Dinner at the Dhaba


While commanding the unit in Devlali in 2002, Colonel Azad Sameer the Colonel General Staff with our Divisional Headquarters visited us. After the discussions in my office, as we were leaving for lunch at the Officers’ Mess, Captian Mitra, our Adjutant (staff officer who assists the Commanding Officer and is in charge of all the organisation, administration and discipline of a unit) came into the office to ask me whether I had invited Colonel Sameer for the dinner at the Dhaba. (Dhaba is a roadside restaurant mostly frequented by the passing truck drivers). He also wanted to know whether an invitation card is needed to be prepared for which I directed him to prepare the card for the evening cocktails at the Officers’ Mess.

Colonel Sameer is a great thinker and we had many discussions varying from military subjects to parenting and also our outlook towards religion and politics. We both believed in our God, and did not believe in wearing our God on our sleeves or placing the images of our God in our vehicles in that many in the army never realised that Colonel Sameer was a Muslim and I a Christian.

I handed over the card to Colonel Sameer, inviting him to attend the cocktails. I then told him about the dinner at the Dhaba. From the facial expressions and body language of Colonel Sameer, it was evident that he did not like the idea of the dinner at a Dhaba.  Being a thorough gentleman, did not utter a word and accepted the invitation.

During many tactical discussions and exercises we had, I had the opportunity of accompanying Colonel Sameer. He was a ever smiling, soft spoken soldier who would easily pass off as a young Lieutenant. After preparations for the next day, in the evening we would hit the bar at the Officers’ Mess. He would order his favourite Old Monk Rum and I a peg of Teachers Whiskey. Invariably the barman assuming that Colonel Sameer to be a young officer, would serve me first. At last I had to request him that when together, we both will always move around in our uniforms.

After the cocktails at the Mess, the vehicles all lined up and all officers with their wives and children got into them. I drove Colonel Sameer and we headed towards Nashik with neither speaking word for the next fifteen minutes until we entered the Taj Hotel. That was when Colonel Sameer asked me “So this is your Dhaba”. Captain Mitra explained to him that Dhaba was the code word for such diners and all officers and their families knew what it meant.

Colonel Sameer with an open mind would always approach a military problem in a logical manner and I was associated with him in proposing many concepts and theories. One such discussion on the effectiveness of a type of ammunition resulted in a probability theory we proposed to assess the terminal effect of that ammunition. After a few discussions we put the entire theory on a slide and explained it to all the officers and was accepted as the most probable result of employing that ammunition. Five years passed by and Brigadier Sameer was an Instructor at the prestigious Staff College and there was a presentation by the commander of the formation where we had proposed our theory. The very same slide we had prepared five years ago was flashed – behold – there was no change in it – even the colours remained the same. May be someone is still flashing the same slide even now.

One thought on “Dinner at the Dhaba

  1. Nice recall although the Dhaba is obviously not a player in it…Innovation and cut paste, religious tolerance and decency is…To that extent, the heading could be reconsidered.

    Liked by 1 person

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