river-tons1 new

REMEMBERING PITAJI

Maj Balwant Singh ji (1911-2004) whom we called Pitaji, passed away on 7 May 2004. One way of remembering him to insert a few pictures to recall how he brought up his four sons. And that is what we have done.

The earliest picture we have is a portrait of Pitaji taken in Peshawar. It is undated, but it appears to have been photographed in or about 1937.

Pitaji as a teacher

Pitaji, in Peshawar Cantt, 1937. 

Soon after his commission in 1942, he was promoted to the rank of a Captain and his first peace posting was a brief three month stay in Jhansi, in 1945. We have three pictures of that time.

four brothersfinal

 This is how we looked. Surinder was just a year old.

Surjit 1945

This is Surjit, Dec 1945

Pitaji as Captedited

 Pitaji, as a Capt. Note the British badges of rank 

33 CI Camp garden

This is 33, CI Camp. Pitaji won the garden competition. This picture shows him with a lady finger plant which grew to an unusually tall size. And the vegetable it produced was equally big.

river-tons1 new

Behind the house was the very picturesque Tons River. This picture was taken in 2010

Surinder's bday 24 mall

From Dehradun, we moved to Delhi Cantt. There we were allotted 24, the Mall. This is now a Flagstaff house, and the event is Surinder’s birthday. You can see how large the house is. There was enough place for us to play cricket! In the lower picture, we were playing musical chairs, with a gramophone operated by Pitaji. Chacha Pal is in the foreground. If you peer hard, you can see the gate, far behind. The drive-way was long enough for me to learn to drive our Ford Prefect car.

163 mallrd, Meerut

This is 163, The Mall, Meerut Cantt. The house has now been demolished to construct an Officers’ Mess. The walls were so thick that the house was cool all through the hot summers. There was enough place to maintain two buffaloes, with enough grass for them to graze!

Surinder on a buffalow

One of the buffaloes was so gentle, that it permitted Surinder to ride it!

Surjit in Riding Gear

The children were allowed to learn horse riding in RVC Training Centre, during summer. This is Surjit just back from a session

8 Ponappard allahabad

The next posting was to Allahabad, where we stayed in 8, Ponappa Road. This has also been demolished to make way for modern flats.

Pitaji Jhaiji

This picture has been extracted from a family portrait taken in 1956. 

Pitaji in uniform

This is the last picture we have of Pitaji in uniform.  

250R MT YN Fordprefect last

And this is 250 R Model Town, Yamunanagar, where Pitaji and Jhaiji settled down in 1966. The car you see is a Ford Prefect Registered number DLB 3713, which served us for nearly three decades. We all learned driving on it and it remained faithful to us upto the very end of its life. When we acquired it in 1950, the cars in India were so rare that some people in our village had not even seen the inside of a vehicle!

An Epilogue

We can never go back. That much is certain. But these pictures tell a tale which cannot be told in words. I find that I spend more time looking back at life, than thinking of what lay ahead of us. This thought made Shaikh Farid write an immortal piece of poetry which became a legend. Shaikh Farid ji preceded Guru Nanak by two centuries. The Punjabi which he used has survived the test of time. I am giving a link below to the rendering of this ‘shabad’ of Farid sung by Jagjit Singh and Neelam Sahni, It finds a pride of place in the holy Guru Granth Sahib. Click on to it. The you-tube gives the meanings of the ‘Shloka’ in English. Here is the link:

 

 

 


 

 

 

  1. COLLS says:

    MG Surjit

    Aap mein himmat hai
    Mount Everest koe
    a grain of sand sey
    compare kiya

    yes prime of life
    has become sublime
    now there is not
    left much of time

    To understand your
    UN bayanobal
    new creation
    it made a whirl wind
    in my mind
    it took a dementic
    now some time to chime

    BHAI, Surjit has a fathomless mind
    not another has been
    yet paida
    Na hoga
    of his kind
    Remember thee all mankind
    he speaks well of all even
    Colls
    05 AUGUST 2018
    Canada

  2. Ladi says:

    Cannot forget my childhood when we shifted in Pita ji home in 1984 on rent in that single small room. I see those years as golden years of my life. I used to massage his legs with my little hands and sometimes used to stand on his legs with the help of special lathis. checking letter box for him, asking him about letters, every evening first going to walk with mata ji and then with pita ji. My parents complained me I must get sometime to walk with us because my father did not like walking alone. cannot remember the day when he started teaching me punjabi. OBVIOUSLY cannot forget his slap that tight one I got in my life. Pitaji and Mataji were and will ever remain integral part of our life. pineapple in milk that he used to give us with some sugar and ice cream of his kelvinator fridge really the sugar of whole earth in that. His calling and concern if a single day I missed meeting him. We kids used to gather at 8 for chitrahaar and sometimes if parents allowed and of course pita ji at 9′s serial and Sunday’s Ramayan. Enjoying in his ambassador sometimes to the gurudwara sahib. lots and lots of memories of my childhood that each and single one revolves around and relate to 250R and pitaji mataji. anyway could not come back after leaving in 1991. but era of 1984 to 1991 were the best moments of my childhood. Last time I saw him in 1999 in Khalsa college was the last. still just 5 minutes back I was showing my kids 250R as my sweet little home of childhood on google maps. anyway memories always live in my heart and will always though. May their soul live in heaven and bless us always as their little ladi and sukha.

