Saturday, April 28, 2018

Education versus Success – My Favourite Short Stories Revisited – The Verger

A Short Story which explores this Paradox 

Life is funny.

Life is full of contradictions.  

For example – around 42 years ago  in the 1970s  when I was commissioned as an Officer in the Navy  I realized that your career prospects are inversely proportional to your education

Yes – unbelievable but true: 

The higher your qualifications  the lower your status in the hierarchy

When I joined the Navy – I found that at the bottom of the heap were the most highly qualified Post Graduates – who land up as Education Officers  landlubbers who end up teaching the basics of algebra and geometry to sailors. 

In the middle rung we had the Technical Officers  who were Engineering Graduates

And lording over everyone were the matric-pass (or interscience-pass) Executive Officers who were the prima donnas and had superior status vis-à-vis their more educated counterparts. 

It was the same situation in the Army too – where the lesser qualified infantrymen, cavalrymen and gunners enjoyed much better career prospects than their more highly qualified technical counterparts. 

In fact – you will be amazed to learn that many old-timer veterans actually felt that too much education destroyed natural leadership qualities.

This paradox exists in the civilian world too. 

Everywhere in administration – generalists prevail over specialists

Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officers are at the helm of affairs in all types of organizations ranging from Airlines to Electricity Boards to Public Sector Units to Port Trusts to Financial Institutions. 

Yes  you will see generalists lord over specialists and head technical and operational entities even if they have no expertise. 

Some IAS officers are even appointed Vice Chancellors of Universities. 

Yes – it seems that IAS Officers are truly the “jack of all trades”  you name any type of government organization – and you will find an IAS Officer heading it.

As I look around our family and acquaintances – I find that the most “successful” person is a cousin – who dropped out of school – and he is now running a booming business – whereas the individual with the highest qualifications – he spent his entire lifetime in the service of the nation and he is not that well-off as his “uneducated” cousin.

Long back – I read a story by Somerset Maugham – THE VERGER – which beautifully exemplifies this paradox.  

When I first read this story  while studying engineering  more than 45 years ago  I did not know the meaning of the word verger – so I looked up the dictionary: 

A Verger is an official, an usher, in a church who shows persons to their seats, a church officer who takes care of the interior of the building and acts as an attendant (carries the verge) during ceremonies. 

The main character of this story is an illiterate verger who conscientiously carries out his duties in a church for sixteen years. 

A new young vicar is appointed and he discovers to his astonishment that the verger can neither read nor write. 

Since the verger shows no inclination to learn – the verger is sacked  and he loses his job. 

How the out-of-job verger turns the grim situation into an opportunity is the essence of the story.

This story is freely available on the internet (just google it or try any search engine or literary site). 

I am giving links to the story, and, for your convenience, I am also posting the story below (from the url links mentioned below):

W. Somerset Maugham

There had been a christening that afternoon at St. Peter's, Neville Square, and Albert Edward Foreman still wore his verger's gown. He kept his new one, its folds as full and stiff though it were made not of alpaca but of perennial bronze, for funerals and weddings (St. Peter's, Neville Square, was a church much favoured by the fashionable for these ceremonies) and now he wore only his second-best. He wore it with complacence for it was the dignified symbol of his office, and without it (when he took it off to go home) he had the disconcerting sensation of being somewhat insufficiently clad. He took pains with it; he pressed it and ironed it himself. During the sixteen years he had been verger of this church he had had a succession of such gowns, but he had never been able to throw them away when they were worn out and the complete series, neatly wrapped up in brown paper, lay in the bottom drawers of the wardrobe in his bedroom.

The verger busied himself quietly, replacing the painted wooden cover on the marble font, taking away a chair that had been brought for an infirm old lady, and waited for the vicar to have finished in the vestry so that he could tidy up in there and go home. Presently he saw him walk across the chancel, genuflect in front of the high altar and come down the aisle; but he still wore his cassock.

"What's he 'anging about for?" the verger said to himself "Don't 'e know I want my tea?"

