IRS Customs and Central Excise 1971 Batch: Our Batchmates, Our Memories

Author: 
Subhash Mathur

Editor's Note: The 1971 batch of the Indian Revenue Service (IRS) Customs and Central Excise Department has put together these memories to commemorate and celebrate our batch mates who have left us for their heavenly abode.

We will be celebrating the Golden Jubilee of our batch in the year 2021. We felt it was only appropriate that we recall our wonderful colleagues who are no longer with us. We would also like to remember with gratitude Shri M. Ramachandran, our training Director during our entire probationary period.

 
1971 batch of the Indian Revenue Service

1971 batch of the Indian Revenue Service

Front row seated (from L to R): S. Manickavasagam, Faculty L. P. Sawhney, Accounts Officer B. Bhattacharjee, Assistant Director N. Raja, Director M. Ramachandran, Deputy Director B. K. Seth, Komala Raghavan, Faculty B. K. Aggarwal, Z. Jimmy Tochhawang.

Middle Row (from L to R): Subhash K. Pali, Virendra Singh, Dalbir Singh, Jogendra Singh, Sunil K. Choudhury, V. K. Sharma, J. Sridharan, Kamlesh M. Tiwari.

Back row (from L to R): K. K. Agarwal, P. C. Jha, Onkar Nath, P. N. Sarangi, Subhash Mathur, Ashish K. Raha

 

The batch mates whom we have lost over the years are Subhash K. Pali, M.A. Beemaiah, J. Sridharan, S. Krishnamurthi, R.B. Bhaskar, Virendra Singh, Komala Choudhury, Satyabrata Pal, and Z. ‘Jimmy’ Tochhawang.

Our contributors are S. Manickavasagam, Prasanna N. Sarangi, John S. R. Khathing, Kamlesh Tiwari, Sunil K. Choudhury and Subhash Mathur.

  1. My Memories of Satyabrata Pal, J. Sridharan and S. Krishnamurthi by S. Manickavasagam
  2. Remembering batch mate Beemaiah by Prasanna N. Sarangi
  3. Remembering Z ‘Jimmy’ Tochhawng by John S. R. Khathing
  4. Ram Bharose Bhaskar: A Sweet Remembrance by Kamlesh Tiwari
  5. Remembering Subhash K. Pali by Sunil K. Choudhury
  6. In Memoriam: Komala, Virendra Singh and Subhash K. Pali by Subhash Mathur
  7. A tribute to Director M. Ramachandran by Sunil K. Choudhury, S. Manickavasagam and Kamlesh M. Tiwari

My Memories of Satyabrata Pal, J. Sridharan and S. Krishnamurthi

S. Manickavasagam, or Vasagam for short, graduated as a civil engineer in 1964. He joined the Indian Army in 1965 and became a 'Fauji'. During his career with the armed forces, he served in Leh, Ladakh and Poona (now Pune).

Vasagam joined Indian Revenue Service (Customs and Central Service) in November 1971. Switching over from olive green to civvies was difficult initially but time was a healer. Upon superannuation, he joined the Central Administrative Tribunal and served for the 5 years and 9 months as Administrative Member.

Vasagam is a prolific writer and has already penned three novels in Tamil and hopes to finish the fourth essay within a year. He headed a team which produced a CD-ROM on the life and teachings of Adi Sankara.

These days, Vasagam is leading a retired life with his spouse. His elder son is a computer engineer who lives in America while the younger one is based in Bengaluru. Vasgam is blessed with two grandchildren.

Recalling past events associated with your friends can be pure and simple nostalgic; sometimes painful; at times soothing on your emotions, like applying a pain reliever. It's a mixed bag. I have decided to delve in the past, come whatever it may.

Satyabrata Pal

Satyabrata Pal

Satyabrata Pal

Satyabrata Pal (or simply Pal for me ) was a very good friend to me. Our friendship kick started during our training days in Mussoorie. I had a flair for writing fiction (both in Tamil and English). In those days as I had plenty of time at my disposal. Routine work like attending classes was passé.

So, I started writing stories. One day, it so happened that I came to know Pal too was a writer of stories in English lingo. So, I used to show him my baby steps in writing fiction. He used to make corrections. He also suggested that I try writing first in my mother tongue, Tamil, and then switch over to English. I followed his friendly advice.

After Pal was selected to join the IFS, of course we parted ways. But we continued to exchange views/letters. I have many of his letters written during 72/73. If someone is interested (particularly his family) I can spare them. This exchange of letters continued till he was posted to some foreign country.

The break came when Pal was posted as Indian High Commissioner at Islamabad. By that time I had retired from service as CAT member. When I read the news about his posting, I sent him a congratulatory letter wishing him well. I knew it was a tough assignment.

Pal replied promptly: "When I went to assume the new charge, I was pleasantly surprised to see your letter on my table!" That was my last correspondence with him.

