My Funny Signboards

By Kabir Bhargava

Recently, I saw my Dad collected and taking pictures of some funny sign he came across. I decided to do the same. Till now I have got only two but I will keep my eyes open for more. The first one says ‘Always Wear A Helmet While Driving.’ I didn’t quite get whether one should wear a helmet while driving a car too.

Both images seem to be “Powered by Su-Kam”.

I will continue taking more of these funny pictures and show them to you.

Cheers Kabir.

Aviation in India – A Peep Into Its Early History

By Gp Capt Kapil Bhargava (Retd)

In 2003 the whole world celebrated the centenary of powered flight. But we Indians have to wait till 2010 to observe the centenary of flight in India. After the flight of the Wright Flyer, it took just seven years, almost to the day, for the first aircraft to get airborne at Allahabad in UP. There was hectic activity to bring planes to India and show them off in December 1910.

First off the block was His Highness the Maharaja of Patiala. He sent his British Engineer CW Bowles to Europe to look at the new art or science of flying and bring a couple of planes back with him. Bowles returned to India in December 1910 with a Farman biplane made in England and a Gnome-Bleriot monoplane fitted with two seats. Apparently in Europe, France was the first to get into the business of flying. The Farman was also a French design but built in England by a Thomas Holt, recognized as the father of the aviation industry in England, in collaboration with Farman Brothers of France. Fortune did not favour Patiala and neither of these aircraft became the first to get into the air.

In early December 1910 a party from Belgium and two from England also came to India with several aeroplanes. Their idea was to showcase flying and naturally exploit any business opportunities that might arise out of the demonstrations. The first of these to land in India was from Coventry’s Humber Motor Company, famous for its cars especially used by the police in UK. It included a leader, Capt WG Windham, two pilots – one French and one English, and two mechanics also one French and one English. The Humber Company asked the team to proceed to Allahabad immediately after it landed in Bombay by a merchant ship. This group with all its packing cases set off for Allahabad with the intention of demonstrating the aircraft at the Industrial & Agricultural Exhibition due to be held there shortly. It arrived on December 5 and assembled the planes in five days at a polo ground right next to the Exhibition Grounds. A local newspaper reported the first flight in India as follows: –

“The first actual flight was successfully attained by Mr. Davies in a ‘Bleriot’. On the 10th of December Mr. Davies had the machine ready and early in the morning circled the polo ground at a height of twenty five or thirty feet” The paper added, “Thus Allahabad has had the distinction of giving the lead not only in India, but also to the whole of Asian Continent in connection with the latest of scientific wonders”.

The aircraft ready to fly weighed five hundred pounds without the pilot and cost £ 550/=, just under Rs 7,500/= at the rate existing then. Surely this amount was affordable by many people at the time.

The second aircraft flew the next day, December 11 1910, under the control of the French pilot Henri Pequet and carried the first air passenger in India. He was one of the sons of the Maharaja of Benares, obviously an intrepid young man. But The Statesman of Calcutta, a newspaper still very well respected, published a different version of the flights in Allahabad. Its issue of December 18 reported that Henri Pequet made the first flight in India on December 17. According the paper, Pequet flew the biplane over the confluence of the Ganges and the Yamuna (Sangam) and also over the Allahabad Fort. The newspaper expected regular display flights to begin on December 20 over the Exhibition Grounds and continue displays till January 6, 1911. The possibility of joyrides being given was also mentioned. By then it was estimated that a total of five hours of flying had been accumulated covering almost 50 miles. Henri Pequet was paid £.50/= per hour of flying, provided each flight lasted longer than two minutes. He is today recognised, especially by knowledgeable stamp collectors, as the pilot to carry world’s first airmail from Allahabad to Naini just across the Yamuna, and back to Allahabad. He carried 6,000 odd letters and postcards, many of which were addressed to celebrities worldwide, including King George V in England. If you can find one of these postmarked covers or stamps with the words “First Aerial Post”, you can sell it today for the price of a flat or a house.

