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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Travelling Light

Continued from Fauji and his Baggage

In addition to all that contraptions and devices to see one through any latitude from 10 degree N to 35 degree N, one has to plan for the transportation of all the  flora and fauna that an army man's family falls in love with.

Then you have a an archaic rule that a govt servant cannot have two quarters on his name, at the same time, for a period of more than 10 days  If the move is  say, from Coimbatore to Pithoragarh, that makes it a little like a photographer trying to cover both the start and finish of a 100M dash.

In any case , most of the time you don't have to worry about such situation , as it takes at least six months before you get a large enough accommodation to open all the packages.Yet some remained in packed condition for years. May be for this reason everything is packed in heavy Steel and wooden boxes.

One often hears , "..a two bed room house is more than enough for us, but what about our baggage and the empty boxes ?" I have seen a family of four huddled in a drawing room and one bed room while rest of the space including the second bed room and verandas on either side were stacked with boxes.

There is a popular formula for the number of boxes required; 2n +2 where n is the number of years of service. So, you start with two and add two boxes a year and end up with between 65-70 at the time of retirement.This is a very conservative estimate and people do reach three figures.

I myself stopped adding on to my tally , when it was around 25, somewhere in the mid-way through  my long service.

I was moving from the North East to Chennai and I had decided to take a truck with part load. With plywood loaded it had weight but not volume. The truck driver was also carrying some new refrigerators from the show room. As my 5 year old fridge was being loaded packed in a heavy wooden box made of pine wood and being placed next to  the brand new refrigerators in their original card board packages, it was a  eureka moment for me.

It suddenly dawned on me that all goods, however fragile, however new, however costly, are transported across the length and breadth of the country in cardboard boxes and gunny bags, till the time they become proud possessions of an army man.

Yet, it took two more transfers before I relieved the fridge of its body armour, though I stopped buying any more new boxes. Since then I have kept my faith in the original card board packing and that trust has never been betrayed. If cardboard was good enough for white goods, then why not for  clothes , books,  kitchenware etc ? Now, having disposed off the few steel boxes I had,  I feel a lot lighter and better. 


Wednesday, June 10, 2015

A Fauji and his Baggage

Well baggage is baggage; what is so different about a fauji's house hold baggage ? He is always on the move, every year or two. I can hear a civilian friend saying, "What's so great in 'relocation' ? even we do that you know ? I mutter to myself 'From Bombay to Bhopal (and back after a year)'. Having criss-crossed this great Bhatratvarsh from East to West and North to South, with 22 moves in 36 years , that is not the kind of 'relocation' I am talking about. 

 A Fauji is posted to places, which to a civilian will not even qualify to be called a place. A typical conversation may go like this "hi where are you these days ?", 'Binaguri'... 'where's it?', 'New Jalpaiguri ... that's near Siliguri' 'and where is that ?' 'somewhere near Darjeeling' 'Oh ! You are at Darjeeling, why didn't you say that ? nice place eh ?'

or it could be 'Samba', ' near Pathankot' ending up as "So you are in Kashmir ?"

    I am digressing, let us go into the details of a fauji household baggage.

   A typical fauji household baggage would have an assortment of stuff. In addition to regular stuff like TVs, Refrigerators, Air conditioners and kitchen gadgets, you will encounter some place-speific essentials ; Woollen clothings , quilts and a Kero-heater  to survive himalayan winters (a room-heater actually working on kerosene) popular at Dharchula (one can  google to find the loc), a  heavy duty voltage stabilizer to bring up the voltage from 75V to 200V or a  diesel generator (for  places where power supply is near zero and  a couple of Desert Coolers (for our western regions). You can't discard any stuff any time as by now you are only too aware as to how indispensable these  are at places where you bought them . And one never knows the place of the next tenure and if there is anything to go by , you can consider Murphy's law for fauji postings "Thou shalt see three postings along the coastal areas once you have acquired desert coolers to survive in Thar Desert and  enough woollens and jackets for a trip to Tibet . I  speak from personal experience.

      Original idea was to write about how the stuff is moved but as it has been a long preamble , that would follow in the next post.