  3. Micky Bhambri says:

    Dear Uncle,
    Thanks for sharing. The pictures are historic.
    Micky

  4. ';colls'' says:

    you didn’t read mine yet

  5. Great tribute
    An inspiration
    Thanks for sharing , GOD bless you

  6. Jasbir Cheema says:

    From LCdr Jasbir Singh Cheema.
    I called my father Pitaji too. He was commissioned in 1941 and served in N.Africa, Sicily and Italy and came back. He was in the Supply corp. He went again as a LCol to Iraq and Iran. After the war and shifting from Pak to India, he was incharge of the refugee camp in Jullunder Cantt. He was posted in Ambala Cantt, where we had a H U G E house and then to New Delhi Cantt as JAG. We stayed in 66 Lodhi Road. …………. ?????????

    Thanks for reminding me of my short stay with my Pitaji. In 1950, he was poisoned by his friend whom he saved in the Court Martial, and died before he could take up his new appointment in Bombay.

    The house and your father’s picture are very close to my memory of what I have of my Pitaji. Thanks for the MEMORIES.

    J.S.Cheema

    • surjit singh says:

      Dear Jasbir,
      It must have been nostalgic…but I think it would have also caused pain. I am shocked to learn about the demise of your Pitaji. And what a way to go!
      Surjit

  7. Col Manmohan Singh Jassal says:

    Lovely memories
    jassal


    COL M S JASSAL
    Dean Administration
    Chitkara University (Pb)

  8. Anil Bhalla says:

    Most interesting and enlightening. Well done Surjit. Thanks for sharing
    Bobby

  9. Moru Kelkar says:

    Hi Surjit,

    I feel sorry that I never had an opportunity to meet your parents and pay respects. From what we see and hear I feel they must have been very very nice people.

    I had an opportunity to meet Vivek Sapatnikar’s parents (they were nice to invite us for Ganesh Festival at Clement town, and extend a standing invitation (when we were rather lost) and offer us the warmth of a house). That is what I feel I / we would have received had it dawned on us to call on your parents!

    Though from the same NDA, IMA and YO course (EME) I wonder why I got to know you on 18 EME Degree course and not earlier!

    Congratulations! It is a nice, touchy and effective presentation.
    Regards.
    Moru

  10. D N Sood says:

    Remembering Pitaji…a loving tribute by a loving son. You have lived in some very historic houses.

    I am sure everyone enjoyed Fareeda…. wonderful rendition.

    • surjit singh says:

      Dave,
      Pitaji’s military career was very short, but he got some good postings: seven years in the IMA and over seven years in Services Selection Boards. He was lucky to be allotted good houses. But then, soon afteer Independence, the Army was very small and Major was a big rank.
      In Delhi Cantt, as far as I know, we did not see many Colonels and brigadiers. As for our attachment with Pitaji is concerned, it was due to his continuous service in field areas from 1942 to late 1946. The war leave used to be 28 days (at home) and after the war he got posted to Burma in a PoW camp as a warder.
      Surjit

  11. Lt Gen RK Gaur says:

    Dear Surjit

    Sorry for being laconic and causing confusion.

    First Message was ‘kitthe’, meaning I could not find Baba Farid’s lyrics.

    Second was ’millya’, meaning I found it!

    (This mail was preceded by two one word messages. The first one said, “Kithe?”
    The seclm on said, “millya”) I could not de-cypher” Now, this mail clears the dust)

  12. J Thomas says:

    Thanks for sharing. There’s a lot of history in this article.

  13. Sukhdev Narula says:

    Dear Surjit
    It is a great way to reflect on your formative past and a tribute to Pita Ji.

    I had the previlige to associate with respected Maj Balwant Singh as my instuctor and colleague.33 CI Camp @ Tons River below remind us our Youthful days. We were blessed with my both sons in 32 CI Camp in 1965 &1966.

    Ending with Baba Farid Ji Saloka recital is very appropriate.

    Thanks.

    Regards

    Sukhdev

    • surjit singh says:

      Sukhdev,
      You are twice blessed!
      The CI camp houses had an old world charm, which can never be re-created.
      Surjit

  14. Gurdayal Sungh says:

    My dear Surjit

    Thanks for sharing your old memories. This reminds me also about my past in IMA. Your father had earned deep respects of all of us as cadets by giving us extremely kind and respectful treatment, unlike his other colleagues.

