The order posting me from the Tiger Squadron to the Flying Instructor’s School had benumbed me. There I was, a lad not yet 21, frolicking my way through life with a bunch of friends, working for something I had grown to love and loving every moment of my working life, suddenly uprooted and tossed from my universe with disdain. It hurt badly. Coming as it did with the news of my father’s paralysis, I really was bereft of any thought for the future for a while. For the ten days or so after the receipt of the posting order that I had in the Squadron before I left were spent in an effort to do well in the armament training course. I had to prove to myself that not withstanding my unexpected departure from the world of fighter-flying, I was not going to be a forgettable entity. I desired deeply to leave a mark in the Squadron’s memory as a fighter pilot. But alas, my middling OK-ish scores in bombing and rocketry did not massage my ego much. I did reasonably well in air to air cine exercises, but even in air to air live firing against a banner target my scores turned out to be barely above the pass mark. It was not a good time for me. My co-sufferer in the situation, Dadachanji, had gone absolutely quiet. It was clear to me that he was also in pain. However, his scores at the air firing range were somewhat better than mine. In my eyes, he was redeeming himself better than I was myself. Days rolled by and it was time for us to leave.
The long train journey from Jamnagar to Old Delhi and then from Old Delhi to Jesidih in Bihar by the miserable Toofan Express was an agony. For two and a half cold days and nights I was alone in the train trying to come to terms with my situation in life without much success. The situation at home was also unsettling. Mother was not young any more. With father paralyzed and in bed the pressure on her to look after him and run the house without any other help was immense. I, however, had no solution to offer.
I had not written home with my travel plans. My arrival at home was therefore a pleasant surprise. I was pleasantly surprised too to find that father had started well on his recovery. He could not move or speak, but his control over his right arm was returning ever so slowly. The news that I had three full days to spend with him brought a sparkle in his eyes and a twisted smile on his partly paralyzed face.
I had always been a ‘mamma’s boy’. She knew me only too well. It did not take her long to realize that I was in a complex mental trauma. She first thought that it was just Dad, and tried to cheer me up with the evidence of his creeping recovery. However, she soon realized that there were other things on my mind too. It was not easy for me to explain to her why being selected for an instructor’s course was causing me pain. We sat up late in to the nights and slowly, over the next two days, I opened up to her and like every other time, sought solace in her mature understanding of my pain. With my head on her lap and her fingers stoking my hair, we talked long in to the nights about challenges and responses in life, and of disappointments and determination. As we talked on, the fog of confusion slowly lifted off my mind. Yes, I agreed with her. Disappointments in one phase of life often open up challenges in another. Within the pervious decade I had personally seen how millions of people had had to rearrange their lives for events and circumstances totally beyond their own control. Now all I had to do was to postpone my thoughts about fighter flying for a while and concentrate on how to become the best instructor in the world. It was certainly not an impossible task and it was certainly not lacking in challenge. On that last night of my of my short stay with my parents, I slept well. Next day I moved on to Calcutta on my way to Madras.
The three days I had scheduled for Calcutta passed quickly. A visit to all branches of the family and around the friends circle, one evening to take in a stage play, one group photo with the siblings and their kids and it was time to move on. The second sister was pleased to present me with an Omega wrist watch (enormously costly at 339 rupees, and solid enough to remain on my wrist for the next 50 years!) and young bro immediately inherited dad’s old watch that I had sported since my entry in to the NDA. I Left for Madras on 28th Night and reached Madras early in the morning on Sunday, the 30th of January 1955.] A new chapter in my life was about to begin.