The vicar had been but recently appointed, a red-faced energetic man in the early forties, and Albert Edward still regretted his predecessor, a clergyman of the old school who preached leisurely sermons in a silvery voice and dined out a great deal with his more aristocratic parishioners. He liked things in church to be just so, but he never fussed; he was not like this new man who wanted to have his finger in every pie. But Albert Edward was tolerant. St. Peter's was in a very good neighbourhood and the parishioners were a very nice class of people. The new vicar had come from the East End and he couldn't be expected to fall in all at once with the discreet ways of his fashionable congregation.

"All this 'ustle," said Albert Edward. "But give 'im time, he'll learn."

When the vicar had walked down the aisle so far that he could address the verger without raising his voice more than was becoming in a place of worship he stopped.

"Foreman, will you come into the vestry for a minute. I have something to say to you."

"Very good, sir."

The vicar waited for him to come up and they walked up the church together.

"A very nice christening, I thought sir. Funny 'ow the baby stopped cryin' the moment you took him."

"I've noticed they very often do," said the vicar, with a little smile. "After all I've had a good deal of practice with them."

It was a source of subdued pride to him that he could nearly always quiet a whimpering infant by the manner in which he held it and he was not unconscious of the amused admiration with which mothers and nurses watched him settle the baby in the crook of his surpliced arm. The verger knew that it pleased him to be complimented on his talent.

The vicar preceded Albert Edward into the vestry. Albert Edward was a trifle surprised to find the two churchwardens there. He had not seen them come in. They gave him pleasant nods.

"Good afternoon, my lord. Good afternoon, sir," he said to one after the other.

They were elderly men, both of them and they had been churchwardens almost as long as Albert Edward had been verger. They were sitting now at a handsome refectory table that the old vicar had brought many years before from Italy and the vicar sat down in the vacant chair between them. Albert Edward faced them, the table between him and them and wondered with slight uneasiness what was the matter. He remembered still the occasion on which the organist had got in trouble and the bother they had all had to hush things up. In a church like St. Peter's, Neville Square, they couldn't afford scandal. On the vicar's red face was a look of resolute benignity but the others bore an expression that was slightly troubled.

"He's been naggin' them he 'as," said the verger to himself. "He's jockeyed them into doin' something, but they don't like it. That's what it is, you mark my words."

But his thoughts did not appear on Albert Edward's clean cut and distinguished features. He stood in a respectful but not obsequious attitude. He had been in service before he was appointed to his ecclesiastical office, but only in very good houses, and his deportment was irreproachable. 

Starting as a page-boy in the household of a merchant-prince he had risen by due degrees from the position of fourth to first footman, for a year he had been single-handed butler to a widowed peeress and, till the vacancy occurred at St. Peter's, butler with two men under him in the house of a retired ambassador. He was tall, spare, grave and dignified. He looked, if not like a duke, at least like an actor of the old school who specialised in dukes' parts. He had tact, firmness and self-assurance. His character was unimpeachable.

The vicar began briskly.

"Foreman, we've got something rather unpleasant to say to you. You've been here a great many years and I think his lordship and the general agree with me that you've fulfilled the duties of your office to the satisfaction of everybody concerned."

The two churchwardens nodded.

"But a most extraordinary circumstance came to my knowledge the other day and I felt it my duty to impart it to the churchwardens. I discovered to my astonishment that you could neither read nor write."

The verger's face betrayed no sign of embarrassment.

"The last vicar knew that, sir," he replied. "He said it didn't make no difference. He always said there was a great deal too much education in the world for 'is taste."

"It's the most amazing thing I ever heard," cried the general. "Do you mean to say that you've been verger of this church for sixteen years and never learned to read or write?"

"I went into service when I was twelve sir. The cook in the first place tried to teach me once, but I didn't seem to 'ave the knack for it, and then what with one thing and another I never seemed to 'ave the time. I've never really found the want of it. I think a lot of these young fellows waste a rare lot of time readin' when they might be doin' something useful."

"But don't you want to know the news?" said the other churchwarden. "Don't you ever want to write a letter?"

"No, me lord, I seem to manage very well without. And of late years now they've all these pictures in the papers I get to know what's goin' on pretty well. Me wife's quite a scholar and if I want to write a letter she writes it for me. It's not as if I was a bettin' man."

The two churchwardens gave the vicar a troubled glance and then looked down at the table.

"Well, Foreman, I've talked the matter over with these gentlemen and they quite agree with me that the situation is impossible. At a church like St. Peter's Neville Square, we cannot have a verger who can neither read nor write."

