An Ache to Remember
A couple of years back I was posted to the Air Staff Inspection team ( DASI). This is one of the prestigious appointments in the Indian Air Force. I was extremely happy to have been selected for this team and accordingly made preparations to join as early as possible.
The team was based in Delhi and tasked to travel around the country and carry out an audit of the operational readiness and reliability of the various units of the Air Force. The job involved a lot of traveling and took me once to the United States of America.
This story is not about America but something closer to home. This is a tale of an encounter that has left an ache in my heart. The story began in the hot summer month of June when the temperature in India rises to almost 48 to 50°. I was a Wing Commander at that time and I had just crossed 45. I prided myself with my fitness aided by Yoga classes, taught to me by Swami Shardanand when I was posted in Mumbai. I had perfected the art of the SirAsana on the headstand, which is the king of all yogic Asanas. This Yogic Asana gave me a different view of life. from the ordinary man because as per the ancient seers, a man who remains celibate and continuously practices Sir Asana develops ESP. The theory is that over the decades the spermatozoa of the man trickle down to the base of the brain and it ignites ESP. I was not in that league but this gave me greater confidence in life.
One day I was sitting in the Adjutant's office, a flight lieutenant, when he suddenly looked up look up to me and said, "Sir, I have received a signal that your team is to proceed to Kanpur, the Chakeri airbase and home of the BRD there.
"That's wonderful," I replied, "I am looking forward to this visit, more so as I will get a chance to interact with the Russians."
The Kanpur BRD ( base Repair Depot) is specifically meant for aircraft which are inducted into the Indian air force from Russia. India has a long association with Russian planes and the BRD at Kanpur is the linchpin service center for all Russian aircraft.
I recollect that I got my bag ready and slung my haversack on my shoulder and reported to the designated area the next day. The aircraft an HS-748 was parked there and was being readied for teh flight to Kanpur. This was to be my first encounter with the Russians. As it was the base which was the center of maintenance activities operating Russian aircraft, it also had a lot of Russian air force and civilian personnel posted there for technical support. Many of them came to Kanpur and spent 2 to 3 years there.
We took off in the early hours of Monday. The flying time to Kanpur is about an hour from Delhi and just after finishing breakfast on board we landed at the airfield. We got down from the aircraft and the Maruti Suzuki van took all of us to our quarters in the officer's mess.
The room allotted to me was not luxurious but it was comfortable and I set down in my chair. I brushed up my notes and listed all the salient points I was going to inspect. The leader of the team entered my room and said, "Commander, you better get cracking straight away, because we have a lot to do. I would like you to start your interaction with the technical team of the Russians. We have some issues of maintenance and I want this sorted out."
I came out and found the Jeep waiting for me. I asked the driver why he had come.
" Look, Corporal," I said, "I hold a service driving license and I don't need you. Well Corporal, just be invisible, enjoy yourself, as it's a drink and bar day and have your pick of the Rum."
"But, Sir, will you be able to navigate alone in this heat."
"Heavens, the heat is just second nature to me. I love the heat because when the temperature goes up I feel cool."
I took the steering and put the gypsy into gear and dropped the Corporal at the NCO's mess. After that, I drove out to the technical hanger. I spent about an hour there but this story does not concern my official work so I will leave it at that.
It was almost 4 o'clock now and I decided to have a round of the runway I got on my walkie-talkie and told the air traffic control that I would be driving around the airfield.
"Don't panic chaps," I said, "just be on the lookout that nothing untoward happens."
I drove along the parallel road to the runway and then something strange caught my attention. At the end of the runway a distance away, I could make out a girl was sitting under the Banyan tree.
I put the gypsy into top gear and began to drive towards the large banyan tree. In about two minutes I reached the tree and saw a young woman. probably a Russian sitting under the tree. She was sitting in a pensive mood and had her arms crossed with her head resting on them. I could make out that she had the loveliest legs one can think of. She heard the power of the engine and looked up. She saw me sitting in the vehicle in my flying overalls and with the sun beating down on the earth she blinked. I got down from the Jeep and went up to the girl.
"What are you doing here in the heat, "I asked, "don't you know the temperature is almost 49°"
"Yes," she said, "I know, but I don't feel the heat because the tree is giving me a lot of shade from the heat."
"All the same," I said. "people can die in this heat. You need to be hydrated. Do you have water with you."
She replied, "Yes, I am carrying cold water in a flask."
"Ok, "I replied, "I will drop you to your quarters, you must be staying with the other Russians. Is your husband working at the BRD?. What's his name?"
"Yes," she replied, "he works at the BRD and now his tenure is coming to an end and he is likely to go back soon. Frankly, I don't want to go home. The name of my husband is Colonel Gregory."
I was in a bit of a quandary and wondering what to do, especially after hearing from the lady that she did not go back home.
"Look, why don't you want to go home?"
"Because I don't want to, I feel so oppressed there".
"Okay," I replied, "would you like to come over to my cabin. I could give you a glass of gin or vodka if you like, laced with lime and that will be a good antidote to the heat."I genuinely felt I should look after the lady and take her to a cooler place.
She got up and I could see that she had lovely legs and she was extremely slim. I liked everything about her and was reminded of my time during my visit Russia earlier where I had shacked up with a girl in a hut of all places in Siberia.
She climbed into the front seat of the gypsy and we began to move forward. I rang up the ATC on my walkie-talkie and said: "This is Mike, request permission to cross runway to proceed to officers mess."
A green light shot from the ATC tower and pat came the reply," permission granted proceed at once, no aircraft landing for the next 30 minutes."