Calcutta, the capital of British India before it was shifted to Delhi, was not far behind in making aviation history. But perhaps news at the time did not travel between cities fast enough. The Statesman of December 21, 1910 said that the second flight in India was at Tollygunj, a suburb of Calcutta on December 20. Baron de Caters flew the Bleriot monoplane over Tollygunj Club for fifteen minutes. The same day the Baron flew with a lady passenger, Mrs NC Sen, who thus became the first woman in India to get airborne. The paper had also claimed that Mrs Sen was the first woman in the world to fly in a plane. But this claim was quite wrong, as by then in the West it had become fashionable for society ladies to casually drop their news of having dared a ride in a flying machine.

For December 28, Baron de Caters organised a flying display at Tollygunj. This attracted almost all the able population of Calcutta willing to forego work or other pleasures for a day. The Baron did the first few flights in the Farman, gave rides to two ladies and several gentlemen. While this was exciting enough, the next day, December 29, Jules Tyck set two national records in his Bleriot. He became the first to fly over the city, including directly over the Government House. The second record was set when he climbed to all of 700 feet above ground level. Calcutta was in for more excitement.

On January 6, 1911, a huge crowd gathered at the Maidan to witness Henri Jullerot display his Boxkite developed by the British & Colonial Aeroplane Company of Bristol, England. The crowds were reported the next day to have been in excess of 100,000, perhaps even more than seen now-a-days at Eden Garden for one day international cricket matches. Seats at the Race Course’s Grand Stand of the Maidan were exorbitantly priced at Rs 5/= each! The flight was cheered with gusto. But the show concluded fast enough as the Boxkite had to be dismantled and taken to Aurangabad by train to demonstrate it to the Indian Army.

Obviously, just like the armed forces the world over, Indian Army was quick to realise the military importance of new technology such as the flying machines. The Boxkite was assembled in open ground next to the Aurangabad railway station. Perhaps world’s first reconnaissance flights took place in it on January 15 and 16 to report on the forces opposing a Cavalry Brigade. The pilot, Henri Jullerot sat on the spar of the leading edge of the lower wing with his feet on a rudder bar. The observer, Sefton Branckner sat close behind, a bit higher and with his feet around the pilot. The reconnaissance sorties were highly successful. But except for a few generals, including the Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army and the Chief of Staff, most army officers did no think that the aeroplane had much use for them except perhaps for limited reconnaissance of enemy positions. This attitude persists till today, only slightly moderated due to introduction of aviation within the army itself.

Meanwhile Baron de Caters and Jules Tyck took their aircraft around the country and gave displays at many towns. The show in Bangalore was on February 3, 1911 and in Madras on February 18.

The First World War soon interrupted any progress of aviation in India for a while. Two Indians distinguished themselves in this war. Inder Lal Roy joined the Royal Flying Corps in April 1917 at the tender age of just over eighteen years. After receiving his training and the King’s Commission, he joined No.. 56 Squadron in France but was shot down in December. He was given up for dead but gained consciousness surrounded by dead bodies. After recovery he returned to flying and shot down nine German planes before losing his life in his last air combat. He was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC), the first Indian to receive the honour. The other famous Indian pilot was Sardar Hardit Singh Malik, who had also joined in April 1917. He was wounded in November but returned to flying in time for the defence of London. He was demobilised after the war and had a really distinguished career as a diplomat. He was, not long ago, the senior-most citizen playing golf at the Delhi Golf Club.

The Royal Air Force inaugurated its first station in India at Ambala. But the Indian Air Force (IAF) was launched by an act of the Governor General on October 8, 1932. The A Flight of No. 1 Squadron came into existence on April 1, 1933 under the command of an RAF officer on deputation. Its senior-most Indian officer was Pilot Officer Subroto Mukherjee who later became IAF’s first Indian Commander-in-Chief as an Air Vice Marshal and then took over as the Chief of Air Staff as an Air Marshal. His successor was Air Marshal AM (Aspy) Engineer.