Albert Edward's thin, sallow face reddened and he moved uneasily on his feet, but he made no reply.

"Understand me, Foreman, I have no complaint to make against you. You do your work quite satisfactorily; I have the highest opinion both of your character and of your capacity; but we haven't the right to take the risk of some accident that might happen owing to your lamentable ignorance. It's a matter of prudence as well as of principle."

"But couldn't you learn, Foreman?" asked the general.

"No, sir, I'm afraid I couldn't, not now. You see, I'm not as young as I was and if I couldn't seem able to get the letters in me 'ead when I was a nipper I don't think there's much chance of it now."

"We don't want to be harsh with you, Foreman," said the vicar. "But the churchwardens and I have quite made up our minds. We'll give you three months and if at the end of that time you cannot read and write I'm afraid you'll have to go."

Albert Edward had never liked the new vicar. He'd said from the beginning that they'd made a mistake when they gave him St. Peter's. He wasn't the type of man they wanted with a classy congregation like that. And now he straightened himself a little. He knew his value and he wasn't going to allow himself to be put upon.

"I'm very sorry sir, I'm afraid it's no good. I'm too old a dog to learn new tricks. I've lived a good many years without knowin' 'ow to read and write, and without wishin' to praise myself, self-praise is no recommendation, I don't mind sayin' I've done my duty in that state of life in which it 'as pleased a merciful providence to place me, and if I could learn now I don't know as I'd want to."

"In that case, Foreman, I'm afraid you must go."

"Yes sir, I quite understand. I shall be 'appy to 'and in my resignation as soon as you've found somebody to take my place."

But when Albert Edward with his usual politeness had closed the church door behind the vicar and the two churchwardens he could not sustain the air of unruffled dignity with which he bad borne the blow inflicted upon him and his lips quivered. He walked slowly back to the vestry and hung up on its proper peg his verger's gown. He sighed as he thought of all the grand funerals and smart weddings it had seen. He tidied everything up, put on his coat, and hat in hand walked down the aisle. He locked the church door behind him. He strolled across the square, but deep in his sad thoughts he did not take the street that led him home, where a nice strong cup of tea awaited; he took the wrong turning. He walked slowly along. His heart was heavy. He did not know what he should do with himself. He did not fancy the notion of going back to domestic service; after being his own master for so many years, for the vicar and churchwardens could say what they liked, it was he that had run St. Peter's, Neville Square, he could scarcely demean himself by accepting a situation. He had saved a tidy sum, but not enough to live on without doing something, and life seemed to cost more every year. He had never thought to be troubled with such questions. The vergers of St. Peter's, like the popes Rome, were there for life. He had often thought of the pleasant reference the vicar would make in his sermon at evensong the first Sunday after his death to the long and faithful service, and the exemplary character of their late verger, Albert Edward Foreman. He sighed deeply. Albert Edward was a non-smoker and a total abstainer, but with a certain latitude; that is to say he liked a glass of beer with his dinner and when he was tired he enjoyed a cigarette. It occurred to him now that one would comfort him and since he did not carry them he looked about him for a shop where he could buy a packet of Gold Flakes. He did not at once see one and walked on a little. It was a long street with all sorts of shops in it, but there was not a single one where you could buy cigarettes.

"That's strange," said Albert Edward.

To make sure he walked right up the street again. No, there was no doubt about it. He stopped and looked reflectively up and down.

"I can't be the only man as walks along this street and wants a fag," he said. "I shouldn't wonder but what a fellow might do very well with a little shop here. Tobacco and sweets, you know."

He gave a sudden start.

"That's an idea," he said. "Strange 'ow things come to you when you least expect it."

He turned, walked home, and had his tea.

"You're very silent this afternoon, Albert," his wife remarked.

"I'm thinkin'," he said.

