Reading the newspapers the other day, I found that all were about the Budget. I suddenly drifted three decades back, when I did not even understand what the Budget was all about. I was a newly commissioned 2nd Lieutenant in the Army and after the games parade, the Commanding Officer (CO) had called for a conference in his office. The CO was a hard taskmaster and had a short fuse. He had a remarkable control on the choice of expletives he could deliver, even before one could understand one’s fault. Finding my Company Commander missing from the conference, he enquired, ‘Son, where is your Company Commander? Go call him.’ I rang him on the intercom and he arrived within 10 minutes. By that time the CO was fuming and asked him the reason for his absence. Like a soldier, he told the truth that he was watching the highlights of the Budget on Doordarshan in his house. The short fuse was blown, as the CO was unable to digest how an officer from his unit managed to find time for the Budget! In a booming voice, he said, ‘Time now is 1800 hours and by 1900 hours, your whole company will mount vehicles and leave the unit location to an area 35 km away for training till further orders.’
Fifteenth day into the training, a senior JCO walked in, saluted the Company Commander and requested that since there was non-vegetarian food for dinner, if he could issue rum to the troops. The Company Commander gave his approval and called me to his tent. Since the routine had become monotonous, he suggested we go for a drive and have some drinks. We left in an open Willys Jeep and after travelling a few kilometres on the highway, we saw a plateau and drove up. We could see the countryside as it was a full moon night, with the night sky shimmering with stars. It was a beautiful vantage point, and after a couple of drinks, the Company Commander decided to go to a roadside dhaba for dinner. I parked the jeep behind the dhaba, hiding it from view, and we had dinner to our heart’s content and moved back to our location. The next morning during PT, the CO gave us a surprise visit as he somehow came to know of our night-out.
After he had left, and we were yet to recover from the onslaught, orders were passed to pack up and move back to the unit. We presumed that the CO must have realised that we had settled down well and had started enjoying the outing, so he decided to recall us. Since then, whenever the Budget is presented, I get nostalgic and remember those memorable 15 days and the drinks and food at the dhaba under a moonlit night.
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