Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Retirement Blues – “Burning Bridges” with the Navy

RETIREMENT BLUES 
“Burning Bridges” with the Navy

Before retirement – when I was in the Navy – there was no dearth of friends. 

After retirement – I have zero friends.

I am talking of offline friends.

Yes – I do have a large number of online friends – and – even my erstwhile Navy Friends have now become online friends. 

In Pune – all my Navy Friends – after retirement – live in remote military veteran ghettos” (so-called “exlusive” residential projects for retired defence personnel) – and – these elite ghettos” are located in the suburbs of Pune  on the opposite side of town from where I live – and – in view of the terrible Pune traffic – I don’t have the energy to drive 30 kms across town and back – except on special occasions.

And – one such special occasion is the Navy Foundation Pune Charter (NFPC) Meet  which is held once in 3 months.

I make sure I attend all NFPC Meets – of course – to meet my Navy buddies – and also – to enjoy the delicious lunch. 

Sadly – I missed the last meet in June – since there was a family function which I had to attend. 

Now – I look forward to the September meet. 

Meanwhile – here is a piece I wrote on the Navy Foundation a few years ago.

NAVY FOUNDATION PUNE 
The “Alumni Association” for Navy Veterans in Pune
By
VIKRAM KARVE

If you are a Naval Officer  after retirement  it is best to settle down in Mumbai  which is the premier Navy Station  or  in a coastal city like Visakhapatnam (Vizag), Kochi, Chennai, Kolkata, Goa etc where there is a Naval presence  or  even in Delhi/NCR – where the mighty “Northern Naval Command” is located.

This is because if you settle down in a landlocked place like Pune after you retire from the Navy  you tend to “burn your bridges” with your erstwhile service.

The only redeeming grace is the Indian Navy Foundation – a purely social organization set up to facilitate fraternal relations between retired naval officers.

Luckily  the Navy Foundation has a “chapter” (aka “charter”) at Pune 

Membership is voluntary – and I am glad I became a member, because the quarterly Navy Foundation Pune Chapter (NFPC) meetings are the best occasions for meeting and renewing bonds with my former navy buddies.

Whenever I go for these NFPC get-togethers I feel something like a “Yossarian” of Catch-22 who is one of the most frequent visitors to the officers’ club that he had not help build.

I am sure you have read Catch-22.

Let me “jog” your memory about this hilarious yet insightful episode about Yossarian and the Officers Club in Pianosa.

In something akin to “Shramdan” (familiar to those who have served in our military), officers are encouraged to build their own clubs.

However, Yossarian, who is proud of his ability to avoid work, contributes nothing to help build the club – he does not go for even a single day to work on building the officers club.

But once the officers’ club is ready, Yossarian visits the club almost every day and makes maximum use of the facilities, which he had not helped build.

Let me quote a paragraph from Catch-22 which encapsulates this sentiment (emphasis mine):

“Actually there were many officers’ clubs that Yossarian had not helped build, but he was proudest of the one on Pianosa. It was a sturdy and complex monument to his powers of determination. Yossarian never went there to help until it was finished; then he went there often, so pleased was he with the large, fine, rambling shingled building. It was a truly splendid building, and Yossarian throbbed with a mighty sense of accomplishment each time he gazed at it and reflected that none of the work that had gone into it was his.”

For me, it is a similar equation with the NFPC – effort-wise, I contribute nothing, but I participate in all get-togethers most enthusiastically.

Two years ago, on the 28th of September 2014, we had a memorable NFPC get-together in Lonavala – a wonderful day – like a picnic – a nostalgic walk down memory lane for many navy veterans who reminisced about their halcyon training days at this picturesque location. 

Last year – in January – we had a memorable meet at Peacock Bay on the shores of Khadakvasla Lake near the National Defence Academy (NDA) – hosted by Commandant NDA.

