Sometime around 1977, there was a lot of radio natter between Tezpur and Chabua, on VHF, mostly between MiGs and the bloody MI4s, concerning ‘Op Golf Sierra,’ which more or less had the potential to become the ‘Bap’ of all Samba scandals. A large number of MiGs getting airborne from Tezpur (TZ) used to seek permission during routine sorties to change over to Chabua and yap with MI4s in code. “What is the latest on Golf Sierra?” “Phase-1 complete,” the MI4s of the squadron used to respond. MI4s would change over to Jorhat frequency and ask Daks flying in Nagaland, “request update on Op Golf Serra?”
The Daks, in turn, would ask AN12s in Chandigarh over morse code, and they, in turn, used to patch into teleprinters in the met section to yap with Coimbatore or Barrackpore. The former was infamous for ‘Madras Mutiny’ of 1794 and the latter for the ‘Sepoy Mutiny of 1857’. After a few days, another MiG would ask, and be told that Phase-II was complete. This went on for some time, till Op Golf Serra became supercritical mass and reached phase 6.
A secret operation
There was then a wireless listening unit called a WEU next to Chabua whose job it was to monitor HF&VHF transmissions in Tibet. In this WEU was Platoon Officer AB, an ex NDA fellow who pined to be a pilot, often tuned in to the VHF instead of HF just to hear his old course mates, pilots, talking to each other.
Anyway, he probably had no clue what the bloody Chinese were talking about in Tibet. The RT log also went to the CO of the WEU, who was at that time trying to find a way to get out of a four-year-long punishment posting. So from the RT logs, the CO of the WEU came to hear of ‘Op Golf Sierra’, which he diligently reported to the LU (field intelligence unit of the Command) to gain brownie points.
The LU perceived this to be some kind of a mutiny or national purge during Emergency — possibly a coup d’état being hatched by some individuals in Tezpur and Chabua. The highly imaginative CO of the WEU also suggested to LU that Golf Serra may have something to do with large Gold shipments that MI4 chaps were trying to bring, like the Hump Airlift that USAF did from India to China in 1945. You would remember how paranoid everyone was those days during the emergency.
When the WEU CO reported that Op GS had reached phase 6, I think the then C-in-C of the Command reported it to Air Headquarter who in turn reported it to IB and I believe IB mounted an operation that had no parallel in history. One day, late in 1977, a large posse of officials from Provost, LU, IB and RAW… they all landed up in Chabua and started rummaging around in the bachelor’s quarters. They turned up a mountain of porn, love letters and unwashed underclothing but nothing on Op GS. I believe an identical exercise in TZ had very similar results with the MiG guys (specially Ghaseeta who had stuffed unwashed socks under his pillow).
Mind you, we guys in MI4 always washed our socks for reuse in Nagaland, a service privilege only granted for the arduous exercise of flying MI4s. The WEU was asked to do data analysis to figure out who were making the transmissions. There were a large number of perpetrators of this intrigue and scheming crime, but out of the main lot, they noticed that Jimmy in TZ and Buster in Chabua were the main culprits.
The ‘Big Yappers’ of Op GS. By then Platoon Officer AB who wined in with us every evening in the squadron had confessed to us MI4 guys about the investigations on Op GS. Like it was in the east, guys were full of mischief and hence it was decided that we will play along with the charade. First Buster was marched up to Chimpy who was then our Station Master.
“What is Golf Sierra?”, he was asked. “Don’t know Sir, it is in cipher”, said Buster. “Who is the ring leader?”, Buster was asked. “Cyclic”, he said. “Who is Cyclic?” “Don’t know Sir, I think it is Durga the barman”. They went and interrogated just about everybody in Chabua, including ‘Ravan’ the doctor. Then came my turn. “Are you Cyclic?”, I was asked. “No sir, I am Kartoos, but I want to be Cyclic”. “Why?” “Because I like dosa sir”.“Who is dosa?”, they asked thinking dosa was the sidekick of Haji Mastan, an infamous crook of Bombay. “Dosa is dosa, like Chota Shakeel without the imli in Sambar sir”, I said and got more kicks from the burly IB man.
Gold, golf and so much more
“Tell us about Op Gold Sierra?”, they demanded. “Oh! You mean Golf Serra, Suku’s dosa?”, I quizzed right back at them with much glee. When Suku went from TZ to Coimbatore to get married, he got a large, ungainly, conventional, manual dosa grinding stone as dowry. Sulu was so possessive about it that Suku was berated to take it with him to TZ. Pragmatic fellow that he was, he went and gave it to (late) Paddy in Sulur with a request to despatch it to TZ somehow by air.
Those days we believed that it was our privilege to do such things. After she settled down in TZ basha, the indomitable Suku pined for her dosa grinding stone. However, after six months of unrelenting correspondence on pink inlands, in code and cipher to avoid censoring, Suku and Paddy were unable to shift the grinding stone even an inch. “Get me my grinding stone and I will make you lovely dosas,” the incredibly affable young Suku would promise all the bachelors, whoever called on Suku. It got to be so repetitive that Suku’s ‘dosa’ phobia became a problem for everyone in the ‘Eastern AF’.
Now mind you, us the MI4 guys were the smartest, the most enterprising fellows, most adept at rum smuggling from Nagaland. We also smuggled shawls, dhaos, all in the tail boom of the bloody MI4. So, Op Golf Sierra (Grinding Stone) was handed over to us in Chabua, and it was our task to appease the bachelors of Tezpur so that they could go and eat Suku’s dosas.
Op Golf Sierra (Grinding Stone):It was our task to appease the bachelors of Tezpur so that they could go and eat Suku’s dosas.
It was our herculean endeavour to airlift the massive 150 kg grinding stone from Sulur to Tezpur, over 3800 miles, in six or seven stages, from Coimbatore to Bangalore, to Nagpur, to Delhi, to Calcutta, to Barrackpore, Kalikunda, Hashimara, Jorhat and finally to Tezpur, using Daks, AN12s, Caribous, MI4s, MI8s, and an Otter, with MiGs and MI4s acting as airborne FACs. It has only one parallel, the great ‘Hump Lift’ that the US did with ‘Big Boy’ in 1945, the N-Bomb from the US to the Philippines. Suku did get her GS and I believe the guys in Tezpur had delicious dosas every Sunday morning, but the buggers neither invited us the MI4 guys for Belfast nor said: “Thank You”.
I still have a grudge, though the very gracious Suku was kind enough to feed me her formidable dosas many years later, I think in Hakimpet. She still had the same GS with her despite the advent of more ergonomic electrically driven one — you see it was her family heirloom, the only dowry that Suku got, very sentimental stuff. Those days we were made of very sentimental-stuff, just like all you good guys out there.
— The author uses the pseudonym of Cyclic to relive his memories