Thursday, April 30, 2015

Humor in Uniform - MARRIAGE “ON THE ROCKS”


This evening while on my walk I remembered this hilarious “memoir” from my Vizag Days.

Let me delve into my Humor in Uniform archives and pull out this story that happened more than 25 years ago – sometime in the late 1980s...

A Spoof

Part 1


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.

NWWA is the acronym for Navy Wives Welfare Association earlier known as Naval Officers Wives Association (NOWA).

Now – the new C-in-C’s wife 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.

Part 2


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” couple contest in the evening,” he said.

“Sir, that was last evening,” I said.

“Last evening – only five couples landed up. So preliminary round of the “made-for-each-other” couple contest is re-scheduled at 7 this evening. You buggers don’t go for events – 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 – please go for the preliminary round of the “made-for-each-other” couple contest  for heaven’s sake – please go – otherwise...”

“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.

As they say in the Navy: “Normal Service Resumed”

Copyright © Vikram Karve 
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1. This story 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. 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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