Recce Revisited: With a serious tongue firmly in the cheek

Dr. Rupak Bhattacharya: They recce-ed from the eco-friendly sartorial elegance of a leaf and bark skirt, to the animal skin togas and furs. They recceed from the ridiculous tights and anoxic corsets and chain-mail of the medieval court and the hind-quarters-chilling kilts to the penguinish tail-coats and the fourteen yards of tripping-over silk saree to the ultimate pressurized space-suits

Recce : the diminutive slang for reconnaissance/reconnoitre.


What was and still is a services slang has long been adopted, and aptly so, by the outdoors person, explorer, adventurer and mountaineering community.

Its primary connotation, be it for the soldier or for the adventurer, means to survey, to scout, to spy out, to inspect and explore what lies ahead. In essence it is an exercise to gather information and explore possibilities before the next definitive move. On the quality of information gathered and interpretation thereof will depend the next course of action. One could go ahead with, or modify or abort the original plan.

At the risk of being branded a male porcine of the chauvinistic sub-species, permit me an illustration. Were you to call her up, say around lunch time, and inquire what she was doing that evening, and if her answer was that she was dining with her mother, that would constitute a recce. And perchance if you were not one to waste a good evening, you would abort your original plan and recce other potential peaks and passes, in the hope of a more enjoyable campsite.

On a more serious note, presupposing that the desired-for outcome of a spring evening is not serious enough and that the event horizon in the time-space continuum for the dramatis personae involved including the mother may not have serious cosmic proportions, the whole recorded and unrecorded history of the species homo-erectus has been one of endless recces.

At the time of going to press, this pale blue dot, which is but a speck in the cosmic badlands, has been the only home we have ever known. And on that speck, in the beginning was the (amino-acid) slime, the slime was with life, and the slime was life (with apologies to John 1:1). Charles Robert, bless his evolutionary soul, Darwinianed the slime into an Idi, a Didi (footballer from Brazil and not what you thought) and a Dadi (Saurav Ganguly). Or if you would rather, a Bach, a Beckham and a Buddha. Be that as it may, to each his own taste,the evolutionary wagon must have recce-ed many a blind alley before it reached some perfection with a Teresa, a Tchaikovsky or a Trump. Even evolution, thankfully, had to recce.

A few years, give or take a million, down the line, the slime stood up and was christened Homo Erectus ; the erectus having  a vertebral etymology rather than a phallic one. This trip from the horizontal to the vertical could not have been a linear progression. Many a highway, alley and cul-d- sac would have been recce-ed.

Despite all evolutionary hurdles and dead-ends, this ‘Naked Ape’ flourished. Naked, sans body hair, sans horns, sans tooth or claw, its only claim to evolutionary fame rested on a genetic tera -byte hard drive of a few zillion organised grey cells and a progressively expandable RAM.

Soon these naked apes were naked no more. They recce-ed from the eco-friendly sartorial elegance of a leaf and bark skirt, to the animal skin togas and furs. They recceed from the ridiculous tights and anoxic corsets and chain-mail of the medieval court and the hind-quarters-chilling kilts to the penguinish tail-coats and the fourteen yards of tripping-over silk saree to the ultimate pressurized space-suits.

Their gastronomical reccees are equally mouth-watering. From a chewer of nuts and berries to a boiled Brontosaurus egg (literary license, chronologically untenable) to a medium rare Springbok steak and on to a molecular gastronomic Michelin 3 star creation from El Bulli, with a roasted leg of human a-la-Idi in between, their reccees must have been as interesting as the parallel evolution from a finger-eater to a dainty chop-stick-user to a brutal wielder of the steak-knife and back again to fashionable finger-food.

Having sorted out his clothing and boarding he must have also recceed for his lodgings. Spare a thought or two for the first brave who got off the savannah to recce the first cave just to get away from the sun and rain and the carnivorous claws. From those lithabodes of Bhimbhetka to the Burj Khalifa and the ultimate recce of a Gagarin or an Armstrong looking for a home away from home is surely a cosmic recce.

