Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Humor in Uniform – Social Life in the Defence Services Part 1 – “Bouncing”

Social Customs in the Navy – “Bouncing”

BOUNCING
A Spoof
By
VIKRAM KARVE

PROLOGUE

SERVICE ETIQUETTE – TYPES OF “CALLS”

In the Navy (and probably in the Army and Air Force as well) – there exists a custom of “calling on” – a custom which every officer is expected to observe.

There are three types of “calls”:

1. Official Calls

2. Social Calls

3. Bouncing

Official Calls are made by newly reporting officers on their Commanding Officer (CO) in his office (in shore establishments) or in the Captain’s Cabin on board ship.

An Official Call is a formal occasion in ceremonial uniform (unless otherwise indicated by the CO/Captain).

Social Calls are courtesy calls to promote friendship and camaraderie among officers and their families.

Social Calls are made in the evenings at the residence of the officer in Civilian Clothes (Social Calls are never made in uniform).

Social Calls are made with prior appointment after ascertaining the convenience of the officer.

Social Calls are made with your wife (if you are married) – the duration should ideally be 30 minutes (but never more than one hour) – and – you are expected to have 2 or 3 drinks (having only one drink is “not done” – since there is a superstition that you have just one drink only with your enemy)

Maybe it is apocryphal – but – I read somewhere that the origin of “Social Calls” – and – the military tradition of “calling-on” – dates back to the pre-historic days of the cavemen – who left a carved stone to express a desire for friendship.

“Bouncing” means young Naval Officers dropping in on Married Officers unannounced at any time of day or night demanding food and drink.

Normally – a married officer is “bounced” at odd hours of the night by hungry bachelors when the Officers Mess and Club are closed.

When I joined the Navy – in the 1970’s – Official Calls had become more relaxed – and – most COs/Captains did not insist on Ceremonial Uniform (No. 2’s) – but – asked Officers to come in normal working dress (No. 8 or 8A’s).

Some Senior Officers dispensed with the formality of “Official Calls” and would reply “Consider Calls Paid and Returned” when requested for “Time Convenient” to call on.

“Social Calls” too had become out-of-fashion and passé.

Those days – in the 1970’s – “Bouncing” had become the more popular way of socializing.

(Later – I observed that even “Bouncing” was no longer appreciated by married officers and their wives – and – officers and their wives preferred enjoying “quality time” watching TV Soaps with their families rather than socializing with fellow officers and ladies)

Like in civilian society – even in the military social environment – change is inevitable – times change – customs and traditions change – and – social culture changes too – and – today – it is more of “each man for himself”.

Hey – I seem to have digressed – so – let me get back 34 years to the early 1980’s – July 1982 to be precise – when the story I am going to tell you happened.


BOUNCING

After my marriage in May 1982 – we – my wife and I – shifted from the SP Marg Officers Mess to Curzon Road Apartments, located on a prime location of Lutyen’s New Delhi between Connaught Place (CP) and India Gate on Kasturba Gandhi Marg (erstwhile Curzon Road).

Our erstwhile mess-mates from SP Marg Mess would invariably “bounce” us – whenever they were in the vicinity at Connaught Place or India Gate.

They would suddenly land up unannounced any time of the day and night – demandingfood and drink – sometimes even at the oddest of hours, like on their way back from a late night movie show.

They would suddenly land up unannounced any time of the day and night, demanding food and drink – sometimes even at the oddest of hours – like on their way back from a late night movie show.

In fact – this is exactly what happened on our first bouncing experience.

It was well past midnight – in fact – it was around 1 AM when we were jolted out of our sleep by heavy knocking on the door.

There were around 10 young bachelor officers from SP Marg Mess – and – with them was my erstwhile ship’s Captain (now a Commodore) – who lived in SP Marg Mess as a “married bachelor” – having left his family behind in Mumbai for his children’s education.

They had seen the night show movie at Odeon in CP – and – were on their way to Taj on Shah Jahan Road for the midnight buffet via Kasturba Gandhi Marg – when the Commodore suddenly saw Curzon Road Apartments – and – he remembered that I lived there.

I pulled out 2 bottles of Rum and filled up glasses (I was well stocked up with booze as usual).

Now – the problem was what to feed these hungry officers.

