05 January 2009

Gnat 50 Years Celebrations -22 November 2008 .

21 November 2008 functions were unforgettable . The programme for the 22 Nov was visits to HAL heritage centre followed by divisions . In the evening at 1900 hours departure for ASTE Officers Mess for contributory Dinner . However 22 Squadron crowd had their own agenda starting around 1230 to 1300 hours as We had to be at PK Tayal's Place as he and Mamta had called over all the 22 Squadron people for a lunch .

Any way missing out on the heritage centre was also not too palatable so lot of us decided to make the maximum of the opportunity and visit HAL heritage centre till the last moment and then by 1230 or so leave the main group for PKT's place . Leaving the group transportation the Volvo , and go on our own ways was possible only because of the plentiful transport arrangements made by the HAL as Chato and Mike had asked for and were provided with separate cars which made it possible .

We got up bright and early . Had breakfast and were ready by 1100 hours , the appointed time to board the Volvo to proceed to HAL Heritage Centre . The centre is a short distance from HMA . We went first to the Museum . It has aircraft and aero engines on display with which HAL was connected and involved in any way . It also has photo gallery which was very impressive specially in historical value . It records the photo history of HAL from the time the first building was constructed . Hats off to the foresight and interpuneral capability of Seth Hirachand Walchand who had formed aircraft manufacturing company in 1940'S, which was later to become the HAL . An irony and sad part is that the heritage center does NOT have a Gnat / Ajeet on display

Half the time we were also looking at our watches and left the main group at 1230 hours . The skies also opened up then and it started raining as if the weather gods were also feeling sad at our departure !

Mamta and PKT have a very nice and sprawling bunglow . The full 22 crowd soon gathered . It was then a good long drinking and yak-yak session .We had a wonderful time . The food was good . For a change I also had food and did not live on liquid nurishment alone Mamta and Pradeep were very good hosts and a very happy and contented bunch left their house around 1500 hours or so . Most unfortunately I had forgotten to take my camera , SU was the fastest to send the photos . Unfortunately there was some F***up as the quality was not good . PKT was also fast in sending the photos . Photos sent by him are produced below . Titling etc my effort

L to R rearmost ,
Mike Wilson , Steve Datta, Don Lazarus , MM Baliga , AK Brahmwar , PK Tayal , GSN Prasad
Front row ,
Ajit Lamba , DJS Kler , Adi Ghandhi , PM Velankar , AV Bhagwat , V Pashupathi , AK Shyam
Kneeling in front ,
Chris Chatterjee , Sunith Soares .

L to R , rear row
Don Lazarus , MM Baliga , AK Brahmwar , Chrish Chatterjee "Chato ", PM Velankar"Velu" , PK Tayal "PKT" ,
two in the middle
Sunith Soares "SU" , GSN Prasad ,
front row
AK Shyam "Babu Moshai" , Steve Datta , AV Bhagwat"Bhaggu" , V Pashupathi "Pash" & DJS Kler


from L to R:standing
Mrs AK Shyam , Mrs Sandhya Bhagwat , Mrs Don Lazaras , Mrs Mamata Tayal , Mrs Neena Baliga , Mrs Matti Ghandhi , Mrs Sudha Patwardhan .
sitting in front
Mrs Suchi Kler , Mrs Guddi Lamba , Mrs Neeta Brahmwar .


Evening 1900 hours found us once again in the now familiar Volvo to set course for ASTE Officers Mess.

The Volvo passangers were the first to arrive and received by the AOC . Before we could go to the lawns , he requested us to autograph a blow up photo of Gnat in flight . Being the first to do the honours we singed our names ensuring that none had signed on the Gnat photo itself , Chato did that and was the first to sign on the nose of the aiecraft .
Your's truly putting his mark on G bird.

Lot of people will know lot of marks!

After this we all proceeded to the lawns where the party was organised . Two airmen were detailed to collect the contribution which was fixed at Rs 400/- per head .

The party was a grand success . Group photo session which was missing at Ghatge Convention Center was very much in evidence here . Awating eagerly to get hold of the same . People told anacdotes , jokes and stories . The shortest and one of the best was by Benjee . It went , "hum peeten hein whisky , hum peeten hein whisky ; kabhi iss ki kabhi uski ". Don told about the PAF pilot he had shot down , and who went on to become Chief Of PAF . and how he wrote to him and got a reply There were many many more good ones and we stayed till well past mid - night . On the way back , Chato again regaled every one with his limmeriks . At HMA bid every one good night and went to bed .

Most sad that I do not have any photos of the evening function .

