Sunday, August 2, 2015

Navy Memories – Why I Grew a Beard


Suppose I had not joined the Navy – I may not have started drinking – and – I may not have grown a beard.

Well – I quit drinking more than 12 years ago – but my majestic beard is still going strong for almost 38 years – uninterrupted – yes – once I grew my beard – I never shaved it off – even temporarily.

Let me tell you why I grew a beard... 

Harking Back to My Glorious Navy Days

If you are an unemployed unwanted uncelebrated “retired” navy veteran like me  what is the best thing to do?


Yes  I can hark back in time and reminisce – and I can talk about my “good old navy days”.

But  what do I do if there is no one to talk to?

I can write about my unforgettable reminiscences.

Well  that is exactly what I am going to do now.

I will hark back in time to my early navy days  take you back to the 1970’s  and tell you why  thanks to the Navy  I grew my handsome beard  which adorns my face till today.

By the way  if I had not joined the Navy  I probably would not have kept a beard.

Yes  before I joined the Navy  I was clean shaven  and I had never contemplated having a beard.

But then when you join the Navy  everything changes – and you change – whether it is for the better or for the worse – well  that depends on you!

I remember my first day at the Naval Academy in Cochin (now called Kochi).

The moment we reported to the academy  an army of barbers descended on us to chop off most of the copious hair adoring our heads – and shave the stubble on our faces.

We were given crew cuts  and our faces were shaven clean.

A few young men did have moustaches  but these moustaches were ruthlessly removed.

At the Naval Academy  even moustaches were not permitted – and all trainees had to be “clean shaven”.


Dear Reader – before I proceed further with my story  let me digress  and tell you a bit about the navy tradition of sailors keeping beards.

After independence  we imbibed our military traditions from our erstwhile rulers – the British – and accordingly  our Navy adopted the customs and traditions of the Royal Navy.

Hence  even on the subject of moustaches and beards  the Indian Navy had adopted, verbatim, the regulations of the British Navy  which required that a naval officer or sailor had either to have both beard and moustache or neither.

This means that you had to have a “full-set beard” (a full beard and moustache).

The beard must be complete  joined from sideburns  covering the entire jawline and chin  and joining the moustache.

A Navy Officer or Sailor had to have a “full-set beard” or nothing.

A moustache on its own was not permitted.

You were required to obtain the approval of your Commanding Officer to “discontinue shaving” or to “continue shaving” – every time you wanted to change your appearance.

If you wanted to grow a beard  you had to put in a request to stop shaving – yes  you had to formally seek permission to “cease shaving”.

If your request was granted  you were allowed three weeks (21 days) to grow your beard.

During this time of 21 days  as the beard grew  the beard grower was not permitted to go ashore or to be seen in public until the Commanding Officer felt that the beard was fit for public viewing.

A Naval Officer or Sailor was required to have a rugged, “full set”, masculine looking, well-developed beard which gave you a macho appearance.

Wispy or wimpy looking beards were not allowed  and “designer stubble” was certainly not permitted.

If the Commanding Officer (Captain) approved of your beard  you were allowed to keep it.

But if your Commanding Officer deemed your beard unworthy of a seaman  you were ordered to “shave off” your beard.

Suppose you were allowed to have a beard  and you kept the beard for a few years  but later  if you wanted to shave off your beard  you had to seek permission to “start shaving”.

Beards were not permitted in the Army and Air Force – but you were allowed to keep moustaches.

Yes  if you are in the army or air force  you can either keep your face clean shaven  or you can keep a moustache (without a beard).

I am sure the Army and Air Force have regulations governing moustaches which specify the types of moustaches permitted, sizes, shapes, styles etc.

But I have seen that the Air Force has a fondness for handlebar moustaches  and so do some Artillery Officers.

Sadly – many officers now prefer the “metrosexual” clean shaven look – in the Navy – and in the Army and Air Force too.


Sometime in the 1970’s  due to pressures from youngsters and to be in sync with prevailing customs  the Indian Navy relaxed the provisions governing wearing of moustaches and beards.

The regulations were amended so that  now  the issue of permitting “moustaches without beards” was left to the Commanding Officer’s discretion.

