|A few of us!|
Long overdue. The 2nd floor studio apartment in War College brings us back to Mhow and hitting the town again after spending 2 glorious years here, hit us…hit me hard! The place is so overpowering and overwhelming with memoirs that I am roaming around like a stung bee, BElieve it or not! Could not have been a better time than this to write about what SODE was. An officer from 105 mentions to me today…“Ma’am, I have heard that 103 had some chemistry! Quite talked about! Very few courses have that!” And I wanted to jump in my very own house (he being the current occupant) and scream “But not all courses have crazy-heads like us!” Of course, all of this in MY crazy head.
|Officer's Institute, CME.|
So we started 3.5 years back. 22 officers headed to become “Abhiyantriks”. The full form of the course being “Signal Officers Degree Engineering”…that took some time to learn. The first one year was in “Pune tithe kaay unee”. It took us some time to familiarize with the officers and ladies (hardly 5-6 of us being there, rest all were enjoying bachelorhood then and some were forced bachelors!). Our first party at OI (Officer’s Institute) in Pune saw us seeing each other’s faces for the first time. The first impressions, needless to say were badly mis-concocted, as we were to learn later on. Some were behaving sophisticatedly and some were too shy to even interact. Some were worried about fitness and someone about a beauty parlour!! This mad woman (read nemo) is now one of my closest friends and hardly visits a parlour btw! A game of dumb-sheraas broke the ice with ladies becoming a team and beating the officers hands-down! Following months were spent in increased interactions between certain groups of people like Capt Sanjay and Hemu and Capt Gaurav and Divya as they would be seen loitering in our alleyway with tiffins in hand. Going this way or the other! Would meet the new moms like Pooja, Narayani, Kusum and Geet once in a while, in the park whilst taking a stroll. It was completely useless to catch my next-door neighbor, Ankita, while on a walk as she would be almost on a run then, looking all scary from even a distance! Other major interactions were during Saturday night parties with almost all bachelors, officers and ladies getting together. Dance-floor commoners were Hemu, Dua, Divya and self. Ankita claimed back then that she did not dance. We broke THAT curse all right!
|The first Baaraat!|
6 months down and I was to witness a “Baaraat”. Coming from a Maharashtrian household in Mumbai, the galore surrounding our weddings (which by the way lasts a few hours on A single day and I still think is overdone), I had never seen a baaraat in my life. The newlyweds basically are drowned in sufficient amounts of alcohol and we take them for a party to the Officers’ Institute in the form of a baaraat. The idea and the most exciting part for us was the “dhol” and us dancing to its rhythm. It was quite an experience (something similar was witnessed during Ganesh Visarjan, as a child). Anyway, so Capt Sumit and Capt Archita were the first ones and many more to come, as time was to tell. People now started socializing with stories of Miami and other pubs in Pune, doing rounds. The usual Saturday master-blaster continued and the year soon came to an end. I won’t be able to do justice to the last night in CME (College of Military Engineering) as I was not there but as always, the stories are umpteen! A new addition to the stunts was Capt Kulbir trying to scale a staircase railing on his bike! I just have a mental image as people laugh on it to this day. A medley of bhajans(!??) and dance numbers saw the noisiest lot leave CME with a bang, not without getting a complaint registered in their name. This was to become routine in Mhow with almost all social institutions having some or the other trouble with us, claiming that we have always been LOUD. :p ::p
December 3rd week saw all loaded trucks take the Mumbai-Agra highway and officers travelling in their respective cars. I got a new neighbor, Navkiran aka Otg, whose home saw almost the whole of Mhow dining in. She with her husband Capt Ghumman, soon ended up adopting a stray and naming him 3-wheeler as he had got an injured leg (let’s not get into how when what!). The initial challenge in taming a stray saw them grow as they finally made it! Another neighbor, Narayani and Maj Karthik, occupied the flat right upstairs. Arjun, her son had become big by now and true to his name, had started aiming random things at our garden (thankfully, not us!:p) I once saw her almost half-dug in our bushes and was about to react when her pleasant face popped up with a big smile “I came to look for a shoe and found one of another pair! Bahar toh jaa sakte hai”. Laughter. Major and Mrs. Chaturvedi were bang opposite and Kartikeya, their son too had become Arjun’s buddy. Both the boys, very different in spirit and persona, would giggle around every now and then and were seen playing football in the evenings with Major Chaturvedi. The block right next-door was abode to Capt and Mrs. Murari and one of the smartest girls-for-her-age, Dishita. One of the couples I learnt immensely from, but will get to that later. All the other 3 accommodations, soon-to-be-filled saw the block getting abuzz and going berserk on late-Saturday-night (or should I say early-Sunday-morning) parties with barbecues, khatri songs, disco light and a blue tape-recorder cum speaker (OK I don’t know what that thing’s called but Thanks Capt Ahlawat!) becoming our favourite props. Add to that the company of those who could join in and at times, rain! The converted garage cum dance floor cum barbecue corner saw the best of us, what with our dancing and singing talents hitting the roof, like literally! The last few months saw Capt Ahlawat and Capt Arun taking the plunge. Pooja and Shruti joined us and the lawyer-duo added some spark of their own! Major Kamble and Sara along with their daughter Tia, thankfully shifted from their aboriginal home in Robert Barracks and spent a good (literally and metaphorically) 6 months in human-land!