At both these meets – the distinctive naval efficiency, superlative hospitality and caring courtesy shown to us during the visit demonstrated how much young naval officers and sailors genuinely care for its veterans.

When I was in service, I remember us hosting a get-together of Navy Foundation at IAT Pune at the Naval Jetty (Sailing Club), sometime in the 1990’s.

In Pune – the favourite venue for NFPC Meets is Atlantis

There is no Navy Wardroom (Officers Mess) or Navy Institute in Pune.

And  in the past  officer-bearers of NFPC have had harrowing experiences running from pillar to post trying to negotiate the red tape while dealing with the Army to get other Military Venues for NFPC Meets.

So  thanks to “jointmanship” demonstrated by the “pongos”  the officebearers found it more convenient to organise Navy Foundation Meetings in Pune at ATLANTIS  which is conveniently located  and much more flexible to deal with  with zero red tape  and better off in all respects  especially food-wise and ambience-wise. 

Of course – some officers of the old-mould” insisted that the meets be held in a Service Mess – so – a meet was held in the Army Sub Area Officers Mess – but – the ambience and food was not as good as Atlantis.

The best thing about these Navy Veteran Meets is the egalitarian atmosphere  with a total absence of the rank consciousness one sees while in service  since  after retirement  all veterans are civilians  equal in status  and now  instead of rank  it is age that is respected.

As I said earlier  after retirement  our only connection with the Navy is the Navy Foundation  and Navy Veterans look forward to NFPC meetings where you can bond, interact and network with your erstwhile navy buddies while regaling each other with delightful anecdotes of the “good old days”.

So now  we Navy Veteran Officers of Pune look forward to the next Navy Foundation Pune Charter Lunch Meet in September 2016 (I am waiting for the announcement)

If you are an Indian Navy Veteran Officer  in or around Pune – be there. 

NAVY FOUNDATION – How the Indian Navy Foundation for Veteran Navy Officers was Born

Maybe – for the benefit of Navy Veterans who do not know about the genesis of Navy Foundation – it would be a good idea to share an interesting article by a distinguished erstwhile Navy Chief Admiral JG Nadkarni on the Navy Foundation for Veteran Indian Navy Officers.

I came across this article on the website of the Navy Foundation Mumbai Charter at urlhttp://www.navyfoundationmumbaicharter.in/birth_of_the_foundation.html and I am posting it below for your convenience to read.

