Rum Punch and Music in Air Force

Festivities in Air Force during the  month of October each year brings a lot of colour to the lives of “Air Warriors”  (a term, which is being used now for all “Airmen” irrespective of one’s rank  whether retired or still in service). In some places it is the thrill of “Air  Shows” and in Non – flying Air Force units, it is the fun of “Rum Punch”.

The Air Shows, during the past three  years’ Dasara festivities, coincide with Air Force Day activities all over the  country, reminding me of one of those “Rum Punches” during the Air Force day  celebrations, while I was in Air Force three decades ago.

Ex-Sgt M.N. Subramani and Ex-Sgt Philips during Air Force Day Celebration – 2002 at The Roost.

Well, a rum punch is a punch that knocks  one out cold. You get such a solid “kick” that it could be called the mother  of all kicks, so to say. It is also a sucker punch that hits below the belt.  When you trade punches in a boxing ring you know what you are giving or going  to get in return. But when it comes to the rum punch you don’t know when it’s  going to hit you or where.

This rum punch has many uses though.  It gives an insight into what makes the Unit or Division tick.As the booze  gets guzzled in, out comes the spleen, from deep within. The tongue gets wagging  and one wag leads to another, and finally it’s bragging about one’s feats and  another’s defeats. The rum punches are usually held to celebrate certain occasions  such as Air Force Day, Squadron’s anniversary or some such grand day. All the  men, from the Squadron Commander down to the Non-Combatant employees, come in
their best attire, to have fun and make merry. The officers, of course, are  in uniform, whereas the rest are in civvies. The booze and the eats are aplenty  — chilly hot Pakkoras, Chilli Chicken, Mutton Khabab, Finger Chips, Mixture,  etc. etc.

From left- The then Leading Air Craftman M.N. Subramani, Corporal Subhash Chandra Shahu and Leading Air Craftman D’Souza during a RUM PUNCH at Ambala in 1977.

The eats and the booze go well together,  as they are “On the House”! And mind you, the teetotalers come there only for  the eats and to make fun of the boozers and to foment trouble. The music is  arranged locally, for, in a squadron there is somebody who knows to play some  instrument or the other, and there is no dearth of singers — especially the  bathroom types.

On one such occasion, during the 1977’s  Air Force Day celebration, I was to play the rhythm on my guitar and to croon,  my friend the then Corporal Cliffy was to play the lead guitar. The then Leading  Air Craftsmen Pradeep Kumar Sabat was on the drums and Air Craftsmen Cyril David  on the keyboard.

We were all sitting and waiting for  the chief guest who was none other than our No. 222 Squadron’s Commander (a  Wing Commander). In he comes and all the guys stand up. We, who were sitting  on the dais, were slow to respond because of our instruments. I, for one, didn’t  know whether to stand up or keep sitting, as I was punch drunk, and it was a  bit crowded on the dais.

When I saw the Big Boss approaching  us I decided to stand up half – heartedly. With the guitar strapped around my  chest and the fret board pointing upwards I straightened myself. “Bang” my guitar  hit the ceiling fan, which was quite low and right above our heads.

M.N. Subramani (left) and Subhash Chandra Shagu during a RUM PUNCH at Ambala in 1978

The room went quiet all of a sudden.  The silence was deafening in my ears. With an embarrassed grin, which went from  one ear to the other, exposing all my teeth I waited for the verdict.

The Boss, a stickler for discipline,  half turned towards my direction, then thought the better of it and decided  to ignore this interruption for the moment. My nerves, which were playing a  tune by itself, gradually began to come back to normal. As also my heart that  was keeping beat to the music till then, began setting up a beat of its own,  rub-dub-dub was reverberating in my ears. I was totally confused with the beat  of my heart and beat of the music playing for a few minutes, before the two  began to sync once again.

Later my boss, whose blue eyed boy I  was, and he being familiar with each of my pranks, placed that particular day’s  rum punch “Out – of – bounds” for me — for he wanted me to sing more and drink less. However, I managed to steal a couple of drinks and eventually got dead  drunk, leaving my friends Cliffy, Pradeep and Cyril to do my job.

Some thing went wrong, either with my  friends’ singing or with my Boss’s temper. Far from being happy with my friends’  singing, my boss placed all the bars in “Ambala Town” “Out – of – bounds” for  me for three solid months most probably to scare my friends who were singing.  However, he had to withdraw his verdict well within 3 days as my Boss’s Boss,  the Station Commander (an Air Commodore) ordered me to join the Station Rock.

Group for the Ambala Air Force station’s Rum Punch. Those were the days…..

Ex – Sgt. Mandetira N. Subramani President,
VeKare Ex – ServicemenTrust (VEKT)

Courtesy: Star of Mysore


  1. Those were the days of residue of Royal Air Force. Nowadays its poor Air Force as every one should contribute for a Rum without Punch. A Rum punch happens rarely and that too in best uniform. Royalty is over and begging has started.

  2. I too enjoyed many of those Rum Punches. Hindon, Chandigarh, Chandimandir, Shillong and so on …the more I became elderly the more I drank. Once in Trivandrum during AOC farewell party I did my part well and Two IAF ( p) was put to escort me to my home at Golf Links.

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