The C-in-C Training Command decided to pay us a visit in AF Station Bidar around 1981. Most unusual, none came to visit any one in AF Station Bidar those days, unless they were covered in sin and had to wash it off at the ‘Papnash’ temple pond, or seek forgiveness at Nanak Jeera Gurudwara. When news of the C-in-C’s visit hit the news stand, none were smiling.

The ‘nones’ were immediately given ‘hicum-fookum’ (sudden rush of shit to the brain) by the Chief Instructor and told to run about hither and thither, like butterflies in the mating season. The CI passed his orders in a rush of Punjabi to our small group – Flt Lts Nanjappa, Nijhawan, Gulati and self. He started with Nanjappa.

‘Abe Kirtar, C-in-C khush nahin‘Mai Kaya (I say) Jhappa, you are incharge of food, tin tang wala kukkad mangao, C-in-C khush hona chahiye’. Then to Nijhawan – ‘Hor Jhawan, tusi evi karo, jasoosi karo, pata karo changa Madrasi raat nu karda kya hai?’ perhaps to check out the C-in-C’s likes and dislikes.

Then he turned to me. ‘Abe Kirtar, tu changa Mallu haiga, tu yellow banja (Liaison Officer – LO), aur kar chamchagiri’. I had been issued the gazette notification, to show the ‘Art Of Khushamat & Chamchagiri’.

‘Mai Kya Laati, mere nal chal’ he steered F/L Gulati (then the temporary Mess Secretary) into his jeep, and went to inspect the rundown seedy officers mess. Villa (Kuruvila) the Mess Secretary was on leave.

‘Mai Kya Laati’, the CI said, pointing to the rows of mementos on the shelf, mostly silver, all of them black. ‘Silvo lagao’, he ordered emphatically.

Gulati was a very resourceful man, 110% type. He kitted out the barman, waiters and cooks,taught them serving, borrowed cutlery and crockery from Dundigaland Hakimpet, but no amount of Silvo that he rubbed made the silver mementoes look silver, they looked like Bidar stuff, black. Resourceful NDA rascal that he was, he stole some formaldehyde from the fire truck, silver nitrate from the photo section, a silver pot from his wife’s tea set heirloom and wired it all up with the mementos in a plastic bucket. When powered on 220 VAC, single phase 30 amps, the silver tea pot shrunk to a milk pot. The mementoes complained volubly, fumed, sizzled and crackled. But after 20 minutes, they looked brand new, silver coated like new.

‘Abe Kirtar, C-in-C khush nahin hua, to main teri voh loonga’,my boss the CI assured me, reminding me to do extraordinary ‘sewa’, ‘Khushamat’ & ‘Chamchagiri’. I was briefed to position myself below the cockpit window of the Avro when the Air Marshal landed, catch the bouquet of flowers that was to be thrown at me by the pilot from his cockpit window, run and give it to the Station Commanders wife so that she could then present it to Mrs C-in-C when she stepped out of the aircraft. Not a blade of grass grew in Bidar and hence the flowers had to be imported from Bangalore, in the same aircraft that brought the C-in-C. I swear that I practiced the act several times, and even perfected a supercilious ‘Dev Anand’ nod and grin in front of the mirror which I thought should make the ladies happy.

When the C-in-C landed, there I was in my smartest uniform, hair cut to regulation length, shoes glossed over with spit and polish, my peaked cap set at a jaunty angle, and the supercilious Dev Anand type grin. All set to demonstrate the art of living, ‘Khushamat’ & ‘Chamchagiri’. The trouble was that the drama did not go as per the script.

I went and stood below the cockpit for the pilot to throw the bouquet at me. There was neither any bouquet thrown nor any pilot in the cockpit, he was at the rear door supervising the Cin- C and his wife get off the airplane. Mrs C-in-C got down with the bouquet and presented it to the Station commanders wife. ‘This is for you’, the gracious lady said with a charming smile. The Station Commander gave me a look that went through me like the arrow that killed Achilles, the Greek supercilious fellow. THE ART OF ‘KHUSHAMAT AND CHAMCHAGIRI’ Wg Cdr Unni Kartha IN LIGHTER VEIN

The C-in-C insisted on eating lunch in the Airmen’s Mess, sitting with the men, while Mrs C-in-C went to have an AFWA meeting and lunch with the wives of the officers/ men. Don’t know what happened during AFWA meeting, there was no family accommodation in the camp and scarcity of it in the village. So I think, all told, there were hardly any families or AFWA activities in Bidar those days.

