Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Humor in Uniform – Fun With “Pongos” – The ACR Dinner

This morning – I stood in my terrace and I could see the silhouette of Sinhagarh Fort in the distance. 

This reminded me of my days in IAT Pune  nestled in the forests of Girinagar below the might Sinhagarh Mountain. 

And – I don’t know why – but – I remembered this story about the ACR Dinner – which happened in IAT Pune 21 years ago  in the 1980’s.

I have spent a large part of my Navy career in IAT.

I won’t be surprised if youngsters do not know what is IAT – because  the name is no longer called IAT  the institution is now called MILIT.

We have a penchant for changing names.

We change names of roads, of cities, of institutions  so it was with IAT.

It started off as IAS (Institute of Armament Studies) – a few years later it was re-named IAT (Institute of Armament Technology)   which was its name for more than 40 years.

Then  they re-christened IAT as DIAT (Defence Institute of Advanced Technology).

I find it amusing that it took them 50 years to discover that this was a “Defence” Institute dealing with “Advanced” Technology.

Later  they changed the name to MILIT (Military Institute of Technology).


I do not know.

Anyway  that is the name of the institution at present  till they change it again.

But  the place remains the same as I first saw it in 1982  nothing has changed  and  it is as if time has stood still.

As I said  I spent many years at IAT  in multiple tenures  coming and going  and I truly cherish many unforgettable memories of the lovely place.

So – let me tell you this amusing story which happened at IAT  for your perusal and enjoyment...

Unforgettable Memories of IAT Pune
A Spoof


This story happened sometime in the 1980’s – when I was IAT Pune.

I happened to walk into the office of one of my Pongo” colleagues for some work.

You know what the term “Pongo” means  don’t you...?

If you have served in the Army, Navy or Air Force  I am sure you know what Pongo means.

“Pongo” is Naval slang for Armymen (Soldiers).

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 when he felt scared  the Pongo did not climb trees like most apes 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 up the holes – they would dig holes and fill them back.

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

Well  all such apocryphal stories are to be taken with a pinch of salt and no offense is meant.

If you know some other reason for the origins of the military slang “Pongo”  do comment and educate us.


Now that I have told you what a “Pongo” means – let me continue with my story.

As I said earlier  this story happened sometime in the 1980’s – when I was IAT Pune.

I happened to walk into the office of one of my Pongo” colleagues for some work.

I saw a total of six Pongos  including my colleague  sitting around the table.

The Pongos were engaged in an animated discussion.

So  I excused myself  and I told my army colleague that I would come later.

“No  No  You please come in,” my friend said, “in fact  you can help us solve our problem.”

“Problem...?” I asked.

“Yes  the issue is about the ACR dinner...” he said.

(ACR is an acronym for the all important ANNUAL CONFIDENTIAL REPORT [ACR]. 

The ACR is the be-all and end-all of performance appraisal in the Military  and your entire Military Career is governed by your ACRs)

“ACR Dinner...?” I asked my Pongo friend  as I was quite perplexed.

“You don’t have this ACR Dinner in the Navy...?” they all asked.

“Well  at least I have not heard of it...” I said.

“Our ACRs are due to be written in a month,” my army colleague said, “and all of us are expected to invite our boss and his wife for dinner – and of course  all the other army officers and lady wives are invited.”

“Are you telling me that your performance appraisal for the entire year will be based on a dinner...?” I asked, genuinely baffled.

“Well  I really don’t know  but then these are the hazards of peacetime soldiering...” commented my friend, who was a battle-hardened officer, looking at me wistfully.

“Anyway  what do you want me to do?” I asked.

“Pick lots...” all the Pongos said in unison.

“Pick lots...?” I asked, totally at a loss.

“Yes,” my friend explained, “we have to decide the sequence of the ACR dinners. You know about the halo effect, the recency effect, all these cognitive biases  don’t you...?

Yes  I have heard of cognitive biases...” I said.

There is a big advantage in hosting the dinner last  just before the ACR date...” my friend said.

“Sometimes it is good to host the first dinner too – the first dinner sets the standard  and it is also remembered...” said another Pongo sitting in the room.

So I did the honours  and – I picked the chits.

The sequence of the Pongo ACR dinner dates was decided.

Of course  for doing the honours  we  my wife and I  were invited to all the Pongo ACR Dinners.


I proved lucky for my Pongo friend. 

As per the lots I picked – my Pongo friend gave the first ACR Dinner.

And – he was promoted in the first shot. 

Yes – his wife was a superb hostess and accomplished in cooking exotic cuisines – and – in the subsequent ACR Dinners – no one else could match her culinary skills and the high standards she had set.

Copyright © Vikram Karve 
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© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

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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