Aspy Engineer had started his flying career rather early. He and RN Chawla were the first Indians to fly a De Havilland Moth from India to England. They left on March 3 and arrived on March 20,1930. Aspy’s return flight from England was to contest for the Aga Khan Prize of £ 500 for flying between the two countries in either direction. JRD Tata took off in a Gypsy Moth on May 3 from Karachi for England. They crossed each other at Aboukir in Egypt where Aspy was in some trouble due to problems with some spark plugs. JRD helped him out. Aspy arrived in India when JRD had just reached Paris. Presumably because he took longer, JRD Tata came second to Aspy who won the Prize. But JRD was never a loser. After protracted negotiations with the Government of India, he started his airmail service under the name of Tata Aviation. He piloted the first carriage of mail from Karachi to Bombay on October 15, 1932. The initial efforts at passenger carriage in India were limited to British owned or funded airlines, such as the Indian Trans-Continental Airways and Indian National Airways. But as the need for more air travel facilities became paramount, permission was given to almost anyone wanting to start an airline. This resulted in a profusion of quick start airlines, which competed with each other perhaps by cutting fares and down time for maintenance. Soon enough the situation became untenable. Eventually the Air Corporation Act of 1953 was passed nationalising all airlines. Air India International took over the international traffic and Indian Airlines Corporation the domestic. While the two national airlines still operate, the domestic scene changed once again as a result of economic reforms. The prospects of passenger and cargo traffic in India can only be described now as rosy.

Meanwhile in December 1940, Seth Hirachand Walchand launched Hindustan Aircraft Limited (HAL) with the help of an American and the State of Mysore. Dr VM Ghatge, India’s first aircraft designer soon joined the company and designed the G-1 Glider, the first such venture in India. However, due to World War II, the G-1 did not get used and Dr Ghatge became the first to start teaching aeronautical engineering at the Indian Institute of Science. He rejoined HAL after independence and designed India’s first powered aircraft the HT-2. In time, HAL became a Corporation with several Divisions in the country. The first fighter aircraft designed in the country was the HF-24 though a German team led by Prof. KW Tank largely managed it. Many aircraft types have been produced under licence and in large numbers. Lately the country has come into its own in designing aircraft, engines, avionics and accessories. The success story of indigenous designs restarted with the ALH, now named Dhruv, a helicopter for all the defence services and also meant for civilian use. This has been followed by the Light Combat Aircraft and the Intermediate Jet Trainer.

India has so far produced transport aircraft only under licence from foreign sources. These include the Avro-748, Dornier Do-228 and the Partinavia. But now National Aerospace Laboratories is developing the Saras, a twin turbo-prop commuter aircraft. HAL is also likely to embark on the development of a 100-seater aircraft with capabilities for other roles, perhaps in collaboration with Russia.
The prospects of aviation in India are on the right path and should gladden the heart of any aviation enthusiast.

Author’s Note: Events of early aviation history in India mentioned in this article have been gleaned from the book “Glimpses into INDIAN AVIATION HISTORY” by Late Mr Alka Sen. He was the doyen of aviation journalists in India and started his career with Indian Aviation, India’s first aviation magazine in 1929. Later he became the Editor of Skyways and finally restarted Indian Aviation – Civil & Military in April 1986.

Flying Tales

By Gp. Capt. Kapil Bhargava (Retd.)

As you can guess by my rank of Group Captain, I was an officer in the Indian Air Force (IAF). Flying was my first love. I had tried to join the Air Force in 1944 when I was only 16. But on my father’s orders, I had to wait till I completed my BSc and also India became independent. I served in IAF from 1948 to 1976 and worked as a test pilot for seventeen years, including in six aircraft factories in UK, Egypt and India. I had the most wonderful time flying and managed to pilot more than seventy aircraft types of trainers, fighters, bombers, transports, and helicopters. I also did some gliding and once I piloted a flying boat off the sea.