Couple of years ago, when I came to know that Pal had met with an accident, I tried to speak to him over phone. His wife took the call and said she would convey my best wishes.

I was shocked to know that he is no more from Subhash Mathur. He was a gentleman to the core.

I will continue to cherish our friendship till my memory lasts.

 
Satyabrata Pal with trainee probationers in Delhi. (from L to R): Ashish K. Raha, Jimmy Tochhawang, Satya.

Satyabrata Pal with trainee probationers in Delhi. (from L to R): Ashish K. Raha, Jimmy Tochhawang, Satya.

❉✼❉

J. Sridharan

J. Sridharan

J. Sridharan

Our batch mate J. Sridharan (known to me simply as Sri) and I shared one thing in common - both of us had studied and graduated in engineering. Perhaps that brought us together and closer!

After training we moved to different parts of the country; yet, we were in touch with each other.

Once I was deputed to Election Commission to work as Expenditure Observer (mid 90s), during AP assembly elections. Mr. NT Rama Rao as head of TDP was fighting hard to come back to power. I was asked to go to Srikakulam assembly constituency. I was doing such a job for the second time.

I was at that time working as CC Madras and therefore had to fly to Vizag and then go by car (3 hours) to Srikakulam. Sri was working as CC Vizag and I spoke to him about my impending trip. We met and spent some quality time over a meal, before I left by car arranged by EC. Similar arrangements were in place, while returning from Srikakulam. This time, Sri took me to a music concert. Sri was a great Carnatic music lover. I enjoyed that show.

Later on, when I was working in CAT, Madras bench, Sri was also posted in Madras at that time. We used to talk over phone at regular intervals. He had developed gastrointestinal problems. He complained about it and suffered silently. He was foodie but couldn't eat well. He continued to work even after I demitted office as Member, CAT.

To my shock, one day my friend KPS Raman telephoned to say, "Sri is no more". I went to his house, paid my last respects, said a few words of consolation to his wife (she worked in Kendriya Vidyalaya). It was a poignant scene. I lost a good friend with a generous heart.

❉✼❉

S. Krishnamurthi

S. Krishnamurthi

S. Krishnamurthi

I was working as HAC in Cochin Collectorate. Mr. S V Iyer was the Collector (1976). My friend and batch mate Krishnamurthi joined the Collectorate and was given the charge of AC, Calicut.(Kozhikode). It was a sensitive place, a hub of smuggling activities in those days. (even these days, I suppose!) Krishna's father-in-law was a judge of the High Court.

One day Collector received an anonymous letter alleging that the AC's (referring to Krishnamurthi's) wife was learning "driving" in a government vehicle. But for the smuggling activities, Calicut was a sleepy town in those days. Now an international airport is functioning there. Being HAC, I was also looking after vigilance work. Collector Iyer passed on the letter to me for my comments.

I was in a dilemma. I went to his chamber with the letter and told him that Krishna was my batch mate and it is rather embarrassing for me to do anything in the matter. CCE also knew the marital status of Krishna. May be that he also knew that Krishna’s father-in-law; if my memory serves me right he was High Court Judge Viswanatha Iyer.

CCE Iyer looked at me with a smile, and said "Vasagam, this is a open and shut case. Check out with Superintendent (P) whether what is stated in the letter is true. He will tell you. If it's true, tell Krishna politely not to indulge in such things. It's as simple as that. And mind you, there will be more such instances where you will have to deal with your batch mates as well as seniors too. Don't worry, go ahead." He completed the sermon and I came to my room chastened and a little wiser!

After a couple of days, I found out there was truth in the content of the letter and spoke to Krishna, advised him not to continue this practice. He listened to me patiently and said he will give no room for such complaints in future. Thus ended the complaint. No file opened; No note sheet. Quick disposal!

Thereafter we parted ways as friends till I was promoted and sent to Allahabad. After fifteen years I came back to Madras. Krishna was also posted at Madras. (I don't recall the post he occupied). We talked over phone occasionally.

Suddenly, one day I got a message that he was no more. He was staying in government quarters behind the CEx Headquarters office in Nungambakkam, Madras. I went to his flat to pay my last respects. Almost the entire family was there. I consoled his wife and said a few words to his father-in-law. Sorrow was writ large on their faces. He wasn't even sixty years old. I don't remember the cause of his death but was told that the end was peaceful. It was painful to bid farewell to your batch mate. To me it was the end of a gentle relationship.

 
S. Krishnamurthi (left) with Subhash Mathur

S. Krishnamurthi (left) with batch mate Subhash Mathur

 

Remembering batch mate Beemaiah

Prasanna N. Sarangi graduated with a Masters degree in Political Science from Delhi University in 1969. He joined Rajdhani College as a Lecturer cum Ph.D. scholar. During his two-year stint there, he served as the Convener of a Study Circle that organized periodic discussions on matters of topical importance by liaisoning with and inviting stalwarts from different political parties.

