Wednesday, August 6, 2014



This morning I saw a news report with the headline “MAJOR'S WIFE THREATENS ACTION FOR BEING FORCED TO REHEARSE FOR A SHOW”

According to the above report, the wife of an Army Officer has complained that she was allegedly being forced to take part in rehearsals for a fashion show.

The army wife has alleged that senior officers threatened her and harassed her in her husband’s presence for objecting to the fashion show rehearsals.

The Major’s wife has said that she had been taking part in the rehearsals for the fashion show and she had stopped participating in the same because she had to leave her children alone at home for 2-3 hours every day.

The lady has alleged that the rehearsals were being carried out under the aegis of Army Wives Welfare Association (AWWA) and that she had objected to the same saying that this was not a “family welfare oriented programme”.

I feel that she has a point: How can a fashion show be dubbed as a welfare activity?

Most military veterans and their wives would have varies experiences of AWWA (Army Wives Welfare Association) NOWA (Naval Officers Wives Association) / NWWA (Navy Wives Welfare Association) or AFWWA (Air Force Wives Welfare Association).

As I said, the experience can be varied, from good to bad, depending on the attitude of senior officers and their wives.

Also, in case a wife feels uncomfortable to participate in a AWWA/NOWA/NWWA/AFWWA activity, it is for the husband to take a stand, support her and stand firmly behind her.

I do not think any officer or his wife can be threatened or harassed for not taking part in social activities which are purely voluntary.

Sometime back, I had written a humorous piece about my “encounter” with NWWA who were trying to “shanghai” my wife and me into a “Made for Each Other” contest.

Here is the story, once more, for you to read and have a laugh:

A Spoof

1. Please read this apocryphal story only if you have a sense of humor. This yarn is a spoof, 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. This story is a work of fiction. Events, Places, Settings and Incidents narrated in the story 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.

Copyright Notice:
No part of this Blog may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical including photocopying or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the Blog Author Vikram Karve who holds the copyright.
Copyright © Vikram Karve (all rights reserved)

A Spoof by Vikram Karve

NOWA  SODA  NWWA  LOHA  (The Navy Ladies)

In the 1970’s, when you were carefree navy bachelor serving on a ship, especially in Mumbai, there was so much fun and life outside, that you barely knew what naval wives did, except for the occasional social interaction during one of those rare ship’s wardroom parties where ladies were invited.

Of course, you had probably heard of an organisation called Naval Officers Wives Association (NOWA) especially if your Captain’s wife was one those active social bees.

But if you were a smart career conscious “upwardly-mobile” single naval officer it made sense to hobnob with SODA.

No, I don’t mean the “soda” you mix with whisky.

I am referring to Senior Officers Daughters Association (SODA).

Needless to say, acquiring a SODA wife had great advantages because you suddenly acquired lots of influential “uncles” and “aunties” in the service.

Now, once a “SODA” daughter married a naval officer she also became a “NOWA” wife.

A double benefit “SODA + NOWA” wife was an unbeatable winning combination guaranteed to propel you to high rank.

Now, with the entry of lady officers in the navy, maybe it would be a good idea to start a Lady Officers Husbands Association (LOHA) for the husbands of lady naval officers.

Unfortunately, I did not have the honour of becoming a member of any of these exalted associations.

1. I was not the wife of a naval officer, so I was not eligible for NOWA

2. I was not the daughter of a senior naval officer, so SODA was out of the reckoning.

3. I was not the husband of a lady naval officer, so no LOHA for me.

But I am still confused about one thing.

Suppose a female naval officer marries a male naval officer.

Can the lady naval officer become a member of NOWA?

Or can the naval husband of the naval lady officer become a member of LOHA?

Can you wear uniform and still be a member of these “social” organisations by virtue of your marriage?

I am sure some knowledgeable veteran will clear this doubt and tell us – if so, why so and if not, why not.

When I got married in 1982 my newly wedded wife automatically became a member of NOWA.

I discovered this when I saw my monthly mess bill and found that my NOWA contribution had been duly deducted.

In the navy you have no choice in these matters.

Whether you want it or not, the moment you get married, your wife becomes a member of NOWA and the subscription is compulsorily deducted.  

However, at that time, the Chief of the Naval Staff was a lifelong confirmed bachelor.

He was a true devoted sea dog “married to the navy” who probably didn’t care much for wives associations.

So, in the absence of a “first lady”, it seemed that NOWA was adrift and defunct, at least in New Delhi, where I was posted at that time.

Meanwhile, my wife started working, and I do not recall her going to any NOWA event.

In fact, except for the “Ladies Club” at IAT Pune (an inter-service institution) which she regularly attended, I don’t think she participated in NOWA at Mumbai – we lived quite far away, I was busy on a ship and she was busy with our small son.