This Flying Tales section of the KBHARGAVA.COM site will contain some personal writing on aviation. Around eighty of my articles have been published in magazines in the UK, Germany and India. Hopefully, some of these might interest visitors to this site. Comments (including adverse ones) and questions on these will be welcome. But I may not be able to supply further information about historical articles. I have not kept good records about these or have access any longer to the sources of my information.

With best wishes,
Kapil Bhargava
Email: kapil at kbhargava dot com


By Kabir Bhargava

When we reached Baga in Goa, and saw the beaches, the main thing that happened on the beaches were the water sports. There was a Water Scooter which went really fast and was really bumpy. Then there was a Boat Ride and of course the Para Sailing. At first I thought it was really scary and that I wanted to stay away from it. So when we left Baga, the next beach place we went to was called Sernabetam. We just happened to go to the beach on the first day. On this beach there were even more people going for water sports. I wasn’t at all prepared for this, I was being forced to go Para Sailing. People were telling me I would want to go again if I went.

And my Dad told me I wouldn’t be allowed to. So I thought I may as well just experience it and see for myself. I was very scared. I went with my Dad. They hooked me and then the boat we were tied to, took off. We were airborne, for a moment I thought I would fall down, but then I thought, why would people make this sport and why is it so popular if people fall down. Then I was actually enjoying myself. For about 7 seconds I enjoyed it and then we came down. It was so short, only 20 seconds, and they charged 500 rupees. They were right, I did feel like going again (still do). It was really a lot of fun.

So I learnt, that one should always try new things otherwise I would always have had a negative point on Parasailing. But there is one thing you have to agree with, that is that the water scooter is dangerous!


PS: Photos taken by Mom.

Brickbats to Bouquets

By Group Captain Kapil Bhargava (Retd)

Flowers are beautiful and give us unstinted pleasure. Right? Wrong, if you go by the names we call them. Let us start with our national flower. If you call it padm(a), you are OK. But, address it as pankaj and you are referring to its origin born in slime. (Pankajs of the land, please excuse no slur intended. It is a beautiful name, meaning lotus).

When we were small. we found antirrhinum a difficult word to pronounce. The flower was the snap dragon. You could make its mouth move by gently pressing on its jaws. We never figured out why it was the dragon and not a more harmless puppy. The name of the flower comes from Greek to mean like the nose. The Brits at one time called it the calf’s snout!

The nasturtium is so called because it makes you wrinkle up your nose in disgust at its pungent smell. Latin is to blame for this one: nasus meaning nose and tortus to mean twisted. The mother language is also to blame for calling some beautiful flowers carnations. The name derives from carna (flesh) to carrying out a carnage. Some names are just simplifications. The dianthus is pinks even if it comes in a myriad hues. The gladiola is named after gladiolus sword like. A gladius was a small sword that gladiators used to hack each other in Roman days. This time the flower bears this stigma because of the shape of its sharp leaves.

Who is a pansy? Answer: a homosexual man or boy, or one with effeminate characteristics! How then have we named a pretty velvety flower with it? The flame of the forest never sets it on fire. That privilege is reserved for human interlopers (picnickers) and arsonists. The scourge of our lakes is the hyacinth introduced gratuitously by a royal personage during the Raj. The lady liked its flowers so much that she imported the weed into the country. She had no idea that there was nothing to control its unlimited growth. Now a beetle is being tried for the job. The name of the of the plant (and its red flowers) comes from Greek. The plant sprang from the spilt blood of Hyacinthus, a beautiful youth whom Apollo loved but killed accidentally. Those were obviously naughty times!