In November 1971, Prasanna joined the Indian Revenue Service in the Customs & Central Excise Department. In 1989, while in service, he obtained a Masters degree in Science on Fiscal Studies from Bath University, England.

During his 37 years of service, Prasanna enjoyed many epoch-making achievements, recollections of which give him immense satisfaction and joy till this day.

After retirement, Prasanna continues to work for long hours every day as per habit.
He is the Chief Advisor of Utkal Stevedores Association. He helps and advises his older son in managing the corporate affairs of the company that he owns.

Prasanna lives in Bhubaneswar, Odisha with his two sons, their families and grandchildren. He and his wife, Manju, lead a blissful life and consider themselves to have been enormously blessed by Lord Jagannath.

If I am breathing today, I owe it to my dearest batch mate M.A. Beemaiah. After an epoch-making case against a top-notch industrial house in Mumbai, I was rewarded with a light and pleasing charge as Deputy Director Anti-smuggling, Mumbai, in the early part of the year 1988.

M.A. Beemaiah

M.A. Beemaiah

There was nothing to be overwhelmed by the high sounding word ‘anti-smuggling’, as I had nothing to do with any anti-smuggling operations, except to manage the logistics in the customs formations to combat smuggling operations along our western coastline.

Being committed to my duties, I planned an inspection to Customs subordinate formations at Daman & Diu, Bhuj, Jamnagar, Porbandar etc. After a tiring road journey from Mumbai, I reached the Guest House of IPCL at Baroda, around 8 at night for an overnight stay.

Being habitual in going to bed early, I had my dinner immediately on arrival and after instructing the caretaker for an early bed tea and departure by 6 am, I went to sleep. Around midnight, I woke up to continuous purges with acute vomiting. Soon, I realized that I needed immediate medical care. All my energies were getting drained out and I was in such a bad state that with great difficulty, I crawled to open my bedroom door and went beyond to the Guest House entrance door, to find it closed from outside.

I was shouting for help all the time and my voice was becoming feeble but there was no response from any quarters. Though helpless, but with presence of mind, I started flicking on and off the drawing room lights to attract attention of passersby.

It was God’s providence that helped and the night duty security staff arrived at the GH. On finding the door locked from outside, they immediately arranged to open it and brought my driver who was staying in another GH in the vicinity.

While getting into the car, I just murmured to my driver to take me to the Commissioner’s residence. By then, it was around 2 AM in the wee hours of the morning.

Commissioner Beemaiah my batch mate responded to my call instantly and came down, in his dhoti and kurta night dress. Seeing my condition,he hopped into my car and guided me to a nearby private nursing home. The doctor who was about to leave for his home, but on Beemaiah’s request, stayed back and made the necessary emergency treatment and my welfare.

It was subsequently revealed to me that the GH caretaker had tied his nuptial knots just a few days ago. Thus he left for his nearby home after locking the GH from outside, with the idea to come early next morning to see me off after serving my morning cup of tea. That would have served two birds with one stone so to say!

Beemaiah had also taken up this matter seriously with IPCL top management. What Beemaiah did, stands out as a glowing example of batch camaraderie. Let me tell you, except for the interactions during our probationary period, we really didn’t get many opportunities to be in contact with each other.

 
M.A. Beemaiah with batch mates in the probationary period. Front row (from L to R): Ashish K. Raha, Anant Ram, S. Krishnamurthi, M.A. Beemaiah, K.K. Aggarwal, P. C. Jha, Jogendra Singh. Back row (from L to R): Jimmy Tochhawang, V. K. Sharma, Onkar Nath, Kamlesh Tiwari

M.A. Beemaiah with batch mates in the probationary period.

Front row (from L to R): Ashish K. Raha, Anant Ram, S. Krishnamurthi, M.A. Beemaiah, K.K. Aggarwal, P. C. Jha, Jogendra Singh.

Back row (from L to R): Jimmy Tochhawang, V. K. Sharma, Onkar Nath, Kamlesh Tiwari.

 

What must have heavily weighed on Beemaiah’s mind while receiving my call that fateful night was, I was his batch mate.

It’s sad to note that Beemaiah is no more with us but his memories are precious. I will always remain grateful to Beemaiah for this noble gesture.

Editor’s Note: Beemaiah passed away peacefully on 5th December 2015. He had pledged his body for medical research and scientific advancement.


Remembering Z ‘Jimmy’ Tochhawng

John Khathing

John S. R. Khathing is a Tangkhul Naga from Manipur. He completed his schooling from Shillong and graduated from St. Stephen's College, Delhi. He was an active and keen sportsman in his student days.

During his college years, John took up angling (fishing through bait or fly- casting/spoon) which he enjoys till date.

John joined the Indian Revenue Service in the Customs & Central Excise Department in 1971. He retired as Chief Commissioner of Customs & Central Excise in 2006.

