Joining the Air Force, and reaching Kalimpong

Joining the Air Force:

Once in India, Singh decided to catch a train to Calcutta. Because World War II was raging across the globe, most train compartments would be reserved for the military. Finding a seat was proving impossible. After several attempts, Singh snuck into one of the military compartments – and made his way to Calcutta.

In Calcutta, things weren’t the same; the war had changed things. Singh had wanted to form a political party, but had to cancel the plan after learning his friends had joined the Royal Air Force.

At the time, British Forces had built a unit of their Air Force in India – they were actively looking for new recruits. Most of his friends were in the airfield in Lahore (present day Pakistan). Singh too thought of joining.

He enlisted, and was taken to Lahore – a four day train ride across India’s vast plains.

In Lahore, Singh underwent different tests – he passed in all, but unfortunately his height was below the required minimum. Dejected, Singh, who was planning leaving Lahore, contacted an old friend – the friend suggested Singh could play for the army’s music team – and essentially become an airman.

Thus, the friend arranged him to meet Dr. Gaffur, an army doctor from Lucknow who wielded great authority. Dr. Gaffur was impressed, and upon his recommendation, Singh became an airman of the British Royal Air Force.

When filling the form, Singh came across a section which asked if the applicant was absconding from jail. If the applicant falsified the information, the recruit could be extradited to the concerned state.

Singh reached out to Dr. Gaffur – since he could not say he was an absconding convict, Singh told the army doctor that he had participated in the 1942 movement (another clause which prevented enrolment in the RAF).

Dr. Gaffur, who was a nationalist, told Singh not to tell anyone he had participated in the movement. “And if you are exposed, fake an illness, and come visit me. We will see what can be done”.

An assured Singh became an airman of the 17 Flight Batallion based in Walton Airfield, Lahore.

Qutting the Air Force, Reaching Kalimpong:

In the air force, a practice was that two corporal’s in-charge of different battalions would inspect the battalion of another. Once during such inspection, Corporal M. Wifer commanded the parade to halt. Singh who was in the last row stood half an inch apart from other members. After a while, when the corporal commanded another halt, Singh fell further behind, and the same thing happened for the third time.

The corporal, who accused Singh of intentionally spoiling the parade, started scolding him – an angered Singh landed a blow at the corporal, and kicked him. The shocked corporal ordered his arrest.

Singh was supposed to be expelled from the air force, but since the colonel was absent, Dr. Gaffur intervened. Singh was saved.

“Dr. Gaffur’s kindness is unforgettable. I have not pondered over the existence of God – but if there is any god in earth, it cannot be different from Dr. Gaffur”, Singh later tells Mathbar Singh.

Meanwhile, Singh, owing to his height is not allowed to fly the planes too.

“Japanese aren’t taller than we Gorkhalis. How are they allowed to fly planes?” Singh would ask.

“They have manufactured planes suited for them”, a British officer explained.

Singh was suggested to be a ‘gunner’ – gun operators from the back seat of the plane, but he was uninterested. After trying his luck in another airfield in Bangalore, Singh gave up his flying career.

Meanwhile, Singh went to Bombay and then to Banaras to meet his younger brother Shanker Man. From Banaras, he went to Calcutta – as he started finding it difficult to bother others for shelter, he went to Kalimpong upon the recommendation of Dharmaratna – to the house of Dr. Jagdish Bose.

Dr. Bose was a revolutionary, and was exiled by the British government to live in Kalimpong. But Dr. Bose ended up liking Kalimpong so much, he remained there. He was a communist, and Singh describes interesting political discussions between the two.

“Dr. Bose’s arguments would help me understand Marxism, while my arguments would help Dr. Bose understand the position of democracy”, Singh would tell Mathbar Singh.

Two Nepalis in Kalimpong:

One day in Kalimpong, two Nepalis approached Singh.

“Aren’t you Ganesh Man Singh?” they ask.

Ganesh Man Singh was convinced he was done for. “They will report me”, he thought.

However, the duo isn’t interested in handing Singh over. They were businessmen, trading from Lhasa, Calcutta, Kalimpong, and Kathmandu and were genuinely interested in knowing how Singh had escaped from jail, and Nepal.

“Dear brothers, you cannot listen to my story without paying a fee. The story is long, and special arrangements will have to be made”, Singh tells the young businessmen.

They agree – and set up a meeting for the next day at 9 pm over dinner.

That night, Singh was convinced his story had influenced the consciousness of the Nepali people.

“No matter what hardships I faced personally, I was convinced I wasn’t deceiving myself”, Singh tells Mathbar Singh.

“The government believed that even if I did break Bhadragol Jail, I would not be able to cross the check-points outside the valley. The Ranas were proud of their efficiency in administration, and I had managed to evade them all. This may be the reason why people were curious about me”, Singh reflects.

The next day, the two arrive at the agreed time. Apologising for their inability to arrange more, they produce Rs. 8,000 (IC) – Singh is shocked.

“I had never imagined people would pay 8,000 to hear my story”, Singh tells Mathbar Singh.

Singh then begins his story – he includes every minor detail. The two businessmen are listening intently, until they hear the clock strike 4. Singh’s escape story has only reached to the point where the anchor strikes the wall.

Arrangements to finish the story on another day are made.

At night, waves of emotions are crashing down Singh, with the Rs. 8,000 he can organise a party, purchase arms, and launch a revolution.

He is also further intrigued upon the idea of telling his story to raise funds for the cause. Determined to tell his story to other Nepalis based in the hills of Darjeeling, Singh falls asleep.


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