Friday, September 26, 2014



Harking Back to My Halcyon Navy Days

Once you retire, every day is a “Sunday Routine”.

But when we were in the Navy, we looked forward to our Sundays, to enjoy the Navy calls “Sunday Routine” – our well deserved leisure time.

“Sunday Routine” was our own personal time which we could spend as we liked and do as we pleased.

Aristotle has wisely said: “The end of labour is to gain leisure”

We laboured the whole week to gain our “Sunday Routine” and we were determined to enjoy our well earned leisure to the fullest.

Different individuals spend their leisure in different ways.

How you spend your leisure defines your persona.

If you want to find out the true character of a man, find out how he spends his leisure.

In the defence services, especially in the navy, how you spend your leisure mainly depends on where you are posted.

If you are lucky to be posted in a “maximum city” like Mumbai, there is a plethora of opportunities for enjoying your leisure.

On the other hand, if you are posted to a back-of-beyond remote desolate cantonment, your choices for spending your leisure are limited.

Let me describe to you, to compare and contrast, two typical “Sunday Routines”, one in Mumbai, and one in Vizag, almost 10 years apart, both when I was posted on ships, the first in the latter half of the 1970’s and the second in the latter half of the 1980’s.

INS “XXX” (Harbour Sunday Routine – as an “in-living” officer)
Mumbai (then called Bombay) – end 1970’s

This was the happiest time of my life.

It is great to be on a happy ship.

Ours was a frontline warship – the ship was new, the crew was good, we had a delightful wardroom with friendly officers, and the general atmosphere on the ship was harmonious, and the main reason for all this was our Captain, who was a great guy. His credo was simple – all he demanded is that we do our jobs properly; beyond that, we were free to do whatever we pleased.

(I have observed during my long service in the navy and in inter-service establishments, that, particularly in the defence services, much depends on the Commanding Officer or the “Boss”, for creating a harmonious the atmosphere in a ship/unit)

On a Sunday we woke up early (remember I told you in an earlier article that I never had late nights on Saturdays and I preferred to have my hangovers on working days).

Then we embarked on a long Sunday morning walk cum jog – walking out of Lion Gate, past Kalaghoda, crossing the Oval, past CCI, then onto Marine Drive to jog to Chowpatty and back to Churchgate, where we picked up a copy of the Cole (for the day’s races).

Then, in the wardroom, we had a leisurely Sunday breakfast on board ship, of dosas and coffee, while “studying” the Cole and the racing columns in the newspapers.

Ours was a wardroom of “punters”.

At around 10 or 10:30 we were off again, walking down to our favourite Stadium Restaurant Churchgate, for a brunch of sumptuous “Kheema Pav” followed by a cup of invigorating Irani Chai, while discussing our “forecasts” and “predictions” for the day’s races.

Then we caught a local train to Mahalaxmi racecourse, so that we were well in time for the first race of the day, which began at noon, or sometimes a bit later at 12:30 or 1 o’clock in the afternoon.

(We took the precaution of buying a “return ticket” – for obvious reasons)

I loved going to the races. 

The atmosphere was electric – the bookie ring, the tote, the stands, the racecourse, the crowds, the excitement, the thrill – it was a thoroughly enjoyable Sunday afternoon.

In the evening, after a refreshing shower, and fortified with a generous quantity of Scotch and Soda, our hip flasks topped-up, we headed out again, for dinner and a late night movie followed by midnight ice creams or milkshakes.

Where we went for dinner depended on our luck at the races – either Olympia or Bade Miyan – or Gaylord or Kamling.

Even during the off-season, when there were no races, there was so much to do on a Sunday in a “maximum city” like Mumbai.

Like I said, those were the happiest days of my life, and my most enjoyable “Sunday Routines” too.

I thought these happy days would never end, but two years later, I was yanked off the ship, and posted to Jamnagar (as an instructor), and as I said, though I was familiar with the dreary place, it was still a big culture shock for me after my wonderful days in Mumbai.

