Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Social Life in Defence Services : “Calling On” – “Bouncing” – “Quality Time”

Musings of a Veteran

Around 12 years ago – in 2004  I went to attend a Naval Seminar with a few fellow Navy Officers.

There we met a young naval officer who we knew.

He was posted in that station.

In fact  the officer had been a student of mine at IAT Pune  and later  we had served together in Dockyard.

One of the other officers attending the seminar with me also knew the young officer – they had been shipmates – and – in the Navy – despite the seniority difference – a shipmate is always a shipmate.

We had nothing much to do in the evening  so we decided to “bounce” the young Naval Officer.

So – we landed up at his place in the evening at 7:30 PM.

He seemed delighted to see us (probably in anticipation of a merry drinking evening).

But  his wife was not exactly “overjoyed” to see us  barging into her home unexpectedly.

Her “displeasure” was quite evident from her body language and the expression on her face  though she tried to put on a mask of “forced geniality”.

I observed that the young wife was engrossed in watching her favourite soap serial on TV.

We settled down.

The young officer switched off the TV.

I looked at his wife.

The moment the TV was switched off  there was an expression of deep disappointment on the wife’s face.

She was a working woman.

She had probably just come home after a hectic day  and maybe she wanted to unwind watching her favourite entertainment on TV.

And  we “strangers” had suddenly landed up for dinner.

Now  her relaxed evening would be ruined  entertaining us, cooking for us  and keeping awake late into the night while we kept drinking and chatting.

Seeing her mood  I did not want to deprive the young woman of her favourite TV Serial and her daily dose evening of TV viewing  which seemed to be her relaxation after a hard day’s work.

So  I suggested to the young officer that why not we go over to the Officers’ Institute where we could drink and eat without disturbing his wife.

I said to him that  since his wife seemed to be tired  let us enjoy a “stag” booze-up session.

The wife seemed genuinely relieved (though she made some mock protestations).

I realized that times had really changed.

This episode happened 12 years ago – and  the fabric of the social milieu in the Defence Services may have changed even more now.  

Earlier – a Military Wife had two choices – homemaker or teacher.

Now  things have changed.

There are hardly any full-time Military Wives – especially in the Navy.

Most Military Wives are serious Career Women with their own professional identities.

“New Age” Military Wives are no longer “Appendages” or “Arm Candy” of their Military Husbands.

(Rather than call these new-age women as “Army Wife” or “Navy Wife” – I prefer to address these career women as: “an IT Professional married to an Army Officer” – or  “an Investment Banker married to a Naval Officer” etc)


“Socializing” in the Defence Services keeps changing.

In our Bachelor Days in the Navy in the 1970’s  we found that formal “Calling On” had become passé – and  “Bouncing” was a more popular way of socializing.

Later  I realized that  with the younger generation of officers and their families  it seemed that “Bouncing” was on its way out too.

Change is inevitable – times change  traditions change  and social culture changes too.

Social “calling-on” is out.

“Bouncing” is out.

Maybe  official socializing will soon be on its way out too.

Whereas we loved having parties and mess nights  I noticed that in my later years in the navy  many officers and their wives were not too keen on “official” socializing too  and many complained that there were too many parties.

And  like in the civilian world  even in the Defence Services  maybe the preferred thing to do in the evenings is to spend “Quality Time” with your family – watching TV, parenting, having dinner together etc

In my later years in service  I observed that officers and their wives did not appreciate being “bounced” at unearthly hours.

Even when a family went out for dinner – or an evening out at the officers’ institute or club  they did not like others “intruding” and they preferred their familial privacy.

Are the days of social “bonhomie” and “camaraderie” over...?

Is the one plus-point of the unique social life we enjoyed in the services disappearing...?

Now  like in the “civvy street”  has it become “each to himself” even in the defence services...?

I hope not.

We enjoyed “bouncing” our friends – and we enjoyed being “bounced” too  especially when we were newly married – when our bachelor friends would land up at unearthly hours at our tiny flat in Curzon Road Apartments demanding food and drink.

I will surely tell you some hilarious “bouncing” stories.

By the way  maybe it is apocryphal  but I read somewhere that the origin of social calls  and the military tradition of “calling-on”  dates back to the pre-historic days of the cavemen  who left a carved stone at the entrance of the cave to express a desire for friendship. 

Copyright © Vikram Karve 
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1. This story 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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Revised re-post of my story SOCIAL LIFE IN THE NAVY posted online by me Vikram Karve earlier in my Academic and Creative Writing Journal Blog on 29 March 2014 at url: http://karvediat.blogspot.in/2014/03/humor-in-uniform-social-life-in-navy-is.html

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