A few meters away, though there was this short-cut with thorny bushes and big stones all along the way, was Capt Gautam and Divya’s block. Capt Archita had joined Capt Sumit and this was another all-SODE block that used to be abuzz at all times! Capt Panwar and Swati, the flyer along with Capt Binesh and Geet (their super chubby UV was doted upon by one et al), Divya’s neighbor, saw active participation in all events, parties, meets alike. This block was also to witness our last crazy night-out thanks to Capt Archita and Capt Sumit (their home being raided) and the last campfire. Some cement was broken and a dog was stolen but what the hell! And ohh yes, the bursting of crackers on the last night saw some dry bushes almost lit on fire! It aches as I type ‘last’ as no matter what we say, ALL of us will never be together again. Another lesson learnt, being with the organization. The memories, the ties, the bonding and the fights, of course will! What are friendships without all these!
|A few of us seen celebrating Diwali!|
It must come as a surprise that I write with such sentiment, but 22 officers and almost equal number of ladies by the end of the course made a CROWD, precisely why we were always LOUD, the reason being we were always together! We were blessed; each one of us, to have found such extraordinary company and an ambience that by and large, survived and saw the end of the course! 3 years is a very very long period for people coming from practically all corners of the country, living so harmoniously with one-another. No doubt, there were differences, where aren’t? With such diversity, you can only expect that but the best part was that these, were successfully brushed aside and under the carpet. Each one of us was unique in our own measure and that was respected. Always. By everyone.
Moving ahead, like literally, a few meters and turn left to go to another almost-sode block. Capt Sanjay and Hemu occupied the lower house on the right with a big garden (beautifully and dutifully decorated). The ever-ready enthusiasts, no matter the event always added charm and much more to any personal or official gathering. The course got a fitness alert thanks to this gymmer and I have a personal reason to thank her as my inspired husband lost a good 15 kgs (of course, his own contribution can’t be forgotten :))
Moving on, Capt Yashbir was right next door. We did not see Dua’s company in the latter 2 years as she was studying elsewhere. Though theirs was touted the most beautiful garden of the course. Very well and creatively maintained. Also, the one garden that was blessed with a shade thanks to a big mango tree. Rest of us were roasted! Anyway, upstairs was Major Raghav, the course senior and Ankita, with their English pointer, Pointer. They were our old neighbours from Pune and the first couple of days, I was wondering as to why, they called the dog by its breed! Hehe..that was his name. A royal creature who would resemble a horse while running. Having survived an accident and a jump from the first floor, this dog soon became tough in our company! What else was going to happen you wonder! This block was known for our pajama parties and impromptu reunions on the street. This was like a chowraha-block where people would inadvertently bump into each other.
Moving right next door was an all-sode block again. Although, only by the end of the course. Capt Kulbir and Japneet went to live there when it was totally ‘veeraan’ and that scared the hell out of Japneet. Soon, they got Bruce, a French Mastiff when he was a pup. Besides pulling children’s cheeks, we would also pull Bruce’s cheeks as they often hung around his face cut when he made a little “Take-me-out” kinda expression! He is a full-grown guard dog now and hopefully remembers us, though not what we did to him! Next door came in Major Naveen and Jyoti, married mid-course and shifted into the block. Japneet rejoiced. Soon-to-join were Capt Ajay and Jyoti aka Churan. I feel so proud of myself at having christened my girlfriends with such great life-lasting names! An Ayurvedic doctor by profession (justifies the name), they occupied the house on the first floor, atop Japneet’s. Last to come in were Capt Rakesh and Prerna (whose wedding at Rohtak saw us dancing like crazy and people had mortified looks on their faces!...some other incidents are thoughtfully not written about). Aside of Japneet, we could not successfully fool any of the other 3 ladies during their infamous welcomes. Jyoti, (Capt Ajay’s) post the most idiotic your-husband-is-actually-a-jawan plot, enacted, over-enacted at our place (people were cleaning leaves from our lawn!!??), was left mid-jungle and called ‘chudail chudail’ by Capt SKY (who jumped and hid in the bushes??) but she stood there only to take out a coke bottle from her purse and drink from. Prerna was left at the hospital entrance and the other Jyoti (almost half-fooled) fell prey to a similar plot as Japneet’s, where husband was kidnapped and shown hurt. As for the block, we also celebrated Lohri here with snack items pooled in from all homes and a campfire with songs and more laughter. This was one thing we were ‘slightly’ infamous for. Loud and I mean, loooud laughter. A few ladies from the course were naturally blessed with deafening laughing styles and the madness that we indulged in, often brought out this talent. Much to the annoyance of a lot of people around. So?? :p :p
|Some candid moments at Bercha!|
|Snooze time! Sorry Kaptaan Ghumman!|
Moving on, having less knowledge of the bachelor block, (not the bachelors though!) Capt Sky, Capt Nitin and Capt Pramod, lived a little far away from where we had settled in for these 2 years, though would pay us regular visits. The ever-enthusiasts, adm-managers, dancing partners (for each other) and the we-are-always-there Ma’am saw us spending a lot of time together and going on multiple trips together! Choral was an easy escape, close-by and easily reachable (back), given our history. Mandu, the historic town within an hour’s distance, saw people visit it in different groups. Bercha too was used for camping and an almost-entire-course outing once went there to spend a day. Some people decided to trail (off) to the banks of the lake, looking quite scenic, only from a height. They soon came back with thorns, mud and dirt all over. A few people then climbed the rooftop while the rest prepared selves for a sumptuous meal, as always, pooled in by one and all. Bamiyaan Kund was a newly discovered spot and had adventure stories of its own. From trekkers to heightophobics to terrible swimmers, this kund saw it all!
