A sailor's life

A sailor's life

As a newly married officer’s wife, my initiation into the Indian Navy was in a city far far away from the coast. So when I first landed up at the mess for a party, the ladies and other officers regaled me with stories about how grand the parties were on ships and in cities like Mumbai and Vizag.

As a journalist, I have always been a keen listener and ask a lot of questions. Hence, I was surprised to find many officers, especially those in their late 30s and early 40s, having diverse interests like reading, poetry, biking, singing and a number of hobbies. The calm and quiet environs in which they lived, the access to clubs for a workout in the gym, swimming pool, billiards room and tennis courts gave them a truly ideal lifestyle that kept their families cocooned, giving them the aptitude to pursue various interests.

I still think that an officer in the armed forces can hold a conversation on any topic with ease and a candid attitude. This, I find lacking in the corporate world. There is always an air of chivalry, sophistication and smartness that surrounds an officer which I find extremely endearing. As a journalist with a leading publication, I was at the receiving end on more than one occasion. Once a senior officer said to me, ‘’who is that correspondent who writes on defence affairs--I want to wring his neck’’.

He was referring to a personal tragic incident concerning a sailor, which was reported as a misdemeanour on the part of the entire establishment. He passionately continued, “what does he know about our men, toiling day and night in extreme conditions to protect our borders?’’

I was once seated next to a visiting Vice-Admiral during the mess get-togethers. The conversation inevitably led to my occupation, and the admiral, who till a few moments ago was most charming and friendly, withdrew into a shell and turned frosty, trying to make conversation with someone else across the table. During times like this, my anxious husband would try to catch my eye from the far corner of the lawn, asking with his eyes, ‘is everything alright? I cannot come to your rescue, dear.’ The writing bug seemed to have caught on amongst the officers too. They would invite me to view their blogs, or ask if they could send a poem for publication. I was particularly fascinated by their accounts of mischievous pranks during their academy days.

My husband’s course mates too had come fully prepared to amuse me with a power point presentation of their adventures on the day of our engagement, but my husband managed to stall them. I am yet to see the PPT, but I think it was deleted in exchange for a party from my husband. So on our engagement day, when we cut the giant cake in the shape of a ship with a pen as the anchor, a symbolic representation of our professional lives, the words of an uncle, also a retired army man rings in my ears…’’the pen may be mightier than the sword, but the pen also needs the protection of the sword.”

These men in uniform commit their lives for a cause—their passion and integrity is unquestionable. Here’s to their courage which makes our destiny as a democracy vibrant and liberating.

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