Many places ladies were safe because they had come out of houses for some sundry work. Nearby school building collapsed but being 26th Jan, children had assembled on a ground for flag hoisting and were saved! I was moved by one by one story coming out with the help of snaps! You seem to be a good photographer? I asked, ‘Yes Sir, But I had to sell off the costly camera.' that is how I could come back to Air Force Station Bhuj! This mission made me totally broke. On top of it, I had to face disciplinary action!'

‘Sir, No problem about that, but I am very much satisfied. I wanted to reach out to the people. And I did up to my ability. Thanks to Indian Air Force. Without which I could never be ventured to reach there! Sir let me tell you the irony of fate!'

‘Sir, after the aircraft landed Bhuj air strip, early in the morning, I got down along with Captain of the aircraft as a crew member. I was taken to their crew room. I took snacks and returned to aircraft. Unloading was going on. But there was commotion all over. Everyone was shouting at each other. The material was getting mixed before counting and accounting could take place. Seeing that melee between aid agencies, I could not keep quiet. I suddenly shouted in loud voice and asked them to stop work at once. They looked puzzled and wanted to know who that shouting at them was? I pulled up myself and stood with a firm stance and said, ‘No one is going to touch the aid material without my permission. I am from Air Force. With full authority to control the accounting and I will supervise the distribution. Please cooperate with me. Otherwise, I will call Air Force Police and you will be behind bars!' My commanding voice and Air Force Uniform impressed the gathering. Some senior persons came to me and showed their credentials and asked me to lead the distribution of already accounted aid material. I told them, ‘Don't worry, I am here with you. But I have not come as a boss; I am part of your team'. Soon I took over the charge of the situation. Seeing this, Airmen from Bhuj Station called me to airman mess and had a bellyful of lunch. There I met my old pal. I told him to manage a two wheeler for me. He promptly handed over keys of a bike of his friend who was away on TD. (Temporary Duty)

By the evening, senior dignitaries had visited the Air port. I was introduced to them. They said since he had taken charge, the distribution had been systematic and without any hustle. They shook my hand, asked me to come along with them. Soon I was sitting in front of District Collector! He greeted me and said, ‘we appreciate the discipline of the Air force. Good that they have sent a representative all the way from Pune!'

Wondering the Irony of fate, here I was like a roaring lion and a few hours back, I was hiding to get into aircraft! I looked at myself, my dress was shabby and cap looked lusterless without Brasso! But my chest was proud. I worked there the next day. Meanwhile, airmen from Logistics section came and Junior Warrant Officer took charge from me! I was now free to do what I wanted to do. Having bike tank full, I started for badly hit areas. Without a map, I just started to go wherever the road took me. Stray dogs used to run after my bike like mad. They seemed to be affected by nature's wrath! Somehow managing to keep balance, I thought of your words, ‘Cpl Pandey, you are wasting time, what are you doing here? You should be there where they need you the most'.

‘I used to kick up and go further. Later I moved from Main Street to small bumpy roads, looking for distant villages standing on a sand dune. I had to drag the bike for some kilometres to reach to petrol Pump. My friend had to come in search of me to take back to Bhuj from the sandy puzzle. The night will not be enough for telling the story behind these snaps.'

‘Sir, you should be getting late for the night. May I take your leave? Before that, I have something for you. He put a hand in pocket and took out a small piece of the earthen pot like something. ‘Sir, to be honest with you, I have picked up from some broken and empty home. But once it must have been full of joy and vigour. I want to keep this in your possession as a remembrance of inspiration.

As if that piece telling me, ‘I am not destined to be in isolation with misery and poverty, I belong to a place of peace and prosperity. It was kept on my office table till I was in charge….

… Cpl Pandey came back for help again!... ‘Now what? I asked him with a question mark on my face!

Continued…

Cpl Pandey G.S.

Remembrances of Air Force life part 3.

Men like GS Pandey are the genius and they are above all expectations.

My mind went back… I was in getting in my car around 2 O clock, after pack up for the day, Pawar, office boy placed briefcase by the side of me. I could see in rear view someone approaching towards me stealthily. Looking at my frowning, a smart salute followed the voice, ‘Good afternoon Sir, This is Cpl Pandey reporting'!

‘Yes, Cpl Pandey, what do you want now? I said. ‘Nothing Sir, I was waiting for you here as you were to pack up for the day. So could speak to you. I was rather afraid to come and meet you in your office.' ‘Sir, I know, whenever I meet you, something happens and then I feel that you face does not appear happy.' Smiling at his funny approach, ‘That's right' I said. ‘Good news, Sir, tomorrow is Saturday. And there is going to be an art exhibition in Bal Gandharva Kala Dalaan, from my co students of Abhinav College. They have put up a show. Sir, I have come with an invitation but I don't have a card. Display of artistic pottery of Ahmed Ghulam Kumhar is also going to be there. ‘And I have a special request for you. Please come in uniform, Sir.' Looking at his enthusiasm, I said, ‘Ok.'

