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Kala Babu, the Self Made Genius

Updated: May 5

Where there is will there is a way defines our Kala Babu aptly.

Kala to his family and close friends, his real name is Sharwan Kumar Bakshi. He rose like a phoenix from ashes and proved to the world that if you desire something strongly, the entire universe conspires to help you.

Kala was the product of a humble beginning, a child of adversity who took reigns of his life in his own hands at a tender age of twelve years.

Kala babu to everyone, he was a village boy. His small village was right next to the Grant Trunk road, generally referred to as GT road. This village was a part of Ambala city which was the part of Punjab at that time but is now in Haryana.

This village is opposite Bungalow of the Deputy Commissioner Ambala, called DC Kothi. A railway line runs parallel to the village. Kala was living with his dadi ma and taya ji. His Dadi used to always bless him saying that one day my boy will live in a bungalow like DC Kothi. Her blessings proved to be true and Kala babu rose to be group captain SK Bakshi in Indian Airforce and lived in such bungalows all his life.

Kala’s family was victim of partition of the country in 1947. While he along with his elder brother Yash Pal, Dadi and Taya ji reached Ambala from Pakistan, his father, mother and other members of the family made their way to Jalandhar. One fine morning, his father reached Ambala and said he had come to take both kids along with him to Jalandhar as their mother missed them terribly. Kala never wanted to part with his Dadi and Taya ji. He quietly slipped from the house and went into hiding in nearby mustard fields. Everyone searched for the little child but in vain. No one could unearth Kala’s hideout. At last, his father left with Yash as he had to catch train for Jalandhar. Once Kala babu was certain that all is quiet at the home front, he presented himself before his dadi with a confession that he loved her and  never wanted to part from her. Kala became integral part of Dadi’s  home and she ensured that no one dare take her pet Kala away from her. His Taya ji was extremely proud of the fact that Sharwan was his son. Even school certificates show name of Taya ji as his father.

Kala was tall, healthy and had beautiful dusky complexion. He was intelligent , self-confident and street smart. He was good in studies and was always appointed the monitor of the class. Kala was a hardworking young fellow, who at the age of twelve managed his entire household including the cattle. He loved his cow and often took her out for grazing.

There was a well near their house from where, Kala drew  out water using a rope, pulley and bucket. He gave his cow a thorough scrub and bath and then  took her for milking. He would keep account of the household , bring rations from the Bania shop making payments. He would also sell a part of milk and collect money.

In the meantime, Sharwan’s father also got posted to central jail Ambala where the family lived in jail quarters. Sometimes, Yashpal or Satish, brothers of Sharwan would  come to Dadi’s place to fetch milk. Kala was a self-assured and confident boy who was happy with his environment and life. He was a popular figure at his school and his teachers were fond of him. Once when he did not go to school for about three days, his teacher sent some school boys to his village to enquire about his health and bring him to school. They kept enquiring about Sharwan Kumar but no one knew him by that name in the village. The boys then described his appearance and someone remarked, looks like they are looking for Kala babu and took boys to his home.

By the time he completed higher secondary with good marks, his brother Yashpal had already joined Indian Airforce in a technical group. There was no one around to guide Kala babu, now Sharwan Kumar Bakshi as per his school records. He could only look up to his elder brother as his role model and try and join Indian Airforce. Yash Pal asked him not to join Indian Airforce and look up for other options in life. Sharwan  thought  his brother was enjoying a good life  in IAF but prevented  him from joining the same. He appeared for the competitive examination and board chairman was impressed by his good knowledge of English. He said you are selected but I recommend you join clerical  trade. But sir, said Sharwan, I believe technical trade offers you better opportunities for promotion.