After these amendments  the Captain could permit officers and sailors to wear moustaches and beards or shave them off, if they so desired. 

Moustaches and beard could be worn with or without the beard and moustaches respectively. 

Side whiskers were permitted down to the level of the lobe of the ear. 

Moustaches, beard and whiskers had to be neatly cut and trimmed. 

Of course – this privilege may be withdrawn in cases of untidy growth.

This relaxation has resulted in many navy youngsters sporting moustaches.

Of course  the seasoned sea-dogs preferred “full-set” beards.


After completing our basic naval training  we were sent for our specialization course.

As I told you earlier  consequent to the relaxation of “appearance” regulations  a few young officers had started sporting moustaches  and I too felt like having a moustache.

So  the moment we reported for the specialization course  I applied for permission to grow a moustache.

The Commanding Officer refused permission.

I protested to my training officer  but he showed me the regulations which stated that granting permission for moustache was the Commanding Officer’s prerogative.

“Sir  suppose I seek permission to grow a beard?” I asked.

“If you apply for permission to grow a beard  he will have to grant you permission  at least for three weeks,” the Training Officer said.

My request to “cease shaving” was promptly granted.

I stopped shaving  and my beard started to grow.

Around 15 days later  during Friday morning divisions (parade)  the Commanding Officer  who was inspecting the Under Trainee Officers Division, suddenly stopped before me.

The Commanding Officer looked at my face  as if scrutinizing it  and he said, “You look good in a beard. Your beard suits you. Keep it.”

This happened more than 37 years ago  and my beloved beard has already celebrated its 37th birthday a few months ago.

Quite funny  isn’t it?

I wanted to grow a moustache  but  thanks to quirks of the Navy  I landed up growing a beard instead.

But once I grew my beard  I started liking my beard  and soon my beard became so sacrosanct to me  that I never shaved it off.

I love my majestic beard.

My beard has been my loyal companion throughout my entire naval career  and now my beard is my faithful friend in my lonely retirement days

I am proud of my beard.

I am glad I have a beard.

In hindsight  I do not know whether joining the Navy was good for me  or whether I would have done better in the “civvy street”.

But  one thing is for sure.

I owe my beard to the Navy.

Had it not been for the Navy  I may not have kept a beard.

And as I write this  from time to time  I lovingly caress my lovely beard. 


In conclusion  let me give you 3 quotes on beards:

A woman with a beard looks like a man – and a man without a beard looks like a woman
~ Afghan saying

There are two kinds of people in this world that go around beardless – boys and women – and I am neither one
~ Greek saying

He that hath a beard is more than a youth  and he that hath no beard is less than a man
~ William Shakespeare

Copyright © Vikram Karve 
1. If you share this post, please give due credit to the author Vikram Karve
2. Please DO NOT PLAGIARIZE. Please DO NOT Cut/Copy/Paste this post
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

All Stories in this Blog are a work of fiction. Events, Places, Settings and Incidents narrated in the story are a figment of my imagination. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Copyright Notice:
No part of this Blog may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical including photocopying or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the Blog Author Vikram Karve who holds the copyright.

Copyright © Vikram Karve (all rights reserved)

Revised Version of my story posted online earlier in my Academic and Creative Writing Journal Blog on 21 Sep 2014 at url:  and on 29 April 2015 at url:

Saturday, August 1, 2015

The Navy Wife with “Lady Like Qualities” (LLQ)

It is heartening to see so many “faujans (Military Wives) in the Blogosphere. 

I am sure there are many talented Bloggers among Defence Wives who write on a variety of subjects. 

I particularly like 3 Blogs which feature interesting posts about the unique life of Army Wives:

1. A Curious Army Wife 

2. Aditis Monologue 

3. Half a Cup of Happyness 

I hope to discover more such blogs about fauji life as I am sure there are many faujis faujans and veterans blogging away in the blogosphere.

Browsing through these blogs and reading delightful posts about life of Army Wives evokes memories of some unforgettable Navy Wives I came across in my long Navy Career - so - here is one memoir about The Navy Wife with Lady Like Qualities (LLQ)

Hilarious Memories of My Wonderful Navy Life
A Spoof

Officers of the Defence Services (Army Navy and Air Force) are required to be Gentlemen.