The only time my wife actively participated in NWWA was when we were posted to Vizag (Visakhapatnam).

Yes, you read right. 

It was NWWA now – sometime in the mid 1980’s NOWA was renamed as NWWA.

We love changing names – names of roads are changed, names of cities have been changed.

In the Navy too, “Supply and Secretariat” (S&S) Branch became “Logistics”, TAS became ASW, inter-service training “schools” became “colleges” and “institutes”, and even NHQ has become IHQ.

Similarly, Naval Officers Wives Association (NOWA) was now re-christened as Navy Wives Welfare Association (NWWA)

Those were halcyon NWWA days in Vizag which was jokingly called the “Entertainment Naval Command” (ENC), the others being the “Working Naval Command” (WNC) and “Sleeping Naval Command” (SNC).

My son had started going to school, I was away sailing most of the time, and my “homemaker” wife thoroughly enjoyed NWWA activities and made lots of friends.

Besides events like those grand “husbands’ nights” parties with magnificent entertainment and delicious food,  NWWA did a lot of genuine welfare and education activities too, in which my wife loved to participate.

Once our daughter arrived, my wife had to taper off from NWWA activities to bring up the baby.

The incident I am about to narrate occurred during this period.


The most eagerly awaited event of Naval Social Calendar is the annual Navy Ball held in December.

And the two highlights of the Navy Ball are the Fashion Show and the Navy Queen Contest.

We were surprised to see that the Vizag Navy Ball was much more grandiose than the Mumbai Navy Ball – the fashion show had top models walking the ramp and the Navy Queen Contest had the best of gorgeous beauties participating since this prestigious beauty pageant was a stepping stone for a career in showbiz and the glamour world.

Then things changed.

There was a new C-in-C.

His wife automatically became the ex officio head of NWWA by virtue of her husband’s appointment.

She was a staunch feminist and she had “progressive” ideas.

She decreed that there would be no “commodification” of women.

So the Navy Queen Contest was scrapped.

Instead of the Navy Queen Pageant, there would be a “made-for-each-other couple” contest.

Interest in the Navy Ball waned.

The sale of tickets for the Navy Ball fell sharply.

This problem was solved by compulsory sale of tickets to all officers.

The second problem was that there were no entries for the “made-for-each-other couple” contest.

The high profile Navy Queen Pageant was an open competition and used to attract a large number of entries from young ladies – from Vizag and even from places as far away as Calcutta (now Kolkata) Hyderabad, Bhubaneswar and Madras (now Chennai).

However, it seemed that no married couple wanted to sashay on the ramp for the “made-for-each-other couple” contest.

(Yes, only married couples were eligible for the “made-for-each-other couple” contest - the NWWA head-honcho was a feminist, but apparently she was not a “liberated” feminist).

Civilian couples of Vizag did not fancy parading on the ramp and it seemed the naval couples were also not too keen.

After years of Navy Queen Contests, people were quite skeptical about this new “made-for-each-other couple” contest.

So, there was not even a single entry for the “made-for-each-other couple” contest.

The powers-that-be were disappointed with the poor response.

So, NWWA was pressed into action.

All “young” wives were told to “report” with their husbands for the preliminary round of the “made-for-each-other couple” contest.

My wife ignored the missive.

She did not even tell me about it.

In fact, most naval wives did the same.

The result was that just three couples turned up for the preliminary round.

They could have crowned them then and there – as the winners and first and second runners up.

But this did not happen.

The “head honcho” of NWWA was furious.

She was determined to make a grand success of her “trailblazer” “made-for-each-other couple” contest which was being held for the first time in the Navy Ball.

Her prestige was at stake.

For her, the success of the “made-for-each-other couple” contest became a “prestige issue”.

So she pressed her cohorts into action.

Qualitative Requirements (QRs) were drawn up and “target couples” identified for the “made-for-each-other couple” contest

Lists of “target couples” were sent to ships and units and commanding officers were ordered to direct those officers and their lady wives to “volunteer” and be present for the preliminary round of the “made-for-each-other couple” contest that evening.

Simultaneously, similar parallel “directives” were passed on to the wives via NWWA channels.

Unfortunately, we, my wife and I, were a “target couple”.

A message was accordingly passed on to me that my wife and I should be present for the preliminary round of the contest at 7 in the evening – my wife in a Sari and me in Red Sea Rig uniform.

When I reached home, before I could speak, my agitated wife told me about the visit of some NWWA ladies.

She was upset.

She had told the NWWA flunkies that she did not want to leave our baby daughter alone and hence could not participate.

But they refused to listen saying that they had made baby care arrangements.   

When she bluntly told them that she was not interested in taking part in the contests, subtle hints were dropped that her “negative” attitude may not be good for my career.

Remember, this was the “Entertainment Naval Command”.

