A few years back, I got a call from a number that I did not recognize. The voice at the other end was a bit shaky and quivering. He gingerly asked me in Hindi with a tone of rustics which is usually associated with people from the Northern Hills of India..
In confirmation that yes indeed I was "Chakravorty Sahab" his voice changed to that of Rightful Acquaintance . He asked me , “Pehchana Sahab”, I in my earnest sense had no clue, but could sense someone from the unit. .Not wanting to offend him, I did make that common dialogue of stating, - “Awaaz to pehcaha lagta hai , but naam Nahi yaad aa raha hai,”(Had been 14 years since I had left the unit, but didn't want to shatter the melancholic feeling of Bonhomie) Well he said Sahab," Mai Tejbir Singh Bol Riya Hu"
Tejbir Singh, my Sahayak allotted to me when I first joined the unit.. The menacing 6 feet 3 inches of the Hulk standing at the Gwalior railway station who was eager to take my modest belonging of a Black Trunk ' Boldly embossed with " 2nd Lt Shantanu Chakravorty" and the beige colored Bedding , our Worldly possessions that were issued from the Academy as a parting gift on passing out. He happened to be at one point a services level boxer , and a Sports Injury had rendered him with a Low Med Cat and hence could no longer cater to the heavy demands of a Gunner that warranted at our AD unit,,. .Hence by choice he volunteered to be my sahayak and was allotted to me as my buddy..
The first look , I seemed like a diminutive mortal in presence of his towering frame, but over the next few days , he became my only solace, when my world came crashing down , post the initiation periods that young 2nd LT’s went through @ their units ..Those were the salad days, and our grandiose feeling of having conquered the world post the pipping ceremony probably lasted 21 days, the break that we were allotted after passing out..Once at the unit, in the name of “Baby of the Regiment” the Ragda at the Academy in the hands of the Seniors and Ustaads , seemed like date with Alice in Wonderland!!! There we had our course mates as our soul mates, here at the unit, solitude of being subjected to the feeling of the most lowly amoebic being , Tejbir stood out to be the only one , who was like my Agony aunt, tending to my wounds after a hard day at work.. Listening with compassion , at the same time cautious of not crossing the line, as I was always a Sahab at the end of the day.. The next few days, he became the soaking sponge for all my innuendoes of reference points and doings of the day..
After a few months of being the baby of the Regiment, I too became a senior and then the trappings of bachelorhood soon diverted to falling in love during my YO’s and finally getting married to my significant half ..Tejbir no longer was my priority of being the solace , and my energies were diverted to standing in the queue to catch up the post 9 PM (1/2 ) and Post 11 PM ( 1/4th) STD rates those days at the nearest “ISD-STD” booth near the Officers Mess where I was lodged to speak to my Girl Friend..(. Yes there was a time when people did not have mobile phones)
Time soon flew and I got married , and remember that quaint chilly Feb evening when I along with my Newly wedded Wife , landed yet again on that Marble Platform of Gwalior Tejbir happened to be there along with the host of other Unit folks..But the air in him showed he was the Grounds boss, and directed everyone else, that 'Memsahab Aa rahi hai' and he was no less than the Best Man of the Wedding. Period.
Being a orphan, I was not privileged to have a traditional Aarti and welcome that couples usually have when their enter their homes first time after marriage,. As we entered the nondescript home, Tejbir had gathered a steel plate with the trappings of a Diya, some grains of rice and Red Vermillion..with a Steel Lotta of Grains that she was supposed to over turned by my Wife …Well so much for being a sahayak!!!
Over the next few weeks, the rights of Tejbir over my Wardrobes, clothes , etc could clearly be seen diminishing and was started being an unsaid rule of authority only over my Uniform and Bike and Official Kits..So much so, I had to at times arbitrate between my Mint New Non Faiji wife and Tejbir. I could definitely sense the underlying tension that would brew, as he felt she was like a Souten to his rights over me, and I was like a punching bag, as he used to very matter of factly tell her “Sahab ko Chai aise hi Pasand hai”, or “Sahab Apne Kapde aise hi rakhte Hai”. My Wife tried to give that feminine touch to my world of the rash Single who was being domesticated
I had to manage the truce with a strategic intent that no Management or YOs course every taught us… So much so, that sometimes his massive frame was a point of contention.However, things did ease out over the period of time, and we did have a boundaries being drawn amicably over the years..
Coming back to that Phone call, that I started off this Story with…well after the pleasantries..Tejbir said he had since retired and was now settled and farming in his farmland near Mussoorie .. Coincidentally I was travelling to Mussoorie in a few days time, for a workshop I was supposed to conduct and Tejbir Insisted that I visit him.
2nd day of my session , I came back tired to my room, when the house phone rang, and the receptionist told me there was a visitor who wanted to see me.. I asked them to send him to my room as post workshop days, I am totally drained out.. A few minutes later.. there was knock at the door, I got up and opened it to see a frail man , with wrinkles and the side burns greyed and the lines on his fore head clearly telling a story line of life.. He was slouching a bit for his large frame , but clearly could see the gigantic frame that this man Tejbir once commanded..
Without looking into my eyes, on opening the door, he signaled to someone down the corridor with an air of right , and said “ Idhar Leke aa” Before I could say anything, I found a young man in early 20s , come into my room with a sack and under the watchful eyes of Tejbir placed it near the Foyer. Tejbir finally moved his gaze towards me and said, "Sahab, yeh Chawal mere Khet Ke hai, aap to aa nahi sake, leken mujhe pata hai, aap un dino bhi Basmati chawal Pasand karte the, isliye thoda sa leke aaya hu,,,Madam ke liye leke Jaayiye Ga” ( Being a Bong, the aroma of a Good Rice Meal, was always a Panache for Good Life )
PS : That Thoda sa Chawal was clearly in excess of 25 kgs bag and I knew I had to Pay a Bomb for excess baggage..but how could I say No..This was a pure Bond, that could not be explained, in spite of my multiple Global Management Certifications over the years,,all came to a naught..What was this..???
I asked Tejbir to sit, but the opulence of the room and his line of hierarchy , probably did not allow him to sit in the same Room on the Sofa along with his Sahab..In spite of a lot of cajoling he refused to have a cup of coffee with me , and told me that Sahab I know you are very busy, just came by to see you after so long ( 14years , we had neither met nor spoken) and he would be leaving now..The young man who had come who I thought was a farm hand, actually was his son, and on being told the same, I admonished him on why did he send him downstairs, he said nahi theek hai sahab..
As a passing remark , he said Sahab you look weak and please eat properly..( I used to be 62 kgs when I passed out and was many Stones heavier now after the trappings of Corporate life and no figment of imagination could someone say that I was weak ) but that’s what probably my Sahayak and Buddy was….!!!!!
When you debate the sahayak system. Please understand what it truly means
By Capt Shantanu Chakravorty (Veteran)
Contributed by Col Atul Dutt