Monday 15 April 2013

A circle whose name is forgotten

There are many cross roads and main roads in Bangalore and some of them are better known by the locality on which they are situated or the area which they lead to.
Many of these crosses, mains, intersections and circles have a history of their own but the rapid urbanization of Bangalore coupled with its fast paced life has ensured that people forget these landmarks.
When one is traveling on the Tumkur road, one of the busiest and most known circles is Jalahalli junction or Cross. This actually is never been christened as Jalahalli Cross. Its actual name was and still is Subroto Mukherjee junction and the road leading from it to Jalahalli is also called as Subroto Mukherjee Road.
The road leading from Jalahalli cross to Gangamma Circle is called Subroto Mukherjee (S M) Road.
Ask any Bangalore and he is unsure of who SM was and why has the circle and the road been named after him.
Subroto Mukherjee was the first Indian commander-in-chief as well as Chief of Air Staff of the Indian Air Force.
Born on March 8, 1911, he was educated in India and England. He joined the Royal Air Force and was among the six Indian cadets. Later, he was one of the first recruits of the India Air Force.
He had an illustrious career and was awarded many honours until his death in Tokyo in 1960. He has been called the Father of the Indian Air Force.
Subroto was commissioned as a pilot and after completing training at Cranwell, he passed through the Army Cooperation School at Old Sarum in Wiltshire. He then served in RAF squadrons before coming back to India to serve Indian Air Force.
On April 1, 1933, "A" Flight of the No 1 Squadron, Indian Air Force, was formed at Karachi and Subroto was one of the five Indian pilots who made up the flight.
The flight was equipped with four Westland Wapiti biplanes. When India attained Independence on August 15, 1947, the assets of the Air Force were divided between India and Pakistan. The first three Air chiefs of independent India, Air Marshals Sir Thomas Elmhirst, Sir Ronald Ivelaw Chapman and Sir Gerald Ernest Gibbs were from the RAF. The IAF was reorganising itself after the partition and Subroto assisted the Air Chiefs in the task. He then went to the Imperial Defence College in England for further training in 1952.
On returning to India in 1954, Subroto Mukerjee took over as the Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Air Force on April 1, 1954, in the rank of Air Marshal. When the Change in Designation Act, 1955, was passed, the title of  Commander-in-Chief was replaced by Chief of Air Staff, IAF.
Thus Mukerjee became the first Indian Commander-in-Chief as well as Chief of Air Staff of the Indian Air Force. When Air India launched its first-ever flight to Tokyo in 1960, Mukherjee was on board. While having a meal with a friend at a restaurant in Tokyo, a piece of food got struck in his windpipe, choking him to death. His body was flown from Tokyo to Delhi and was cremated with full military honours.
His wife Sharada was the Governor of Gujarat.  
Today, SM Road is a major link for those heading to Bangalore  International Airport from the west and north-western parts of the city.
Thus, Bangalore has the distinction of naming one of its circles and roads after the first Indian chief of the Indian Air Force. The Subroto cup, an inter-school football tournament, is named after him.  

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