John loves traveling and has driven to many places in India with his wife, Shanti, as navigator. He finds listening to Western classical/country music and folk songs very relaxing and soothing.

After retirement, he is now settled at Guwahati with Shanti.

Zopianga Tochhawng, otherwise known by most as ‘Jimmy’, was one of the friendliest persons anyone would love to meet. I do not believe I would be wrong to say that those of us who were his service batch mates, were very fortunate to have interacted with him as a colleague and friend.

Zopianga ‘Jimmy’ Tochhawng

Zopianga ‘Jimmy’ Tochhawng

As in most cases, probation was the bonding period for all. Jimmy was always ready to entertain us with his songs and guitar strumming. Like a few of us, he enjoyed the regular evening swigs as we killed time playing ‘Bumper’ with him, puffing on his cigarettes through a cigarette holder.

Both us being hill men from the northeast region, understood each other well. Though we were meeting each other for the first time, we had actually taught in different high schools in Kohima, Nagaland.

Though he could not display his culinary expertise during probation, he was an excellent cook. He was already married with school-going children and was a doting family man.

After probation, our postings were at different locations. We never had a same location posting except for my last posting before superannuation.

However, we did keep in touch. He was always approachable and always helped those who sought his assistance and / or advice.

In his later life, though he developed cardiac problems and had to undergo a couple of operations, but he invariably maintained a smiling face. He loved life and never let his medical problems hamper his social get-togethers with friends and relatives.

In November 2018, when the batch mates had a get together at Jaipur, he was very disappointed at being unable to attend the event as during the same period an important family progamme required his presence in Aizawal, Mizoram.

Jimmy was very active in the Association of Retired Officers of Customs, Central Excise and GST of Shillong, Meghalaya. He attended the meetings regularly and contributed to the discussions held.

He is survived by his children whom he had looked after very caringly. His wife, Betty, had pre-deceased him some years earlier.

I remember Jimmy as someone who was happy with what he had and was always at peace with himself.


Ram Bharose Bhaskar: A Sweet Remembrance

Shree Kamlesh Tiwari joined the Indian Revenue Service in 1971 and superannuated in 2007. At an early age Kamlesh to play the flute under the tutelage of Pandit Bholanath ji of Allahabad and his famous disciple Pandit Hari Prasad Chaurasia. Kamlesh was accepted as Pandit Hari Prasad Chaurasia's disciple after a stern test in 1972. During his service years Kamlesh got several opportunities to perform at official and informal functions. Kamlesh is currently a graded artist of vocal and flute with All India Radio (AIR) Allahabad. Music runs in the family. Kamlesh’s father was also an All India Radio artist at Allahabad. Post retirement Kamlesh lives with his spouse at Allahabad.

Ram Bharose Bhaskar was a sweet little guy, who joined us as a Probationer in the Customs & Central Excise Service in November 1971. Though he migrated to the greener pastures of IAS in 1972, he left an indelible impression on all of us, as a dear batch mate and a fine human being.

 
Trainee probationers at the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration, Mussoorie in 1972 (from L to R): P. C. Jha, Anant Ram, K. K. Agarwal and R. B. Bhaskar.

Trainee probationers at the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration, Mussoorie in 1972 (from L to R): P. C. Jha, Anant Ram, K. K. Agarwal and R. B. Bhaskar.

 

Bhaskar was a diminutive personality, with a dark complexion & somewhat rustic manners, but he had a unique presence with his robust common sense and a practical approach to life. It was a great fun to listen to his fluent, non-stop scholarly discourses on the political thoughts of Hobbes, Locke and our own Indian giant, Chanakya!

Ram Bharose Bhaskar

Ram Bharose Bhaskar

I vividly remember my encounter with him in 1980s, when I happened to meet him in his grand office in Lucknow, where he worked as a Secretary to the UP Govt. He met me like a long-lost friend and chatted for hours during the sumptuous lunch break. It was a memorable meeting, as he regaled all present with his lovely anecdotes of his encounters with his tough bosses in the UP Secretariat.

Bhaskar was born in Orai, District Jalaun, in a very backward village, Sirsa Kalar, to a poor family. Despite his adverse circumstances, he walked 14 kms on foot from his village to study in the nearest college. After getting into the prestigious IAS, he established a school for girls, which became a Girls’ College in Sirsa Kalar in Jalaun. A Police Station was also opened with his intervention in his village. He did his best to uplift his village, socially and in the field of education.

Bhaskar had a distinguished career as DM, Sultanpur, Azamgarh, Commissioner, Entertainment Tax, Consolidation Deptt, Principal Secretary Power & Personnel Administration etc in UP Govt.

It was very unfortunate that after his retirement, he suffered from an incurable disease of spinal cord, with unbearable pain, due to which he shot himself dead!

He is survived by his 2 sons and wife, who are now settled in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh.

Our respectful salutations to the wonderful man: R.B Bhaskar!