However, he was given clerical trade and was asked to proceed to Bengaluru for training. On his way to Bengaluru, he met his elder brother Yash Pal Bakshi in full IAF uniform enroute at Chennai  railway station. His course mates in train with him were highly impressed to meet Yash Pal. He took Sharwan to a hotel near railway station for lunch and briefed him about air force. He asked him to check notice board regularly for examination for promotion to officer grade. Since Sharwan was good in written and spoken English, he became spokesperson of trainees from northern India. He was just eighteen years and few months old at that time. Sharwan is a man of integrity who believed in fair dealings and keeping his word. Before leaving home, Sharwan remembered the family owed 80 rupees to village Bania. The moment he got his first salary. he sent home a money order of eighty rupees to be paid to village Bania. Sharwan was always straightforward and called a spade a spade.

Within months, opportunity knocked at his doors as trainees who wanted to appear for interview to officer’s grade were asked to give their names. You could say, he came, he saw, he conquered. Our Kala babu, cleared the interview and got call for training as pilot officer/ navigator. In less than a year after joining in clerk’s trade, he was undergoing training to be a proud officer of the IAF. What will you call it, destiny, fate or luck. From grazing cattle in a village, he became a navigator in the IAF protecting our skies. While a fighter pilot flies the plane, navigator guides the plan to its target to destroy it. Our Kala babu was now flying officer S K Bakshi .

Sharwan got married to my younger sister, Sangeeta on 5th may 1971. Within  seven months of the marriage, Indo Pak war started on 3rd December in the same year. Sharwan Bakshi, who was a flight lieutenant at that time, took active part in the war. 

As a navigator, he guided bomber planes to bombard targets throughout Pakistan. In a war which lasted just 13 days, Sharwan was part of the operations targeting airfields, ammunition depots, railway lines and other targets nine times. This was most traumatic period for his wife Sangeeta. She performed Aarti  and applied tilak on his forehead  before sending him on his mission  every time. She would pray to god for safe return of Sharwan after every mission. India won the war, leading to surrender of Pakistani forces in east Pakistan. This led to creation of a new nation , Bangladesh . Sharwan Bakshi had an illustrious career in Indian Airforce spanning over thirty years. He was group captain in Airforce at the time of retirement. In between, he was on deputation first to Border Security Force as Commandant and then to National Cadet Corps .

He  believes that it is better to help your children during your lifetime only. After all, he says your property and savings in any case will go to them after your demise. Surely, if you help your kids when they need it the most, you will have good relations with them. Sharwan has a very simple philosophy as far as charity is concerned. He believes in extending a helping hand  to the family, relatives and close friends first. He feels only a tiny portion of money donated to charitable institutions goes to the needy and poor. Perhaps he believes in the maxim; If you want to stay happy, practice compassion. If you want others to stay happy, practice compassion.

Sharwan and Sangita are blessed with two sons, Sameer and  Subir. To  the family, they are Mani and Sonu. Sharwan could have easily got them admission in Kendriya  Vidyalaya but preferred to send them to a convent school. Sameer is now colonel in the Indian army. He is married to Tina and they have a son and daughter.

Subir did his  engineering degree from Bengaluru and settled down in America. He is head of supply chain for Kraft Heinz, a multinational chain of America and Canada. He is married to Shilpa  and has two lovely daughters. Subir is a keen mountaineer and has the honour of climbing world’s highest peak, Mount Everest . Almost every year, he is out to conquer some challenging mountain peak or the other.

Unfortunately, Tina fell a victim to cancer last year and had to undergo major surgery in Delhi. Both Sharwan and Sangeeta were by her side. And now in the first week of February 2024,  she had to undergo another operation for cancer. Sharwan and Sangeeta again came all the way from Bengaluru to  extend all possible help. It was a taxing time for the entire family.  Fortunately, Tina is out of danger and on road to recovery.

Well, this is story of group captain SK Bakshi, our Kala babu , who defied all odds to prove that if you have grit and determination, nothing is impossible .


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Beautifully written story of an inspirational person and that too, written by a lion-hearted man, who too had started from scratch and literally made his life a grand one.❤️

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Thanks Beta . Stay happy and cvv blessed

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