And the recce that first tamed the fire and harnessed the wind and the water, (and I dont mean by Antacids and Antiflatulents and Diuretics), must be considered a recce of Prometheusian proportions.

Risking the wrath of the ‘Ban-the-Bomb’ bunch it will be remiss on my part if I do not eulogise the ‘Rock-Star’s’ recce from when he ‘split’ the rock for tools (not Hendrix splitting his guitar ) to the ‘Neuclear Nerds’ who split the atoms ( Gluons notwithstanding ) for a potential neuclear nightmare. This recce gets ‘curiouser and curiouser’ every day for even the common cat. What was once a cuddly Cheshire, who would sometimes disappear leaving only his grin behind, has now recceed into one, owned by Schrodinger, who (the cat not Schroedinger) can very disconcertingly be both alive and dead at the same time.

It’s generally accepted that we gave been around for about 100, 000 years, and I have no quarrel with those who think otherwise, and take this with a fist-full of religious rock-salt. But if we were to fast-forward 98, 000 years, which is but less than the time taken for Vishnu’s eyes to have a cosmic blink, we find successful recces that have established civilizations and organized societies.

Like in the far-east when the Qin (pronounced Chin, so China) Dynasty was painting on silks and lacquering furniture, and Confucius was adding to the confusion of Taoism, and in the Indian sub-continent Siddhartha was preaching the middle path and Universities of Taxilla and Nalanda were counseling students for admissions to post-doc courses, a recce with millennium-spanning consequences was underway in one of the most inhospitable parts of the globe.

In the Middle-East two gentlemen decided individually to recce off solo into the wilderness. Men still do, and come back with sun-burn, insect bites, blisters and something even worse, photographs. But these two gentlemen came back with stories of burning bushes and having heard voices from up above. To cut a rather long and sordid story short, these recces parturated two great religions which have enslaved a major part of the species, not only in this life but also in the before and after.

Having just recce-ed off into an uncharted minefield with the realistic possibility of being blown up into small un-godly bits, I hereby humbly back off ; but not before I point-out three seminal ( not a Freudian slip ) recces that have made life for this species so much more enjoyable.

First is the alchemy of turning barley into beer, second the little white aromatic stick with the filter tip and third  the insufferable suspense relieving night-after pill ; which makes them complimentary to the three best recces that have stood the test of evolutionary time — a drink before and  a smoke after.

Words: Dr. Rupak Bhattacharya

Photo courtesy:

About the author: A well-passed-middle-age doctor and a small-time mountaineer of yore, now an armchair traveller who loves to read.


5 thoughts on “Recce Revisited: With a serious tongue firmly in the cheek

  • June 12, 2018 at 11:17 pm

    Recce by Dr Rupak Bhattacharya….Rather well written, with tongue and cheek humour. Thoroughly enjoyed reading it. On the flip side I, normally a reader of strictly light stuff, might have termed it “an intellectual piece ” if it were any longer.. 🤓.

  • June 14, 2018 at 11:40 am

    Interesting take on ‘recce’. Shows how known words can be explored in little known , interesting contexts.

  • June 15, 2018 at 12:50 am

    A well crafted piece woven in rich fabric ,laced with humour ,bold and unpretentious stands tall for its cutting edge carering to the needs of such readers whose sensibilities wish to freely wander n explore new grounds……

  • June 15, 2018 at 9:29 am

    Loved your article Rupok and enjoyed your seriously fantastic sense of humour. You are a match for Shashi Tharoor with your extensive vocabulary and interesting use of analogies. Keep them coming.

  • June 17, 2018 at 3:39 pm

    Thank you viewers for your views .
    Your kind words sure warms the cockles of my heart , though I must confess never having come across a ‘ cockle ‘ , an edible bivalve mollusc , in my years of heart surgery professionally .
    Nevertheless please keep them coming .
    Your participation helps to aim higher and keeps me on my ‘ digital ‘
    toes , though funnily toes are digits too .


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