Monday, March 28, 2016

Humor in Uniform : OLQ Obsessed Killjoy “Pongo” and “Pani Puri”

Humor in Uniform 


One of the perils of jointmanship” is that the numerically smaller services  the Navy and the Air Force  are losing their unique identity and the Army is trying to make everyone a “Pongo” under the guise of standardisation.

Someone told me that that the traditional “Subtle” Navy Parade Drill was changed a few years ago to be in conformance with rather “Brash” Army Drill Practice.

The Navy has introduced Army Style Collar Tabs on its uniforms for senior officers  and made the naval uniforms more “showy”  like the Army  by introducing various accoutrements and badges – and hardly anyone wears the traditional simple No. 8 Navy Shirt and Shorts Uniform (“half-pant”) which is most comfortable and apt for the tropics.

Earlier – you could easily distinguish between a sailor and a pongo”.

In most cases – a Naval Officer would sport a full-set beard or sideburns till the bottom of the ear-lobe – and have a decent length of hair.

Now – I have observed that most young Naval Officers prefer to have Army Style Crew Cuts – and very few Navy Officers sport traditional flowing full-set beards.

Those days  “pongos” in white uniform were quite rare.

Now – almost every sailor looks like a pongo.

Let me delve into my my Humor in Uniform” Archives and tell you a story of one such “pongo” in white uniform.

But before that – let me tell you why army-men are called “pongos”.

Yes – “Pongo” is naval slang for an army soldier.

Why is an Armyman called a “Pongo”?

Well  there are many apocryphal stories on the origins of the term “Pongo”.

Here is one such yarn that I heard long back from an old sea dog.

He told me that the term “Pongo” originated in the Royal Navy to denote an infantryman. 

As per a myth  the “Pongo” was a unique ape. 

When he sensed danger or felt scared – the “Pongo” did not climb trees like most apes or monkeys normally do.

But the “Pongo” would dig holes in the earth and hide himself in the ground  in the same way as infantrymen dug in and entrenched themselves in the ground when they were under attack in battle.

Another similar yarn says that “Pongo” is derived from the archaic name for the Orangutan  which had the habit of digging holes in the ground for no apparent reason  and then filling the holes back. 

The sailors probably observed army soldiers digging away  and hence the nickname “Pongo for army soldiers.

Sorry for the digression, Dear Reader – here is the story of a “Pongo in the Navy.

Have a Laugh !!!

A Spoof


Almost 40 years ago  way back in the 1970’s  when we were trainees  we had a Colonel Blimp type Training Officer. 

Though he was only a few years senior to us  he was a pompous snob with rather archaic ultra-conservative conformist views.

This officer was truly a “Relic of the Raj”.

A typical Military Sainik School and ex-NDA type  he had seen very less of the civilian world.

As far as he was concerned  like a frog in a well  the “Fauj” (military) was the be all and end all of his life.

In fact  he was so OG” – that we thought that he was better suited for the Army  rather than for the Navy.

Yes  he was more of a spit and polish prim and proper “Pongo” – than a carefree happy-go-lucky Sailor. 

He would have been better off wearing Army Olive Green (OG) rather than donning Navy Whites.

His favourite pastime was to deliver sermons on military conduct  and give us moral lectures on OLQ (Officer Like Qualities– and pontificate about service etiquette and social graces  and how we must conduct ourselves as officers.

But one thing was sure.

He practiced what he preached.

And  he preached what he practiced. 

His turn-out was spotless – and his “military” bearing was always immaculate  his officer-like conduct was unblemished  and he always put service before self

But for us young happy-go-lucky youngsters who wanted to enjoy life  this “Colonel Blimp” was a big pain in the neck.

One evening while on liberty (shore leave)  we were enjoying eating delicious Pani Puri (Gol Gappa) at a roadside stall.

“Colonel Blimp” who was driving by on his scooter saw us eating Pani Puri – and worse – we were eating at a roadside stall.

He looked totally shocked and appalled.

But he did not say anything there  but just drove by on his scooter. 

Next morning he lined us up  and gave us what in Naval parlance is called a “bottle” – a very severe reprimand and scolding which I can remember even today: 

“How can officers behave like this?” 

“You uncivilized buggers were eating Pani Puri at a roadside stall?” 

“It is just not done!” 

“Officers must have proper class. You are no longer college students. As officers  you must dine in good decent restaurants.” 

“Remember that your conduct is being watched at all times.” 

“As Officers  you are expected to conduct yourselves with proper dignity.”

“Officers are not expected to hang out like hooligans in the open  and eat junk food at roadside stalls.”

He went on and on and on.

