Thursday, May 10, 2007

On board

The thing about the Defence Forces is saab. Captain Jay has a flunky (a sipahi assistant) who attends to him all the time. He takes care of his dog Leo, succumbed to motherly worry when the canine was bit by a leech (may very well have squashed that bloated bloodsucker had he chanced upon it), knows what saab wants on each day of the week, and fights with the cook to get those dishes prepared.

When Jay left home to join the NDA, he left as the son of a father who had a watch shop. He had bored his family and friends to death with Paramvir Chakra stories and other tales of its ilk. A mediocre runner until then, very soon, he became quite competent at cross-country running. If he was hurt in tournaments between squadrons, the entire squad would go all out to help him. Because he had started boxing well, too. In due course, he could perform more than 40 cream rolls (a front and a back roll in succession) a minute. The Indian Government has invested 17.5 lakhs in him at the NDA, and a few lakhs more at the IMA. Every round that he fires from his firearm costs the exchequer a few hundred bucks. In practice, he empties rounds after rounds at dummy targets. In encounters, he has seen magazines being emptied into a single militant.

Jay is posted in high insurgency Assam. Bodo and ULFA. Now, he’s on vacation, though, and ogling at girls with as much religiosity as he practises running.

Jay’s friend, Lieutenant Dhara, junior to him by one year at the NDA, joined the Navy. On board INS Tarangini from Muscat to Kochi was by far his most excruciating experience ever. He would keep watch for uninterrupted lengths of 4 hours on the crow’s nest, at the very end of a 33 m long mast, with a pair of binoculars. In freezing rain, amidst strong winds, under starry nightskies, and with twinkling shorelines on the near horizon. He would of course have someone (they work in buddy pairs) with him at the top, who would be puking as the ship rolled and pitched. It was quite similar to the descent in a Ferris wheel, he quips now. When the deck tilted by even 5 degrees, at the crow’s nest, both would trace a huge arc of vomit in the drenched air.

Dhara is with INS Mumbai, a Delhi-class destroyer of the Indian Navy. Very soon, he’ll be shifted to Vizag. Every shell that he fires from his vessel burns 6 lakh rupees. He handles equipments whose costs run into crores. He’s chiefly in logistics now—managing the ship’s mess, organising functions that entail the participation of officers from the entire fleet, and catching up with old friends like Jay (with whom I have tagged along to the Sailing Club of the Indian Navy Waterfront Training Centre at Colaba in Mumbai). He opines that if he quits the Navy and works for an MNC as an HR consultant, he would earn a fortune.

Both of them, Jay and Dhara, are eagerly, with breath that’s just about on hold, anticipating the 6th Pay Commission that promises to, at least, double their salaries. They want working spouses who can lead their own lives and who do not expect their husbands to be there at their beck and call every morning. Maybe, they can deal with it if their spouses want the same from them too. Both are slightly amused when punctuality and discipline come up in conversations. For them, reporting at 8, when you are supposed to report at 8, is actually late. On time is 745. This is what they have learnt and what they hopefully practice beyond their work too. Both sometimes use the word civilians when referring to the populace outside their cocoons. Both live for themselves and their band of brothers; both fight for a geographical construct called nation, where strangers are differentiated as countrymen and infiltrators.

26 comments:

Goli said...

As always very well written, really liked the post. :D.

satyajit said...

goli: these guys really lead diff lives..makes you wonder how much little you do

thanks..i feel smug :-)

Shyamashree said...

After a long time read a good blog(especially when i knw abt whom are u talkin!)...but good work!

satyajit said...

shyamashree: thanks..

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Charlotte said...

This got anything to do with the time you hung out with some navy friend, when you were able to aqcuire cheap yet good quality booze?

:frowns, in green:
(for want of hi-qual, 30-buck booze)

Apart from that, I like the tone of your post. It strongly reminds me of Indian writing in English.

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Good Job mate...yet miles to go

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