Even though contented and happy , sleep would not come for a long long time . Events of the last 48 hours were going past the mental screen as if a 70 mm DVD video was on , with replay button pressed . Old friends all showing their age , some of them so changed that they had to introduce themselves . As was the case with me as lot of old friends did not recognise me due to the changes wrought about by age

But there was no problem and difficulty in recognising the pride each and every one had felt to be a part of the " Gnat Brotherhood " and having participited in the " Gnat 50 Years celebration " over the last two days . Not one of them is ever likey to forget those priceless , nostelgic , happy and memorable two days .

Next morning caught the train for Nagpur and it was back to " Ops Normal " as usual .

Velu .

Gnat 50 Years Celebrations . 21 November 2008 .

I had written about the arrangements made by the Organising Committee in my last post . As written , it was just too good . I was coming to Bangalore by train . As usual the train was late . It started by getting late even before its arrival at my boarding place , Nagpur , where it came late by 2 hours .The train kept loosing time and by the time we were approaching Bangaluru it was 4 hours late . Right time for arrival at Bangaluru was 2100 hours and with all these delays I would reach Bangaluru at an ungodly hour of 0100 hours . As train was getting further and further delayed , I was getting worried about my reception . But thanks to all the " toing and froing of information " , I knew that Mr Ananda was in charge for receiving the participants at City Railway Station . I also knew his mobile number . By the same logic , Mr Ananda also knew my arrival details and my mobile number . Mobile phone , what a fantastic invention and means of communication .From the moving train , miles and miles from Banguluru , I could inform him about the lateness of the train , my coach number and that I would be in an ethnic dress of pajama & cream coloured kurta :-) On his part he assured me that no matter what time the train comes he would be there to receive me . That took a great weight off my mind . Finally train reached station at 0130 hours . Mr Ananda had no difficulty in identifying me by my kurta & pajama . Mr Shamsher Singh was also with him and they had come in a Indica taxi to receive me . It was great to have been received in such grand style , particularly when one considers the lateness & time of the night !! On returning to Nagpur when I sent a thank you letter to the Chairman HAL , I had also sent thank you cards to Mr Ananda & Mr Shamsher Singh . Apparently Mr Ananda did receive my card because I received a SMS message from him wishing us a happy new year couple of days back . I believe the reception arrangements for all were equally good !!!! We reached HAL Management Academy by 0200 h . A room was earmarked for me and the staff waiting . The room was quite comfortable and from the print-outs kept there I knew the complete programme . I knew what time the programme would start , what time breakfast would be served what time transport would take us to the programme venue . The attention to details in making the arrangements were amazing !! With no doubts in my mind and at complete ease I had a good night's sleep .

Even though I had slept only for few hours I got up refreshed, On the breakfast table met Pashupathi & Bhuwana , friends from 22 squadron days of early seventies !! They had come all the way from Thailand .We were meeting after almost 19 to 20 years and were trying to catch up with all the news . There were some others but I did not know them . I was a bit surprised , in my vanity , I had thought that after so many years on the Gnats I knew every one who had any thing to do with Gnats . How wrong I was . The Gnat world was / is pretty big !!

Breakfast spread was impressive . There was Idli Sambar , Dosa Chatny , bread butter and eggs , Tea coffee and fruit juices . We finished the breakfast and went in the lobby . Volvo coach was to leave for Ghatge Convention Hall at 0830 hrs . By now others had also gathered . I think there were about 10 to 15 officers staying at HAL Management Academy and we all used to travel collectively for all the programmes in the Volvo . It was a/c coach and very comfortable . It was good arrangement . We reached the Convention Hall well in time . Much before the programme was to start . Programme for "Gnat Vigenettes" is given below . Hopefully if you concentrate you may be able to read it :-)

The Ghatge Convention Hall is located in very well maintained grounds . Beautiful lawns , lots of ornamental trees . The weather in Bagaluru was fabulous . Ghatge Hall for decorations has beautiful and BIG air craft and helicopter photographs produced by HAL adorning the walls . The ambience is very "flying" . With Gnat Photo exhibition in the verandah , which had some good vintage and rare Gnat photographs of historical value the atmosphere was tremendous and very " Gnatish " . .The photo exhibition was worth a dekho . Rear lawns had arrangements for breakfast and lunch . Which were equally impressive .