Probably the worst epithet is reserved for the most beautiful flowers. Orchids grow almost anywhere in the tropics but not in deserts. They come in beautiful shapes and colours. Usually their one leaf is larger than the other two. But just look at their name. It comes from the Greek orkhis due to the testicular shape of its roots. As a result, in the middle ages, Europeans thought of the orchid as an aphrodisiac.

William Shakespeare had more sensitivity to the feelings of the orchids. In Hamlet when he describes Ophelia’s drowning with flowers all round her, he refrains from mentioning them: “There with fantastic garlands did she come,/ Of crow-flowers, nettles, daisies, and long purples,/ That liberal shepherds give a grosser name,/ But our cold maids do dead men’s fingers call them.”

It is not only Miss Blandish who does not get orchids. Some half men meet the same cruel fate. In medical terms, orchidectomy means the surgical removal of one or both testes.

Happy New Year Again & Again

By Group Captain Kapil Bhargava (Retd)

As a schoolboy in a small town in UP, I remember the preparations for Holi. The family retainers dug a pit and buried an earthenware pot in it. This was at the spot where Holi fire was to be lit a few days later. Gradually, firewood and other items, such as broken cots, tables and chairs to burn on Holi night were piled up over it.

On being questioned, our oldest servant told me that Samvat 1999 (year of the Vikram era) had been buried in the pot and was to be burnt as having perished. The twenty-first century of our own Samvat would begin after the new moon about two weeks later. Till then I had not realised that Holi had a direct connection with our own New Year. I have often wondered if Holi is in fact the celebration on the last full moon of the year to welcome the new one, the mythological story of Holika trying to kill Pralhad notwithstanding. The current Vikram Samvat 2065 began on 7th April 2008 (Ugadi) for Karnataka and Andhra. But if you missed it, never mind, there are a number of new year days yet to celebrate. After all, you can calculate the year from any date, just like your own birthday!

Quite a few people believe that the Samvat starts on Diwali night. This tradition originated from Gujarat and was adopted as the start of the business accounting year by most Indian businessmen, particularly those of Bombay. For these people Samvat 2065 will begin on 28th October. You have plenty of time to get ready for revelry. Punjabis count the same Samvat 2065, but it will begin on 14th April, the day after Baisakhi which has a very special significance for the Sikhs. Two or three other states also start their new year on the same date. Most Parsis will celebrate their own new year Papeti on 23rd or 25th August. Their year 1 started when they first landed in India in Gujarat by ships and sought refuge with the Raja of Sanjan. Parsis who came to India by land have their own separate New Year’s Day a few days earlier.

Perhaps the oldest calendar still in use is the Buddhist. Its year 2552 will begin at the end of May, while Jains will welcome the year 2535 at Diwali. In this profusion of New Years, the year 1930 started off the Shaka Samvat, National Official Calendar. This is a rare purely solar calendar, and is observed almost totally by being ignored. Most other calendars are based on the lunar cycles adjusted to the seasons, and hence the position of the earth in its orbit, by adding or dropping days (tithis) and sometimes adding a whole month (mal-maas). The Hejira Muslim year counted from the emigration of the Prophet to Medina, began this year as 1184, on the first day of Muharram on January 18, 2008. This is a purely lunar calendar with no adjustments to realign it with the seasons.

Finally, a few words about the so called real New Year’s day of the westernized Indian intelligentsia. There is no clear evidence of how the Anno Domini relates to the date of birth or Crucifixion of Jesus Christ. At one time even this Christian era began on 1st April. In memory of this, many financial years including ours still begin on that date.

Those who continued to wish their friends and relatives Happy New Year on 1st April, gave birth to All Fools Day. They were the fools for not knowing that the year had changed its first day. On top are other problems. Pope Gregory dropped thirteen days to re-synchronise the dates with the seasons. There were riots against his having robbed people of these thirteen days of their lives. Even today the Greek Orthodox and Coptic churches celebrate Christmas on 6th January.

