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Skirting the issue

india Updated: Jun 19, 2006 02:00 IST
M.N. Batra

A reunion, be it at a school, college or any organisation, brings back memories of one’s younger days. This year in February, the Army Corps of Signals held its reunion in Jabalpur, the home of the Corps. The response from veterans and widows was so overwhelming that a plane was chartered to fly us down. Apart from personal attention to each guest, the official programme — parades, War Memorial ceremony, pensioners’ meet, laser show, motorcycle display and many social events — were carried out with utmost precision. It made us feel proud of the Corps.

For me, it was a nostalgic visit to Jabalpur. I first arrived there as a newly commissioned officer 66 years ago. In those days, it was a typical peacetime British cantonment. All married officers down to the rank of captain lived in sprawling bungalows. I was one of just two Indian officers. In our orientation programme, a good deal of emphasis was given to mess customs and social etiquette.

On arrival for the reunion, I took the opportunity of going around the cantonment recalling some of the escapades of those carefree bachelor days. My last port of call was the famous Narbada Club. This was a great disappointment. It used to be the hub of all social activities of the station — tennis tournaments, tea dances, Saturday gala nights, fancy dress balls, the works. The building I now saw was dark and dingy, with waiters in dirty uniforms.

I stood at the centre of the ballroom and remembered how the Royal Corps of Signals dance band would set the ball rolling by playing a lively tune called In the Mood. Gents would arrive in black-tie dinner jackets and the ladies in long evening gowns. Then, a flashback of an incident came to mind, that involving a visiting musical and hula dancer. As the tempo of the music quickened, so did the swaying hips of the artistes. Suddenly, there was a loud scream — the skirt of one of the dancers had fallen to the floor.

The Brits, with their stiff upper lip, carried right on as if nothing had happened. Recently, in Mumbai, when the upper garment of a model walking the ramp accidentally got detached, there was tremendous hue and cry. Perhaps, on such matters, we should learn a thing or two from the Brits.

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