Saturday, March 29, 2014




Memories of My Life in the Navy

Around 10 years ago, I went to attend a naval seminar with a few fellow navy officers.

There we met a young naval officer who we knew.

He was posted in that station.

In fact, the officer had been a student of mine at IAT Pune and later we had served together in Dockyard.

One of the other officers attending the seminar with me also knew the young officer – they had been shipmates – and despite the seniority difference – a shipmate is always a shipmate.

We had nothing much to do in the evening, so we decided to “bounce” him.

So we landed up at his place at 7:30 in the evening.

He seemed delighted to see us (probably in anticipation of a merry drinking evening).

But his wife was not exactly “overjoyed” to see us suddenly barging in unexpectedly.

Her “displeasure” was quite evident from her body language and the expression on her face, though she tried to put on a mask of “forced geniality”.

I observed that the young wife was engrossed in watching her favourite soap serial on TV.

We settled down.

The young officer switched off the TV.

I looked at his wife.

The moment the TV was switched off there was an expression of deep disappointment on the wife’s face.

She was a working woman.

She had probably just come home after a hectic day and maybe she wanted to unwind watching her favourite entertainment on TV.

And we “strangers” had suddenly landed up for dinner.

Now her relaxed evening would be ruined, entertaining us, cooking for us, and keeping awake late into the night while we kept drinking and chatting.

Seeing her mood, I did not want to deprive the young women of her favourite TV Serial and her daily dose evening of TV viewing, which seemed to be her relaxation after a hard day’s work.

So I suggested to the young officer that why not we go over to the officers’ institute where we could drink and eat without disturbing his wife.

I said to him that since his wife seemed to be tired, let us enjoy a “stag” booze-up session.

The wife seemed genuinely relieved (though she made some mock protestations).

I realized that times had really changed.

This episode happened 10 years ago, and the fabric of the navy social milieu may have changed even more now.  

Earlier a navy wife had two choices – homemaker or teacher.

Now, things have changed.

There are hardly any full-time Navy Wives.

Most Navy Wives are serious Career Women with their own professional identities.

“New Age” Navy Wives are no longer “appendages” or “arm candy” of their husbands.

(Rather than call these new-age women as “Army Wife” or “Navy Wife” I prefer to address these career women as: “an IT Professional married to an Army Officer” or “an Investment Banker married to a Naval Officer” etc)

“Socializing” in the navy keeps changing.

In our bachelor days in the navy, we found that formal “Calling On” had become passé and “Bouncing” was a more popular way of socializing.

Later, I realized that, with the younger generation of officers and their families, it seemed that “Bouncing” was on its way out too.

Change is inevitable – times change, traditions change, and social culture changes too.

Social “calling-on” is out.

“Bouncing” is out.

Maybe, official socializing will soon be on its way out too.

Whereas we loved having parties and mess nights, I noticed that in my later years in the navy, many officers and their wives were not too keen on “official” socialization too and many complained that there were too many parties.

And like in the civilian world, even in the services, maybe the preferred thing to do in the evenings is to spend “quality time” with your family – watching TV, parenting, having dinner together etc

In my later years in service, I observed that officers and their wives did not appreciate being “bounced” at unearthly hours.

Even when a family went out for dinner or an evening out at the officers’ institute or club, they did not like others “intruding” and they preferred their familial privacy.

Are the days of social “bonhomie” and “camaraderie” over?

Is the one plus point of the unique social life we enjoyed in the services disappearing?

Now, like in the “civvy street”, has it become “each to himself” even in the defence services?

I hope not.

We enjoyed “bouncing” our friends – and we enjoyed being “bounced” too, especially when we were newly married when our bachelor friends would land up at unearthly hours at our tiny flat in Curzon Road Apartments demanding food and drink.

I will surely tell you some hilarious “bouncing” stories.

(By the way, 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 at the entrance of the cave to express a desire for friendship)

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All stories in this blog are a work of fiction. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
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