So, if you did not frolic on a New Year’s Day for 2008, never mind. There are many left yet to rejoice in. Happy New Year, again, and again, and again.

Indira Gandhi Bus Stop a.k.a. The Airport

By Kabir Bhargava

Confusion in the DTC bus stop, sorry, Delhi airport. Many first time flyers that are completely clueless and are wondering what’s going on. Seriously it looks like a bus stop.


So many people, all seats occupied, so much of noise, I have never seen this in any airport before. This place really feels like a future bus stop.

Cheers, Kabir

A Nose For Business

By Gp. Capt Kapil Bhargava (Retd.)

Scientists tell us that if your nose is firmly blocked and if you are blindfolded, you can’t tell if you are eating apples or onions. Obviously, the apple must be crisp otherwise its squiffiness will give it away. During my test pilots course in England, a doctor from the next-door Institute of Aviation Medicine took some students for a few quid. At the school’s bar, he challenged anyone to name eight different types of liquor blindfolded with a clip on his nose. The contestant was allowed to select any drinks he liked. If he lost, he had to pay one pound to the doctor and bear the cost of all the drinks.

Many people chose very different types of liquors like whisky, beer, wine, crème de menthe etc. The idea was to make them so different that spotting them would be easy. Everyone who tried ended up making the good doctor richer.

“Which?” magazine in UK educates and protects consumers. Once, it ran a trial for tea tasters. Four different brands of tea were brewed for the tasters to identify. All of them got these right. One taster was even able to identify if water had been drawn from the hot water tap and if milk was poured before the tea. His advice for anyone wanting to enjoy tea was simple. Sip a little, hold it in the mouth and breathe through the nose. You get the real flavour of tea then.

But even with the best noses some tasters fall down badly. Candid Camera on the TV tricked several wine tasters in one show. It put out four identical glasses with the same red wine in each of them. Then it asked professional tasters to rate the four in order of their quality. Not a single expert discovered that he was trying the same wine. Everyone had a laugh at their cost – all’s fair in TV and war.

Wine tasters never swallow the wine they test. They just get a little in the mouth and breathe deeply. A really good nose is a must for this business. Surprisingly, the professionals can tell where the wine was produced. They are also able to identify the fruits that have gone into it. All this is very impressive. The trouble comes when they want to describe the wine. The language of these experts has now become really bizarre. A wine may be called naughty, pretentious, risqué, arrogant, or even transcendental. The next time you watch a wine taster on the telly, listen carefully to his words. You might pickup some new terms to impress your true love.

Talking of love brings us to the most important use of the human nose. Women try to attract men with the most seductive perfume they can find. According to the ex-CEO of a famous perfumery, this whole business is bunkum. He explained that perfumes produce no effect on a man’s libido. Sexual signals are passed by odourless pheromones. It may still be the nose that detects them. An Indian doctor in the UK has recently discovered that men can detect when women are fertile. Pheromones secreted mainly from a man’s underarm produce remarkable results in women.
Before you throw away your soaps, powders and deodorants, beware. Women are put off fastest by smelly armpits.

Me, Myself and I

Me as in Kabir Bhargava who is 11 years old.I study in the Shri Ram School Aravali which is in Gurgaon DLF Phase 4. I live in messy Gurgaon but in a quiet, good and clean place called Green Woods City (Sector 46). I love Soccer, it is my favourite sport too. I am also pretty good at it. In food, I love all sorts of junk food (Pizzas, Burgers, Hot Dogs, Salami Sandwiches and other sandwiches and all sorts of chips, and lots of other yummy junkfood). But I do not eat all that so often, because I have to eat healthy food which I do not like and consider it a waste of time. I also like Italian food and Chinese food.

I love playing video games too. My favourite colour is Red. In soccer I have lots of favourite players, teams and clubs but my favourite ones are-



Club-F.C. Barcelona.

Thats all about Me, Myself and I. Watch this space about other things that are awesome.

 Written By Kabir Bhargava