A Naval Yarn
Whenever I muse over the timeline of my life and ask myself which were the best days of my life; there is only one answer – my Navy days. I will never forget those glorious days – the best period in my life. My early days in the Navy, in the 1970s and 1980s, were indeed the happiest days of my life. No doubt about it. The Navy was an exciting place to be in, life was good and there was never a dull moment. Something was always happening, and I came across a variety of unique personalities – yes, exciting situations and inimitable characters.
Young officers were expected to “Jack of all Trades and Master of One”. Unlike most of our civilian counterparts we were not put into a professional straitjacket but encouraged to develop multifarious skills and “Office Like Qualities” which resulted in a well-rounded personality. Hence, during my career in the navy I had to do a lot of “bum jobs” like Mess Secretary, Wine Secretary, Food and Snack Bar Manager, Officer in Charge Poultry and Piggery, Officer in Charge of Dairy and Grow More Food Farms, Sports Manager, Audit and Accounts, Librarian, Event Manager and Organiser of all sorts of events ranging from Parties and Balls to Melas and Fleet Family Days. These jobs were in addition to our professional work and we were expected to excel in both our professional and extra-curricular duties.
One occasion I was a member of a Quartering Committee whose task was to allot houses and deal with all housing matters. There was a rule that a you could ask for a change of house after you had lived in a particular house for six months. Owning to the acute shortage of accommodation, it took almost an year to be allocated and since a tenure in a station was about three years most officers just stayed on in the house allotted to them for the remaining two years till they were transferred out. Only if there were very serious problems did someone ask for a change of house since relocating was quite a laborious and painful task and involved a lot of hassles like disconnection and connection of electricity, cooking gas, informing one and all of the change of address, change of school bus for the kids and getting the house done up etc.
“R” was different. He religiously applied for a change of accommodation the moment six months were over.
First, he was so lucky to have been allotted a lovely sea facing flat on Marine Drive but the moment six months were over he applied for a change of accommodation.
“Why?” I asked him, “You have the best place. It is near your office, your kids’ school bus picks them up from your doorstep, it is so well connected, and look at the fantastic location – the best in Mumbai…”
“My wife doesn’t like the house. She says there is too much noise from the traffic. She wants a change,” he said.
He was allotted a house in Malabar Hill – an independent bungalow. Everyone said he was so lucky to get a huge mansion in a prime locality.
After six months he asked for a change.
“Why?” I asked him, “Last time you changed because of the traffic noise. I am sure the bungalow must be quiet and peaceful.”
“That’s the problem. My wife is fed up of the silence and she complains that she feels too lonely. There are no neighbours, no friends.”
We gave him a house in a multi-storey apartment block in the township where there would be plenty of neighbours and friends.
Six months later, he again applied for a change. His wife said the place was too crowded and there was no privacy.
This went on and on, as his wife was never satisfied with any house. She always found some fault or the other.
When he applied for a change for the sixth time I could not contain myself any longer so I bluntly told him: “Listen to me. Don’t bother changing your house every time. Just change your wife. With a good wife any house will be good and with a wife like yours, even the best house will be hell…”
“R” never talked to me after that. But someone told me that he did indeed heed my advice and now he never asks for a change of accommodation.
Think about it, Dear Reader. Harmony is the sine qua non for a happy and content life. It is inner peace that matters. If you want to enjoy music, even the best and most expensive music system is useless if your mind is disturbed; but if you are at peace with yourself you can enjoy music even on a simple radio.
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.
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© vikram karve., all rights reserved.