Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The serving and the retired navy - can we do more

While attending a dinner party in a ‘Coffee Decoction’ friend’s house http://samundarbaba.blogspot.com/2010/09/coffee-decoction-friends.html the topic of Navy Day celebrations in Bangalore cropped up.

The first week of December is celebration time for the Indian Navy – during the week, it projects the navy to the Indian public through various activities – ships, establishments and dock yards are opened to the public. Ships at anchorage adorn ceremonial flags during the day and light up at night. In some places they get to see the navy in action. Naval bands enthrall the public with martial tunes. The Navy Ball provides the glamour quotient to the men in white. The navy top brass hold ‘At Home’ parties wherein the city’s politicians, bureaucracy, police, industrialists and veterans get to meet each other over a cup of tea and bask in the glory of Navy Day. In short, it is an opportunity for the navy to bond with Civi Street.

In smaller naval stations such as Bangalore, normally the ‘Navy Day’ reception is held in the Naval Mess. The function is attended by all the serving naval officers and their ladies from the station. In addition a few officers from the sister services are also invited. In the case of veterans, an allocation is made to cover their representation – say 20 or 30 couples etc. The Air Force on the other hand puts out an advert in all the local and national news papers inviting the veterans to attend ‘Air Force Day’ celebrated in their various messes. Some of the senior retired Air Force officers told me that this tradition is in vogue since a very long time.

During the ensuing discussion, I maintained that the navy should be more magnanimous on this occasion and invite all the veterans wherever they are with open arms. There are extremely few opportunities in smaller stations, where in the retired meet the serving. Navy day is one occasion, wherein the veterans will be able to stand (may be displaying their medals) next to the man in uniform and ‘Elbow Bend’ in reminiscence. As one grows old – the need for recognition and to feel wanted is on the increase. The old feel happy when they are invited. Whenever I receive an official invitation from the navy – I feel proud and honoured. I have always enjoyed mixing with young officers and learning about what is new in the navy.

In my opinion, the serving navy has a moral responsibility towards the retired community and should encourage greater bonding between the two. We always go to town proclaiming we are different from the rest – Cradle to Grave, camaraderie, Brothers – in – Arms etc – our claims are true to an extent, but they need to be nurtured and encouraged. The serving navy has all the attributes such as – place, organization, money, manpower and a host of other thing in abundance. Once a year, is all that one asks. Also the today’s serving navy is tomorrow’s retired lot. It stands to reason, that while in service, we build up a healthy tradition.

If the veterans feel that enough recognition has not come our way – let us not blame the government and bureaucracy for all our woes. The phrase ‘charity begins at home’ holds true. The Navy should take the lead and recognize its veterans and showcase the relationship.

In the final analysis all that I ask is “Give me the opportunity to feel connected with the serving navy”.

A bit of history :

21 October 1944- The Royal Indian Navy celebrated 'Navy Day' for the first time. This met with considerable success and aroused enthusiasm not only in the ports where parades were held but also in inland centres, where public meetings were organized.

01 December 1945 - Encouraged by its success, it was decided to organize similar functions every year on a larger scale, and later, in the season when the weather was cooler. Accordingly, the second “Navy Day” was celebrated in Bombay and Karachi on December 01, 1945.

15 December 1968 - In due course, “Navy Day” came to be celebrated on ‘15 December’ and the week in which '15 December' fell was observed as the ‘Navy Week’

04 Dec 1971 - To go back in time - On December 3rd 1971 in a radio broadcast shortly before midnight, the then Prime Minister, Smt Indira Gandhi, addressed the nation. She said "I have no doubt that by the united will of the people, the wanton and unprovoked aggression of Pakistan should be decisively and finally repelled.....aggression must be met and the people of India will meet it with fortitude, determination, discipline and utmost unity....." In response to the call of the nation, the Indian Navy planned a most audacious and daring attack in the history of naval warfare ‘Operation Trident' http://bangalore.citizenmatters.in/articles/view/2586-navy-d  (Celebrating maritime victories - Lessons from the sea for a landlocked city). Each year on the 4th of December, the Indian Navy celebrates ‘Navy Day" to commemorate our courageous attack on the Pakistani ships and harbour.


As I was writing this blog, I received a call from Raghunathan to say that one of our course mates, Gp Capt RPM Nair had passed away. We rushed to the Hebbal electric crematorium to pay our last respects. To bid farewell on his last journey – there were his immediate family, close relatives, friends, course mates and the serving Air Force.

This quote sums up the way America thinks about veterans;

“A veteran is someone who, at one point in his/her life, wrote a blank check made payable to "The United States of America," for an amount of "up to and including my life." unknown author.

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