Thursday, May 26, 2016

Humor in Uniform – “Wavy-Navy”

Humor in Uniform  

Memories of My Unforgettable Navy Days

A Romantic Spoof


Sometime ago – a Vizag “girlfriend” from the 1980’s – suddenly emerged out of the blue – and – she sent me a “friend” request on Facebook.

She was a “wavy” type – she lived opposite my house – and – we would “wave” to each other whenever we saw each other – especially across our balconies.

It was then – that I thought of writing this story – but – I didn’t get down to writing it.

Then – a few months ago – I met another “wavy” type – she would wave to me whenever she saw me.

I again thought of writing this story – but – yet again – I did not get down to writing it.

This morning – I enjoyed another flirty “waving” romance.

So – now – I am finally writing the story of my “wavy romances” during my delightful Navy Days…  


You may have heard of the “WAVY NAVY” – RNVR (Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve) – whose officers wore “Wavy” Rank Stripes with a Square Wavy Curl.

On the other hand – “STRAIGHT NAVY” Officers of the regular Royal Navy (RN) wore Straight Rank Stripes with the Nelson Ring (also called the “Executive Curl” or the “Elliot’s Eye”)

You may have also heard the witty quote by a famous World War 2 “Wavy Navy” Officer of the RNVR:

“…the difference between the “Straight Navy” (RN) and “Wavy-Navy” (RNVR) is that – the RN look after the Navy in peacetime – while the RNVR do the fighting in War…”

The “Wavy Navy” Officer was hinting that Regular Royal Navy (RN) Officers “fight” in “peacetime” – whereas Reservists of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (RNVR) fight the war.

He was highlighting the difference between “peacetime soldiering” – which was mainly done by Regular Officers of RN – and – “war-fighting” – which was mainly done by the Reservists of RNVR.

But – the story I am going to tell you is not about this “Wavy Navy”.

Yes – the title of the story may be a misnomer – for this yarn is not a story about the actual “Wavy Navy” (Naval Reserves).

But – since – the story happened during my Navy days – and – “Wavy Navy” seems to be quite a catchy title – I decided to use it – instead of some long-winded lackluster phrase.

My story is about my hilarious “waving” faux pas during my delightful Navy Days.


Ever since my young days – I have a tendency to wave out to people.

Maybe – this habit of waving has its genesis in my being in boarding school – where – we waved “goodbye” to our parents as the train left our home station and headed to our school in the Nilgiris in South India.

Or maybe – my penchant for “waving” emanated from my “shy” nature.

Yes – I was – and – I still am – a very “shy” person – especially – as far as “girlfriends” are concerned.

Tell – me how does a “Gentleman” greet a “Lady”…?

If you live in an “advanced” country – or in “broadminded” permissive society – you can hug and kiss a girl.

In conservative society – folding your hands in a “Namaste” is the best way – but some modern girls find it too formal and standoffish – especially if the girls are your classmates or friends.

In fact – when I was in college – a “girlfriend” specifically warned me not to greet her with a “Namaste” – especially in front of her friends.

In the Navy – it was a custom to “salute” ladies as a mark of respect.

As Naval Officers – we saluted all ladies as a mark of courtesy – whenever we met them.

(By the way – Navy Officers and Sailors salute when in “civvies” too – so – even in “off hours” – if we met a lady who we recognized – we saluted her).

In fact – in the Navy – all ladies were saluted by the gangway duty staff when they came on board a ship.

Ha Ha Ha – this reminds me of a story.

If you are a Naval Officer – I am sure you have heard this hilarious Naval Yarn (maybe apocryphal) – about an incident that is supposed to have happened sometime in the 1970’s on a ship of the fleet based in Mumbai (then called Bombay).

An Officer brought a “Lady” on board his ship in the evening.

As is the custom – the Officer was leading the way as they walked across the gangway from the jetty to the ship.

The Duty Quartermaster duly saluted the Officer when he crossed the gangway – and – the Officer returned the salute.

The Officer stepped on the deck – he turned around – and then – the Officer saluted his “Lady” companion as she crossed the gangway and stepped on the ship.

However – the Officer noticed that the Quartermaster did not salute the “Lady”.

The Officer gestured to the Duty Quartermaster to salute the “Lady” – but – the Sailor did not salute the “Lady” – instead – the Sailor looked away.

The Officer was furious at this discourtesy shown by the Sailor to his “Lady” companion.

However – he did not want to make a spectacle in front of the “Lady” – so – he took the “Lady” down to the Wardroom for a drink.

After the “Lady” had settled down for a drink in the Wardroom – the Officer went to the cabin of the OOD (Officer of the Day) – and – he told the OOD about the incident and the discourteous conduct of the Duty Quartermaster – and – the Officer asked the OOD to put the Sailor on charge.

