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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The General with a smile

Kashmir the heaven on earth beckoned us from its lofty heights We the final year students of Kilpauk medical college had gathered at Central Railway station Madras ( now Chennai ) ,some amongst us were dragging thier suitcases on wheels which in 1982 was a rarity ! we sniggered at this sight calling it as a dog on a leash ! We were about 80 students I think both girls and boys and like any exited college bunch out on a big trip
chattering uncontrollably while we made ourselves comofortable for our long train ride in our reserved berths . It was the month of May and Delhi was like a furnace when we reached there after a couple of days . Even living in Madras known to be a hot place didnt prepare us for this hot oven ,we were taken by the tour operators to a south indian boarding hosue somewhere in Karol Bagh or near connought place I think one of the many nameless decriept places of course as students we couldnt afford Asokha hotel could we , we went for the Delhi sightseeing and enjoyed it . later I went to my uncle Maj . Gen P.E.Menons house in Rastrapathi Bhavan complex , he was then the military secretary to the Preseident of India at that time it was Shri Zail singh ,I was suitably impressed by uncles house and postion ,was looked after warmly had a royal dinner courted by uniformed military and Rastrapathi house retinue later with some friends we were taken for small conducted tour to the Rastraphati bhavan itself and the mughal gardens , a great honour indeed . We were all wide eyed at the spectacle and grandeur . Soon thanking uncle and family and promising to meet them on return from Kashmir we were off to Kashmir . Kashmir was delightful in both climate and beauty and we stayed for three or four days in a houseboat on the languid Dal lake ,we went to Pahalgam ,gulmarg visitd Sankaracharya temple threw snowballs and did some board skating ! at that time terrorism had not started rocking Kashmir and I found that the Kashmiri people were gentle pleasant broad minded secular and hospitable to all ,if such a place could be turned to a foutainhead of terrorism it was only because of the handiwork of Pakistan our neighbour . one of the tourist agents was an young Kashmiri college student who I remember fought for us with his own people when we he took us to the market to hire some beddings I kept correspondence with him for some time even after returning . so far just another college trip The fun started when we returned to Delhi . most of us had empty wallets by then when our limited stock emptied in our Kashmir sojourn and shopping after all we were going to get into the train and go back to Madras in a couple of days so why did we need much money But this is exactly what did not happen in the month of May there is a huge rush and trains are overcrowded we were pretty sure our reserved berths in the waiting lists would get confirmed by the time we came back to Delhi as told by our tour operator but on reaching Delhi station found out that not even one seat was confirmed . We appealed to the Reservation counter later the station superintendent and even went to rail Bhavan requesting them that as medical students it was imperative we return in time as if the health of Tamilnadu state depended on our return but we were ignored by the hindi speaking officials who looked on us as some south indian Madrasi students and asked to wait till we get confirmation . we pleaded that our currency situation was bad and most of were broke but they just looked the other way ,there was worry writ large in our faces suddenly someone piped up why dont we ask Harimohans uncle ji he seems to be a man who could make things work I also felt we could give it a try and so three or four of us went to uncles house again he invited us inside and asked us about our Kashmir foray etc We then confessed our predicament ,one of my friends even added "uncle please help us go back or else we might have to camp in your nice lawns ! the threat of a group pf studnets permanetly parking in his manicured lawans would have been unnerving to anyone but uncle needed no such threats he would have helped us even otherwise he simply smiled at us and took his telephone and I remmebr he called the Railway ministers PA and requested his help for us ,he then asked us to go back to the railway station ,it was just two hours for the Grand trunk express to leave Delhi , we thanked uncle and came to the station . We were thrilled that the whole situation had changed the officials were grinning welcome to us now we were surprised to find that some officals from Rail Bhavan was searching for us and that a seprate compartment was attached with our college name in the train and so we boarded it in style all along the way back ticket inspectors enquired on our comforts and thus we arrived regally back in Madras Thanks to my unclji uncle retired as a Lt Gen and as the Director of Assam Rifles later he passed away . my batch would always remember uncle for the day he helped us with a smile .

1 comment:

Maddy said...

so mini menon is your cousin? a familiar face on TV

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