Next day my car turned into a parking lot, Cpl Pandey in smart civil dress was there to receive me. Bracing up his chest, looking at my ceremonial dress, he greeted with lavish praise, ‘Sir, You look very handsome Sir'.

The exhibition was really impressive. Boys had put up their artistic work in neat and beautiful manner. On that day they were to be given prizes for the competitions conducted earlier, I was told.

Meanwhile, Cpl Pandey went missing! After some time, He came with the faculty staff of the college. He introduced me to them. Shaking hand one of them said, ‘Sir, we know so much about you, that only meeting in person was left. ‘GS' had told all about you and Air force'. To them, Cpl Pandey G.S. was ‘GS'!

‘Sir, because of his efforts; we had the courage to put a fight with our management' One remarked. The other said, 'Sir, today's venue could not have been possible without his efforts.'

‘Sir, We don't treat GS as a student but as our staff member on many occasions. His approach toward arts had opened eyes of many. When he starts talking to students we feel he is an instructor rather than a student. He is all the time in search of something to unveil. We were very much impressed with his efforts about Potter Kumhar. Generally, we don't allow outsiders to join for display program, but because of GS we had the courage to help to a co-artist who had lost everything including his family members.' Nodding my head in appreciation my eyes searched for Cpl Pandey. He was missing! I could exchange pleasantries with other co students of his college. Most of them were in teens, CS was at least 10 years senior to them. He was elderly figure them and more friendly to teaching staff. ‘Sir, GS when he starts a speech we remain to spell bound. His English is so fluent and graceful that even Principal also thinks twice to talk to him in English! We talk to him in Hindi, but he replies only in English. Some of us wonder Pandey surname means a person from UP- Bihar area how come he avoids speaking in Hindi?

One staff person said in Marathi to me, ‘Saheb, he had organized a strike in support of staff and students which were successful because of his forceful arguments and strong and hard tone. I was thrilled to know low ranked airman from Air Force could command so much of respect and admiration. I said, ‘He is from West Bengal and not from UP or Bihar'.

Cpl Pandey came to me and said, ‘Sir, please come with me. He took me to one corner. There I saw Kumhar Ahmed for the first time. He was an old man. He had displayed many of his pottery items in a neat manner. Folding his hands, ‘Salaam Saab', he greeted me with a slight bend in his back. ‘He is our Saab, because of who you are here'. ‘Meharbani Janab', He said. In praise of his work, I bought a piece of pottery suiting to my purse.

…And then I recalled, one day doorbell rang impatiently, I opened the door of my quarter. Seeing Cpl Pandey, I screamed, ‘What are you doing here? ‘Sir, urgent requirement. Don't mind if I come inside and bother you?' ‘Meet me in my office, not here?' His face told me quite a bit of worry. Looking his face down, I said, ‘Ok, come and sit'.

‘Sir, I need some dictation from you.' He directly came to the point. ‘Have tea first. So he sat in the chair. Then he started to narrate; Sir, only you can help me'. Looking at him, I said, ‘Seems, with you I am the only guy to help you and the entire world is against you!'

‘Yes Sir, only you can understand me. Luckily you happen to be Station Welfare Officer, so I can seek your guidance without formal procedural hassles.'

‘Sir, something had happened. After I returned from Bhuj, I used to go to Command Military Hospital to see quake affected civilian patients. One day, I saw one old man sitting by the side of a road. I had actually stopped to feed biscuits to a laying stray dog. That old man narrated me that he was spared by the wrath of nature but rest all members died in front of his eyes. One son got hurt seriously. He was admitted. He being major, Hospital authorities said they cannot admit him as his caretaker. His name was Ahmad Kumhar. He was penniless. I borrowed some money from friends, but he refused to take alms. He said he can earn money if helped to get some instruments and clay. He is a potter. His artistic pottery skills have been praised by many national and international people. He showed me some pages of write ups by some persons. I managed to get some needed instruments and raw clay. He has shown me some pieces. But given proper clay and material, he will stand on his feet and look after himself'.

‘Sir with your letter of reference, I can go to many known persons like Anu Agha Madam, Rahul Bajaj sir and some more to seek their help. He gave the requirement. Sipping a cup of tea, I started to dictate a small letter addressed to all industrialists and personalities with the philanthropic approach. In the end, he said, ‘Sir, if you don't mind, may I add one sentence? I said, ‘Go ahead; I don't mind you change entire draft. But bring the typed letter tomorrow morning for signature'.