For my wife, this was the first time NWWA was exerting pressure and compelling her to do something she did not want to do.

I did not want to force my wife to do anything against her will, especially participate in such a contest that I thought was quite ludicrous.

We, my wife and me, did not go for the preliminary round for the “made-for-each-other” contest.


Next morning, my boss, a Commodore, summoned me to his office.

“Look here. You know me. I never interfere in the personal lives of my officers. But I beg of you – please take your wife and go for that bloody preliminary round of the “made-for-each-other” contest in the evening,” he said.

“Sir, that was last evening,” I said.

“Only five couples landed up. So it is re-scheduled at 7 this evening. You buggers don’t go and we are being asked explanations from the top. Please make sure you go. I know you have a small son and a baby daughter. My wife will look after them. But you and your wife, for heaven’s sake, please go.”

“Sir, my wife …”

“No excuses. I don’t want to hear any excuses.”

“Sir, please listen …” I pleaded.

“What …?” my boss asked.

“My marriage is on the rocks. My wife and I, we are not on speaking terms. There is so much marital discord that it looks like my marriage is going to break up – it seems that we are heading for a divorce,” I said with a sad face.

“What? Divorce? Your marriage is on the rocks? You never told me all this!” my boss said with a surprised look on his face.

“I am sorry, Sir, but under these circumstances of marital discord, I don’t think it is appropriate for us to take part in the made-for-each-other-couple contest,” I said sheepishly.

“Okay. I can understand. I’ll tell them. But you must sort out things with your wife. You have children. You may have some marital discord but divorce is not a solution. You must try and make your marriage work. You must take some help in these matters. I’ll see what I can do. You can go now,” my boss said with a worried look on his face.

Back in my office I congratulated myself for my quick thinking which had extricated us from the “made-for-each-other couple” contest.

Then, I had a good laugh to myself.

While I was laughing, my boss was acting.

He made a two calls.

First, he called up the NWWA powers-that-be.

Then, he called up his wife.

The result was that NWWA was asked to intervene and try to “save” our marriage.

Now, ladies love to gossip, so the rumour mill was instantaneously abuzz and various theories were floated by “know-it-all” gossip-mongers.

“They are incompatible,” the more charitable one’s said.

But most agreed that I, as the husband, was to blame for the “breakdown” of our marriage and some let their imagination run wild and even painted me as a drunkard and wife-beater.

Luckily, the NWWA “marriage counsellor” lived directly above our house and she knew us well.

She got a call from the NWWA “head honcho” asking her to talk to us and then brief her on the “case”.

The “marriage counsellor” had a hearty laugh and she said, “I know them well. Nothing is wrong with their marriage. In fact, I had a chat with the wife just a few moments ago on the way up to my house. It looks like her husband is up to some mischief. I will tell her and she will straighten him out.”

“Are you sure?” the NWWA “head honcho” asked.

I have seen so many marriages. My marriage may break, your marriage may break, but they are not going to split – that’s for sure,” the NWWA “marriage counsellor” remarked about us.

In her opinion, my wife and me, were in fact a genuine made-for-each-other couple

They, the “marriage counsellor” neighbour, and my wife, were waiting for me in the evening.

I told them everything, and we had a big laugh.

And yes, thereafter, no one asked us to take part in the “made-for-each-other couple” contest, which was won by a truly “made-for-each-other couple” who were good friends of ours.

After this, for the rest of our tenure in Vizag, my embarrassed wife steered clear of NWWA in order to avoid the knowing looks of pity and sympathy (since rumours never die).

By the way, the “made-for-each-other couple” contest was scrapped and discarded the moment the C-in-C was posted out.

The new C-in-C made sure that the traditional Navy Queen pageant was started again and I think it continues to this day.

I don’t understand why some big-wigs have a penchant for changing things just for the heck of it – some change uniforms, others change ceremonial drill (you must have noticed the navy contingent indulging in army style noisy marching and slogan shouting eyes right during the Republic Day Parade), nomenclatures are changed (from “Supply & Secretariat” to “Logistics”, from “TAS” to “ASW”, from “NHQ” to “IHQ” etc etc), and so many things are changed for which no solid reason seems ostensible.

When I recall this story of the “made-for-each-other couple” contest, and when I think of all the things I saw being changed at the whims and fancies of the powers-that-be, I sometimes wonder whether the Navy is a “system based” organisation or a “personality driven” organisation.

Copyright © Vikram Karve 
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© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

1. All stories in this blog are a work of fiction. Events, Places, Settings and Incidents narrated in the story 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.

Copyright Notice:
No part of this Blog may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical including photocopying or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the Blog Author Vikram Karve who holds the copyright.
Copyright © Vikram Karve (All Rights Reserved)
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

This article written by me in Dec 2010 and First 

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