At the ripe old age of 75, Col Grant still managed to cut a very swashbuckling figure, with his scanty locks artistically arranged over his bald pate, twirling his trademark Ronald Colman moustache and snapping his paisley braces. Lesser mortals may have scoffed at his old world chivalry or sniggered at his rendition of “Tipperary” after a few gin and tonics, but he soldiered on gamely. He was fond of prefacing his remarks with, “When I served with the Fifth Fusiliers (or the Seventh Cavalry, I can’t remember which) my CO would always tell us to fight the good fight. Stiff upper lip, you know.”
At the bar, he would adopt a confidential undertone before imparting nuggets of mess hall wisdom: always hold a bottle by the neck and a woman by the waist and make bloody sure you don’t get it the other way around. He was dismissive of Gen X, “Bunch of boisterous oafs who need to learn how a gentleman treats a lady”, or, “I’m amazed by the number of fools I see with a smartphone.” To keep fit, he took to playing golf at the army course with a fauji foursome and many a pleasant morning was spent exchanging yarns of “old forgotten far off things and battles long ago.”
One fateful morning, the Colonel set off from home at the crack of dawn and was a few minutes away from the course when he saw a damsel in distress on the side of the road. Voluptuously clad in a purple sari, she was standing next to an Ambassador with the hood up, waving frantically for some passing Samaritan to come to her rescue. His chivalrous instincts aroused (in view of subsequent events, maybe that’s an unfortunate choice of word) the good Colonel braked hard and then parked off the highway like a model citizen before offering to assist.
As he approached the damsel abruptly stopped waving, quickly slammed the bonnet and leapt gracefully into her car, disappearing with a loud squeal of tyres. Shaking his head in bewilderment over the quirky nature of women, he turned back only to discover to his shock and horror that a ghost driver had carjacked his vehicle; just kidding, the lady had an accomplice. While the Colonel’s attention had been focused on her ample curves, the carjacker had found the keys left carelessly in the ignition and taken off in his car, burning rubber in the process. The hapless Colonel was left stranded in the Kalahari, in a manner of speaking.
After the inevitable fist-shaking and fuming, he found his way to the nearest police station where he narrated his tale of woe prior to signing an official complaint. The cops offered tea and sympathy but as he feelingly put it, “I had the sneaking suspicion the buggers were laughing at me.” A week later, a family friend spotted the stolen car parked near a building under construction and phoned him in a frenzy of excitement. The cops were summoned, the building was placed under surveillance and a raid carried out which yielded three women in various stages of undress, two clients, one Maruti and one unrepentant, henna-haired Madam. The two upstanding citizens, collateral damage netted in the raid on the house of ill repute, weren’t too delighted with their supporting role in the drama, claiming they were there for Ayurvedic treatment.
At the station, Madam refuted the allegation of theft swearing loudly and colourfully that the vehicle was in part payment of services rendered. “He organised mujra and then had no money to pay, so he said, ‘Tum gaadi leh lo, later I will do full payment’”. The fury displayed by the Colonel at this accusation was a sight to behold; while I wasn’t present on the occasion I have to rely on reportage but apparently chivalry took a back seat. Friends who subsequently told him he should feel flattered by such insinuations at his age found their nudges and winks met with icy disdain. In fact, when one of his foursome recycled that old chestnut about “treating a tart like a lady and a lady like a tart”, the Colonel shanked his drive and changed the subject abruptly.