Accordingly  Wives of Defence Service Officers are expected to be Ladies – hence the term Lady Wife” for Wives of Military Officers.

All Military Officers are required to possess OLQ (OFFICER LIKE QUALITIES)

But do all Wives of all Military Officers display LLQ (LADY LIKE QUALITIES) ?

Let me delve deep into my Humor in Uniform archives and pull out this story for you to enjoy and ponder over:



“Can you carry a small packet and deliver it to my wife?” the officer asked me.

“Sure Sir,” I said.

“Thanks. Just some Ayurvedic Medicines, that’s all. I’ll come on board your ship tomorrow and give it to you,” he said.

“Sure Sir, no hurry, we are leaving day after tomorrow morning,” I said.

The officer was a friend of my ex-shipmate who had been posted to Cochin a few months ago and with whom I was having a drink in the Navy Club at Cochin (now Kochi).

The officer had joined us for a drink  my ex-shipmate had introduced me  and when the officer came to know that my ship was going to Bombay (now Mumbai) he requested to me to carry a packet and deliver it to his wife in Bombay.

Since my ex-shipmate was calling him “Sir” – I too addressed him as “Sir” – and when he came on board the next day  I noticed that though he wore two stripes of a Lieutenant like me, he had the green 9 year long service ribbon.

(Those days it took 3 years to become a Lieutenant  and then one remained a Lieutenant for 8 long years  so there were “junior” Lieutenants like me  and “senior” Lieutenants like him).

Next afternoon just before lunchtime, the officer came to my cabin onboard my ship and gave me the packet.

He also gave me a slip of paper on which was written his home address in NOFRA.

“I am stuck here in Cochin for the next 3 months doing a bloody course,” he complained, sipping his beer.

“Cochin is a lovely place,” I said.

“I know – but my wife is in Bombay – and, as they say, there is no life without wife,” he remarked.

“Sir, we are stopping over for two days at Goa and we plan to reach Bombay by Friday, so I will deliver your packet on Saturday or Sunday,” I said.

“No problem – I have already posted a letter to my wife in the morning about the packet,” he said.

(36 years ago  when this story happened  writing letters was the common mode of communication  because junior officers did not have landline phones at home  so  a “trunk call” was inconvenient  telegrams were for emergencies  and – of course  mobile phones had not yet been invented).


On Saturday evening I rang the bell of a flat on the 6th floor of a high-rise building that housed Married Accommodation for Lieutenants.

A beautiful young lady opened the door.

I introduced myself.

“Yes, yes, do come in,” she said in a mellifluous voice, “I got my husband’s letter two days ago – I have been expecting you today.”

“Sorry Ma’am, I could not come in the morning…” I said  and I handed her the packet her husband had sent from Cochin.

“Oh, come on – it was so nice of you to get the packet – do sit down – I will get you something to drink – what will you have?” she said.

“Just a glass of water…” I said  and I sat down on the sofa.

I looked at the lady as she opened the fridge  took out a bottle of water  poured some in a glass  and brought the glass in a tray towards me.

I was impressed by the way she carried herself Рshe had so much élan, grace and poise.

She excused herself, went into the kitchen and then she came out and asked me: “Come on – have a drink – the bar is over there – and then we will have dinner – you like chicken, don’t you – or are you a vegetarian?”

“Ma’am – please don’t take the trouble…”

“What trouble? There’s no trouble at all – my maid will do the cooking while we talk – in fact it is you who have taken the trouble to deliver the packet and the least I can do is to offer you a meal,” she said.

I felt uncomfortable having a hard drink alone in her company  so I asked for a soft drink  and she had one too.

I think she realized that I was feeling a bit awkward  so she tried to put me at ease.

We talked  we had dinner – and the evening passed in a haze of delight.

As I rode my scooter back to ship I thought about her – she was a perfect navy wife – her social graces, her etiquette, her polish, her refinement, her poise – well, it is difficult for me to describe everything about her in words  so I will just say that she had all the “Lady Like Qualities”.


