air marshal lungi



CYCLIC is well known in aviation circles. We are now privileged to carry an article by him, quite appropriately with a Khadakvasla background. Even though he is an alumnus of PWMC and NDA, CYCLIC has not lost his sense of humour. He also dabbles in seriousaviation history. He proudly calls himself a “supercilious scoundrel.”



Air Marshal Minoo Jehangir Dotiwalla passed away on 5 May 16 at the ripe old age of 90. His wife had preceded him.


I spent a year in NDA as a ‘Div Oh’ in 1979 after which I was sent to FIS. When I arrived at NDA without my ‘Ho Chi Minn’ moustache, ten years after my stint as a cadet, despite being older, I was almost the same 18 Div Cadet Captain back in 69.  I hadn’t grown up that much mentally, morally or physically.

sewa parmo dharma

A few months later, venerable Dotiwalla Sir was posted in as Cmdt NDA (9 Jul 79). Either his staff officer was dumb, or the then AVM Sir didn’t know a thing about the power, pomp and glamour of the Cmdt NDA.  A telegram arrived in NDA fifteen days before the AVM. Arriving by train with family, request arrange transport and accommodation’ !!  Obviously it became ‘the joke of the year’ amongst the officers in NDA.



My then Bat Com, late Cdr Mohan Chandy (the man who got his MTB towed to Karachi and attacked Pakis with aplomb in 71), a roly-poly very jovial man, conferred with us youngsters of No 1 Bn and plotted a prank on the AVM’s arrival for having sent that stupid telegram (I am sure Chandi Sir must have taken the Dep Com too into confidence).



I was detailed as the LO to pick up the AVM from the Rlwy Stn in my beat up Herald car. So I received him at the Rlwy Stn, made him push start the ruddy Herald, and took him to my Flt Lt quarters in D3 area. Mrs Dotiwalla first inspected my toilets and spartan quarters. She was most disappointed and gave a piece of her mind to my brand new wife masquerading to perfection as the maid. 



After a cup of tea, I suggested that since Mrs Dotiwalla didn’t approve of the accommodation that we had arranged, I will take him to an alternate accommodation, marginally better. Made the AVM push start the car again.  And when he arrived at the ‘Lake Palace’ overlooking the Peacock Bay he almost had a heart attack.

lake palace

commandant house

Screen shot of NDA Commandant’s house overlooking Khadakvasla Lake. (Could not get any photo of the exalted place)


There was a guard of honour by sixth term cadets, brass & pipe band, and the entire staff of NDA and their wives lined up to receive him. Last one in the line-up was my wife, still dressed as a maid !! Mrs Dotiwalla hugged my wife when introduced, and started crying and laughing at the same time. She said something in Parsi tongue, which perhaps meant some very very very affectionate things.




I never got to meet the Cmdt or his wife at close quarters for several  months, even though there were very lively parties at his Lake Palace, as well as by the  pool side, with the star attraction being the swimming wonder, beauty queen, Nafisa Ali Sodhi, the brand new wife of our equitation officer, RS Sodhi. Life went by at supersonic speed with the Cmdt raising the bar, ‘bar bar’, higher and higher.


A file photograph of Nafisa Ali, taken at the time of her participation in the beauty contest




outstanding cadet

I had an outstanding Cdt in B Sqn, whose father (just like  mine) had no sense of humour and gave him a name (just like mine) that contained the complete postal address with the pin code. Every day I was called upon to write something or the other, a mix of facts and fiction, in this cadet’s dossier.    Now how many times can you write ‘Padmanabha Venkata Varaha Venkatehswaralu’, did this or that, on daily basis. Out of frustration, I decide to chop his name to ‘PVVV Lu’. After making him front roll down the corridor of B Sqn, I told him to get up. Like Queen of England, I pronounced him a knight, ‘Rise, Sir Lu’.



Gol Market

He immediately went to ‘Gol Market’ and got a new name tab, ‘PVVV-Loo’.