He considered the matter from every point of view and next day he went along the street and by good luck found a little shop to let that looked as though it would exactly suit him. Twenty-four hours later he had taken it and when a month after that he left St. Peter's, Neville Square, for ever, Albert Edward Foreman set up in business as a tobacconist and newsagent. His wife said it was a dreadful come-down after being verger of St. Peter's, but he answered that you had to move with the times, the church wasn't what it was, and 'enceforward he was going to render unto Caesar what was Caesar's. Albert Edward did very well. He did so well that in a year or so it struck him that he might take a second shop and put a manager in. He looked for another long street that hadn't got a tobacconist in it and when he found it and a shop to let, took it and stocked it. This was a success too. Then it occurred to him that if he could run two he could run half a dozen, so he began walking about London, and whenever he found a long street that had no tobacconist and a shop to let he took it. In the course of ten years he had acquired no less than ten shops and he was making money hand over fist. He went round to all of them himself every Monday, collected the week's takings and took them to the bank.

One morning when he was there paying in a bundle of notes and a heavy bag of silver the cashier told him that the manager would like to see him. He was shown into an office and the manager shook hands with him.

"Mr. Foreman, I wanted to have a talk to you about the money you've got on deposit with us. D'you know exactly how much it is?"

"Not within a pound or two, sir; but I've got a pretty rough idea."

"Apart from what you paid in this morning it's a little over thirty thousand pounds. That's a very large sum to have on deposit and I should have thought you'd do better to invest it."

"I wouldn't want to take no risk, sir. I know it's safe in the bank."

"You needn't have the least anxiety. We'll make you out a list of absolutely gilt-edged securities. They'll bring you in a better rate of interest than we can possibly afford to give you."

A troubled look settled on Mr. Foreman's distinguished face. "I've never 'ad anything to do with stocks and shares and I'd 'ave to leave it all in your 'ands," he said.

The manager smiled. "We'll do everything. All you'll have to do next time you come in is just to sign the transfers."

"I could do that all right, said Albert uncertainly. "But 'ow should I know what I was signin'?"

"I suppose you can read," said the manager a trifle sharply.

Mr. Foreman gave him a disarming smile.

"Well, sir, that's just it. I can't. I know it sounds funny-like but there it is, I can't read or write, only me name, an' I only learnt to do that when I went into business."

The manager was so surprised that he jumped up from his chair.

"That's the most extraordinary thing I ever heard."

"You see it's like this, sir, I never 'ad the opportunity until it was too late and then some'ow I wouldn't. I got obstinate-like."

The manager stared at him as though he were a prehistoric monster.

"And do you mean to say that you've built up this important business and amassed a fortune of thirty thousand pounds without being able to read or write? Good God, man, what would you be now if you had been able to?"

"I can tell you that sir," said Mr. Foreman, a little smile on his still aristocratic features. "I'd be verger of St. Peter's, Neville Square."



What is the moral of the story? 

Is it that education is inversely proportional to material success? 

Does too much education curb ingenuity, restrict creativity and destroy leadership qualities?

Is it the moral of the story that fate or destiny is supreme?

Well I feel that the moral of the story is: 

When one door closes  many more doors open

It is true, isn’t it – that life is all about opportunities – seized opportunities and missed opportunities.

There are many more stories by Somerset Maugham that are among my favourites. 

About those, and so many more of my favourite stories by authors from around the world, I will continue to tell you from time to time in my blog. 

So do keep reading my blog and please give me your comments and feedback.

Till next time  Happy Reading

Copyright © Vikram Karve 
Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work. 
© vikram karve., all rights reserved. 

1. This story is a fictional 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.

Copyright Notice:
No part of this Blog may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical including photocopying or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the Blog Author Vikram Karve who holds the copyright.
Copyright © Vikram Karve (All Rights Reserved)
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

I, Vikram Karve, wrote this article more than 25 years ago in the early 1990s and I have posted it online in my blogs a number of times including at urls: and and etc 

Friday, April 27, 2018

How NWWA “Saved” My Marriage – a story from my Vizag Navy Days

After retirement – the only connection I have with the Navy is the Navy Foundation

We had a Navy Foundation Pune Chapter (NFPC) Meet on 08 April 2018. 

During this NFPC Meet – they gave us a copy of the latest 2018 issue of the Navy Foundation Magazine Quarterdeck 

While browsing through this delightful issue of Quarterdeck – I read a nostalgic piece “Vizag Vignettes” – and this evoked pleasant memories of my Vizag Navy Days in the late 1980’s – and – I remembered this hilarious story...


An interesting online conversation with a Military Wife on AWWA and AFWWA reminded me of this hilarious “memoir” from my Vizag (Visakhapatnam) Navy Days – a story that happened around 30 years ago – sometime in the late 1980’s. 