The men looked well fed and cheerful in the airmen’s mess.

‘How is the food?’, the C-in-C enquired casually, putting his hands on the shoulder of Corporal Manikantan.

‘What Sir, same kak yevery day’, Cpl Manikantan answered jovially.

Perhaps he said it as commendation to Nanjappa who had taken great pains to feed the airmen three legged chickens daily for one whole week in a row.

It broke Jappa’s heart, but sent the Cin- C into uncontrolled laughter. Instead of dinner dance that was organised, the C-in-C and his wife met the officers and wives over tea, amusing them with their considerable wit and wisdom, enquired about their welfare and gross happiness quotient. They then spent the evening over a quiet personal meeting with the Station Commander and CI, with their families. Don’t know what they discussed, I guess all of it must have been serious professional talk.

The C-in-C and his wife went to bed early.

During the day, and that night, I did not get an opportunity to make amends, to show ‘Khushamat’ and ‘Chamchagiri’. So I set the alarm, dressed myself to perfection, and reported outside the VIP room at 4 O’clock next morning lest the Air Marshal and his wife awoke early. I chased the bearers and the cooks to get the breakfast ready, spat on the Air Marshals shoes and got the bearer to shine them like a mirror, supervised pressing of his uniform and fixing his medals, brushed his cap reverently and was ready by 0530 hrs, waiting for the Air Marshal to wake up. Sharp at 0530 the Air Marshal rang the bell for the bearer. I went personally and greeted him with a good morning, vibrant NDA style salute, stamping my foot so hard that there was an earthquake. Havildar Limbu in Fox Squadron in NDA would have been proud of that performance.

I think Mrs Nair got a little frightened by my early morning soldierly vigour and enthusiasm.

‘What will you have Ma’m’, I asked Mrs Nair with utmost courtesy and my Dev Anand style nod and grin, but in a parade ground voice, 2000 db and 400 PMPO.

‘Well, what have you got ?’, she asked in a mellifluous and most gracious manner, with a charming smile.

‘Coffee, Tea, Skimmed Milk, Lime Juice, Orange Juice, Coconut water, Water Melon, Mango, Banana, Grapes, Idli, Dosa, Vada, Chutney and Sambar, Kellogg Cereals, Pav Bhaji, Poha, Stuffed Paratha, Ande, Dhatikara Bhujia … anything that you may wish to have for breakfast Ma’m’. I said all that in one breath, like the waiter in Mahabali Tiffin Room in Bangalore. I had practised all of it, all night.

‘What would you like to eat’? Mrs Nair asked the Air Marshal.

‘One burnt toast, without butter or jam. One each for my wife and I, with a glass of tap water’, the Air Marshal commanded with a fatherly smile.

I wanted to cry.

‘Sir, no bread or bakery in Bidar, the Avro pilots forgot to bring bread from Bangalore’, I stammered with heartbreaking sorrow.

‘That is OK, my wife and I will then share a banana, with a glass of water, I trust you have tap water in Bidar ?’ ‘No Sir, the tube well has dried up’, I lamented.

‘But there is running water in the toilet, how did you manage that?’Mrs Nair asked with amazement.

‘Oh that’, I remarked tactlessly. ‘I got the fire engine to fill your overhead tank last night, there is no flying today. The fire engine is right here, behind the toilet. If you flush the toilet twice, the fire engine will automatically fill the overhead tank’.

‘Just a cup of black coffee would do’, Mrs Nair commanded with alacrity. I think she was scared to flush the toilet twice, lest the fire engine started hooting.

I think the C-in-C’s visit went well. They left waving and smiling. Except for Corporal Manikantan, who didn’t want ‘kak yevery day’, none else complained about anything. We were a happy lot.

After the visit, the Station Commanders wife took me to task.

‘If you were a good LO’, she said, ‘you would have made the C-in-C’s wife taste at least everything that was offered for breakfast’. She then turned to her husband, ‘These Madrasis are all useless, we should have had a Sardar as an LO’.

Afterwards, I went to the Gurudwara Nanak Jeera to enquire whether I could convert to a Sikh. ‘Kirtar Singh, you are already a Khalsa in your heart’, the kind aged Grandhi told me. ‘Be a good soldier, that is the essence of being a Khalsa’.

I really don’t think my Tiger’s wife approved that logic.