On arrival , We were presented with a laptop carry bag , a documentary film CD titled " The Gnat Brotherhood " produced by Dipti Bhalla & Kunal Verma , a CD on HAL , a coffee table book by Pushpinder Singh titled " Sabre Slayers " , a note pad and a pen along with clip on name tag by the Reception Committee . It was a good memento of the occasion

BY 1000 hours all the participants had gathered . Knew lot of people . Had heard of lot of people and had neither heard nor met some people . Meeting some people after a long long time , in some cases stretching to 10 to 15 years plus gap. Going around and meeting others brought out that people had turned up from far and wide . Pashu & Bhuvana ( Wg Cdr V Pashupathy VM , who had commanded the first MIG 29 Squadron to be formed in the IAF ) had come all the way from Thailand ! Don and Anita ( Gp Capt D Lazarus Vr C , hero of the 1971 war , person who had shot down future Chief Of the Air Staff of PAF ) had made it all the way from Malaysia . Air Marshal CS Naik , Air Marshal MSD Wollen , Air Marshal Pk Dey the grand old men of the Air Force who were there at Chilbolton UK in 1956-57 where it had all started , The Keelor Brothers , legends of 1965 war ,. Anandeep Pannu a young man with encyclopaedic knowledge of aircraft and a generous contributor to the cause had come from Seattle USA. . Air Marshal Adi Gandhi & Matti , Buzz Datta & Shaila and Limey , the motive force and organisers of the first ever "Gnat Brotherhood" gathering in 2006 , had come from Pune . Incidentally "Gnat Brotherhood" get together in Sept 2006 in Pune was the source event which prompted Air Chief Marshal Tyagi to suggest to HAL Chairman to examine and if agreeable to organise Gnat 50 years Golden Jubilee celebrations in partnership with the IAF . Group photo of Gnat Brotherhood 2006 is attached . Sudha Patwardhan had come from Pune . "Pat" was with us in 22 . Though he is not with us these past many years , Sudha considers herself from Gnat Family . She was there in 2006 in Pune and she was here in Banguluru in 2008 . Her presence in these two functions , I feel is a great tribute to the " Gnat Spirit " . My hats off the the lady for keeping alive that " Spirit " .

"Gnat - Brotherhood-2006" , Pune .
you wont be able to spot me but Priti , ( as you see the photo) is
sitting on the extreme right !

There were many many more Gnat Lovers who had come from all over the Globe and India . From Mumbai , Kolkota , Chennai , Delhi , your's truly from nagpur , And of course all the Bangaluruians !! Rakesh Sharma , the one and only Indian Astronaut , literally one man in a billion , was there . In fact we are all waiting for the directory written about by Kapil Sir , of all those who attended . It will be a very valuable and keepsake document as it will be a one source document of who and where-about of all the Gnat crowd . Spotted Ajit Lamba , my Squadron Commander in discussion with some one .He is some one for whom I have tremendous respect & all the time in the world . A very good officer , a thorough professional a very good CO. Though we never said "lamba is god and God is lamba" , because it does not rhyme as well as "greene is god and god is greene", the sentiments were similar . Of course the fact that he never recommended my name for QFI course as I was not exceptional , still rankles some times . Made a bee line for him . Wished him , even though he was in discussion with some one . Realised that they were discussing some thing serious , may be the late / non arrival of the CAS and how the programme to be altered , So did a hard turn and got lost in the crowd . Here however the "Squadron Spirit " forces me to state that of all the eight Gnat Squadrons, 2 , 9 , 15 , 18 , 21, 22 , 23 , 24 , the representation from 22 Squadron was maximum . Adi Gandhi , AS Lamba , GSN Prasad , Don Lazarus , Sunith Soares , AV Bhagwat , MM Baliga , AK Brahmwar , AK Shyam , V Pashupathi , PK Tayal , Stave Datta , Chattarjee , DJS Kler , Mike Wilson , Velu Sudha . Except for two , every one who was there in 1971 war a total of SIXTEEN from one squadron were there In fact 22 had its own agenda to follow as PKT had laid out lunch on 22 Nov for 22 fellows .That was very well done indeed . The full credit must go to Sunith Soares who traced all , found their contact numbers and motivated them to attend in such large numbers .

The start of the function was not all that encouraging as initial information was that the aircraft of the CAS was delayed and so there will be some delay in commencement of the function . This was followed by the info that due to some unavoidable reason , Chief Of the Air Staff could not make it and VCAS would be representing the CAS . This entailed some changes in the programme and high tea was preponed . After a scrumchus high tea we all settled down in the hall for the programme to begin.

