In late 1977 after completing my Young Officers’s course in Ahmednagar, I was posted to our Independent Squadron based at Silchar in Assam. The Sqn was located near a ferry on the Barak river. There was not much to do except maintenance of the armoured cars and other mundane duties assigned to subalterns. Visits to the planter’s club in Silchar were a great hit. Drinking brandy with hot water or straight was the order in the afternoon or evening. In the evenings the club was quite crowded. Most of the planters came in with their wives but there was a distinct group of stags (singles) who were in close vicinity of the bar always. These stags would talk of great adventures of the past which included shoots of wild boar, wild fowl, ducks and tigers.
I am reminded of one incident which started at the club. Over a drink one of the stags informed me that there are a lot of wild ducks at a pond situated not very far from one of the link roads. I decided to take it on and promptly went for a recce of the place on the following day. Sure enough I saw through the binoculars 40 odd ducks in a pond about 300 m from the road. I spoke to the Sqn 2IC and decided to take up the shoot on Sunday. Saturday was cloudy with a downpour at night but Sunday morning was bright and sunny. The Sqn2IC and I withdrew the Sqn Cdr’s 12 bore from the kote and with a box of cartridges we were all set! We decided to go on a scooter as that would disturb the birds, the least. On reaching the spot we found the ground was slushy because of the rain day before but the worthy 2IC told me to get off and reach the pond stalking so as to get within shooting distance, and he would try and drive in from the other side. I put to use all the training at the academy and through the slush and mud crawled up to the pond. My overalls and boots were soiled but undeterred I made to within shooting range.
I got onto one knee and took careful aim! Suddenly I saw an elderly man running towards me full pelt. I paused, very annoyed thinking the ducks would now fly off and my labour would be in vain. Fortunately none of the ducks flew off. The man reached, folded hands and said, “Sir, yeh meri paltu batakh hain, inhe mat maro! Main aapko do batakh de doonga”. (Sir, these are my pets. Please do not shoot them. I’ll give you two ducks instead.) I stood up and apologised to the old man. I have never felt more stupid in all my life. As I turned back to leave the old man asked me, “Aapko do batakh dun?” To which I replied, “Nahin chahiye”. On reaching the road, I found my 2IC laughing hysterically.