With our bags packed, eyes glittering with hope, anticipation and a feeling that caused the deepest stirs in the void that seeped within, we set out for a journey that sought to fill that void with memories, memoirs and tales of a saga that was to be retold through the living legends themselves. Returning to one’s parent unit to participate in the Golden Jubilee Celebrations is a tad bit more than homecoming. Its like re-uniting with a part of yourself that got lost in the quagmires of existential crisis. Stretching a journey that spanned approximately 490 km from Ahmedabad to Devlali, and strutting our way across a section of the Golden Quadrilateral highway, also crossing the only rivers that flow east to west, (a Geography lesson learnt way back in school, no bonus points for guessing ‘Narmada’ and ‘Tapi’) it took us 8 hours to reach Devlali. We covered the 430 km stretch in Gujarat in approximately 6 hours and 65 kms on Maharashtra roads in 2, you know now where governance is better!!
|All eyeing the JITRA trophy|
We unpacked our stuff and parked ourselves in the D-mess accomodation, a set of two suites opposite each other, co-incidentally named ‘Narmada’ and ‘Gomti’. Particularly delighted on setting my eyes at the 4 day programme details, that moment I rekindled fond memories of army functions that I have long been detached from, in a while, for the first time. The first event of the function, JITRA Dinner, at the Cannon Officers Mess, re-fueled memories of the past with people of our own, long lost in the chapter of lives called ‘childhood’, only to replenish thyself with their coveted presence that not only translated into feelings of reverence, but also of sweet fondness and a cherishable past. The JITRA trophy commemorating the grandeur of 50 years since the regiment was raised, was unveiled, capturing JITRA’s rich and valiant history. Officers of all ranks rejoiced in this momentous occasion, and the spirit of the regiment shone bright in the warmth with which everyone met each other, the pride with which the seniors rejoiced in the victories of their officers, and the feeling of unity that engulfs one and all.
|Barakhana – Officers and men regaling in the joyous occasion|
The subsequent days saw one function lined up after the other – lunch at JITRA House, under the hospitality of the Commanding Officer, tea at the Flag Staff House, followed by Barakhana at ‘Golandaz’. The lunch saw keen interaction between families and officers alike. A regiment function is incomplete without the Barakhana, and quite so, an association from the days of yore with JCOs, NCOs, and other ranks that served families across different locations, along with their families came along to put together a performance replete with humor, singing and dance followed by ‘khana’ (simply put, a spread of food).
Displaying their bondage to JITRA, 563 Mtn Bty veterans attended the celebrations in large numbers from down South. Officers and men shared anecdotes of their past glories and exciting memories. The day ended on a high note, with the entire JITRA family relishing and reliving the great days of togetherness.
|1971 war veterans along with their wives|
The last and final day of the Golden Jubilee Celebrations saw the War Memorial Service, in memory of those who laid down their lives during the 1971 Indo-Pak war and various Operations, with the officers adorning the Ceremonial uniform (Dress No. 2), and veterans the National Dress. The Founders Day lunch at Heritage Mess was again a formal event, with members from the School of Artillery, stationed at Devlali, also joining in.
|The Tri-Services Symphony Band Concert|
The night was characterized by the Tri-Services Symphony Band Concert at the Sahyadri Hall, with men from the three services pitching notes together to beautiful melodies, one after the other. The notable ones being Marriage of Figaro composed by Mozart, Trombone Solo-The Joker by Harold Moss, and the all-time favorite Summer of 69 by Lt CDR VC D’Cruz, among many others. It was indeed a spectacular night as only a lucky few can possibly imagine being a part of something as special and unique as this, whereby all the three services join hands with their respective Bands playing to create magic on the occasion of the School of Artillery’s 73rd Founder’s Day. (I surely wasn’t complaining!! 😉 )
|JITRA Dinner Night- Officers with the loyal JITRA waiter|
I am sure as time passes by, I will forget the nitty-gritties of what constituted the ‘4 day celebrations’ of the Golden Jubilee of LVI Field Regiment JITRA, but what I am hopeful of carrying with me for a lifetime, is the spirit of unity, homecoming, care, and concern for its people, that is found nestled deep in the culture and traditions of the Army that epitomizes ideals and values that go beyond the call of duty.