Unusually reminiscent of my childhood I am. A few conversations with an Uncle (Dads course mate - Batch of 1978) from the Navy and his wife have sent me down memory lane. And what wonderful memories to be reminded of!
I had the bestest upbringing. The Navy way. Of saying 'Good Morning and Good Evening' instead of 'Hi Uncle', of waiting for the Kraft cheese and Sausage tins from the monthly ration, of cycling down to IMSC (Integrated mess and sports complex) each morning at 6, only to be back home at noon after a morning of Badminton and swimming and piano lessons!
Of using short forms like NOFRA (Naval Officers Flats and Residential Area) to USC (United services club) and SNOFS (Senior Naval Officers flats) and attending functions like Beating the Retreat at Gateway where the country's best Band plays (The Naval Band), and Navy Ball where the sweaty stinky boys you usually play b'ball and badminton look like handsome young men in tuxedos and blazers and ties and girls are as pretty as can be. It was also when i was asked by a 'boy' for my first dance. Albeit in front of my folks and flustered as i was, i managed a meek 'but I'm leaving with my parents'. Never mind that I had played out a scene of a handsome young man asking me for a dance and Suave sophisticated lil me will gracefully offer him my hand with a flirty swish of my hair, and the delicate whiff of my perfume will just graze his nose...lol. But still given a 15 year old girl i did pretty well with the 'err i gotta go thanks for asking'
Its of Navy buses and Route no 5 which was mine, where the driver knew my dad and the liftmen knew my dad and the watchmen and the sailors and everyone knew my dad. Everyone respected my dad. In the Navy, every ones known for his work and his designation--- and he earns it in respect. That's a big difference in that life and this. In this life, you are what you are by where you buy a flat and which car you drive. In that life, you are what you are by what you do and how you command respect. Till date we have sailors and juniors and seniors who still respect him the same way. Its that lifetime of honour and awe and dedication that others displayed then, and display now that my dad will keep harvesting. . Its like Pension, with no money... but so much more.
Its of living in the best part of Mumbai, where each tree is painted red and white near the roots and has a count, where each building would get painted nearly each year right before Navy Week. Its about celebrating Navy day with your birthday, and feeling like all the ships are celebrating too. Its about first being Commander so and so's daughter and then being yourself, which I love.
Its just percolating some of that awe down to yourself.
Some people refer to me as 'Commander' jokingly, little knowing that to append that title to a persons name he spends close to 20 years of his life dedicated to the line of duty, with family and self coming second to loyalty to his job and integrity to the country. I would tell them I don't like it one bit, that they have no right to call me that simply because I don't deserve it, and neither does the title to be used in that light, but they wont understand... You need to feel it, or you wont get it.
Its in the uniforms, from the white sparkling shoes to the cap and the brass baton which was a weekly chore assigned to me. To be polished to a mirror shine with brass-o and a rag each Sunday morning. After which I must proceed with bucket of water and another rag to Maruti 800 (1988 model) and Bajaj scooter and my very own bicycle for their weekly wash. The best part of this was being seen walking to the garage and uncles and aunty's looking at me in admiration and passing on praise to my folks. Of course I rubbed it in and scrubbed extra hard when the car was parked outside the garage when people could actually see. and extra extra hard when a certain crush would be standing at his window looking out. (Darn the standard checked shorts teamed with a white t shirt. if i had my way, i would've had on my nice new wrap around skirt =) )
Its in the simplicity, and deep rooted integrity, firm handshake, punctuality, respect for others and family, in the doing things yourself and taking pride in it, small rewards, in knowing you have to move every 3 years and still loving it, fierce loyalty and steadfast dedication to duty. Its in all these wonderful things that today's generations live their lives without...
My uncle was (rightly) of the view that today's generation is a spoilt lot. This is of course generally speaking and there are a lot of exceptions to the rule. Today's generation is brought up in a world of cut throat competition, survival of the fittest and an intrinsic hunger to grow more and more successful i.e. earn more money. This of course could branch out into another topic altogether.
My brother, 9 years my junior is currently spending his formative years in a So-Bo neighbourhood where kids as old as 7 bring their own i-pods down to play. Never mind value for money. I regret him not having the life i did. The opportunities I enjoyed, the sports i played and the view I had from my balcony. the saving grace is he wants to join the armed forces.