‘Don't worry sir; the printed letter will be there on your table tomorrow morning by 7:30.' Soon he disappeared!

Next day morning, after attending the working parade of my staff, I moved to my office. Hanging side cap to hat rack, reached to my revolving chair. There I saw a beautiful pad, on it a printed letter attracting my attention! I could not resist the temptation to read immediately. Soon I got engrossed in reading. Wondering, is this the same letter I dictated? And l looked at it carefully. It was not printed. But hand written but looked as if printed!

So much was the beauty of his calligraphic presentation and glossy paper. The last sentence was, ‘We the armed force personnel can appreciate the art. But we need the assistance of those who are writers, painters, sculptors and admirers of an artist and their arts. If you don't come forward, who will? Cpl Pandey from Air Force Station Pune had taken up the task to combine synergy to help an old man, Ahmed Ghulam Kumhar, an earthen pottery man from Bhuj, Kutch to establish in life from nothing. Please contribute to the cause of art of pottery'. Reading that letter, I was moved by the sheer compassion it emphasized. As I was about to sign it, I felt by appending my signature am I going to spoil the presentation and beauty of that letter? With utmost caution and care, I signed it.

That letter created wonder. Cpl Pandey could generate a substantial amount. With that Kumbhar went to Bhuj and came back with many pottery making instruments and clay. He started to sell potteries and wealthy persons and many corporate houses bought them. In Meanwhile his son in the hospital was curing…

…Once he said, ‘It is not merely getting a degree of arts but as artist our heart should be an artist. If you don't feel the throbbing of another artist, it is shame on you guys, shame'. Those harsh words impressed the art college staff and students. So we decided to invite Kumbhar to be an honorary participant of this presentation. One senior college staff told with pride…

Mean while I was asked to join for the prize distribution. When I reached hall, I was asked to be seated on the dais next to Dr Vijay Bhatkar's chair, whom I had not met personally. He was the chief guest for the function. I couldn't believe. I said, ‘look I have come here as a casual visitor at the request of Cpl Pandey. Don't put me on the dais and that too next to Dr Bhatkar! But they said, ‘No Sir, you too are College guest and not Cpl Pandey's alone'. Meanwhile, Dr Vijay Bhatkar arrived and immediately the function started. As some briefing was going on Dr Bhatkar looking to my uniform name plate, extended his hand for shaking. He asked, ‘Oh! Are you Wing Commander Oak? How wonderful! I have read your book in English. I had been to Naadi centre. It was amazing!' in that short time he said in low voice. Dr Bhatkar asked the organizers to allow him to speak before the prize distribution, transgressing the protocol. He briefly spoke about art and how he was associated with this college. His daughter was a student of this college etc. Changing the topic, suddenly he started to say, ‘you students, you may not be aware of this person. He pointed towards me and said, ‘He has written a wonderful book on Naadi Shastra, about which no one had written as yet. This is the amazing science of astrology. I presume he will explain it better in his speech.' Surprised at his announcement, I was not prepared to speak at the meet of artists.

He distributed some 25-30 prizes. Suddenly looking at the wristwatch, He said to organizers, ‘Please excuse me, I have other engagement. I am getting late. I suggest remaining prizes could be distributed by Wing Commander Oak.' Looking to my face gesturing negatively, He said, ‘No No. You do it and started walking. When he was seen off, the function started again. And prizes were distributed through my hands.

The announcement was from the dais, ‘Now Wg Cdr Oak will speak a few words.' The entire function was conducted in Marathi except for Dr. Bhatkar's address, which was in English. I wondered what was I to say and in which language? I went to the dais. Referring to Principal and other teaching staff, I started, ‘Pl pardon me, a person who had never drawn a picture or held artistic brush in hand and had no inclination to paint or to draw, has been asked to honour the artists and their creative art and hand over prizes to various artists' fraternity. Please pardon me; I am no way eligible for this job. But for Dr Bhatkar's request, I would not have agreed to it. Now that he has asked me, let me say something about Naadi Shastra. Let me speak in Marathi, as most of the students are Maharashtrians. Before closing my address, I mentioned about Cpl Pandey, ‘Look, boys, to whom you call ‘GS', he is ‘Cpl Pandey to me'. The address may be differing, but the person is the same. ‘Heart of poet, hands of a painter, vision of genius. One facet of his personality is before you, by way of Kumhar's artistic pottery work. He is the personification of Rabindranath Tagore. I am proud that Cpl Pandey belongs to Indian Air Force. In spite of his duties, he had developed his own hobbies and likes. I wish him the best' and I stopped and sat. Clapping continued for a while, I cleared the place.