The OOD walked to the gangway – and – the OOD questioned the Duty Quartermaster about the incident.

The OOD asked the Sailor: “Why didn’t you salute the “Lady”…?”

The Sailor told the OOD the reason why he did not salute the “Lady”.

On hearing the Sailor’s answer – the OOD almost choked trying to suppress his laughter.

Soon – the grapevine was abuzz with juicy versions of this incident – and – the story became lower deck “scuttlebutt” on the ship – and – in due course – it was “galley news” in the entire fleet.

But – that’s another story. 

Why did the Sailor refuse to salute the “Lady”…?

What was the reason for this discourtesy shown by the Sailor to the “Lady”…?

Why did the OOD almost choke with laughter on hearing the reason why the Sailor did not salute the “Lady”…?

All that – I will leave to your imagination – or – I will tell you privately over a drink.

Now – let me get back to the topic:

How Do You Greet a “Girlfriend”…?

As I told you earlier – “hugging and kissing” was too permissive for me – since I was not a dashing and debonair “Dude’ – but – I was a “shy” type “Prude”.

My “girlfriends” found “Namaste” too formal – and – they said – that my saying “Namaste” to them made them feel old – as if they were “Aunties”.

Those days – men shaking hands with women was not in vogue – in fact – I feel that shaking hands maybe okay with lady colleagues in office – but not with “girlfriends” – and – I was doubtful whether my “girlfriends” would appreciate a strong Navy style hand-grip followed by a vigorous shake of hand.

Saluting Ladies was okay in the Navy social environment – but – when I started “saluting” my “girlfriends” – they looked at me with curious amusement – as if I was some sort of “freak”.

So – the choices boiled down to three – “Hugging and Kissing”, “Saluting” and “Namaste”.

I contemplated on this matter – and – to greet girls – I found a “via media” between “Hugging and Kissing”, “Saluting” and “Namaste” – I started “waving” to girls. 

Yes – I started “waving” to girls. 

“Waving” was a decent and friendly way of greeting – and – I could do this without getting too close for comfort – I could wave even from a distance – and – “Waving” your hands was much more affable and cheerful than a solemn formal “Namaste”.

My penchant for “waving” out to “girls” resulted in many amusing incidents.

Once – I “waved” out to a “girlfriend” – who was shopping on Main Street with her mother and grandmother.

I found all the three ladies waving back cheerfully at me.

But – that’s another story.

Now – let me tell you about two of my “waving” episodes which happened during my Navy days.


The first “waving” episode that I am going to tell you about happened at a Railway Station – the prestigious CST Railway Station in Mumbai (then called Bombay VT).

This story happened 38 years ago – in the late 1970’s.

It was Wednesday – a “make-and-mend” (half-day) on our ship.

After the customary “elbow-bending” PLD – drinking chilled beer at the Wardroom Bar – followed by a sumptuous continental lunch of roast chicken – I was heading towards my cabin in the officers’ flat – looking forward to a delightful beer and food induced “siesta”.

Suddenly – the door of the Captain’s Cabin opened – the Captain stuck out his head from door.

He saw me.

The Captain looked at me – and he said: “Come here…”

I entered the Captain’s Cabin.

“Do me a favour – just drop my daughter off on the Punjab Mail…” the Captain said to me.

[Those days the Punjab Mail departed from CST at 1630 Hrs (4:30 PM)]

“Aye, Aye, Sir…” I said.

“I was supposed to drop her – but – the C-in-C has called a meeting of all COs at 3:30…” he said.

“Yes, Sir…” I said.

“Call a taxi – pick up my daughter from my house – and – take my Coxswain with you…”

“Aye, Aye, Sir…”

“Here – take this – it should cover the taxi fare and porter etc – and – in case she wants to buy some snacks or drinks…” the Captain said – and he gave me a 100 Rupee note.

(Remember – this was in the 1970’s – when the minimum taxi fare in Mumbai was not even one rupee – it was 85 paise – and – the specified ‘porterage’ was a rupee for a bag – and – a porter was happy if you gave him 2 or 3 rupees).

“You better hurry up – the train leaves at 4:30 – and it is almost 3 o’clock…” the Captain said.

Then – the Captain put on his cap – walked out his cabin – opened the bulkhead door and walked out on the deck – crossed the gangway – got down on the jetty – and – started briskly walking on the wharf towards Headquarters.

(Those days – Captains did not get ‘staff cars’ – only Captains of the Aircraft Carrier and ‘Hydro’ Survey Ships used their ships’ jeeps which they put ashore when in harbour).

