JS (November 9,1947 / Calcutta)

Pradipta Kumar Sircar (1921-1992) : Unforgotten

My earliest memories smell of dope
and shapes of balsa wings and fin
and a squat red screaming CL stunt
which one day went and barrelled in.

I remember a painstakingly built
scale rubber Spearfish torp bomber
which flew into a gaslamp post
at dusk somewhere in Shyambazar.

And the stories of the air he told:
how his Khon-da, Indian Air Force,
died at Kohat when his Audax
didn't pull out of a gunnery pass.

And how he helped in marshalling
Wedemeyer's plane at Dum Dum base
(he could've-there's a Speed Graphic shot
of him in USAAF battledress.)

And the tiny trim change on his last flight
at Kanpur that won him the prize
for Free-flight Power, his pylon job
maxing to glory before Hanna Reitsch.

And how a Hurricane taking off
from Red Road stalled into Governor's House,
and the dark Dakota Biju Patnaik flew
to Indonesia, playing cat-and-mouse

with Dutch fighters at zero feet.
He could make so vivid what he spoke
that listening, you wouldn't think he was
often between jobs, sometimes close to broke,

didn't complete his BE(Mech) degree,
remained rebel and child all his life,
charming, impulsive, fierce, irresponsible,
exasperation to father and grief to wife.

As a fitter on the Pratt and Whitney R
eighteen thirties of Daks of Dalmia Jain,
he got to ride only the odd test-hop.
His last was a ten-chip Jamair spin.

Since that, my first and only Dak trip,
I've flown many hours on many routes,
but I can't say I've had more fun than him:
the jets I fly are such soulless brutes

that I cannot help feeling nostalgic
for the quaint variety the world once had-
rubber and control-line models, Douglas DC-3s,
and that plane-crazy man,
my dad.

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Pablo Neruda

If You Forget Me

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