Everything went well till this bugger, Loo, went and got himself several medals in athletics or something like that. During the prize distribution, the Cmdt got tired of  hanging medals around his neck. So he asked him like Gen Patton, ‘What is your name son ?’.

The Cdt, with exemplary military bearing, stood to ram rod attention.

‘I am Cadet Peeee, Veeee, Veeee, Veeeee, Loo Sir’ he said..

The whole thing was being broadcasted on the PA system. The academy started laughing and yodelling like hyenas, very musical, like Kishore Kumar. I didn’t have a place to hide.

‘What is your name, come again ?’, the Cmdt repeated.  

‘Cadet Peeee, Veeee, Veeee, Veeeee, Loo Sir’, my boy shouted again at the top of his voice with very justified pride of Centurion Pontius Buggerusall, the star performer of the Roman Army.

The academy started hooting with uncontrolled mirth despite repeated shouts by the Adjutant to ‘Shut Up’. 

‘Did your father give  you that name ?’, the Cmdt asked with an incredulous look on his face.

‘No Sir, my  Div Oh did’, Loo confessed truthfully.

I was marched up to the Cmdt without a belt, and the bugle was blown. I suffered ‘hicum-foocum’ imagining that the Cmdt was going to relegate me to ‘Corporal’, ‘Do Phiti’ on my sleeves rather than on my shoulders.

‘I like your practical jokes, but this is going too far’, the Cmdt warned me very seriously.

‘Just imagine, one day he will be a General. Do you want him to be known as General Toilet ?’, he asked very sagaciously.

‘Yes Sir’ I said with all humility. ‘I will go back and revert him to his original name.

I didn’t tell the Cmdt that, behind his back, I had christened him ‘AVM Lungi’ !!!



In keeping with the promise I made to Lungi Sir, I went to Gol Market and got Lu a new name tab, ‘Venkateshwaralu’. There was no place to put PVV on the name tab. I called Lu in the afternoon, and ordered him to wear the new name tab, that he was no longer a ‘Loo’, but God ‘Venkateshwaralu’

Some years ago I was told that ‘Venkateshwaralu’ was given command of a Brigade. And because he is such an illustrious fellow, the troops very affectionately, with pride, calls him ‘Commander Pishab’.  I now agree with AVM Lungi’s sagacious advice, tampering with names, even as nom-de-guerre, can have grave consequences, I was a silly bugger !!!!

Air Mshl Lungi Sir, and Mrs Dotiwalla, you have chosen to go far away.  But no  matter how far you have gone, you will be remembered by us with fond affection and pride.


Rest In Peace, both of you.







Post Script from the Editor

At the NDA many cadets got ‘Academy Names’ and some stuck  on for the entire service. Some of them were acceptable to the boys, but some were not. In extreme cases, there were instances where people got their names officially changed to break away from the name given to them by their course-mates. Permit me to mention two cadets of Easy Squadron who changed their name:

  • Cadet ZM Puthetto XVI/E  was sometimes referred to as ‘Potato’ . When commissioned into the Corps of Signals, he changed over to PZ Mani.
  • Cadet NR Baindur XVIII/E of the Ordnance changed over to BN Rao for a similar reason.


  1. Veena Baweja says:

    Veena Baweja
    Jul 12, 2019, 12:33 PM (22 hours ago)
    to me

    Dear Surjitji,

    Thank you so much for sending the above snippet. It was really so much fun to read it. Really enjoyed it. Thanks a lot.

    My regards to Surinder.