The programme commenced with the inaugural ceremony and addresses by Director ( Personnel ) HAL , Chairman HAL and The VCAS . There after the programme comprised reminiscences by the guest speakers , inter spread with film snippets . Ajit Lamba was the compère / MC / conductor of the programme . The way he conducted it was really good and for the first time I realised that he also had good sense of humour as each speaker was introduced well and with a Joke !!! The speakers were AM CS Naik , AM MSD Wollen , AM PK Dey , AM D Keelor , AM P Rajkumar , Gp Capt D Lazarus , Wg Cdr Soares .and MR Jayamohan .Conclusion was by Air Chief marshal SP Tyagi (retd) . All spoke wonderfully well . I particularly liked speeches /reminiscences by
AM CS Naik , AM MSD Wollen , They spoke of the times and working at Chilbolton and at A & ATU at Kanpur , all those years back . They spoke of Saranjan Das and Sudhakaran and all those who made the Gnat what it was to become . They told us of how the world aviation faternety was stunned and impressed by the Gnat air display given by Saranjan Das at Farnborough Air Show . How no one could ever replicate the "Saranjan Das Roll " the way he used to do it in a Gnat . They told us how on 26 January 1958 the vast maltitude on Rajpath in New Delhi were astounded and amazed and left speechless by a silverstreak as it went thundring past at low level and then go off vertically , to vanish in the sky . It was the FIRST EVER 26 January Fly Past by a Gnat being flown by Sudhakaran . For his initiative Sudhakaran was given a warning by Arjan Singh for coming too low . AM PK Dey (whose only regret is that he could not fly Gnat in Farnborough Air Show ), Air Chief marshal SP Tyagi (retd) and Mr Jayamohan who was the only civilian speaker and spoke lovingly about the fabulous frame 18 and aluminium forging of the Gnat !! All spoke with emotion , passion , love for the Gnat and so eloquently that it touched the heart and brought a lump in the throat !!! It was total " NOSTALGIA " All in CAPITALS . All modern auditoriums have speech recording facilities , The speeches /reminiscences were so good I wish they are included in future reprints/ editions of the book "Sabre Slayers" . There are people who come live and just pass on , there are people who by their deeds become part of history and then , there are people who create history . These were the people who created Gnat history . It was indeed a great honour and privilege to be part of this august crowd .

Lunch was as good as all the other arrangements . A very good spread . Left for HAL Academy happy , contented and full of nostalgia .

The Volvo was ready and we left for the Le Merridian at appointed hour . It took more then one hour and forty-five minutes for us to reach the venue from the HAL Management Academy . This inspite of the fact that the driver had taken longer and supposedly less congested traffic route . Apparently the traffic in Bangaluru is becoming unbearable The party went off very well . With liquid refreshments which lubricated the throat speech flowed freely and voluminously . The great hall was full of hub-hub and jolly noise . It was difficult to get people to settledown for the screening of the documentery film , The film was good . Dinner better and the liquid refreshments the best . Spirit level and the spirits were highest and the maximum in 22 Squadron group which was also the noisiest !!!!!! Packed off pretty late and only after the hotel staff had taken the last bottle away and closed the bar , Chato was in high spirits . When he is in high spirits he is in his element . On the trip back to the academy he was in his element and regaled one and all with his limmericks . It goes without saying that They were very risqué and had lot of double meanings .

A tremendous time was had by one and all . It was the perfect round off for a very good , very memorable and most nostalgic day . 21 November 2008 will live long in the memories of those who attended these celeberations !!!!

Next instalment to cover happenings on the 22 November .

Velu .

04 January 2009

Gnat 50 Years Celebrations - Arrangements by HAL

I had a feeling that once the celebrations are over the contributions and the visits to this site(Gnat 50 years celebrations .) will dry - up and every one will get back to their ways . Sadly my apprehensions seem to be coming true .

Kapil Sir , the ever optimist , had informed that the site is paid for till Aug 2009 and he was confident that with regular visits and posts on the site he will be able to keep it going much much longer . Let all of us prove that his optimism was not misplaced by continuing to contribute . If there is not much of text material , all those who had taken photographs can start up loading them on the web . I am confident the moment photos are available on the site it will rekindle the interest and the site can keep going !!! There was another hint that those unfortunate people who were not able to attend the celebrations would like to know what all had transpired .

I propose to pen how the celebrations were held and how well they went off . I propose to do that in three parts .
1. Arrangements by HAL .
2. Functions on 21 November 2008 ; &
3. Functions on 22 November 2008 .

This is the first instalment . The other two will follow but may take a bit of time as motivation level is pretty low at the moment and now a days the mood is also playing tyrant .


