Posting my article that has been featured in Veerangana 2014.
It was my first tryst with anything associated with the Navy and I was swept off my feet – not in the romantic kind of way (though it may well have played the role of a catalyst) but by the chivalry and genuine concern shown towards us by a group of gentlemen whom we barely knew.
It was late on a cold December evening and we had just finished watching an open air classical music concert – part of the many cultural fests that Pune would play host to – especially in the winter months when the weather was pleasant. We were a large group of college friends who would enthusiastically frequent such events, spurred by a common interest in dance and music. Although unthinkable in today’s day and age, those were safer times and we would roam on our two-wheelers as we pleased. At this particular concert, one of my friends had announced that her cousin, a young naval officer would also be attending with his batch mates. We really didn’t give it much thought at the time, little knowing that this evening was to completely change the course of my life and that of my best friend.
The programme culminated in a musical crescendo and it was past 11pm. We exited the gates and moved towards where we had parked our scooters, still at a high from the wonderful performance. We were about to ride away when we saw my friend’s cousin and his companions approaching and gesturing us to wait. They said that they would ride their bikes alongside and escort us to our homes. We politely declined their offer saying that we would be quite alright but they would have none of it. They were as good as their word and it was only after they had dropped each of us 12 girls to our respective doorsteps that they went their way.
It was a simple gesture really but yet it bowled us over, and out of a genuine desire to keep in touch with our new and gallant friends, it sowed the seeds of an enduring friendship, which over the course of letters and phone calls, eventually turned into a bond of a lifetime.
It’s been 17 years now and I feel just as swept of my feet with pride as I walk beside my husband – dashing and debonair in his Navy whites – a gentleman to the core. If I had to sum up in just a sentence what I like most about being associated with the armed forces, it is the charm of the old world chivalry that it extends towards women – not condescending in any manner but as an acknowledgement of their quiet but brave role in holding together home and hearth through difficult times. It is a tribute to her indomitable strength, her irrepressible spirit, her infinite reserves of love and her unending capacity for hope and optimism. I am sure that it must have been these very sentiments from which was born the tradition of offering a salute to every woman who graces the gangway of a ship.
If only the services way of life could be emulated by the civilian world – where upholding the honour of a woman would become a tradition and not an exception – ingrained in the very fabric of its ethos and inculcated in young impressionable minds. I would like to hold on to this thought and in true spirit of optimism make a wish that this aspiration sees the light of day.
My 17 year old tryst with the Navy continues to gather more memories, but the very first one remains by far my favourite!