Next day, there was a call, ‘Good Morning Sir. Sir, what is this? How come you never told me anything about this Naadi thing?' Smiling, I said, ‘Not that I wanted to avoid, but every time you met some requirement and went away!'

‘I want to know all. Please!'

That please was so demanding, ‘Yes, I will narrate you. Then one evening, sitting by the side of Officer's Mess area in Seventh heaven lawn restaurant near swimming tank on Lohagaon road, I told him the wonder of Naadi.

‘Sir, leave this now to me. I shall undertake the calligraphic aspect of this wonderful treatise. I am posted to 7 BRD. I will write to you from there.

Mean while I got posted to AF Stn Halwara. His letter started to come on that address.

Contd…

… ‘Sir. Are you the nephew of Capt P.N. Oak? Who was in Azad Hind Fauj with Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose? You never mentioned to me when we were In Pune?... Cpl Pandey asked with much of surprise…

… It's done deal, I will go to Capt Oak Sir to salute him … Said Cpl Pandey cheerfully….

Cpl Pandey GS… A Good Fellow!...

Concluding Part 4

Special Postal Cover bearing his letter to my address.

Cont…… ‘Sir. Are you the nephew of Capt P.N. Oak? Who was in Azad Hind Fauj with Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose? You never mentioned to me when we were In Pune?... Cpl Pandey asked with much of surprise…

… It's done deal, I will go to Capt Oak Sir to salute him … Said Cpl Pandey cheerfully….

Special Postal Cover bearing his letter to my address.

… ‘Sir. Are you nephew of Capt P.N. Oak? Who was in Azad Hind Fauj with Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose? You never mentioned to me when we were In Pune?... Cpl Pandey asked with much of surprise…

… It’s done deal, I will go to Capt Oak Sir to salute him … Said Cpl Pandey cheerfully…. “

Sure enough, when he came to meet me in my room at 9 Wing all the way from Tughlakabad, Delhi he narrated it in great details. He said, ‘Sir I was with your uncle when I went to Pune on my next trip to attend last of the papers in Pune University. He said, ‘Sir when I touched the feel of Captain Sir, I felt as if I am meeting Subhash Chandra Bose. I saluted him while taking his leave after some hours from his residence 10 Green Park Soc, off Baner road. I was lucky to meet Mrs Sadhana Oak madam, very motherly old lady. I bought some of his memorable books. He too was happy to recollect some of his remembrances of Netaji Subhash Chandra Ji whom he revered as a mentor in his army days. He said, ‘while in my law college days, I once happened to attend his public meeting in Pune. That time I never thought that I will be so close as a Personal staff for some years in far east war torn countries. I joined Army and was posted to Saigon, (presently Ho Chi Minh in Kampuchea). One day, I got call saying would you like to join Azad Hind Fauj? After some careful thought, I decided to join. One officer came to take me to Singapore. It was just some months before Netaji appeared in Singapore from Germany. Soon I was in his near ones. However being very junior was under some senior Officers like Gen Jaggananthrao Bhosale'.

He then narrated how Netaji was involved in that ghastly aeroplane accident. He said that how he got the first-hand information from Lt Col Habibur Rehman who was with him on the same flight. They both were in the same hospital where Netaji took last breath. However, later on, this issue became sentimental and many versions started to come out. Due to his previous instances of escapes and daredevil acts and his plan to reach to Russia too somehow got mixed up.

Time passed so quickly, I had to take his leave as I was to return back in time to catch train. ‘Sir, I feel that the outlook of our history should change if we accept his pleader like arguments and logic with due documentary records as proofs.' he said to me about Capt P.N. Oak's historical research. Sir, meanwhile I bought your book on the topic of Naadi. It is really fascinating. I feel like to do any service at the feet of ancient sages….!

Our meetings reduced, once I remember I had some official job in AF CAO at Subroto park in New Delhi. I wrote to him about my visiting dates. So we had one evening seating in cafeteria near to Arjun Cinema Hall. Freedom between him and me was as per the norms of service requirements. However, I use to feel that his rank of Corporal should not be barrier for me so long as we are connected with no official topics and likings.

Later on, I retired in Jul 2003 and settled in Pune. One day he did come to our new house in Viman Nagar but somehow was not well received by my family members in my absence. I used to get his letters. But due to his other commitments and postings, we were not in touch with each other for last many years. I did speak to him to know from him that he was commissioned in Logistics branch and had picked the rank of Fight Lieutenant.

However, he will remain imprinted in my memories as Cpl Pandey GS …. A Good Fellow!... One of his memorable beautifully handwritten letters is produced below: One of his memorable beautifully handwritten letter is produced below:

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PANKAJ RAUT 10 month ago