I think the first Gunner that comes to my mind was our Gunnery Instructor in the Naval Academy. He was an inexplicable miracle of God; after he was completely moulded in God’s workshop, God had a twinkle in his eyes when He decided to send him (the GI) on earth without a heart. His parents didn’t know about it, his relatives didn’t have an inkling; but, from the time we interacted with him, we knew of his physiological handicap. Looking back, I marvel at the clairvoyance of God; He would have known that even if he had given GI HS (this is as close as I get to giving away his name) a heart, HS would have had no use for it.
HS had a very limited vocabulary; he had no use for long speeches and fancy words. Even the short ones that he was endowed with were hardly used. And yet, we understood him well. For example, whilst marching in the scary (scarier than a mine-field, at least) parade ground of the old Gunnery School, when he shouted at us through clenched teeth, “Peeeeeeeeee……”, none of us ever mistook it as a directive to wet our pants; we knew, like any one familiar with the Gunnery commands that HS wanted us to ‘Press our heels’ whilst marching.
“Patenshuncats” was clearly (clarity is what a Gunner demands on either end) understood by us as “Pay attention Cadets.”
On that day, a fateful day for one of my ilk, after several rounds of ‘warming up’ drills around the parade ground, we settled on one end of the ground to learn about the correct way to put on our drill boots. HS finished with his “atiiiizz” command and had embarked on “patenshuncats”.
Gunners, unlike personnel of the other branches, like simplicity; no far-fetched cerebral ideas of the other side of the universe for them. They have their feet firmly planted on the ground. And, how do they achieve it? Simple, by their heavy boots; anything less than 20 pounds each isn’t acceptable. Putting on boots correctly for them, therefore, has as much import, as say a certain Armstrong fulfilling Kennedy’s dream of an American landing on the Moon. And whilst Neil had gently lowered the Lunar Module on a strange surface, HS insisted that everything in the world had to be done with show of force and by the number (“Ginati se”). In our moments of sanity – brief though they were during the training period – we had often wondered, with our tongues firmly inside our hollowed cheeks, if HS, at his home, would have wanted Mrs HS to do ‘everything’ ginati se.
After his instructions that lasted all of ten minutes (since ‘important’ parts had to be repeated), he had come to the part wherein he was now telling us how to tie the laces. After tying the half knot, both ends had to be put together and had to go around the upper part of the boots twice and that would leave only the stubbed portion that had to be smartly tucked in.
After HS’s demo, we were to assimilate the newly acquired knowledge by practically applying it to our own boots. Cadet RK (no names, as I said) did it all correctly, as he erroneously thought and was far ahead of the rest of the class. Once round the boot, he happily whispered to himself and now for the second round, he nearly sang it. But, to his utter horror he found that he had more than the stubs left.
Wisdom that gradually descends on all mortals who have to deal with Gunners, had not yet dawned on Cadet RK and he called out to HS, rather unwisely, as to what to do with two inches or so of the extra lace that he had landed up with.
Gunnery Instructor HS’s face exploded with unconcealed mirth at the god sent chance of helping out Cadet RK in his ‘genuine’ concern at being left with two inches of lace.
“Gookane” screamed GI HS, acknowledging that it was indeed a ‘Good Question’.
Blogger policy doesn’t permit me to give details of how HS replied to RK. The mildest of his explanations was to ‘broaden’ RK’s outlook towards life in general and Gunnery Instructors in particular by going around the parade ground five times with a rifle held high over both arms and shouting as to what to do with two inches of extra lace.
At the end of about 45 minutes of this detailed explanation, when RK had started weighing considerably less than the weight of his boots, HS ‘affectionately’ asked RK, “Enmodouse”. RK had decided, long time back, that he won’t have any-more-doubts for the rest of his naval career.
By the way, in answer to Banta’s riddle in the beginning of this post, Santa asked, “Thoda hint to de” (Give a little hint, at least). Both of them would have made excellent Gunners.
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