  2. Navrekha Sharma says:

    navrekha sharma
    Fri, Jul 12, 12:19 PM (22 hours ago)
    to me

    Dear Surjit ji,
    How are you?
    your article about nic names was too funny for words! Thanks for sending
    we are all well with no complaints except for bad weather
    My regards to you and love to Surindar

  3. Brig Harikumar Krishnannair says:

    Thanks for sharing

  4. Lt Gen Avtar Singh says:

    Avtar Singh
    Jul 8, 2019, 11:31 AM (5 days ago)
    NDA is an amazing place.Thanks for sharing this episode Sent from my iPad

  5. Cdr VK Jaitley says:

    Dear Sir,

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    Website:, Blog:
    YouTube Channel: “ExcellenceGuru” by Commander VK Jaitly

  6. Jasper Sandhu says:

    Jasper Sandhu
    Wed, Jul 10, 11:55 AM (1 day ago)
    to me

    Dear Sir,
    Thanks for sharing events that were so full of emotions and had great depth.
    I have read the article again and again.
    Thanks for this Treasure .
    Those were the days!!!
    Full of Sincerety,Simplicity,Respect & Values
    With Regards
    Lt Col J S Sandhu

  7. Lt(IN) George Poonen says:

    Hi Surjit,
    It made my day!

  8. Col ABS Sidhu says:

    Hi Surjit ,
    Thanks for reviving good oldmemories of NDA days .With warm regards and best wishes

  9. Lt Gen Harbhajan Singh says:

    Dear Chiefs,

    You three are ex NDA. I am sure reading this will make you smile, laugh and relax!!! NDA Days will live with us till the last and we First Course Wallas are becoming RIP rather quick!!!

    You are doing NDA proud.

    Guts was a very essential quality inculcated in NDA and GUTS is different in different appointments and situations!!!

    Warm regards.

    Harbhajan Singh
    Lt Gen, PVSM
    Signal Officer-in-Chief 1988-91
    A/46 1st Course NDA

    THIS IS WORTH A READ; hilarious; especially for ex NDA!!!

    Maj Gen Surjit Singh is from EME and lives close by. His father was in the Education Corps and our instructor when we were in the Indian Military Academy.

    Harbhajan Singh
    Lt Gen
    1st Course NDA (JSW)


    • collskohli says:

      Dear Sir,
      Do we still have those ”guts” as in 1956 on wards
      I WONDER still

      15TH NDA

  10. D N Sood says:

    A very interest read. Brings a big smile to your face.

    Services are full of such stories of mirth and laughter in good taste.

    I am sure many more will be inspired to write such stories on AMOLAK.

  11. Jagwant says:


    What a terrific tale! Thanks to you for sharing it.
    Reminded me of a rare occasion when an Air Marshal, a Veteran of about 90 years to boot, voluntarily pushed my car in the middle of Chandigarh. Totally different circumstances of course. But imagine my embarrassment! Such great people as this unassuming (now late) Air Marshal – rare indeed.
    Fond regards.

  12. Surjit Singh says:

    Dear Thomas and ‘Cyclic’

    I have read the piece several times. And I seem to enjoy it every time. The Malayali ‘Tambi’ has exaggerated it a bit, but he has the story-teller’s licence to do so!

    I think some one should explain the reason why the author is called ‘Cyclic’. We must also tell our readers as to when he got this name.

  13. Ajay Madan says:

    Ajay Madan
    Tue, Jul 9, 8:23 AM (1 day ago)

    Dear Sir,

    Visited your web site today and was pleasantly surprised to see some very fine articles which were quite nostalgic.

    Had met Cyclic by chance in Bangalore some time ago and have been a fan of his writings/musings.

    I wish you the best and please put me on your mailing list, if you have one, to receive the latest updates.

    I have my Samdhi, Mal Gen Deepak Anand, settled in Chandigarh and shall definitely meet you when I visit him

    I am settled in Secunderabad.

    Warm wishes,

    Ajay Madan

    • Surjit Singh says:

      Dear Ajay,
      I am glad you liked the piece. Unni writes very well. And if he has added a bit of spice, he has the story teller’s licence to do so.
      I will be delighted to meet you when you visit Chandigarh.