I drove the Suzuki to the quarters. It was extremely hot and not a bird was visible in the sky. I unlocked the room and beckoned to the girl to come inside. I switched on the AC and I was confident that soon the room would be a lot cooler.
The young lady came inside and I watched her sit on the sofa. She sat down on the sofa crossing her legs. The very simple act of crossing her legs accentuated her beauty. I have always felt that Russian girls are the most beautiful in the world but then that is a personal choice and anybody meeting anybody else can have another opinion.
What's your name I asked and now will you tell me why you don't want to want to go back to your quarter. She didn't tell me her name but said:" I just don't feel like going back home for the simple reason that I find my husband boring. I don't think he is attentive to me at all. All the time he just keeps moving around with a screwdriver like in the Aircraft."
"That's not a good reason for not going back," I said, "and more so, your husband must be very pleased that you are such a lovely lady."
She smiled, "you think I am lovely/?
"Yes you are"
But my husband doesn't think so as he eyes only young boys. This statement said in the matter of fact tone hit me like a ton of bricks. I really couldn't fathom what the hell was going on.
"Okay," I said "you can spend time here. in the meantime and I'll get you a vodka laced with gin and lime. Mind you it's a heady cocktail but I hope you like it."
I went to the small fridge in my room and took out those ingredients and made the cocktails. I handed it to her and she sipped it and said, "it's good. thank you very much."
"By the way," I said, "I'm going for a change and get out of my flying overalls, in the meantime if you wish to use the washroom feel free to do so."
Loving a dream
We sat and drank six double drinks close to 2 to 3 hours. The time passed the way that it proved Einstein's theory of relativity correct. It appeared so short. I liked her a lot. I came to know many things about her and I told her a lot about myself. She told me she had met Col Gregory in Russia and had come with him. But now she didn't want to go back, as Gregory had a different perception of life. She told me he was a violent man especially after drinks, often beat her with his belt. She was 26 and though she liked India it had been a terrible time for her. I told her I was 45. She chuckled, "That makes you older to Gregory by almost 12 years.
As we drank the inhibitions seem to go away and the whole world began to look like exotic candy. Maybe it has something to do with the beautiful girl in the room. I moved closer to her and gently put my hand on her thigh. She didn't say anything and I said: "are you not mad at me that I have put my hand on your thigh."
She looked at me with clear blue eyes and said, "mad at you why should I be, you are so gentle. I like it."
I didn't reply but just got up and swept her off feet and cradled her in my arms. It was impossible to think of anything as I made it to the dining table. I pushed her on the edge and began to kiss her. In a short time, her mouth opened and I knew I was the victor.
I let her legs hang down the table as I went down on her forcefully and purposefully. What followed was like the love scene between Queen Guinevere and Sir Launcelot of the round table. I imagined that the great warrior made love to the Queen on the round table. Everything was now a blur and I felt that we were floating on a magic carpet that seemed to climb higher. Later I felt we were going through a wall of fire and then the sound of the AC running, brought us back to Earth and reality.
As I softly kissed the girl, I wondered what had come over me. How could I have loved a Russian girl who I had just met 3 to 4 hours back? My mind was in the whirl and I wondered what was going to happen next.
After it was all over I carried the lovely muse to the bedroom. Later we washed. It had now become evening and I suggested if she would like to come to the bar with me.
"What if I meet my husband there?"
"Are you scared?"
"No," she replied, "I am not but what about you?"
I just smiled and told her, " as you have no clothes you might as well brush up this dress itself and come with me. it will be nice to drink in informal surroundings."
The sun had now set and the evening had become a little cooler. I escorted the girl to the jeep and drove down to the bar of the officer's mess.
We sat in the corner of the bar drinking good scotch with munching mutton kebabs
"Listen," I said, "would it not be better if you tell your husband that you are with me?"
"You didn't notice," she said, "that he was standing in one corner and saw me enter the bar with you."
I was a little shocked but we soon graduated to other topics and after a few more drinks and heavy snacks I suggested we take a night drive.
She sat in the jeep with me and in the clear night sky with the moon and the stars all ablaze I began to drive out. I knew the area well and after a few kilometers ride I pulled up at an old disused house. This was the abode of the English resident years back. It was the place I used to often visit as I pulled up the jeep outside. She guessed why we had come there and clung to me.
What followed was a timeless ritual something like the naked dance of Lord Shiva and his consort Parvathi. I was myself taken aback at my exuberance and there was no doubt in my mind that something spiritual was happening. It was a night spent in rare transport of joy and after the exertions, we both fell asleep on the sandy floor.
Drinks and the resultant exertions took the toll and I slept a long time like the brother of Ravana, the god Kumbhkaran. I got up in the morning and saw she was not there. I looked around and not finding her went out. I saw that the jeep was also missing and I was aware she had driven away. I was stuck miles away from any place and no phone or anything to connect to my team so what I have to do is just walk, which I did.
I went to my quarters and then to the hangar. I asked the technical officer where was Col Gregory. He looked at me and said with a smiling face, Col Gregory suddenly decided to go back to Russia today and the IL -76 has left for Russia two hours back."
"Did he go alone?" I asked
"Of course not," he replied, "his wife was traveling with him. But there is a small note for you."
I collected the note with a shaking hand opened it. I saw a neatly written note, "I am forced to go back, but come to Russia and bring me with you." I folded the note and put it into my pocket. I realized, Lord Krishna was testing me. He had also won his love Rukmini, the princess by taking her away from her heavily guarded castle. Could I do the impossible? I resolved that at some stage I would go to Russia and look for that lovely girl, but I didn't even know her name. Did I win finally? That's another tale.