Remembering Subhash K. Pali

Born in a village in what is now Jharkhand, Sunil Kumar Choudhury did his graduation and post-graduation from Ranchi University. He joined the Indian Army in 1964 and was commissioned with the Rajput Regiment. He was assigned to 15 Rajput in 1965. He also qualified as a Commando from Infantry School, Mhow. After being released from the army in 1970, he served in the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) in West Bengal.

Sunil joined the Indian Revenue Service in 1971. He married his batch mate, Komala Raghavan, in 1975. After retirement on superannuation in 2002, he along with his wife Komala settled down in Bengaluru. Komala passed away in January 2018.

It was 1st November, 1971, the day when most of us reported to our training institute at Hauz Khaz, New Delhi. Soon after completing the joining formalities, proceeded to the first floor which was going to be our only classroom in a rented bunglow.

As I entered, I recall being warmly greeted by a bright looking bearded young man with a few greying streaks bearing a professorial appearance introducing himself as S. K. Pali, preferring to be addressed as just Pali, residing in Hauz Khaz itself.

Subhash K. Pali

Subhash K. Pali

In the meantime, others too gradually started joining the group. While we all shared our background, Pali spoke of his teaching experience in a Delhi College after having completed his Masters degree from the prestigious Delhi School of Economics (DSE).

As one with nothing to boast of an educational excellence, I was visibly overawed by his academic achievement without betraying any sign of intellectual snobbery.

Soon, we became very close to each other. His warmth was quite mesmerising. Often, he took a few of us (the Pentagon as Subhash Mathur called the group) to his house where we were treated with one of the best vegetarian dishes made and served so affectionately by his mother.

He would share his experience of trekking Pindari Glaciers with palpable excitement of a mountaineer. No wonder, he enjoyed his Mussoorie days surrounded by snow capped mountains.

 
Trainee probationers at the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration in 1971 (from L to R): Sridharan, Noorjahan (Postal), Komala Raghavan, S. K. Pali, Sunil Choudhury, and Subhash Mathur.

Trainee probationers at the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration in February 1972 (from L to R): Sridharan, Noorjahan (Postal), Komala Raghavan, S. K. Pali, Sunil Choudhury, and Subhash Mathur.

 

On completion of training, Pali was posted in Valsad Customs Division in Gujarat, essentially an anti smuggling formation. This was a charge he enjoyed, acquiring full knowledge about how the biggies like Sukar Narain Bakhia, Haji Mastan and likes of them, carried on their smuggling activities before being detained under MISA /COFEPOSAA.

I visited him twice during 1976 at Valsad. Was treated with best of imported / smuggled alcoholic beverages on a land where such a sinful act was punishable with imprisonment.

We remained in touch with each other since then. Met him last sometime in 1987 while he was on deputation to Forward Markets Commission - a job he seemed to enjoy.

Things were absolutely fine for Pali until a tragic air crash at Ahmedabad airport in 1988, shattering all his dreams and leaving behind a young grieving wife and a child, too small to know the gravity of the loss. I called on his wife once in Mumbai, then an Examiner in Bombay Custom house - a job she left a few years later, perhaps as an Appraiser. Lost touch thereafter.

It is 32 years since we lost Pali. But he still resides in my heart and mind and will remain so until my turn too comes for bidding a good bye.

May his soul rest in peace!


In Memoriam: Komala, Virendra Singh and Subhash K. Pali

Subhash Mathur was born and brought up in small towns in Rajasthan. During his school and college education at Jaipur, he was keenly involved in sports, journalism and public speaking. His civil services career has given him a platform for spreading his ideas about modernising tax administration to benefit the common man. Post retirement he is devoting his energies, along with his wife Tilak, to public and humane causes.

I reported for Training at the Training Institute for Customs and Central Excise at K 5, Hauz Khas on a bitterly cold 4th November morning. I was directed to the hostel C6/ 54 where I was to share a room with another Probationer namely Satyabrata Pal.

I quickly freshened up and went up to the dining room for breakfast. Satya and Bhaskar were at the breakfast table. Having exchanged pleasantries I also ordered my egg omelet and crisp toasts with two strong cups of tea.

Within the hour I walked over to the Institute to begin my journey in the Service.

Komala and I

In the class one lady Probationer was sitting in the front row. Alter on I came to know that her name was Komala and she was the only lady Probationer amongst the bunch of us.

Komala

Komala

For reasons I cannot fathom even till today I simply did not talk to her or greet her even though we were generally around for classes as well as meals.

A couple of days later when the two of us were alone in the lounge Komala walked up to me and asked sharply ’Subhash Mathur, why you have not spoken to me ever since you have joined?’

I was stunned. I was taken aback. I had no ready answer.

But from that moment our friendship began in right earnest.

At the end of our Probationary days, Komala got posted to Madras but contact with her was renewed as Sunil (who was posted at Calcutta as well) and Komala got married. We spent some good times in Calcutta where Ashish was also posted. And Sarangi as well.