    • VIJAY BHOSALE says:

      A good comment, indeed. Are you a signaller? Probably 48 regular IMA? I was a signaller and had a junior course GC Ajay Madan in Zojila coy. Later on we both were together either in 2 mtn div or P comn zone sig regt.

  14. Col Y Tuli says:

    Forwarded to all friends

  15. Cyclic says:

    Nehru went on a visit to NEFA in 1960 and was flown to Zero in a S-55 helicopter by then Flt Lt (later Wg Cdr) late AS Williams. After his meeting with King of Zero, Nehru saw the ten year old prince of Zero roaming around in his ‘langot’, with chicken bones sticking out of his mighty head gear. Nehru ran around, caught him by the scuff of his neck, put him in the helicopter and flew him to another kingdom in Dehra Dun, called RIMC (Rashtriya Indian Military Collage – old PWMC) where the venerable Vice Principal, late RC Shingal, an outstanding educationist was asked to make the boy civilised.
    So by the time ‘Tamo Bage’ joined my class in RIMC in 1962, he had learnt a few words in English (bird, tree, want, don’t want etc), just like me, a monkey from heartland of erstwhile Travancore kingdom who pounced maximum as ‘Yum Yeh Yux, Eye, yagain Yum, Eye, Yand Yagain Yum Yum’. All my class mates were prince of somewhere, like late Autar (King of Bhanga), Jasbir (King of Changa), Tota (King of Yandhra), …….not to forget Soli Pavri (Emperor of Bombay Underworld). Once MO Mathai brought a gift for Tamo Bage from Chacha Nehru, an Agfa Click III. Tamo Bage bashed it on the ground and imperiously ordered MOM ‘ Eye No Want Click, Eye Want Go Home’ !!

    We grew up gradually and became toy soldiers. Five years later we joined NDA. But before joining NDA, I had given every one a ‘nom de guerre’. When I christened Tamobage, as Tomato Bag, he took great umbrage and punched me on the nose. My class mates called me ‘Cyclic’, a dog who chases his own tail, going round and round at supersonic speed, but goes nowhere !!

    In Echo Sqn in NDA, our 37th course mates pruned Tomato Bag to Tomato. Tomato couldn’t stomach Tomato and sought official change of name, to Rimo Karbek. In later life, Brig Rimmo Karbek, an outstanding highly decorated army officer, King of Zero, first service officer from NEFA, had by then become King of Pongong Tso Brigade in Ladhak. He had under command a Sikh Li Rgt, who endearingly referred to him as, ‘Sadda Kamander Tamater Shahib’ and the Brigade HQ became ‘Tomato Bde’. In my IAF service life, I spent 60% dressing and undressing in front of the army, and hence earned several sobriquets, depending on the troops I served. To Jak Li I was ‘Kartoos’, to 5 &17 Sikh I was ‘Sadda Londa Kirtarta, and to remain hidden from Kadyan CO Raj Rif, I reverted back to anonymous Cyclic !!! Life is like that.


    • Gp.Capt C Krishna K Menon (Retd) says:

      During the past few years that I have read and enjoyed your stories I imagined that your nom de plume related to your rotary wing experience! Jumping to conclusions.

  16. collskohli says:


    SIR MG S

  17. J Thomas says:

    Hi MPS ! Narinder Aggarwal may have given you a nice name but he kept it very quiet. This is the first time I’m hearing it.

    Glad that at least some guys like the story. Cyclic has more stories of his year as a Div Oh at Khadakvasla.

    Have forwarded the story to Mohan Chandy’s family.

  18. Prem Hejmadi says:

    Nicely portrayed. Enjoyed the walk down memory lane, especially the B Sqn part, as that was my squadron.

  19. Cdt Narinder Aggarwal (God bless his soul)of 18th course called me Looney.I didn’t realise then how prophetic my senior was !I know it now. What a fine read !

  20. Cdt Narinder Aggarwal (God bless his soul)of 18th course called me Looney.I didn’t realise then how prophetic my senior was !I know it now.

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