Thanks to the web site most of the personal details and required information like attending singly or with spouse etc was available with the Administrators / the committee organising the event when they received the registration form given at URL http://gnat50years.in/news/register-online-or-offline.html. Later on , additional details about mode and place of arrival and departures etc were also asked for and intimated to the organising committee by participants
by filling up another form available at "visitor Form " and still later , confirmed by Mr Vasanth of HAL . So every information was available with organisers . The organising committee had made three reception sub committees , one for the Airport , Second for the Bangaluru City Railway Station and the third for the Bangaluru Cantonment railway Station . Contact details of the members of these sub committee were very thoughtfully intimated by Mr Vasanth to all the persons attending . This information came in very useful on arrival .


The very first worry for the participants was whether they receive invites for the function . If no invite is received it was the end even before the beginning ! Full marks to Organising committee . Two Invitations cards , one for the morning programme , called " Gnat Vignette " and the other for the evening party called " Gnat Golden Jubilee Dinner " were received well / just in time . The cards were beautifully printed . I am going to preserve them . For those who did not attend and did not receive these cards the photos of the same are given below .


you can see the card shows Gnat aircraft number E-265 in a level flight & Looks really beautiful.


This shows a Gnat in camouflage colour scheme .

There were three categories of people attending the celebrations.

1. Staying with friends/Under own arrangements .
2. Had requested for accommodation and transport courtesy HAL .
3 . Local residents .

It was the second category which was depending totally on the arrangements made by the HAL and would be affected most by how the organising committee makes use of the information available with them . From personal experience I can say that they really made good use of the information . The arrangements were really good .


Accommodation was arranged in HAL Management Academy . The rooms with attached bathrooms were good . Every room had a "WELCOME" message from Executive Director HAL Management Academy . The same is reproduced below :

( sorry too small to read )

Three printouts with information of various arrangements made on 20, 21 and 22 November 2008 were also kept in the room for information of participants . One printouts contained information on meal timings , transport timings to leave for various functions made on 20, 21 and 22 . The second one contained " Brief for Participants " giving various details, covering period from 17 November 2008 to 23 November 2008 . The third one contained detailed programme for " Gnat Vignettes" on the morning of 21November 2008 .

The room also had complimentary apple juice tetra pack , three packets of biscuits , tea , coffee , sugar & milk powder packets, mineral water bottles , fruit basket and complete set of toiletry items .

To travel in group two Volvo buses were arranged . Additionally a fairly large number of taxies were also arranged for those who had necessity to travel on their own . Number of taxies hired appeared more then adequate because any one wanting to go any where any time was promptly provided with one hired taxi . Same taxies were used to pick up and drop the participants from their arrival / departure points eg Airport , railway stations . With such a large number of participants , with different agendas , to say that transport arrangments were adequate and met full requirements is truly saying some thing !!!!

I have covered all these arrangements in minute details only to bring out the thoroughness and the pains taken by the Organising Committee to make our stay really comfortable and memorable .

On my return I had written a two page hand written "thank you " letter to Chairman HAL , unfortunately it was neither registered AD nor through a courier service , so I have no way to know if the Chairman did receive it or not . I would have really loved to have a conformation .To really bring out the excellence in the arrangements , I think I can do no better then to reproduce the contents of that letter itself.

'''''''' ' ' ' ' ' ' '''''''


1. I have just returned after attending the "Gnat Golden Jubilee Celebrations held at Bangalore on 21 and 22 Nov.

2. This is to put on record our heartfelt sincerest thanks for organising and giving us a chance to be a part of this very happy , memorable and unforgettable occasion of the Brotherhood celebrations .
Right from the moment we got down from the train at Bangalore City railway Station at an ungodly hour of 01:00 hours on the morning of 21Nov 08 till our departure at a reasonable time of 07:00 hours on 23rd Nov , all the arrangements were very good and surpassed all our expectations. It was a happy and comfortable stay at Bangalore . The attention to details in planning , be it transportation, accommodation, catering and most importantly the function itself on 21 Nov in Ghatge Convention Centre and the party in Le Meridian Hotel were executed flawlessly and with time bound precision. All the PDC's were met and targets achieved. A tribute to the organisational skills and great effort put in by the members of celebration committee under your guidance .

3. So Sir once again very many thanks and here is wishing that with you at the helm of affairs may the HAL go from strength to strength and achieve all the PDC's and targets in all the HAL undertakings !

''''''''''''' ' ' ' ' ' ''''''''''''''

Really and truly HAL arrangements surpassed all expectations . Those who could not attend really missed something . However the least of it were the arrangements , main thing was the "Gnat Vignettes" and the party on 21st a really memorable and nostalgic occasion . Look out for the write-up on that in the next few days !!!!

velu .