Our gathering at the lunch time in Calcutta Custom House used to be huge with all the direct recruits like the Basus, Subroto and Sunita too joining in. T. K. Lahiri and Jeevan Krishna would peep in often times and eat up the sweets on offer.

 
Calcutta Customs House

Calcutta Customs House

 

Once in a while, Ashish would also come over from the Excise building in the same compound. It used to get pretty boisterous at times.

When I went to Madras for our six months Customs attachment in Feb 72 I had the pleasure of meeting her ever so gentle and over the moon hospitable parents and younger sis Rukku. Sunil Pali, Sri (Sridharan) and I along with Rohini from IES were often invited for some sumptuous meals at her home. Very often.

My fiancée Tilak also spent two nights with her parents as she had gone to Madras to attend a seminar in 1973. Sridharan picked her up from the Airport and dropped her at Komala’s house.

Sridharan also invited the whole lot that is Sunil, Pali, Komala, Rohini and I for some exclusive lunches all prepared by Sri himself. Sri was a master cook.

Of course Komala, Subhash Pali and Sridharan are no longer with us but their happy days memories linger on.

 
Sunil Choudhury with wife Komala.

Sunil Choudhury with wife Komala.

 

❉✼❉

Virendra Singh

As Virendra was Delhi-based, he did not live in the hostel with us and thus my contact with him was largely classroom-based. I rarely interacted with him on personal basis. But I can recall two incidents very clearly.

Virendra Singh

Virendra Singh

When I was posted at Calcutta from 1973 to 1977, one of my relatives got into a mild hassle with Delhi Airport Customs.

As I had no access to a STD telephone those days, I wrote an Inland Letter to Virendra for intervention. To my delight, and to the joy of my relative, the issue was resolved amicably. Thanks, Virendra!

The second time I ran into Virendra was when he joined NACEN as DG where I was posted as ADG. Virendra functioned in his own airy fairy style trying to bring in a uniformed culture in an academic milieu.

But his stint was cut short as he was picked for Central Excise Anti-Evasion wing. It was Virendra who changed the name as CEI as at present.

I knew his wife Jasdeep well, even before they got married.

❉✼❉

Subhash Pali, the bearded Professor from Delhi University

One of the first few persons whom I met at the Institute on my first day on 4th of November 1971 was Subhash Pali.

He was attired in a blue suit with a contrast tie and a sparking full beard. As he was not staying in the hostel we could meet at the Institute only. He of course joined us all for lunch every day and often times for tea and snacks after the classes were over.

Gradually, Pali and I became good friends as perhaps we shared the same values.

 
Subhash Mathur (left) with Subhash Pali at Mussoorie in 1972.

Subhash Mathur (left) with Subhash Pali at Mussoorie in 1972.

 

Pali, Sunil and I went to Calcutta together for our short Customs familiarization course. We stayed together in one room from where we used to catch the tram to reach BBD Bagh and then walk over to Calcutta Customs House.

And thus began our journey together.

From Ahmedabad I used to often visit Mumbai on work. I made sure to have lunch with him in his Forwards Market Commission office just off the Marine Drive. He would order a sumptuous meal with entrée and main course and a lip smacking dessert.

In 1975, Tilak and I traveled from Calcutta to Jaipur by train on LTC. The halt at Surat was for over for two hours. Subhash was always at the platform opposite our coach. He picked us up and we went to nearby private Guest House where we were able to freshen up and be ready for lunch. The table was overloaded with delicacies. For me he had couple of chilled beer cans to ease the pain of travel over 16 hours.

It was a great gesture. Etched in our memories.

Such sweet memories!

 
Subhash Pali with his sister, Sushma and batchmates. (from L to R): Sunil Choudhury, Komala, Sushma and Subhash Mathur.

Subhash Pali with his sister, Sushma and batchmates. (from L to R): Sunil Choudhury, Komala, Sushma and Subhash Mathur.

But I have some terrible memories as well.

In 1990 I was posted in Ahmedabad. I was watching an ODI on a six inch black and white TV when my PRO burst into the room and asked, ‘Sir have you heard about the crash of IA Mumbai – Ahmedabad flight at Ahmedabad airport? It’s rumored that Pali Sir was on the flight.‘

From that moment the day went southwards and ended up with my escorting his wife Sonali to the morgue to identify the body.

But, dear Pali, you live in my heart and I often remember our good times. You were a gem.

❉✼❉

Epilogue by S. Manickavasagam

All those who have departed are younger than those who are living. They certainly deserved to live some more years to enjoy retired life with their kith and kin. Fate decided differently. It was a difficult to recall the past events without a tinge of sadness. I have done it. I'm grateful for the opportunity to do so.


A tribute to Director M. Ramachandran

Tribute by Sunil K. Choudhury

It was a matter of great pride for the 1971 batch probationers of the Customs & Central Excise Service – Class-I (as was known then) to have the likes of M. Ramachandran as our training Director during our entire probationary period.

