Category Archives: 05 – Amongst the Stalwarts

My adulthood in the service. Learning to be a leader

Puzzlement in 1962


22nd October 1962 in Ambala started as a typical north Indian morning. Overnight drizzles followed by a low overcast. Very little chance of any meaningful flying activity surely, but the morning had to start with the customary ‘Met Briefing’. Ambala was at that time a very busy fighter station. With Seven (Battle Axes) and Twenty Seven (Flaming Arrows) squadrons flying Hunter Mark56 and Twenty Three (Panthers) and Two (Arrows) flying Gnat Mk 1, the skies above Ambala were full of aircraft through the morning hours on most days when the weather permitted such activity. The base was being commanded by Group Captain CG Deveshar, our old CI from Hakimpet days Read the rest of this entry


A Very Small World – 6: The Lady From India House


For the year 1965 I was a student officer at the Royal Air Force Staff College at Andover, in Hampshire near London. One day there was a small notice in the letterbox; exercise short talk will commence in two week’s time. Three talks will be delivered every day between 1130 and 1330 hrs. Each talk will be of ten minutes. There will a 20 minute sessions of questions after the talk. there will be a ten minute gap between each talk. The student officers were required to submit their choice of subject to their respective directing staff within the next three days . It was a simple communication about a simple planned exercise. Read the rest of this entry

My Time with The Bullets – 5 : Breaking an Aircraft


For the year 1966 I wore two hats at work.    My primary job (as I was told by my bosses) was to be the Station Flight Safety Officer of Ambala.   My primary job (in my own eyes and according to the official posting order that I had received) was to be the flight commander of Number 18 Squadron.    There was a difference in the two interpretations that had to be reconciled.   Read the rest of this entry

My Time With The Bullets-4: Flight Safety


The men and women of the officer cadre in the central government services, be they of civil or military persuasion, are expected to be ready to become appointed experts.  I mean they are first appointed to a job and are then expected to become experts on the special features of the appointment they are given, instantly if possible.    Those who cope with this style of functioning survive and progress, those who do not and are from the military part of the services are allowed to gently fade away at a relatively young age.    I had got quite used to this style of functioning.    Some times such appointments are thrown at you without pre-thought or prejudice; you get it thrown at you merely because you happen to be there.   (This happened to me when I got selected to be the project manager of the Jaguar induction project somewhat later in my life).    At some other time you are given such appointment to groom your growth in the service. (This happened to me when I was made to perform the duties of the Senior Technical Officer of the Squadron under then Wing Commander Katre commanding 7 Squadron on Hunter aircraft in 1962-63).    And then some time you get picked for a job because some one wishes to remove you from your present appointment.   My story today is about one such incident.  Read the rest of this entry

Looking for Sri Dharma Vira


It was a long week end.  The monsoon had arrived over the Punjab. The weather was atrocious.   It had been raining incessantly for most of the past seven days.    Flying had stopped.   Most of us were in a holiday mood.  But alas I was the Duty Officer for the week.   Most of the telephone lines were down because of the heavy rain.   I was therefore not even comfortable staying home and consuming tea/pakoda, some thing that my dear wife Leena was good at supplying.    By about ten in the morning, I went to the Station HQ and settled in.   I was the senior flight commander of 23 Squadron (the Panthers) and I was then preparing for my staff college entrance examination.   Such a morning was ideal for immersing oneself in books and magazines, and I was ready to do just that.  Read the rest of this entry

My Time with the Bullets – 3: Redeeming My Position


I completed my staff college course with the RAF in December 1965 and I returned to India. I was then posted to Number 18 Squadron at Ambala as a flight commander.  My new boss, Wing Commander Aubrey Michael, was apparently not happy to receive me for reasons unknown to me.   He loaned my services to the station to function as the Station Flight Safety Officer (SFSO) and asked the next senior officer Flight Lieutenant KC Khanna to function as the flight commander in my place.   He however told me that officially I would continue to be a part of the unit and he would continue to be the IO (Initiating Officer) for my ACR (Annual Confidential Report).   The post of the SFSO that was given to me was challenging and I was happy to fill that appointment, I would however have been happier to be the SFSO in addition to my task as a flight commander to the unit rather that in lieu of as the case had turned out to be.   The challenge before me was simple.   I had to retrieve my rightful position in the hierarchy of the unit without making a fuss about it.   Thus began my tenure with the Bullets.   It was a short tenure lasting only one year, but it was a year full of learning and growth and fulfilment, a year that I thoroughly enjoyed. Read the rest of this entry

My Time with The Bullets-2 : Bounty Hunting


In our young days, our ‘Flying Pay’ element of our remuneration was called ‘Flying Bounty’.    There used to be an injunction in the Air Force Regulations that all officers of the flying branch will do their utmost to keep themselves in current flying practice.    The accounting regulations quantified currency in flying as at least six hours per month when an officer was on a regular flying appointment and at least 3 hours per month when an officer was held against a non-flying appointment.   The Accounting Instructions made such currency in flying a precondition for payment of the ‘Flying Bounty’.    The accounting instruction considered the ‘flying bounty’ to be an annual allowance.   Thus the count of hours that could be considered for qualifying for ‘currency in flying’ would start from the beginning of the financial year.   Any flying done say in March of one year would not count for April of that year.   Conversely, if a person flew 72 hours in April, he could draw flying bounty for the whole financial year without flying a single minute from May to next March.    It was a stupid set of regulation and thank God it has been scrubbed. Read the rest of this entry

My Time with The Bullets-1 : Arrival


It was nearing lunch time on 24 December 1965. I was hungry and fed-up of waiting.  At long last JP returned to his office clutching a file and wearing a broad smile.   He patted my back as he got into his own chair. ‘It is all done’, he said. ‘I have your posting order here.’   JP, my dear friend Jyoti Prasad Gupta, was the Assistant Director Personnel (Officers) -1 and I had just returned from the Royal Air Force Staff College Andover after a year long stay there.   I was being posted to Number 18 Squadron Air Force as a flight Commander.   The Squadron was flying Gnat aircraft and was located at Ambala.    I was replacing Squadron Leader DS Jafa who was moving on to another squadron.    No 18 Squadron had been raised recently, less than a year ago.   It was being commanded by Wing Commander Aubrey Michael, a very respected figure within the Air Force. Read the rest of this entry

Hectic Days in Halwara-13: And the Winner Is…


The mood on the station on the morning of 15th was indeed joyous.   The most important piece of news this morning was the resignation of the Governor of East Pakistan as a result of a very accurate air attack on the Government House in Dacca. The last symbol of legitimate governance of the Eastern Wing of Pakistan was gone.   Read the rest of this entry