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.

Officers@JITRA House
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
The night couldn’t have seen a befitting end that saw closure in the formal Golden Jubilee dinner at the Cannon Officers Mess. The JITRA lot was attired in 6(a) and School of Arty in 6(b) and Veterans again in National Dress. The tradition along with the sheen and finesse in culture that is often talked about in the army way of things was up for display that night. As the cutlery was set on the table, and toasts raised to the President, the army set of traditions came alive. While the officers and the ladies were raising toasts, heavily engrossed in the whereabouts, and extremely careful to pick the right knife/spoons for the appropriate dishes, it was the projector in the main hall that kept us abreast about the protocol.  Not to forget the efforts on part of  serving mess waiters who served approximately two hundred officers and ladies at this formal Dinner Night, displaying  flawless drills and high standards of training. Rightfully so, they were complimented by none other than the Chief Guest – Gen SF Rodrigues, the former Chief and Governor of Punjab. The night ended on a decibel several notches up than what I had imagined. With everyone waiving each other goodbye and thanking the hosts, it was but natural to feel nostalgic. Adding to the thrill was the visit to the house where I was born, on our way back.

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.