After enduring a few months in that desolate place, almost becoming alcohol dependent, since the main leisure activity there was drinking Rum (while listening to old Hindi Songs on Urdu Service), I escaped by getting “selected” for a “prestigious” M. Tech. Course at IIT Delhi.

Two years of “paid holiday”, followed by two years in R&D, and then two years teaching at IAT Pune, and I was back on a frontline warship in Mumbai.

“Bombay days were back again”.

It was back to halcyon “Sunday Routine” days – I lived at Vasant Sagar in Churchgate – and for the first few months we had a great life.

As I was living it up, chanting “Happy Days are here again”, our luck ran out, and the base port of our ship was changed from Mumbai to Vizag, and we were off to the Eastern Seaboard.

I had been to Vizag only once on my earlier ship, but I did not see much of the Naval Base, since our ship was berthed on the iron ore jetty in the port trust, and we were there for just a day or so, and we spent our liberty hours ashore in the town.

But it seemed that, as far as the town was concerned, nothing much had changed in the last 10 years.

As compared to Mumbai, Vizag was a big comedown, as you will realize, when you see how I spent my “Sunday Routine” at Vizag (Visakhapatnam)

INS “YYY” (Harbour Sunday Routine – as an “MLR” officer)
Vizag (Visakhapatnam) – end 1980’s

I was now married (MLR or “Money in Lieu of Ration” in Naval Jargon) and living with my family in Naval Park Vizag.

Sunrise is early on the eastern seaboard, so I get up at 5:30 on Sunday morning and head for my Sunday morning super-long walk, up Dolphin’s Nose, down to Continental Beach, and then head back straight to the “Sunday Market” in the HSL complex near Scindia, reach there by 7 just as the market (haat) is opening up.

The entire naval community is there, mostly ladies whose husbands are sleeping off their hangover, and some early riser husbands like me.

In Vizag, this Sunday Morning Market is a “must visit” if you live far away from town in Naval Park, to pick up your weekly stock of vegetables, fruit and fish.

At around 8, I return home, I have a bath, we breakfast on the idlis I have brought from the Sunday market, and at 9 o’clock, we all settle down before the TV set to watch the epic serial Ramayan (later when Ramayan was over, we would watch Mahabharat from 9 to 10 every Sunday morning).

Then we (self, wife and son) head to the swimming pool and spend an hour swimming and cooling off and chitchatting with friends.

At 12 noon we are in the makeshift club located in the parking lot of the officers’ mess for the Sunday afternoon Beer Biryani Tombola.

(Yes, in Vizag it is Tombola in lieu of Horse Racing)

Then, I head back home for a beer and biryani induced siesta which makes me feel groggy.

In the evening, maybe we head for town, full family 3 on a scooter, maybe accompanied by friends, and hang around Ramakrishna Beach, or maybe a movie at Jagdamba followed by dinner at Daspalla.

Then back home and hit the sack.

What a comedown from the glorious “Sunday Routines” of Mumbai.

One thing good in the Navy is that nothing is permanent.

So, 10 years later I am back in Mumbai, and now I enjoy my “Sunday Routines” even better than before, as the Navy gives me a lovely house in Empress Court, opposite the Oval, in Churchgate.

What better location can you ask for in Mumbai, especially to enjoy your leisure? 


I spent my most enjoyable “Sunday Routines” in Mumbai (Bombay) and Delhi.

And the most lackluster and dreary Sunday Routines were in Jamnagar, arguably the worst place to be posted to during my younger days in the Navy.

The Sunday Routines in places like Vizag, Kochi (Cochin) and Pune were somewhere middle-of-the-road, as I have described above.

How about you? 

How do you like to enjoy your Sundays?

And especially if you are a “fauji”, do tell us how you enjoyed your “Sunday Routines” in the “fauj” – in the army, navy or air force.

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