Birth of The Foundation by Adm JG Nadkarni
The idea was Ram Tahiliani's. He had just returned from an official trip to the United States. Whilst there, he had been greatly impressed by the Veterans' organisation in that country. I was his Vice Chief. After returning he asked me if a similar organisation could be started for the Indian Navy in India. I was told to look into it and come up with a proposal.
We examined it from all angles. To be effective it would have to be a Naval Headquarters' baby. It would have to be fully supported by the Navy in all aspects. At the same time each Unit would have to be totally autonomous. Naval Ex-servicemen are notoriously touchy. Having been subjected to orders all their lives they are averse to be dictated again now that they have retired. Moreover some of the officers were very senior and had to be handled and treated with respect. Anyway, we decided to go ahead and institute an organisation for all Ex-servicemen under the patronage of Naval Headquarters.
We considered many options for a suitable name. It had to be unique and easily acceptable. Such names like "Navy League", "Navy Association" were considered and rejected for one reason or another. Finally, we hit upon the idea of "Navy Foundation", which was unanimously accepted.
Various models lay before us. The Indian Air Force has an "Air Force Association" which is open to all Air Force personnel. Somehow we felt that this would not be suitable for us. The class system is still prevalent in India and we had seen what happened in some of the Air Force-Navy housing schemes. We decided that the Navy Foundation should be only for the retired officers of the Indian Navy.
It is one thing to start a body and quite another to make it work. There were already in existence various well established organisations started by retired naval officers. There was the "Navy League" in New Delhi, another body called the "Anchor Hold" in Bombay. In Pune there was the "Retired Naval Officers' Association". These were thriving organisations, who met regularly, had activities, bank accounts, Presidents and Chairmen who were reluctant to give up their positions, dissolve the bodies and join the Navy Foundation.
During the next two months I visited various places, held meetings with their members and tried to convince them that joining the Navy Foundation would be beneficial. Most bodies were reluctant at first. Their biggest worry was that Naval Headquarters would start dictating terms and they would end up being one more directorate of NHQ. I convinced them that each body would be totally autonomous and except for one annual meeting there would not be any interference by the Navy in their day to day functioning. Moreover, NHQ would act as the go between with the Government for various problems faced by Ex-servicemen.
One by one the organisations started seeing reason and decided to merge themselves with the Navy Foundation. Some refused and exist even today as parallel organisations. In Pune Admiral Soman headed the Retired Naval Officers' Association. He readily agreed and was very enthusiastic. In Bombay the association was headed by Commodore Chatterji. He was reluctant at first and took a lot of persuasion but agreed eventually. I am really happy that the original assurance given by us has been meticulously observed by the Navy. There has been no interference, dictating or coercion on these groups.
The next phase was to start "Charters" in various areas where retired naval officers had settled in large numbers. Such Charters were started in New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore, Pune, Kochi and Calcutta. Later more Charters were added.
I realized that to really get the Charters going, some assistance from Naval Headquarters would be necessary. Commands were persuaded to make a room available as offices for each Charter. In November 1987, I took over as CNS. I decided that the funds raised in the Navy Ball of 1987 would be distributed to various Charters as seed money for initial financial assistance. We raised nearly Rs. 7 lakhs in that Navy Ball and this money was distributed. Rs 1.5 lakh each to big Charters and Rs. 1 lakh to small Charters.
In 1987, when I was the VCNS we started a magazine called "Quarterdeck" for Ex-servicemen. We roped in then Commander Uday Bhaskar, the Navy PRO and the late Tappi Koppikar to be the first joint editors. Its first issue was a roaring success. It won a prize for the best magazine in its category. On the establishment of the Navy Foundation it became official magazine. Successive editors have improved and embellished it. It is distributed far and wide and veterans look forward to each issue.
During my travels around the country and meetings with naval veterans, I had realized that all servicemen have problems about their welfare, pay, pensions etc. Many of these had landed on my desk when I was COP and a full time body was required to deal with these. When I decided to establish a full time directorate to deal with ex-servicemen's problems and feed them with current happenings in the Navy. Each year we held a get-together of ex-CNSs and other officers and gave them briefings on operations, personnel and other aspects of the Navy. Today the Directorate of Ex-servicemen's Affairs is doing excellent work and acts as a conduit between the veterans and NHQ.
The first annual meeting was held in NHQ under my chairmanship and a constitution was approved. We were able to clear many apprehensions and doubts about the Foundation.
Today, the Navy Foundation is a going body and Charters are well established.
Today, the Navy Foundation is a successful and dynamic organisation. Various Charters are doing excellent work in keeping alive the bonds and camaraderie established during our time in the Navy. There is a total absence of rank consciousness or hierarchy. They have regular get-togethers, illuminating lectures and picnics. Many establish bodies to help widows. The Mumbai Charter has even got a marriage bureau for children of Ex-servicemen!
Ram Tahiliani would be happy that his dream of 1987 has now become a reality!!! 
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Well – the title of this post – “Burning Bridges” with the Navy – may be a bit of a misnomer.
I am sure – like me – Navy Veterans want to keep connected.

If you are a Navy Veteran – and wish to locate your shipmates and Navy buddies – here is the link to the Retired Naval Officers Directory


Bye for now.

If you are a Navy Veteran Officer in Pune – I look forward to the next Navy Foundation Pune Charter Lunch Meet in September 2016.

If you are an Indian Navy Veteran Officer  in or around Pune – please be there. 
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