M. Ramachandran as Director General of the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) in 1966.

M. Ramachandran as Director General of the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) in 1966.

The very mention of his name brings back to our minds a vivid image of a man so accomplished not only academically, but having distinguished himself professionally too in the field of anti-smuggling, deservedly earning the epithet of being an ace “code breaker” (breaking the most complex codes used by smugglers).

His double M.Sc. in Physics and Mathematics with Gold Medals from St. Stephen’s College, Delhi made his father (an Accountant General) so proud that he went about wearing the same on a ribbon around his neck at his son’s wedding. A proud father of an able son!

And yet, Mr. Ramachandran remained an epitome of modesty, equanimity, poise and dignity - a role model for any young probationer with a long journey ahead will crave to emulate.

We got to know about his “code breaking” skills from others. Appearing as a prosecution witness in several cases built substantially on breaking such codes, Mr. Ramachandran received accolades from the courts including High Courts.

In one particular case of one S. V. Mehta, convicted in a diamond smuggling case, the High Court while confirming the conviction made the following observation on Ramachandran’s unique ability to decipher such code: “He (Ramachandran) had then tried to apply the key to all the alphabets in all the letters and explained how the figures tally. This part of the evidence of Ramchandran is invincible.” (emphasis supplied). There were many more such instances of his amazing code breaking skills.

M. Ramachandran as Director (Training) in 1971.

M. Ramachandran as Director (Training) in 1971.

Throughout his service, Ramachandran scrupulously observed the highest level of personal integrity, values and ethics. He remained steadfast on these principles till the end.

On a personal note, I got to know Mr. Ramchandran better since 1980 as we were close neighbours in Madras for nearly six years. I would visit him often and he too on occasions came to see us on the 3rd floor of our CPWD flats climbing the stairs ungrudgingly.

I got to learn a lot about him from his daughter, Ms. Usha Thorat, former Deputy Governor, Reserve Bank of India. She would recall how her father, as ACP Bombay Customs, would turn away all the fruit and goodies baskets at Diwali and X’mas time. He cherished his integrity beyond anything.

During my conversations with him, he would lament how the government programmes for the poor were not reaching them due to corrupt and inefficient machinery with virtually no accountability. His empathy for the downtrodden and vulnerable was evident from both his thoughts and actions.

Concerned about the plight of fishermen living close by along the Besant Nagar Beach in South Madras, he encouraged them to form a society taking upon himself the responsibility of President for advising and assisting them how to maximise their profits and get the benefits of all the government run welfare schemes. He persuaded me too to become an active member of the Association.

Incidentally, not known to many, Ramachandran loved to listen to old Hindi songs of the 1940s and 50s; Pankaj Mullick and K. L. Sehgal in particular were his favourites.

As we enter into the 50th year of our joining the service, we all pay our respectful tribute to this adorable man.

❉✼❉

Tribute by S. Manickavasagam

The late Mr. M. Ramachandran belonged to the 1945 batch of the Imperial Customs Service. He was a gentleman to the core. At the same time, when it came to office work, he was very strong in his convictions. Wherever he worked - be it DRI (Directorate of Revenue Intelligence), Director (Training) or Gold Control Administrator, etc. - he left his stamp of excellence.

 
M. Ramachandran with M. V. N. Rao, Chairman of the Central Board of Excise and Customs, Indian Revenue Service.

M. Ramachandran (seated right) with M. V. N. Rao, Chairman of the Central Board of Excise and Customs, Indian Revenue Service.

 

I vividly recall an incident that took place when I was serving as Collector of Customs, Madras.

After retirement, Mr. Ramachandran was settled in Madras and doing social service for the upliftment of the children of fishermen. He was running classes for them and setting up small industries to help them.

M. Ramachandran, being welcomed with a garland.

M. Ramachandran, being welcomed with a garland.

One day, there was a call from him and he asked to meet me in my office. I readily agreed. He came along and after the usual tea and biscuits, he made a request.

He knew that the Customs House used a number of printed form in different departments. He wanted some of those printing jbs to assist the Society, running the school, etc.

I readily agreed and asked my secretary to do the needful. He was very happy that such orders would improve the financials of the Society.

His daughter, Mrs. Usha Thorat, rose to the level of Deputy Governor, Reserve Bank of India.

❉✼❉

Tribute by Kamlesh M. Tiwari

In my mind, I have Training Director M. Ramachandran's image as a very sober, kind, mature and saintly person.

I remember his axiomatic sentence even now.

“The objective of a Senior Supervisory officer is to Plan, Supervise and Control the activities of an Organization.“

That’s our Director M. Ramachandran for me.


Photo Gallery

 
1971 IRS batchmates with guests.

1971 IRS batchmates with guests

 
A.K. Raha (left) with Assistant Director S. K. Bhatnagar (centre) and Anant Ram.