Before I tell you the story – I feel it will be apt to inform my civilian readers that AWWA (Army Wives Welfare Association) NWWA (Navy Wives Welfare Associaltion) and AFWWA (Air Force Wives Welfare Association) are voluntary organisations of military wives (of the respective defence services) with the noble objective of social welfare among families of defence personnel and military veterans. 

My “Better Half” cherishes fond memories of NWWA (called NOWA earlier) – especially in earlier days  when she participated in social activities and made a significant contribution towards the “Adult Education” aspect in the welfare domain. 

Later – once she started working – she could not participate in NWWA activities which were held in working hours. 

Now – after this rather prosaic prologue – let me tell you the story of How NWWA Saved My Marriage...
A Fictional Spoof

How NWWA Saved Our Marriage

Part 1

NOWA  SODA  NWWA  LOHA  (The Navy Ladies)

More than 40 years ago – in the 1970’s  it was a  delightful laissez-faire Navy – especially in Mumbai (then called Bombay).

Those days – I was a carefree Navy Bachelor – and they were the happiest days of my life.  

If you were carefree Navy Bachelor serving on a ship based in Mumbai  there was so much fun and life outside in Maximum City  that you barely knew what Naval Wives did  except for the occasional social interaction during one of those rare ship’s wardroom parties where ladies were invited.

Of course  if you were married – you had probably heard of an organisation called Naval Officers Wives Association (NOWA) – especially if your Captain’s wife was an active “Social Bee.

And  if you were a smart career conscious “upwardly-mobile” single “eligible bachelor” Naval Officer  it made sense to hobnob with SODA.

No  by SODA – I don’t mean the “soda” you mix with whisky.

I am referring to Senior Officers Daughters Association (SODA).

Needless to say  acquiring a SODA wife had great advantages  because you suddenly acquired lots of influential “uncles” and “aunties” in the service.

Now  once a “SODA” daughter married a Naval Officer  she also became a “NOWA” wife.

If you had a double benefit wife (“SODA + NOWA” wife)  she was an unbeatable winning combination who was guaranteed to propel you to high rank.

Now  with the entry of Lady Officers in the Navy  maybe it would be a good idea to start a Lady Officers Husbands Association (LOHA) for the Husbands of Lady Naval Officers to bond together.

Unfortunately  I did not have the honour of becoming a member of any of these exalted organisations.

1. I was not the wife of a Naval Officer  so I was not eligible for NOWA

2. I was not the daughter of a senior Naval Officer  so SODA was out of the reckoning.

3. I was not the husband of a Lady Naval Officer  so no LOHA for me.

I was just a mere Naval Officer

But  I am still confused about one thing.

Suppose a Female Naval Officer marries a Male Naval Officer.

Does the Lady Naval Officer become a member of NOWA...?

Or – does the Naval Officer Husband of the Lady Naval Officer become a member of LOHA...?

Can you wear uniform and still be a member of these “social” organisations by virtue of your marriage...?

I am sure some knowledgeable veteran will clear this doubt and educate us – and – tell us – if so  why so  and  if not  why not.

When I got married in 1982 – my newly wedded wife automatically became a member of NOWA.

I discovered this when I saw my monthly mess bill  and  I found that my NOWA contribution had been duly deducted.

In the Navy – you have no choice in these matters.

Whether you like it or not  the moment you get married  your wife becomes a member of NOWA  and  the subscription is compulsorily deducted.  

However  when I got married 36 years ago in 1982 – at that time  the Chief of the Naval Staff (CNS) was a lifelong Confirmed Bachelor.

The CNS was a true devoted Sea Dog – “married to the Navy” – and  he probably didn’t care much for NOWA (and other such wives associations).

So  in the absence of a “first lady”  it seemed that NOWA was adrift and defunct  at least in New Delhi  where I was posted at that time.

Meanwhile  my wife started working  and  I do not recall her going to any NOWA event.

She was an active member of the “Ladies Club” at IAT Pune (an inter-service institution) which my wife regularly attended  and she contributed significantly in enhancing Adult Literacy through Adult Education activities. 

