A DATE WITH AUDREY

Recently, a news report revealed that Audrey Hepburn’s memorabili a went for USD 6.2 million at a recent London auction. To my generation, Audrey Hepburn was synonymous with the Hollywood film, Roman Holiday, not just because it was a box-office hit, but it ushered a paradigm shift in the genera of entertainment movies. Here was Audrey, who, with her untamed vivaciousness, innocence, impish smile, boyish hair and exquisitely tailored trousers and shirts (as opposed to pleated skirts and frilly blouses), became a symbol of the new, alluring feminism. There was something in the manner she kick-started her Vespa scooter, accelerated to 60 kmph from a cold start and headscarf fluttering wildly, that made her the harbinger of a subtle aspect of women’s emancipation the world over. But there were no scooters in India then, so a handful of bold women took to cycling for a start!

Shortly after its premiere, Roman Holiday came up for screening at the Indian Military Academy, Dehradun. By then, such was her spell over the young and old alike that the cinema management was prevailed upon for three consecutive screenings on a Sunday. But what especially caught my fancy this time was the billboard on cinema wall. In the background was the picture of the Trevi Fountain in Rome (“Three Coins in the Fountain” song fame sung by Frank Sinatra!), and superimposed over it, was a life-size image of Audrey, waist upwards. It reminded me at once of the stunning studio photograph of the actress by Karsh of Ottawa, which I had seen in a book titled, “Portraits of Greatness”.

This was also the time I had graduated to a state-of-the-art Rollieflex camera. What better opportunity to test out the camera than photographing Audrey from the poster! I exposed an entire film-roll of 12 frames, with varying combinations of aperture opening and shutter speed. The results were better than my wildest hopes and the photo-processing studio could barely cope with the rush for copies from Gentlemen Cadets! The largest blow-up was 14×12 inches, and one such, under a cut-mount frame, went up on the wall facing my bed. For several days, there was constant coming and going to my room, till the lights-out bugle.

During a routine tour of the rooms one day, the inspecting officer noticed the portrait. And to this Gentleman Officer, the portrait was synonymous with the forbidden display of glam-girl pin-ups! The next day, in an atmosphere of general gloom, I was arraigned before the Company Commander, charged with ‘an act unbecoming the conduct of a Gentleman Cadet’. While reading out the offence report, the Company Commander held aloft the framed photograph as an ‘exhibit’ linked to my crime. Fortunately, this being my first act of misdemeanour, I was administered a mere warning and promptly marched out of the office. I could have dropped dead with the release of tension, having feared relegation by six months or even expulsion from the academy, altogether.

Sadly, the Audrey Hepburn portrait was confiscated and it went up on the wall facing the bed — of the Company Commander!

Authors Note

The Company Commander was the Late Major (Major General) KK Tewari from the Corps of Signals. Col/ Brig KK Tiwari was CSO IV Corps & had taken a helicopter to either Se La or Namka Chu to remedy communication snags. But how or where in the process he was taken a POW is not known to me. I wonder whether Gen Tewari wrote any account of his 1962 battlefield experiences; he was an upright gentleman officer and his account would be invaluable.

Mrs Tiwari was a doctor (sister of Gen Sharma, COAS) & post superannuation Gen & Mrs Tiwari had settled in the Pondicherry ashram where they ran a free medical clinic till the end of their lives.

The inspecting Officer was the, no nonsense Late Captain Gurung, a Gurkha commissioned into the Sikh Regiment! His claim to glory (rightfully) was that as a Gentleman Cadet at the IMA, in 1953/ 54 he was the IMA Soccer Team’s star player which had reached the finals of The Durand Cup, at Delhi. IMA emerged the Runners Up. The team Captain,

SUO Mike Lahiri superannuated as GOC, IV Corps in 1990.

Commissioned in the Regiment of Artillery in July 1956, Lt Gen. Baljit Singh, AVSM, VSM, retired on 31 July 1992 after 36 years of distinguished service. A keen sportsman, accomplished writer and noted environmentalist, he is an active promoter of Conservation of Nature, more so within and by the Armed Forces.This article was earlier published in the Tribune, Chandigarh, 13 November 2017.

Authors Note

The Company Commander was the Late Major (Major General) KK Tewari from the Corps of Signals. Col/ Brig KK Tiwari was CSO IV Corps & had taken a helicopter to either Se La or Namka Chu to remedy communication snags. But how or where in the process he was taken a POW is not known to me. I wonder whether Gen Tewari wrote any account of his 1962 battlefield experiences; he was an upright gentleman officer and his account would be invaluable.

Mrs Tiwari was a doctor (sister of Gen Sharma, COAS) & post superannuation Gen & Mrs Tiwari had settled in the Pondicherry ashram where they ran a free medical clinic till the end of their lives.

The inspecting Officer was the, no nonsense Late Captain Gurung, a Gurkha commissioned into the Sikh Regiment! His claim to glory (rightfully) was that as a Gentleman Cadet at the IMA, in 1953/ 54 he was the IMA Soccer Team’s star player which had reached the finals of The Durand Cup, at Delhi. IMA emerged the Runners Up. The team Captain, SUO Mike Lahiri superannuated as GOC, IV Corps in 1990.

Commissioned in the Regiment of Artillery in July 1956, Lt Gen. Baljit Singh, AVSM, VSM, retired on 31 July 1992 after 36 years of distinguished service. A keen sportsman, accomplished writer and noted environmentalist, he is an active promoter of Conservation of Nature, more so within and by the Armed Forces.This article was earlier published in the Tribune, Chandigarh, 13 November 2017.

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