A few months later  I ran into her in the US Club Library.

“Good evening, Ma’am,” I wished her.

“Oh, hello – how are you?” she said politely.

Suddenly  her husband came in.

He looked at me – he recognized me  and he smiled and said to me, “Hi – How are you?

“Hello, Sir – welcome back to Mumbai,” I said.

“Come – why don’t you join us for a drink – let’s go to the bar,” he said.

“Sure Sir,” I said.

I walked down to the bar with the Naval Officer and his wife.

We sat down in the club bar.

Those days  it was the custom that the senior officer signs for the drinks – so the officer signed the bar chit to order drinks.

I noticed that his lady wife was giving me a rather curious look.

I smiled at her.

“Why are you calling my husband “Sir”  you are senior to him  aren’t you?” she asked me.

“No Ma’am – your husband is senior to me,” I said.

“Really? Are you sure? I thought that you are senior to my husband, she said.

“Of course I am sure – your husband is senior to me,” I said.

That is surprising. You look so old and mature  that is why  when you came home the other day  I thought that you were senior to my husband,” she said.

I did not know what to say.

I certainly did not look that “old”  as if I were an elderly senior citizen.

But with my copious beard  bulky body size  and rather podgy physique  I certainly looked older than my age.

So  I said, “ Yes, Ma’am – you are right – I do look a bit older than my age  and many persons do think that I am more senior than I actually am – in fact  once a senior Lieutenant mistook me for a Lieutenant Commander – and he was surprised when he saw me in uniform next morning.”

“Oh – all that doesn’t matter,” remarked her husband, the senior Lieutenant.

It may not have mattered to him – but it did matter to his wife.

As far as his wife was concerned  it was obvious that my inter-se seniority with her husband did matter to her.

The moment she realized that I was junior to her husband  her demeanor towards me changed drastically.

Earlier  she had treated me with courteous obsequiousness – on the day I had visited her home when she thought that I was senior to her husband.

But now  the moment she realized that I was junior to her husband – her behaviour changed totally – and she was cold and frosty towards me.

The disdain with which she ignored my presence – her scornful vibes – all this made me feel uncomfortable  and I excused myself from their company after a drink  saying that I had to go somewhere.

On my way back to the ship  I had a big laugh.

It was evident that her “Lady Like Qualities” – her LLQ – was quite selective.

Yes – she certainly had selective LLQ.

In fact – to put it bluntly – this Naval Officers Wife was lacking in Lady Like Qualities(LLQ)

Her Naval Officer husband may have been a “Gentleman” – but she certainly did not display the attributes of a Lady”.



(Hope this is applicable to Army/Air Force Officer’s Wives as well)

Here is quote from a NWWA (Navy Wives Welfare Association) booklet which encapsulates some prudent advice for a Naval Officers Wife:

“You dont wear his (your husband’s) stripes ... there is no such thing as a ‘Senior Wife’. There are Senior Officers. They have wives. There are Junior Officers and some of them have wives. All wives are ladies ... You will not fawn over others and not expect others to fawn over you. You will be yourself. And your own manners, breeding and natural charm will shine through leaving you with no need for any borrowed stripes or other borrowed plumage”

I have seen many such elegant navy wives who were perfect ladies – military wives who had excellent LADY LIKE QUALITIES or LLQ

Do tell us if you have seen military wives with perfect LLQ?

And also do tell us some hilarious episodes about faujans” sans LLQ – stories of military officerwives who are not Ladies

Copyright © Vikram Karve 
1. If you share this post, please give due credit to the author Vikram Karve
2. Please DO NOT PLAGIARIZE. Please DO NOT Cut/Copy/Paste this post
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

1. This blog post is a spoof, pure fiction, just for fun and humor, no offence is meant to anyone, so take it with a pinch of salt and have a laugh.
2. All stories in this blog are a work of fiction. Events, Places, Settings and Incidents narrated in the story are a figment of my imagination. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Copyright Notice:
No part of this Blog may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical including photocopying or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the Blog Author Vikram Karve who holds the copyright.

Copyright © Vikram Karve (all rights reserved)