I saw the Captain’s Coxswain following me – and – he said: “Sir, should I get a Taxi…?”

“Yes…” I said – and – the Captain’s Coxswain started walking towards the Dockyard Gate.

Half an hour later – I picked up my Captain’s daughter from their house in the Navy Township (NOFRA) – and – soon – we were heading towards CST Railway Station in the Premier Padmini (Fiat) Taxi – the Coxswain sitting in front with the Taxi-Driver – and – the Captain’s Daughter and I on the rear seat.

“Why did you come in uniform…?” the Captain’s daughter asked me.

“There was no time to change into civvies…” I said, “Your Dad told me to hurry since it was almost 3 oclock when he asked me to pick you up…”

“Oh…” she said, “Really – there was no need for you to have come all the way – I could have gone on my own…”

“Well – the Captain asked me to drop you and see you off on the Punjab Mail…”

“See me off…? It will be okay if you just drop me outside the station. All my friends will be there…”


“Yes – we have come on a college educational tour to various places in India – so there are 60 of us girls – all classmates – and some teachers – in fact – we have a full sleeper coach booked for us which gets attached to various trains…”

(Those days – students travelled by 2nd Class Sleeper – or – even by ordinary 2nd Class)

“You study in an all girls’ college…?” I asked her.


“In Delhi...?


“Oh – so how many days did you spend in Mumbai…?”

“Three days. Since my Dad is in Mumbai – I stayed at home – the others were put up in the women’s university and other places – some stayed in the sleeper coach as well…”


The moment the taxi entered the foyer of CST – the Captain’s daughter said: “Please drop me off over here – I will go to the train on my own…”

“We will come as see you off…”

“Please – I don’t want to trouble you…”

“It’s no trouble at all – and – I told you that your father has asked me to drop you on the train – so – I will see you off properly…”

Soon we were walking towards Platform No. 8 of CST (VT) station from where the Punjab Mail was scheduled to depart at 4:30 PM – the Captain’s daughter was wearing Blue Jeans and a Light Green T-Shirt – and I marched beside her – smartly dressed in sparkling white Navy Uniform Dress No. 8 – shorts and half-sleeved shirt – white stockings and white shoes – and – the Navy “Peak Cap” on my head – and – the Sailor – the Captain’s Coxswain was also in Navy Uniform Dress No. 8  - and – he followed us carrying the Captain’s daughter’s bag – despite her protestations that she could carry her own bag.

In Mumbai – Navy uniform is quite common – so – no one gave us a second look.

But – the moment my Captain’s daughter’s classmates saw us – all the girls started staring at me in a curious way.

“Thanks a lot for dropping me,” the Captain’s daughter said to me as we approached their sleeper coach with all her classmates – a few outside on the platform – and – most of the girls inside the coach.

She wanted to take her bag from the sailor – but – we went inside – and I made sure that the sailor made sure that he had placed the bag properly under her berth.

The Captain’s daughter sat on her window seat – and – she said to me: “Thanks for the trouble – I am comfortably seated now – I think you should go now…”

“Do you want me to get you anything – biscuits, soft drink, tea…?” I said.

“Please – I am not a small girl – I am almost 21 now – I can look after myself…” she said.

“Oh – she is 21…?” I thought to myself – I realised that she was almost my age.

I could see that she was embarrassed by the two us – Me and the Sailor – hanging around her in uniform inside the coach near her seat – and – all her classmates staring at us – so – I said: “Okay – Bye – we will wait on the platform…”

“No. No. You can go back…”

“It’s already 4:15 – only 15 minutes for the train to leave – so we will see you off properly…”

“Please go back – don’t you have work to do on the ship…?” she said.

“Today is Wednesday  ‘make-and-mend’ – a half-day…” I said.

“Oh…” she said.

“Okay – if you are uncomfortable with us standing here – we will go outside and wait on the platform…” I said to her.

I went outside and stood on the platform.

A number of girls – my Captain’s daughter’s classmates – the college girls swarmed around me – and – they asked me about our ship.

I did not want the Captain’s Coxswain hanging around while I flirted with the girls – so – I gave the Sailor a 10 Rupee note – and – I told him: “Go and buy a bar of chocolate and some fruit for the Captain’s daughter…”

(In the 1970’s – Ten Rupees was a huge amount – enough for buying chocolates and fruit) 

The girls asked me about the Navy – and ships.

“You should have visited our ship…” I said to the girls, “after all – your classmate’s father is our Captain…”

“We wanted to see Navy ships – but we arrived in Mumbai on Sunday evening from Bangalore – and – now – we are leaving on Wednesday – and – they said that we can have group visits to ships only on weekends…” one of the girls said.

