Guest column: Humour in innocence
Shaarav, our three-year-old grandson, was upbeat when he arrived after a fruitful visit over the weekend to his other set of grandparents. He laid out the newly acquired mini bowling alley set and lined up for the strike. However, even though his underarm throw was impressive, the end result was two pins down out of six.
As we looked at each other in awed disappointment and before I could reassure him that he would do better in the next attempt, his innocent observation came as a surprise that made us laugh: “Dadu, no point. This set is made in China!”
Similarly, there is no dearth of wit and innocent humour in the Armed forces. My first commanding officer (CO), when I joined my regiment on commissioning in 1981, had a unique style of conducting his monthly durbar (interaction with the troops of his unit). At the end of his discourse he would highlight the good and not-so-good-actions by the boys during the month.
During one of those meetings, Sowar Hawa Singh, stood up in rapt attention on being called out by the Risaldar Major (senior-most junior commissioned officer) and ordered to explain why his Shaktiman vehicle (Army truck) had veered off the road and hit a tree. “Shriman, mein sikhlai ke anusar seedha dekh kar gaari chala raha tha ki achanak sadak par ek ubhaar aaya aur gaari out of control ho gayi (As taught I was looking straight ahead when I encountered a bump on the road and lost control),” was Hawa’s forthright submission. Bumps were speed-breakers, newly introduced on the cantonment roads and a cultural change for the no-holds-barred tank driver. But the CO was not taken in. “Ubhaar se pehle ek board laga tha ki aage speed breaker hai (there was a signboard for a speed breaker)”. Not the one to be indicted for no fault of his, Hawa was at his innocent best: “Shrimaan, maine baad mein check kiya, yeh board sadak ke baain taraf tha aur mein seedha dekh raha tha (The board was to my left and I was looking straight ahead).” A speechless CO smiled and announced the end of his darbar.
Just the other day, I went to the CSD (Army canteen) to apply for the purchase of a car. The dealing clerk, an ex-serviceman, after examining my case, confirmed that the purchase was in order. I went about completing intricate formalities, including an online transfer of the sum to the CSD depot (controlling authority) at Jalandhar. A special courier reported at Jalandhar to obtain the release order. Alas! The indent was rejected, citing the reason: Not authorised.
The dealing clerk, myself and everyone in the chain had failed to notice the existing instructions. The blame game started with the buck stopping at the dealing clerk, notwithstanding the fact that the canteen management had displayed the instructions on a huge board at the entrance of the canteen which we failed to notice and the clerk forgot to remember.
The guy took the onus of the faux pas squarely upon himself and remarked with all humility at his command: “Sir, putting on a mask is cumbersome, it covers the mouth and nose but blurs the vision too.”
(The writer is a Chandigarh-based freelance contributor).