There is an old comrade from Daks in 43, Arun Karandikar (Kandy, Air Cmde Rtd, later a famed Indian Airlines Pilot), about 5 yrs my senior who was/ and still is, one of my role models. When I joined the AF, first met him, he was flying Daks from Jorhat. He was a brilliant pilot with no attitude, a simple man. From Jorhat he went on to fly the AN-12 and often came back to Jorhat on ‘Assam Courier’ trips. When someone not on the manifest ever came to ask for a lift, he would say, ‘Get in if you want to, but I cannot assure you that we will not crash’ !!! Usually Kandy Sir never counted the heads and I have personally seen him carry twice the number of passengers that was allowed. ‘What is the use of being a good pilot if you can’t put it to good use’, was his usual comment. There are a lot of old and bold simple soldiers from days of yore, who took leave and came to Jorhat praying that Kandy Sir was the Capt of Assam Courier. We did not have the Plan Aren those days, but the enterprising Sig fellows in Nagaland used HF & VHF to patch up to Chandigarh ATC on Wednesdays to check out who was likely to be the Capt of the Assam courier. If it was Kandy, half of 8 Mtn Div including the GOC used to apply for leave and run to Jorhat on Friday !!! Since I spent long innings with the army in 81 Bde (Chakabama), I have heard them repeat this folklore innumerable times with great satisfaction (making me jealous).
After Jorhat (Daks) I went further / farther in service to Chabua (104 HU) to fly MI-4s.
Once around 1977, I was sent to the outback (Tripura, Manipur and Mizoram) in the Mi-4 to do an all day long a pay parade, I think for Assam Rifles, about 10 - 12 posts starting from Parva, the southernmost point. It was called the Kilo Courier. I was to night halt at Kumbigram, do the courier the next day, again night halt at Kumbi and return to Chakabama two days later. I was to fist drop GOC 8 Mtn Div at Limakong and pick him up on return, I think he was going on R&R.
I picked up the paying officer, a young Capt from AR with his treasure chests (cash boxes), from Limakong (near Imphal) and took him to Parva. While the paying officer went about his task, distributing pay to AR soldiers in cash, there would be a crowd wanting to take a lift in the MI4, either to the next helipad or somewhere en-route.
‘Come One, Come All’ I called out like an ‘Azaan’.
‘Jahaz Ap Ke Bap Ka Hai, Aur Pilot Best Hai’, I added unnecessarily.
So at every helipad someone would get in and someone would get off, I never counted or checked to see who got in, or who got off. The Mi-4 did complain and refused to hover. I had to plead with the Mi-4 that I had declared that ‘Pilot Best Hai’, even give it a kick on its rudder.
At every helipad, an AR JCO would come to me, salute and say ‘Rakh Diya Shaheb’. I presumed that it was their luggage and hence absentmindedly repeated ‘Thik Hai Saheb’. This went on for around 8 halts till we reached I think Moreh. For some strange reason, I went into the tail boom to check something and there I found two or three crates of rum.
I called to the JCO, ‘Somebody has forgotten his Rum’.
‘Nahin Shab’, he told me without guile, ‘Shab Ne Apna Apna Hishab Diya hai’.
I was quite perplexed. So I asked the young Capt, ‘What did the JCO mean ?’.
‘See here’, the Capt explained. ‘Every man who takes a lift, he has to pay his share of half a bottle of rum, it is a bribe for the pilot’
‘Says who ?’, I roared, out of sheer disgust.
‘Well Sir, that is the tradition of the Mi-4 unit in Kumbigram’, the Captain told me shrugging his shoulders.
‘Captain, we are going to change that tradition’, I announced emphatically. ‘Stop the pay parade. I have had enough. We are going back’, I told him.
‘All the guys who took a lift, I want them back in the helicopter’, I ordered.
We went back all the way to Parva, landing at each helipad turn by turn, to pick up and return the same soldiers from where I had picked them up or dropped them. I returned the bottles back to each of them ceremoniously with a proper salute.
‘Jahaz Ap Ke Bap Ka hai, Pilot Khundaki Admi Hai’, I repeated at each stop. ‘Age Se Pilot Ko Rum Diya, To Sari Paltan Ko Utha Ke Dacca Chod Doonga’, I said with determination.
I went back to Limakong, as well as the posts in Tripura, Manipur and Mizoram several times after that on routine Kilo Couriers or with GOCs / Army Cdr. I gave a lift to every man who wanted to go somewhere – it was my privilege.
Each time I asked, ‘Sala Mera Ghoos Kidhar Hai ?’.
‘Nahin Shab’, I was told by the simple jawans of AR. ‘Sala Dacca Kaun Jayaga ?’, they smiled. I smiled with them out of sheer joy, camaraderie.
I hope I set a new tradition for Mi-4 Kilo couriers in those days.
Perhaps I acted stupid because of an attitude problem ? That was what the guys in 110 complained to my Flt Cdr in 104 !!!