About my newly wedded wife’s culinary skills – the less said the better – she did not even know how to brew tea.

Normally – I would have gone down to our in-house Banjara Restaurant and got some parcels of food – but Banjara closed at 11 PM.

Even the “Dhabhas” at Pandara Road would be closed at this unearthly hour.

There was nothing in the house – not even bread and eggs.

Seeing our predicament – the Commodore said to my wife: “Open your kitchen cupboard – let us see what you have got…?”

He took out the tins of Tur (Arhar) Dal and Rice – and he said to my wife: “We will have Dal-Rice.”

I noticed that the Commodore was already in “high spirits” – he must have been taking swigs all evening from his ubiquitous “hip flask” that he always kept topped up with neat rum and carried everywhere with him.

Now – those of you who have lived in Curzon Road Apartments will know that the Kitchenette of the one room flat was located at the entrance – which opened in a corridor – and – we mostly kept the door open for cross-ventilation.

Hearing the commotion and din – our next door neighbours – “Sleeping Beauty” and her husband (an Army Officer who had also been a messmate in SP Marg Mess) opened their door and peeped in.

While “Sleeping Beauty” offered to help my wife – her husband immediately poured himself a drink and joined the gang – which was in the balcony.

Those days we did our cooking on a single kerosene stove (we were in the waiting list for a gas connection) – so “Sleeping Beauty” brought across her stove.

So – rice was put on one stove – and Dal on the other one.

Now – if my wife was a terrible cook – “Sleeping Beauty” was no “Gourmet Chef” either.

In fact – there could be a competition among the two as to who was the worse cook.

As the rice and Dal cooked slowly – alcohol was flowing freely – and – soon – everyone was in “high spirits”.

My wife called me to taste the Dal.

I put a spoonful on my tongue – it tasted terrible.

It was astonishing how my wife and “Sleeping Beauty” could spoil a simple dish like Dal.

That required real “talent” – to ruin a simple dish like Dal.

I knew what to do.

I told my wife to make pretence of cooking – and – I opened another bottle of rum – and then another.

My friends were hungry – but I forced them to have a stiff drink of rum – and then a few more.

Alcohol dulls the taste buds – and deadens olfactory sensation – and – when you are totally drunk – you can hardly discern the taste of food.  

When everyone was sufficiently drunk – food was served.

Sorry for using the term “drunk”.

As I told you once – Naval Officers never get “drunk” – they only feel “nice”…

And – everyone was feeling so tremendously “nice” – that they didn’t even realize what they were eating – as they swallowed the insipid watery Rice mixed with the terrible Dal.

Next morning – everyone praised the food – and complimented my wife on her culinary skills.

Did I say next morning…?

Yes.

My friends were feeling so terribly “nice” – that – I did not allow them to drive their bikes – as they were sure to crash somewhere – and – I insisted they take some rest and sober up before driving to the SP Marg Mess which was quite far away.

So – my wife went along with “Sleeping Beauty” to her apartment – and all of us spread all over the floor – swigging rum till we passed out in stupor – feeling supremely “nice” – and lapsed into deep sleep.

The next time our friends “bounced” us – I saw that they had taken care to bring plenty of food parcels from Pandara Road nearby.


EPILOGUE

When I visited New Zealand recently – many restaurants had a sign outside – BYOB – Bring Your Own Bottle (Booze).

I always had plenty of Booze stocked up in the house.

So – if anyone “bounced” us – they knew the rules of my home:

You are most welcome for dinner – but please – BYOF – Bring Your Own Food.

Yes – Dear Friends – I cordially invite you to dinner – but please – BYOF – Bring Your Own Food


VIKRAM KARVE
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Disclaimer:
1. This story is a spoof, satire, pure fiction, just for fun and humor, no offence is meant to anyone, so take it with a pinch of salt and have a laugh.
2. All stories in this blog are a work of fiction. Events, Places, Settings and Incidents narrated in the stories are a figment of my imagination. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

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This is a re-post of my story SOCIAL CUSTOMS IN THE NAVY posted online by me Vikram Karve earlier in my Academic and Creative Writing Journal Blog at url: http://karvediat.blogspot.in/2016/06/humor-in-uniform-bouncing.html
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