    Gurdayal

  15. Lt Gen Manmohan Singh says:

    My Dear Surjit,

    SSA. Just saw ur mail about the shocking demise of Pita ji. Our deepest condolences to u & the whole family.
    May Almighty rest his soul in peace & bless the family str to bear his loss.

    Looking at the pictures in ur mail, & more on hearing the Farid Sahib’ shabad I can see how much u loved him,
    & now terribly miss him. May God be with u!

    With luv & fond regards,
    Manmohans.

    • surjit singh says:

      Dear General,
      Thanks.
      Pitaji lived a full life. Even at 93, he managed his affairs himself. He left the world of mortals on 7 May 2004. Being in Bangalore, you are a bit away from the North. But you have the company of two doctors and their lovely children. That must be such a blessing!
      Thanks for the kind words.
      Surjit

  16. Ghansham Ahluwalia says:

    Dear Surjit ji,

    Thanks a lot for sharing these wonderful old memories, presentedby you in your own unique way and giving a

    final touch of the melodius bhajan of Farid ji,that too by the noted singers .

    It has brought memories of my childhood days, but I dont have many photographs left with me ,

    I don’t know where are they now.

    With regards

    Ghansham Singh

  17. N K Sapra says:

    Dear Gen,

    Thanks for sharing such valuable moments.

    We always remember your respected father with great respect and admiration.

    best wishes,

    N K Sapra

    • surjit singh says:

      Narinder,
      We share a common heritage. Somehow, whenever I hear from you, I am reminded of Surinder. He was in the NDA with me, I think four courses after me. What a gem of a man!
      Surjit

  18. vijay Manchanda says:

    A great way to pay homage to your respected father

  19. Jagwant says:

    Beautiful and nostalgic.
    Time is the key.
    Wonderful to have come across ‘Pitajee’ and now to be associated with the family.

    ~ jog

    • surjit singh says:

      Jog,
      The feelings are mutual!
      How about pulling out some old pictures of Uncle Didar Singh.
      I remember you had a nice camera…and I took some pictures with it.
      Surjit

  20. Ritu Bhanot says:

    to me

    Namastey uncle ji,

    I hope both of you are fine. Thank you for your e-mail.

    Such a nice way to remember something that you will never forget… this is something all of us have to face and few of us can come to terms with.

    I read your e-mail about jhai ji just a few days ago. Didn’t comment because some things are above that. May God take care of both of them!

    Will definitely read this piece as soon as I have finished this recovery process. The whole hard disk is full and can hardly do anything with it. Got another hard disk and am copying text, doc, xls, jpg files etc to it.

    Bhai sahab started it 4-5 days ago and it is complete today :-)

    Then I can switch off the poor thing for a day or two before starting it again. Meanwhile I’m reading Asimov… a real book after a long time. A pity that I couldn’t get the English version!

    Rest is fine.
    Cordialement/ Best Regards,

    Ritu Bhanot
    Tel.: 0033-(0)650046849

  21. Lt Col H.S.Bedi says:

    Rare pictures indeed. What a beautiful way to pay homage to your respected

    father.

    Harindar

  22. Talat Zamir says:

    What a beautiful way to remember your father . I enjoyed your other write- up on your eng. college days . I remembered my school and brief college days while reading it .. It is always a pleasure to go through your articles . My love to Surender .
    Looking forward to your emails .
    Talat
    Sent from my iPhone

  23. S S Malik says:

    thanks for sharing sir

    sultan

  24. Mirza Yawar Baig says:

    Beautiful post and pictures……as my mother said to me, talking about my Dada – ‘We all pass away, but the memories remain. So be careful what memories you leave behind.’

    Many thanks for sharing, General sahib.

    Yawar Baig

  25. ';colls'' says:

    Nostalgic ….and a great tribute Surjit ji….
    My father also passed away in May…. on 5Th May 1969… Mom 22 Jul 1968
    May they rest in peace …where ever they may be
    A simple word may be befitting

    Aaj aap kee yaaad dilatee hai
    woh gujra hua zammanna…
    kisssne kul, kab hai janna
    aaj beeta hua kul,
    lugta hai pooraanaa
    kal ka kaun keh sakta hai
    woh toe abhee bhee hai anjanna..

    colls

  26. Dear Sir,

    Our respectful homage to dear father.

    Excellent photos which recreate the past and bring back fond memories.

    Had travelled in the Ford from Ambala and stayed at 33,CI Camp before joining the Cambrian Hall boarding.

    The car purchase has a history, involving Col AL Sethi, my dad and? Probably you would know more.

    • surjit singh says:

      Moru,

      Thanks. Parents are parents, whether it be mine or yours. I have no doubt that you are just as fond of your parents as I am of mine.

      I may also add that the real worth of the parents is felt after they are gone!

      Love,

      Surjit

Leave a Comment