I had assumed Command of The Black Archers (47 Squadron Indian Air Force) at the end of March 1968. It involved a change of location (from Delhi to Chandigarh) and learning to fly a new type of aircraft (MiG 21). The month of April ’68 and a half of the next month was spent in settling down. By mid May, I felt that I was comfortably settled. I had a beautiful house in Chandigarh. It was specious and well appointed with a green lawn and a very nice flowering garden. My wife Leena and the kids had joined me and the children were going to schools. The unit had started flying well and I was personally flying a lot. I had finished my conversion to MiG21 and was well on my way to a ‘fully operational by day’ status. I was quite happy.
A couple of days after Leena joined me I got a call from my course-mate B S (Dada) Deshmukh. He was about to assume command of 108 Squadron at Bareilly. He had not availed his annual leave for the year, and once he assumed command he would be unable to go on leave for some time. He therefore wanted to have a short break before he assumed command. Nalini, his wife, had not visited Chandigarh so far. If I was settled in my new place, could they come for a short visit of say about ten days? My house had always been open for my friends and Leena was a wonderful hostess at all times. Of course Dada and Nalini were welcome.
Dada and Nalini arrived a few days later and we had a wonderful reunion after many years. The wives met each other for the first time, but they took to each other instantly. The first couple of days were spent in showing them around the town. In 1968, Chandigarh was a spanking new city and the architecture of Le Corbusier was certainly worth a display.
After three of four days into the visit, one night I found Leena to be a little lost in thought. This was quite unusual as by nature she was effervescent and bubbly. I probed her mood a little and … boom… all her hesitance was gone. We were on the bed preparing for the night. She sat up, folded her legs with a pillow on her lap and looked at me intently. I was a bit perplexed. What happened? There was a note of defiance in her voice as she stared into my eyes and declared ‘I want another child!’. ‘Whoa’ I said, ‘hold on’, and my mind went racing, searching for the reason for this sudden outpouring of this outlandish thought. ‘We already have three Children! We have three lovely girls that we both love. Why this sudden crazy idea?’ It was as if I was talking to a wall. There was no response from Leena. After a short pause she repeated what she had just said: ‘I want ANOTHER child’. To add emphasis to her statement she gave her pretty head a little shake, her long bulky hair snaking on her back. Now this was becoming difficult for me. Be sensible, I said. We have three very good children. A fourth planned child in this day and age? Have you gone mad? There was no response from my dear wife. She just sat there on the bed with her legs tucked under the pillow on her lap and her hands resting on the pillow. I got off the bed, walked about, came back and stood facing Leena. She sat immobile and whispered: I want Another Child, I want a Boy!.
I did not quite know how to handle the situation. I tried to reason with her, and there were heaps of logical reasons I could offer. It made no difference. Then I tried my last weapon. ‘Are you ready to face the prospect of a fourth girl coming? There is no guarantee that the next child would be a boy you know’. I knew that would make her hesitate a bit. It did not make the slightest bit of impression on my dear wife. She looked straight into my eyes and pouted. Now it looks funny in retrospect when I am well over seventy-five that even after nine years of marriage, and at the seasoned age of thirty four, a pout on Leena’s lips did funny things to my intestines! I came and sat next to her on the bed trying to calm my nerves. She held my eyes with a stare and gave a pretty toss to her head which did nothing to calm my intestinal turmoil either. The cat however tumbled out of the bag. ‘I am certain it will be a boy this time. Nalini knows a trick. She will teach me’. Ooof! Was I relieved! All this high drama was based on nothing more than old wives’ tales. Hiding my relief I made suitable noises and brought the matter to a close.
Next morning over breakfast I remonstrated with Nalini. Dada refused to join the debate and kept quiet while I battled the two ladies, but can a man ever win over two ladies who are convinces of their stand? A war of nerves was now openly on. ‘Tell me about your so called technique and let me see if it can stand scientific scrutiny’ I enquired. No, I was told. The technique cannot be revealed to the men folk. It was clearly a no win situation. Nalini and Dada went back in a day or two and I capitulated. Peace was restored at home.
A few weeks later Leena decided to call all the unit girls for a hen party. I presumed that the party would perhaps be a camouflage to discuss the flight plan of Leena’s favourite stork. The girls gathered and cackled for a very long time. Later that evening I found Leena just bubbling over. She obviously had something to tell so I let her. She was really excited.
“Do you know?” she said, “it’s not just one or two, there are five storks airborne for the Archers!”
It was now my turn to smile. There were nine young wives in the unit and two more boys were about to get married. There would be other storks going through their pre flight checks now and they would join the gaggle as laggards. I was not wrong. By the time Leena and I said adieu to the Archers two years later, the stork landing log for the Archers had clocked ten.
PS. Leena’s stork delivered my son to me on due date. And NO, I will not divulge Nalini’s secret to any one!