BISON'S WATERING HOLE
Once upon a time, the tricity's most sought after watering hole at the Chandigarh Golf Club bore a strong character and historical profile. Pictures of legendary players had adorned the walls. A massive Indian bison head mounted at a prime location of the bar's walls complemented the pictures and presided over the cheery spirit of the late evenings. The pictures depicted the sport's great icons playing varied shots from beautiful locales across the world. These pictures were not only attractive to the eye but were also "instructional'' as children and aspiring golfers got a visual feel of what was the posture and club position when great players executed shots.
PHOTO: VIKRAM JIT SINGH
Maj Gen KS Bajwa (retd.), who is one the club's oldest members and a military historian, was commanding the 54 Infantry Division in Hyderabad in 1979. It was known as the 'Bison Division'. As part of the effort to bring the population close to the Army, Bajwa developed extensive contacts with locals, including shikaris from the princely Nizam family. The shikaris' favoured pastime was to entertain Bajwa with tales of hunting valour and number of big game heads they had bagged.
One day, Bajwa pulled their legs a bit too hard by labelling the shikar stories as mere 'gup-shup' or tall yarns. The aristocratic shikaris felt deeply insulted. They returned the next day with proof of their hunting prowess: three precious, mounted bison heads that were gifted to Bajwa. He was left virtually speechless! One of these was later donated by him to the golf club for a fateful future. One head became the proud possession of the 'Bison Division'.
FROGS DON'T NEED A KISS
The ridges that flank the Mirzapur dam in the Shiwaliks, about 26 km from Chandigarh, are dry through much of the year. But some good monsoon showers have resulted in small muddy pools high up on the ridges. It is in one of these pools (10 feet x 10 feet) that on Friday I came across a flourishing colony of frogs. They were enjoying the few weeks of 'swimming pools' before a chilly, dry autumn sets in on these desolate, wind-swept hills.
PHOTO: VIKRAM JIT SINGH
The frogs dashed into the water when I came upon the pool's edge but soon returned one by one to the shore after they realised I meant no harm. While keeping a wary eye on me, the frogs emitted a soft grunt as a human baby might after a satisfying breast suckle. Soon, they lapsed into their typical behaviour. The big males clambered aboard the females, evocative of the exotic mud-and-sauna sex that some among the Nordic human races are rumoured to relish.
There was much jostling for space and territory and one irritated fellow vigorously butted another frog (or literally back-fired!) that was trying to squeeze into a reserved berth. The most quaint exercise was frogs trying to find spaces on the mud walls of the pool by jumping up and falling back, and then trying again till they succeeded. On summitting the cliff, they seemed so peaceful and content, beaming upon their compatriots below as if they were mountaineers as successful as Edmund Hillary!
Migratory Pied cuckoos serenaded each other in the trees overhanging the pool. The wind, as it ruffled the leaves and branches of different trees, touched off varied musical notes and songs. In those blessed moments of solitude with not another human in sight for miles around, I was able to detach myself from and discard that baggage of frog assumptions that most of us are saddled with. Such prejudices are reflective of the human herd mentality, and stem from the failing of over-investing in appearances and then compounding it with generous doses of ignorance.
The frogs did not appear repulsive or slimy to me, I saw them as they were: gentle creatures bearing a soft, vulnerable look in their eyes. In their own way, they were handsome little princes frolicking in the kingdom of muddy waters. They did not need the magical kiss of a human princess to transcend their 'ugliness'.