Thereafter  when we were posted to Mumbai (then called Bombay)  I don’t think she participated in NOWA at Mumbai – since – we lived in Vasant Sagar in Churchgate – quite far away from the Navy Township  and – while I was busy on a ship – my wife was busy with our small son.

The only time my wife actively participated in NWWA was when we were posted to Vizag (Visakhapatnam).

Yes  you read right. 

Now – NOWA had become NWWA 

Yes – sometime in the mid 1980’s  NOWA was renamed as NWWA.

We love changing names – names of roads are changed  names of cities have been changed.

In the Navy too  “Supply and Secretariat” (S&S) became “Logistics”  TAS (Torpedo Anti-Submarine) became ASW (Anti-Submarine Warfare)  inter-service training “schools” became “colleges” and “institutes”  and even Naval Headquarters (NHQ) has become IHQ (Integrated Headquarters).

Similarly  Naval Officers Wives Association (NOWA) was re-christened Navy Wives Welfare Association (NWWA)

Those were halcyon NWWA days in Visakhapatnam (Vizag)  which was jokingly called the “Entertainment Naval Command” (ENC)  the others being the “Working Naval Command” (WNC) at Bombay (Mumbai)  and  “Sleeping Naval Command” (SNC) at Cochin (Kochi).

My son had started going to school  I was away sailing on my frontline warship most of the time  and my “homemaker” wife thoroughly enjoyed NWWA activities  and  she made lots of friends.

Besides social events like those grand “husbands’ night” parties with magnificent entertainment and delicious food   NWWA did a lot of genuine welfare and education activities too  in which my wife loved to participate.

Once my daughter arrived (our second child)  my wife had to taper off from NWWA activities to bring up the baby.

The story I am about to narrate occurred during this period. 

Part 2


The most eagerly awaited event of Naval Social Calendar is the annual Navy Ball held in December.

And the two highlights of the Navy Ball are the Fashion Show and the Navy Queen Contest.

We were surprised to see that the Vizag Navy Ball was much more grandiose than the Mumbai Navy Ball – the fashion show had top models walking the ramp  and the Navy Queen Contest had the best of gorgeous beauties participating since this prestigious beauty pageant was a stepping stone for a career in showbiz and the glamour world.

Then things changed.

There was a new C-in-C.

His wife automatically became the ex officio Head of NWWA by virtue of her husband’s appointment.

NWWA is the acronym for Navy Wives Welfare Association – earlier known as Naval Officers Wives Association (NOWA)

The new Head of NWWA (C-in-C’s wife) was a charismatic and forceful personality. 

The C-in-C’s wife had an indomitable persona – she even dominated her hubby  the C-in-C – who wisely focused on professional affairs – and let his wife run social affairs.

Also – the new C-in-C’s wife was a staunch feminist  and she had “progressive” ideas.

She decreed that there would be no “commodification” of women.

So  the Navy Queen Contest was scrapped.

Instead of the Navy Queen Pageant  there would be a made-for-each-other couple contest. 

The “feminist” NWWA Head-Honcho also scrapped the Fashion Show by Female Models – because – as I told you earlier – the “activist” NWWA Boss was against the “commodification” of women.

Now – the Navy Queen Contest and Fashion Show were the highlights of the Navy Ball.

So  with the scrapping of the Navy Queen Contest and Fashion Show – all interest in the Navy Ball waned.

The sale of tickets for the Navy Ball fell sharply.

This problem was solved by compulsory sale of tickets to all officers. 

All Officers were ordered to attend the Navy Ball.

The second problem was that there were no entries for the “made-for-each-other couple” contest.

The high profile Navy Queen Pageant was an open competition – and – the Navy Queen contest used to attract a large number of entries from young ladies – from Vizag  and  even from places as far away as Calcutta (now Kolkata) Hyderabad, Bhubaneswar and Madras (now Chennai).

However  it seemed that no married couple wanted to sashay on the ramp for the “made-for-each-other couple” contest.

Yes  only married couples were eligible for the “made-for-each-other couple” contest. 

Well – the NWWA head-honcho may have been a self-styled feminist  but apparently she was not a “liberated” feminist.

Civilian couples of Vizag did not fancy parading on the ramp  and  it seemed that the Navy Couples too were not keen on participating in the “made-for-each-other couple” contest. 