I was no good at the art of living, ‘Khushamat’ &‘Chamchagiri’. I am quite a useless fellow.

Rimcolian, Ex NDA, a QFI and Exp Test Pilot, Wg Cdr Unni Kartha (Cyclic), PG (Aerospace Design), MaESI, MBA served in the AF for 23 yrs. Raised and commanded a Mi-35 Sqn and took PMR in 1994. Afterwards did extreme engineering in myriad technology with multinationals, in India and abroad, for 22 yrs. ‘Make in India’ entrepreneur of ‘Advanced Technology, Unique Machines’.With his boots off, in his sunset years in Hyderabad, he also writes sentimental and humorous stories of his very mischievous youth,to amuse and motivate the younger generation, on his blog He can be contacted on 9810252959.

  1. Dear Unni,
    Nice hearing you after 2 and a half decades. I remember meeting you in Vyu Bhavn just before you said good by to Air Force.. Your cousin Mr UV Kartha was my colleague in TERLS, ISRO way back in 71-73, He was Eng incharge Launch Pad. We including Dr Maadhavan Nair ( subsequently Chairman VSSC) were a part of Dr Kalams team.
    Well I read your hilarious article. I am sharing it with my son who is currently SE Aircraft at Pune. We all have done it one time or the other. To quote you just one episode that occured at Udhampur in 1988. I was the C.Egg.O and also the Mess Secretary. AVM Dushyant Singh, on instue promotion, had taken over as AOC J&K. He had invited Mrs & Dr Farooq Abdullah to dinner . other invities were GOC-in-C Northern Command and a lot of other heavy weights. Your Good old Helicopter Hunuman Ji was my Station Commander, suggested the preparation of Kashmiri Wazawan, So I was ordered to request my High Command to supervize the Mess cooks to prepare special Kashmiri dishes, like RoganJosh, Mattcz( you can not pronounce it0, Rista, Shami, Damaaloo, Chicken Yakhnee, Nadur Yakhnee ( Tamarai Qurma in Malyalam) etc. Well my wife agreed to instruct the cooks ( some were borrowed from Norther Command Officers’ Mess) provided that Masalas were procured from Srinagr from a particular vendor. So Co Helicopter Unit was directed to take a chopper and personally fetch the Masalaas from Srinagar. That afternoon , Dushyant Singh was getting the dance floor done up just behind the Officer Mess on the hillock. I latter found that he had got Cypress bushes uprooted from my garden ( I was staying in the Technical Area) and replanted these on either side of the the so called dance floor. Well, when the patch refused to dry up after it had been flooded by a fire tender, he got a huge tarpaulin spread on the wet patch to prevent the shoes to sink in. A day before the wash roon in VIP Cottage had been repainted . I went in to check whether all toiletries needed were available inside . Dushyant Singh while walking out of the dance floor veered into the washroom, Smelling the fresh paint, he took a deep breath and uttered,” Smells like a whorehouse”. I kept mum. He repeated his words and demanded a reply. ” Sir, I have never visited one”, I blurted out coolly.He appeared to be shocked , but as usual ground his teeth and walked out. Well, he seemed to have taken a permanent dislike for me ever since I had told him in the presence of the Station Cdr that I had been called as a witness against him in the High level enquiry on bomb blast that happened during his Command at Jamnagar. He would often complain about me to the Station Commander that I used to drive inside the Station as if it was a rally track ( I used to participate in Himalayan International Rally as an active member of IAF Rally team). To show me down, he had taken a jeep on loan from Army, fitted Maruti front Seats in it and made it an open jeep fitted with chromed parts. He would often race the jeep on Dhar Road like a possessed man and challenge the young officers to chase him after downing brandy in a Station party. But, all is well that ends well. In the end, He turned out to be the most courteous host to all the guests at his home, irrespective of the Rank. Perhaps, I was the only Officer, may be in entire Air Force, for whom he used the words in the presence of Gen Sunderjee (while he was on his farewell visit to Northern Command in 1989) ” Thank you Labroo” and then revealed the reason for doing so to me in Nov 2001 during the inaugural party at Akash Mess New Delhi. Some of our Senior Officers did possess strange attitude, followed their whims & fancies, and even exhibited vindictive behaviour. Regarding “Chamcha Giri & Khushaamdi “, it forms a part of NDA Syllabus for inculcating the culture of courtesy or may be to imbibe the sense of obedience among the youngsters. Unfortunately, we over do it.

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