The Empire strikes back!

A sharp ray of sunlight bouncing off the floor caught my sudden attention. The floor as I looked closer was unlike any that I had seen before. The multi hued mosaic was almost reaching out to me to whisper a story. I could not hold back and exclaimed to the commanding officer of the army unit that the floor looked rather unusually pretty. He chuckled and answered that it had an equally unusual story.

We were on a holiday enjoying the hospitality of the Indian army in a beautiful cantonment in the interiors of North India in a hill town called Landsdowne. I must admit that in the chaos of India, the beauty and the tranquility of the military cantonments stand out. Many were set up during the time of British India and stand testimony even today to the keen British eye for town planning and architecture. Landsdowne is a fine example of a well maintained and beautiful army cantonment even today. As I eulogised about the beauty of the cantonment, the army officer began to display a curious sense of mirth, until he shared with me the story of the floor.

The British loved their china. Their precious crockery collection was preserved by a carefully trained set of native bearers who would bring it out only for the officers with due ceremony. The life of the bearers would shine with the china and spotless was their upkeep always. The club was strictly for the British officers and only they had the pleasure to eat off the fine china. It was no surprise that the club with its precious china was a constant bone of contention between the Indian and British officers for decades! Until the Indian independence got announced. As a special farewell was organised for the departing British officers, the grand finale was a feast. It was an evening to remember. The treasures of the land were put out with flourish on the table. The camaraderie was infectious. As the evening progressed the British officers were particularly caught up by the beautiful floor that miraculously adorned their favourite dining area. They wondered how did this magical feature appear almost overnight? The wonderful colours were constantly catching their attention and they could not resist asking the Indian officers how it was made. They learnt to their utter horror that the glaze that caught their fancy was from the remains of the fine crockery that they had preserved all those years. It was cast in cement for posterity so that the Indian officers could walk all over them.

Sometimes revenge is best served on a plate learnt the officers as they gazed at the floor!

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