After many years of Navy Queen Contests  people were quite skeptical about this new “made-for-each-other couple” contest.

So  there was not even a single entry for the “made-for-each-other couple” contest.

The powers-that-be were disappointed with the poor response.

So  NWWA was pressed into action.

All “young” wives were told to “report” with their husbands for the preliminary round of the “made-for-each-other couple” contest in the ENC Wardroom Officers Mess.

My wife ignored the missive.

She did not even tell me about it.

In fact  most Navy Wives did the same.

The result was that just 3 couples turned up for the preliminary round.

They could have crowned the 3 couples then and there – as the winner – the first runner-up – and  second runner-up – of the “made-for-each-other couple” contest.

But  this did not happen.

The “head honcho” of NWWA was furious.

She was determined to make a grand success of her “trailblazer” idea – the “made-for-each-other couple” contest  which was being held for the first time in the Navy Ball.

Her prestige was at stake.

Yes – for her  the success of the “made-for-each-other couple” contest became a “prestige issue”.

So – she pressed her cohorts into action.

Qualitative Requirements (QRs) were drawn up  and “target couples” were identified for the “made-for-each-other couple” contest. 

Lists of “target couples” were sent to ships and units  and commanding officers were ordered to direct those officers and their lady wives to “volunteer” – and be present for the preliminary round of the “made-for-each-other couple” contest that evening.

Simultaneously  similar parallel “directives” were passed on to the Navy Wives via NWWA channels.

Unfortunately  we  my Wife and Me  were identified as a “target couple”.

A message was accordingly passed on to me  that my wife and I should be present for the preliminary round of the contest at 7 PM in the evening – my wife in a Sari  and M in Red Sea Rig Navy Uniform. 

I decided to ignore the “order”.

When I reached home  before I could speak  my agitated wife told me about the visit of some NWWA office-bearer” ladies.

She was upset.

She had told the NWWA flunkies that she could not leave our baby daughter alone at home  and hence  she could not participate in the “made-for-each-other couple” contest.

But  the NWWA coterie gang refused to listen to her pleas. 

They said that NWWA had made Baby Care arrangements at the Navy Ball.  

My wife bluntly told them that she was not interested in taking part in the “made-for-each-other couple” contest. 

The NWWA coterie gang dropped subtle hints that her “negative” attitude may not be good for my career.

Remember  this was ENC – the “Entertainment Naval Command”.

We had earlier been posted in WNC – the “Working Naval Command” – where the culture was different – and – for my wife  this was the first time NWWA was exerting pressure and compelling her to do something she did not want to do.

I did not want to force my wife to do anything against her will  especially participate in such a “made-for-each-other couple” contest  which I thought was quite ludicrous. 

We decided not to participate in the “made-for-each-other couple” contest.

So – w my wife and Me  we did not go for the preliminary round for the “made-for-each-other couple” contest. 

We were duly marked “absent”.

Part 3


Next morning  my boss  a Commodore  summoned me to his office.

The Commodore looked at me – and he said to me: 

“Look here. You know me. I never interfere in the personal lives of my officers. But – I beg you – please take your wife and go for that bloody preliminary round of the “made-for-each-other” couple contest in the evening...”

“Sir, the preliminary round was last evening...” I said.

“Well – last evening – only 5 couples landed up. So – the preliminary round of the “made-for-each-other couple contest is re-scheduled at 7 PM this evening. You buggers don’t go for events – and we are being asked explanations from the top. Please make sure you go. I know you have a small son and a baby daughter. My wife will look after them. But you and your wife – please go for the preliminary round of the “made-for-each-other” couple contest  for heaven’s sake – please go – otherwise...” he pleaded with me.

“Sir, my wife …” I tried to reason with him.

“No excuses. I don’t want to hear any excuses...” my boss said.

“Sir, please listen …” I pleaded.

“What …?” my boss asked. 

I looked at my boss – and – with a sad face – I said to him:

“My marriage is on the rocks. 

My wife and Me – we are not on speaking terms. 

There is so much marital discord  that it looks like my marriage is going to break up – it seems that we are heading for a divorce...” 

“What...? Divorce...? Your marriage is on the rocks...? You never told me all this...!” my boss said – with a surprised look on his face.