A.K. Raha (left) with Assistant Director S. K. Bhatnagar (centre) and Anant Ram.

 
Prasanna N. Sarangi (left) with Dalbir Singh

Prasanna N. Sarangi (left) with Dalbir Singh

 
V. K. Sharma (left) with Anant Ram

V. K. Sharma (left) with Anant Ram

 
John S. R. Khathing

John S. R. Khathing

 
1971 IRS batchmates at Mussoorie (from L to R): Satyabrata Pal, Sunil Choudhury, Rohini, Noorjahan, Komala, Subhash Mathur and Manickvasagam.

1971 IRS batchmates at Mussoorie (from L to R): Satyabrata Pal, Sunil Choudhury, Rohini, Noorjahan, Komala, Subhash Mathur and S. Manickavasagam.

 
Subhash Mathur on the first day of training at LBS Mussoorie in 1972, enjoying the first rain.

Subhash Mathur on the first day of training at LBS Mussoorie in 1972, enjoying the first rain.

 
Subhash Mathur shaking hands with Sunil Choudhury. Seated in the middle (from L to R): A Railway Service probationer, Ashish K. Raha and Subhash K. Pali.

Subhash Mathur shaking hands with Sunil Choudhury. Seated in the middle (from L to R): A Railway Service probationer, Ashish K. Raha and Subhash K. Pali.

 
(from L to R): Satyabrata Pal, J. Sridharan, Komala, Subhash K. Pali, Rohini, Sunil Choudhury, Noorjahan and Subhash Mathur.

(from L to R): Satyabrata Pal, J. Sridharan, Komala, Subhash K. Pali, Rohini, Sunil Choudhury, Noorjahan and Subhash Mathur.

 
(from L to R): V. K. Sharma, Jogendra Singh, Jimmy Tochhawang and Dalbir Singh.

(from L to R): V. K. Sharma, Jogendra Singh, Jimmy Tochhawang and Dalbir Singh.


Editor's Note: Here are some more contributions from the 1971 batch of the Indian Revenue Service. Batchmates are welcome to keep contributing!

Comments

Excellent!

It's a fantastic effort. The lives and friendships come through clearly. And, I am sure that the families will be pleased to read about their loved ones.

I feel like i know all of you...i hope i do get a chance to meet all of you one day. Wishing these were better times, take care stay safe and thank you all so much for remembering my father

👏👏👏
Splendid work done by you, Subhash. The batch paid their tribute to those who departed. And they departed rather too early.
Your effort brought back memories of ' those were the days'. Those days would never come back. But momentarily you turned the arrow of time back. Thanks.

My thanks to all those who contributed and made this endeavour succeed.🙏

Jogendra, could not agree more. Commendable initiative by Subhash. The piece is a valuable treasure to be presented with care.

Really nice of you Subhash to bring out such a nice work done. It brought back the memories of our probation days. A precious collection of our batch photographs. Thanks to all who contributed in bringing this out

Great initiative taken by Subhash . Outcome is priceless. Memories are made of these. Congratulations, Subhash.

Thank you, Sunil. Satya had taken a couple of photos of Komala and he had showed them to me. Do you have them? Will you tell your friend S.Manickavasgam how touched I was with his tribute to Satya. Also I would love to read Satya's letters to him. It wii take me to another era. The world as we knew it when young has changed so much. All these are bittersweet memories. I remember meeting all of you when I visited Satya before my marriage. Thank you for sending me all the news. Warm wishes, Shree

Three cheers to you, dear Subhash, for your mammoth efforts as a writer and Editor !

The stories have come out very well ; poignant, intimate and affectionate, they warm up our hearts !

Touching tributes all !

My hearty compliments to Subhash & other batchmates cum friends who have contributed to this remarkable & memorable compilation on the golden jubilee of our tiny, yet shiny, batch. We deeply remember our friends & colleagues who are no longer with us physically, but still abiding in our mind & heart. Reminiscing them fondly and respectfully befits the occasion. Wish I could share my personal experience with some of them. Unfortunately, however, I got caught up with some personal & family matters. My sincere thanks once again to Subhash for his initiative in the matter & others who made their contribution.

Sunil Choudury, thanks so much - really very nicely put together and your pen portrait of Appa is very good. I will circulate among his children and grandkids.
-- Usha Thorat, daughter of Mr. Ramachandran

Jogendra, could not agree more. Commendable initiative by Subhash. The piece is a valuable treasure to be presented with care

Splendid work. Congrats to all those who made it possible.

Absolutely enjoyed reading it Sir. The black and white 70s snaps have a strange charm about them.

sir, what a treasure trove this is.well written and precise and right from the pericardium.pictures make it perfect.

Sir, may the veteran batch mates soon have a happy re union / get together

Thanks, sir for your efforts in this regard for your Batch mates.

Add new comment

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Image CAPTCHA
Enter the characters shown in the image.