They say time is an eraser and I agree often with exceptions as this one case where time seems to be carving the memories and associated images right into indelible caricatures.
Cut to somewhere in the wastelands of the Frontier, circa 1999.
As I lay tucked deep into my sleeping bag in the snow-clad bunker, my helper presenting himself before me with my regular dosage of corrected coffee, I was silently being reminded of the incident and the faces involved in getting me hooked onto corrected coffee for life.
Everyday morning my helper would wake up in the wee small hours of the morning, line up several bottle-caps full of horse rum to be emptied into steaming cups of black coffee, to be served to the officers lot in turns. Of course, this was strictly following the order of seniority right from the Commanding Officer down to the Lieutenant who just joined the battalion recently i.e me ! Gentlemen who are served with this stuff would sniff this amalgamation several times for its aroma before slowly sending it down their throat cherishing its enhanced flavor.
Soon this close to divine stuff and the associated rituals of its blending spread from our battalion to the neighboring battalion and beyond, along with its inventors tag on it engraved as a successful remedy to beat the persistent chill. It so happened one day that Division Commander was passing by our battalion and was magnanimous enough to give his consent to spend a little time to interact with the lesser mortals of the battalion.
So, as I was shaking hands with the General, and my Commanding Officer muttering my name for the purpose of general introduction, the General gestured at the Colonel, my CO, not to proceed any further and beamed at me with “Oh ! so, then this is the Jose who came up with corrected coffee”.
In return I just nodded my head in acceptance to up keep the decorum of the forum which required answers preferably in mono syllables. But through out my tenure there in the battalion rarely did anyone knew that it was my childhood buddy CT who kindled in me the imagination to use alcohol in daily supplies.
Flash back to the wastelands, between the school entrance and the football fields, circa 1988.
It is a moonlit night around two decades ago, when CT, strongly supported by the likes of me swoops on a poor rooster caged in the campus bus driver’s residential quarters ( the C-type quarters). With required stealth and swiftness, its neck is grabbed before it could send out its signature sound ‘KOK’ and the same surgically plucked off its body with great dexterity and a hell lot of blood . Like any good commando operation, things were pretty much planned in advance and hence the cooking site was catered with utensils, articles required for lighting fire and condiments – except the unavoidable aqua. But as they say, invention is mothered by necessity, and on that historic night, the ring leader CT let the world know that stolen roosters taste best when cooked in ‘Nadan Kallu’.
I am proud to say, that I have used this magic liquid of different varieties, grades and volumes from dash to dip on many consumables like barbeques , grills and sizzlers including an exotic mix presumably called Babushk which is actually a hand-me-down from JohnsonBabushk was another “invention” that the Army thankfully has adopted, from Johnson ( just one year senior to our batch), and he was generous to share the classified secret with a fellow Kazhak, while we were presumably doing engineering degree course together in Pune.
Jump Cut to the Frontier.
So when the general finally rose to depart, he asked me, Jose, (that’s my name in the Army), should we term it an invention or a discovery?
I said “Sir, a discovery ! A discovery, because it was already there, in existence before”.