Sunday, April 26, 2015


Unforgettable Memories of My Wonderful Life in the Navy

A Memoir

Today is Sunday.

Out here – in Pune – it is a bright Sunday Morning – and it is already getting hot – since we are in the midst of a blistering summer.

Sitting indoors on this sweltering hot Sunday Morning makes me hark back to my halcyon Navy Days  and remember my “Sunday Routines” in the Navy.

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

But when we were in the Navy  and our ship was tied alongside in harbour  we looked forward to our Sundays  to enjoy what the Navy calls “Sunday Routine” – our well deserved leisure time.

Let me tell you about a few of my typical “Sunday Routines”.

In the Navy  when you are at sea  you are on duty round-the-clock 24/7  and there is no “holiday”  so there is no “Sunday Routine” in the true sense.

But when your ship is in harbour  you have make-and-mend” (half day) on Wednesdays and Saturdays  and a “Sunday Routine” on Sundays and Holidays.

Unlike the corporate sector and government civilian babus  an operational organisation like the navy does not have the luxury of a “5 Day Week”  so we worked 6 days a week  and a weekly “off” only on Sundays  unless you were the “Officer of the Day” (OOD) – or you were put on some other “bum job” duty.

So  we eagerly waited for Sunday  and coveted our “Sunday Routine”.

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

There is a saying that 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 Navy Style “Sunday Routines”  one in Mumbai  and one in Vizag  almost 10 years apart  both when I was posted on frontline warships  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)
[At 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.

The main reason for the ship being a “Happy Ship” was our Captain  who was a great guy. 

His credo was simple – all he demanded is that we do our jobs properly – and once we did 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 (CO) – for creating a harmonious the atmosphere in a ship/unit – and a painful killjoy CO can make life miserable for all – like we saw on some other ships)

On a Sunday we woke up early.

(If you 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).

Early in the morning – we crossed the gangway and went ashore.

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)  followed by chota hazri” at Stadium Restaurant.

Later  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 western railway 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 – the horses – and – not to forget – the beautiful lady punters in their Sunday best – 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.

The restaurant where we went for dinner depended on our luck at the races – either Olympia or Bade Miyan (on a luckless day) – or Gaylord or Kamling (on a lucky day).

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 it was still a big culture shock for me after my wonderful days in Mumbai.

I was familiar with the dreary place as a “student officer” – but it was a big disappointment – especially after my glorious days in Mumbai.

I suffered and endured almost one year in that horrible 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 becoming an woebegone alcoholic by getting “selected” for the “prestigious” M. Tech. Course at IIT Delhi.

After two years of “paid holiday”  followed by two years in R&D  and then two more years on instructional duties at IAT Pune  and I was back on a frontline warship in Mumbai.

“Bombay days were back again” 

(Yes – Mumbai was still called Bombay in the late 1980s).

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 (Visakhapatnam)  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 in Vizag just for a day or so  and we spent our liberty hours ashore in the town.

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

As compared to Mumbai  Navy life 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 I was living with my family in Naval Park Vizag.

Sunrise is early on the eastern seaboard  so I would get up at 5:30 on Sunday morning  and I would 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  and reach there by 7 – just as the market (haat) was opening up.

The entire naval community would be there at the “Sunday Market”  mostly ladies whose husbands are sleeping off their hangover  and some early riser husbands like me.

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

At around 8  I returned home  I had a bath  we breakfasted on the idlis I had brought from the Sunday market  and at 9 o’clock  we all settled 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) headed to the swimming pool  and spent an hour swimming and cooling off  and chitchatting with friends.

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

(Yes  in Vizag it was the rather prosaic and boring Tombola at the Navy Club  in lieu of thrilling and exciting Horse Racing at the Mahalaxmi Race Course which we enjoyed in Mumbai)

Then  I headed back home for a beer and biryani induced siesta”   which made me feel groggy.

In the evening  maybe we headed for town  full family of 3 on my Bajaj scooter  mostly accompanied by friends  and walked around Ramakrishna Beach  or maybe saw a movie at Jagdamba  followed by dinner at Daspalla.

Then we headed back home  and hit the sack.

Vizag was a big comedown from the glorious “Sunday Routines” of Mumbai.

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

So  10 years later  in the year 2000  I was back in Mumbai  and I enjoyed my “Sunday Routines” even better than before  since the Navy gave 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? 


My best and most enjoyable “Sunday Routines” were 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.

In IAT Pune – on Sundays – we could go trekking up to Sinhagad or in the hills of Girinagar – or we would head for Pune City – to spend the day with our parents/relatives (Pune is my hometown).

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, the navy or the air force.

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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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