Then  after he had finished his tirade  he admonished us: “You bloody riff-raff are not fit to go ashore. So I am stopping your liberty as a punishment.”

So  as punishment for our foodie escapades  “Colonel Blimp” stopped our liberty.

Now  we could no longer go out and enjoy the delights the city had to offer. 

Thus  we had no choice but to spend the rest of our training period drowning our sorrows in the bar.


New Delhi

A few years later  on a winter evening in Delhi  my wife and I walked down from our flat in Curzon Road Apartments on Kasturba Gandhi Marg to Bengali Market for our customary evening “tiffin” snacking.

Suddenly we spotted “Colonel Blimp” at the famous Chaat Stall in Bengali Market. 

Standing next to him was a beautiful woman.

The beautiful woman was eating Pani Puri

“Colonel Blimp” was looking at the gorgeous lady in a rather cold and disapproving sort of way.

But this did not seem to bother the ravishing beauty  and she was thoroughly enjoying herself eating Pani Puri.

She was eating pani puri after pani puri – and slurping her tongue  and smacking her lips in delight.

I could not miss this opportunity  so I walked up to “Colonel Blimp” – and I introduced my wife.

“Colonel Blimp” introduced the gorgeous woman as his fiancée.

“Care for some Pani Puri ?” the lovely lady asked us.

This was an offer I could not refuse  so I said: “Sure  we would love to have Pani Puri.” 

And then  all of us (except “Colonel Blimp”) – relished plate after plate of lip-smacking pani puri and chaat

Yes  we gorged on pani puri and all types of delicious chaat 

We all stood on the road and ate pani puri and chaat  except “Colonel Blimp”. 

He looked on with discomfiture.

He staunchly refused our repeated invitations to join us in eating the delicious mouthwatering Pani Puri and chaat

While leaving  “Colonel Blimp” gave me a stern disapproving look.

I knew he was itching to deliver his stock moral lecture – his standard sermon on “OLQ”.

But then  in his rule-book  “it was just not done” to bullshit juniors in front of ladies. 

So  I was spared the agony of a public scolding.

On our way back  I told my wife the story of “Colonel Blimp”.

My wife was was sure that the Killjoy OLQ obsessed Pongo “Colonel Blimp” would dump his fun-loving “un-officer-like” fiancée  as they seemed to be most incompatible for each other. 

But  to our surprise  we soon got an invitation for their wedding. 

Of course  his wedding reception was held in the service institute  and everything at the wedding reception was done in a most “officer like manner

Colonel Blimp’s wedding reception was an extremely decorous and most formal occasion  as if it were an official party. 

His newly wedded wife was conducting herself in a very prim and proper manner.

We were convinced that Pongo “Colonel Blimp” had taken charge of his wife and indoctrinated her on the finer aspects of “OLQ”, social graces and service etiquette – and drilled into her as to what was expected of her as a typical Naval Officers wife.

It looked like the fun loving vivacious young girl had been converted into a quintessential NWWA type Navy Wife


A few days later  one evening  my wife and I were walking down from Kota House towards India Gate on Shahjahan Road.

Suddenly we saw Pongo “Colonel Blimp” eating Pani Puri at the famous UPSC Chaat Wala Stall  along with his vivacious wife. 

I could not believe my eyes. 

Yes – Pongo “Colonel Blimp” was actually relishing Pani Puri on a roadside stall.

The moment he saw us  he waved to us and invited us over for some Chaat and Pani Puri 

I was stunned.

This was an invitation we could not refuse. 

It was great to see Pongo “Colonel Blimp” standing on the roadside  smiling and laughing with abandon – while he ate Pani Puri and Chaat at the roadside stall.

The metamorphosis was amazing.

It seemed that Pongo “Colonel Blimp” had lost all his stiff military OG-ness” – and he was behaving like a normal “civilian” human being.

He was thoroughly enjoying himself  digging into chaat – and then popping pani puris  into his mouth  eating gol gappa after gol gappa  in a very carefree manner  totally oblivious of the surroundings.

The vivacious girl had succeeded in transforming the spit and polish, prim and proper, OLQ obsessed killjoy Pongo “Colonel Blimp” into a carefree happy-go-lucky Sailor.

I have seen many officers change for the better after marriage.

And  of course  some officers change for the worse after marriage.

Like my carefree “devil-may-care” happy-go-lucky coursemate  who suddenly became ambitious and career conscious after marriage.

But that is another story...

For now  let us enjoy the “Pani Puri” story of OLQ Obsessed Killjoy Pongo “Colonel Blimp” and have a laugh...

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1. This blog post is a spoof, satire, 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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