“Okay – but – you can plan next time – and – if you want to come alone by yourself – I can take you to see the ship any evening as my guest…” I said.

(Those days – in the 1970’s – officers were allowed to take their guests on board ships on all days of the week)

The Captain’s daughter was watching me from the window of the coach.

She waved to me.

I was delighted to see that she was a “waving” type.

But – on close observation – I saw that she was signaling me to come towards her.

I walked towards her – and – stood near the coach window.

“Please don’t talk too much to those girls...” she said, “they are gossipy types…”

“Okay…” I said – and – I stood outside the coach window.

“Please go now…” the Captain’s daughter said.

“Just a few minutes more for the train to start…” I said, “And – I have sent the Sailor to get you some Chocolates and Fruits…”

“I told you not to bother…”

“It’s okay – your father has given me money…”

The Sailor arrived with a Bar of Milk Chocolate and some Oranges.

I passed them on to the Captain’s daughter through the window.

Suddenly – the guard blew his whistle.

The girls on the platform rushed towards the coach door and got inside.

The engine sounded its horn.

The train started moving slowly.

I started “waving” goodbye to the Captain’s daughter.

Seeing me waving – the Sailor took the cue – and – he also started waving to the Captain’s daughter.

The Captain’s daughter waved back at us.

Inspired by her waving – I started walking on the platform along with the train – and – I kept waving at the Captain’s daughter sitting in the window.

The Sailor also marched behind me – waving vigorously.  

(Later – I got feedback – that the Captain’s daughter was not waving joyfully at me – but she was trying to signal me to go away).

We – Me and the Captain’s Coxswain – we kept waving – and – as the train picked up speed – the door of the coach came in front of us – and – I saw that the girls standing in the door were waving at me.

I waved back at the girls.

The girls waved back at me – as the train moved away.

Then – someone pulled the ‘chain’ – and the train screeched to a stop.

I quickly walked towards the window where my Captain’s daughter was sitting – and – I started waving to her again.

Then – I went close – and  I said to her: “Take care. Have a nice journey…”

I could see that her cheeks were red and she was blushing.

(I thought that she had fallen in love with me – but – later – I got feedback – that she was blushing in embarrassment).

The train started moving again.

I started waving again – and – the Sailor promptly followed my actions.

But – the Captain’s daughter did not wave back at me – instead – I saw – that – all her classmates were waving to me from the coach windows – and – as the train went forward – the girls standing in the door waved vigorously to me and shouted ‘Bye…”  

We kept waving at each other till the train disappeared from view. 

After the train had left – I took a Taxi to the ship.

On reaching the ship – I found out from the OOD that the Captain had just arrived on board. 

I reported to the Captain in his cabin.

He had just arrived from the meeting in Headquarters and was changing into civvies.

“Sir – your daughter has been seen off properly…” I said.

“Very Good…” the Captain said.

“Sir – I spent…”

“Okay – just keep the remaining money on the table…”

I kept the money on the table – I saluted the Captain – and – I left his cabin.

Three days later – on Saturday – during the customary “elbow-bending” PLD in the ship’s wardroom – the Captain walked up to me and said: “My daughter has reached safely.”

“That’s good, Sir…” I said.

“She called up last evening – she was telling me about how you “saw her off” very thoroughly…” 

“Yes, Sir…” 

“Ha Ha – she has warned me never to send anyone to “see her off” – in fact – she told us that in future she would go to the station alone – and – she said that even we should not come to drop her…” the Captain said with a smile – and he walked off to talk to the XO.

10 Years Later


My boss was a rather prosaic Commodore – but – he had a vivacious wife – who was always cheerful, bubbly and full of life.

She was an accomplished career woman and had a distinct identity of her own – and hence – she was not rank-conscious at all.

I would meet her often – in the swimming pool – during my long walks – in the Mess Library – and – we became friends.

What I liked most about her – was – that – like me – she too was a “wavy” type.

Whenever she saw me – she would wave out to me – and – I would wave back to her.

One day  I saw my Boss’s car approaching.

My Boss, the Commodore, was driving – and – his wife was seated next to him.

I was walking on the right side of the road – so – as the car approached – his wife’s seat was on my side of the road.

I started lifting my right hand to salute the Commodore.

Just then – the Commodore’s wife waved out to me.

Instinctively – I waved out to her.

(I could not help it – but  without my realizing it – my right hand spontaneously moved up and started waving – and – my planned formal “salute” turned into an impulsive friendly “wave”)

Next morning – my Boss – the prosaic Commodore – he called me to his office – and  he said to me: “Well – if you don’t want to ‘salute’ me – that’s bad enough – but – ‘waving’ to my wife instead of saluting me – that is a bit too much – isn’t it…?” 

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. 
2All 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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