The main reason why I started even penning down these not-so-tiny thoughts was because it is a lifetime memory, a golden phase as we see it. I am sure the incidents are one and many and interpretations even numerous but the sentiment is mutual.
|Mandu ke Pandu!|
|Relaxing at Bercha!|
The outings and the craziness saw us laugh, cry, fall down, get up, jump, roll, hug, share and most importantly, care! No matter the hour, we were always there for each other. All birthdays, anniversaries and welcomes for the newly-weds were enthusiastically celebrated and we often went to DSOI for a get-together. A great initiative to celebrate the birthdays of ladies by them alone (this was our time and officers were not allowed) saw us take out time and prepare delicacies. Each one of us was busy with either work, kids or both. But that did not deter us from spending quality time together. Badminton court was another place with feverish action and best mornings spent. We would occupy as many as three courts at a time and deliver entertainment to those who chose to join us. All were welcome. The war college gym was another place that saw our course in maximum attendance and MCTE soon got banned from there too, due to over-presence of officers from another institution. Col’s Uphaar, Satyam Dhaba, Mashal, Chef’s Alcove, Sayaji and other places in Indore were often frequented. The regular army bus would help us go to Indore for work, shopping or just an outing. The Mhow market gave us ample. It’s a township in itself with Smocking, Maheshwari and Chanderi artwork (famous of the region) available for a reasonable pick. Leather work and handicrafts would also be doted upon and we picked up a lot of stuff before leaving. Shopping outings in the by lanes and over-crowding in shops was a favorite activity. Swimming in the evenings (not much time could be given here though) saw the most hilarious moments of all. Someone forgot her specs once and SIGNALled a wrong officer to come and join her! Thorough embarrassment. Someone refused to let go off the rod to be able to swim as the water looked too muddy and she was in the mood of a pool party rather! (….) Someone once pulled another lady from underwater (Need I mention, a case of mistaken identity and further embarrassment!) A lot many of us learnt swimming and driving here and had other adventures of bike-breaking down (multiple times at different places), car going in a ditch while going for a game or shoes eaten by a dog! We did theme and pajama parties and Saturdays were reserved for an after-the-exhausting-game-snack as most of us had Saturdays off.
|DSOI, our second home!|
Anyway, moving on, comes my favorite part. A real ode to sode. The people who made it! Will tread on this one by one starting with the bachelors.
|Ab meri shaadi ho rahi hai!|
|I ride the 9 pointer!|
|Hum 3! (3 wheelie was yet to come at this juncture!)|
|For want of a better pic!|
|Pooja : "Me with the 3 boys!"|
|A rare off-the-dance-floor pic!|
|Hum toh aise hai bhaiyaa...yeh apna tashan hai bhaiyaa..|
|Happy US at completing 365 days!|
|Yaaay Dennis Road!!|
|Hum talli...hum talli...hum talli ho gaye re!|
|Kaptaan Binesh, Geet and UV!|
|Phir se udd chalaa..|
|Hamari Baaraat after many 'speedbreakers'|
|D-day...i.e Diwali day!|
|Meet us, the trekkers!|
Capt Yashbir and Dua – Our May Queen friend and a dance-floor enthusiast. Blessed with a great voice and a guitar player at that, she did enchant us with a performance or two at Mashal, during one of our anniversary celebrations. We did not see much of her in the last 2 years though as she went to Chandigarh to study. Capt Yashbir, from what I know was a gym enthusiast and known to take proteins in crude form. I have already mentioned their beautiful garden. The only officer to have got posted down south. Good luck to you both!
|For want of a recent pic with the new addition to the family!|
|When we go to other weddings! :D|
|Peeche dekho...green..green...green green!!|
|Cheers to US!|