“I am sorry, Sir – but under these circumstances of marital discord – I don’t think it is appropriate for us to take part in the made-for-each-other couple contest...” I said sheepishly.

“Okay. I can understand. I will tell them. But you must sort out things with your wife. You have small children. You may have some marital discord  but divorce is not a solution. You must try and make your marriage work. You must take some help in these matters. I will try and see what I can do to help you save your marriage. You can go now...” my boss said to me – with a worried look on his face.

Back in my office  I congratulated myself for my quick thinking  which had extricated us from the “made-for-each-other couple” contest.

Then  I had a good laugh to myself.

While I was laughing  my boss was acting.

My Boss made a two calls.

First  he called up the NWWA powers-that-be.

Then  he called up his wife.

The result was that we were declared a “marital discord case” – and the NWWA “Marriage Counselling Cell” was asked to intervene – and try to “save” our marriage – which was “on-the-rocks”.

Now  ladies love to gossip – especially NWWA Ladies. 

S the rumor mill was instantaneously abuzz  and various theories about our marriage were floated by “know-it-all” gossip-mongers.

“They are incompatible...” the more charitable ladies said about us.

But  most ladies agreed that it was me  as the husband  who was fully to blame for the “breakdown” of our marriage.

Some ladies let their imagination run wild – they declared that I was a terrible fellow – and a few bitchy ladies even painted me as a “drunkard” and “wife-beater”.

Luckily  the NWWA “Marriage Counsellor” lived directly above our house in Naval Park  and she knew us well.

The NWWA “Marriage Counsellor” got a call from the NWWA “Head Honcho”. 

The NWWA “Head Honcho” asked the NWWA “Marriage Counsellor” to talk to us  and then brief her on the “marital discord case”.

The NWWA “Marriage Counsellor” had a hearty laugh. 

Then  the NWWA “Marriage Counsellor” said to the NWWA “Head-Honcho”: 

“Ma’am  I know them very well. 

They are my neighbours – they live just below my house. 

Nothing is wrong with their marriage. 

In fact  I had a chat with the wife just a few moments ago on the way up to my house. 

It looks like her naughty husband is up to some mischief. 

I will tell her about his prank  and she will straighten him out...” 

“Are you sure...?” the NWWA “Head Honcho” asked the NWWA “Marriage Counsellor”

On hearing this – the NWWA “Marriage Counsellor” remarked about us: 

“I have seen so many marriages. 

My marriage may breakup  your marriage may breakup  but they are not going to split – that’s for sure...” 

The NWWA “Marriage Counsellor” felt that we – my Wife and Me – we were a “made-for-each-other couple” 

Yes – the “Marriage Counsellor” felt that – despite outside appearances – we were – in fact  a Genuine “made-for-each-other couple”.

In her opinion  we were not a Fake “made-for-each-other couple” – like many others – who put on external appearances and lovey-dovey Public Display of Affection (PDA) for the outside world – but internally  their marriages were not that “happy”.

(Well – that was her opinion)

When I reached home in the evening – I saw that my “marriage counsellor” neighbour and my wife  both of them – they were waiting for me.

I told them everything  and we had a big laugh.

And yes  thereafter  no one asked us to take part in the “made-for-each-other couple” contest 

The contest was won by a truly “made-for-each-other couple” – who were good friends of ours.

After this  for the rest of our tenure in Vizag  my embarrassed wife steered clear of NWWA  in order to avoid the knowing looks of pity and sympathy from ladies  for suffering such terrible husband like me (since rumors never die).

By the way  the moment the C-in-C was posted out from Vizag  and he left Vizag along with his “feminist” wife – the “made-for-each-other couple” contest was scrapped and discarded. 

The new C-in-C made sure that the traditional Navy Queen Pageant in the Navy Ball was started once again. 

As they say in the Navy: “Normal Service Resumed”


Dear Reader: 

I haven’t attended the Navy Ball since retirement. 

I only hope that the Navy Ball with its unique Navy Queen Pageant and Fashion Show continues to this day (unless – someone has again changed things again just to suit his/her “whims and fancies”). 

If a Naval Officer or Navy Wife is reading this – do tell us about the latest trends in the Navy Ball – which  in our halcyon days in the Navy – was the pièce de résistance event of the Navy Week.  

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1. This story is a fictional 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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