People keep telling me to publish my works: the funny stuff, the stories, poems et al. If ever I do, the one inexhaustible subject that I have is that of ‘Gunners’. In exclusivity, peculiarity, uniqueness and sheer entertainment there is nothing and no one to beat the bang-bang people – the Gunners; they are simply the top guns in the Navy and have always been. I am not even sixty yet and want to live happily for a few more years, at least; hence, please don’t insist on names. If you can guess, so be it. I have deliberately not put these in any order so as to make it difficult for you; as difficult as Santa who was asked by Banta, “If you can guess what is in this basket, I shall give you some of the eggs. And, if you can tell me how many, I shall give you the entire dozen.”Like Love Story….where do I begin, where do I start?

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.

© 2013, Sunbyanyname. All rights reserved.

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  1. why is it that all cadets, i suspect even today, meet GIs such as HS. later in my life , i never met GIs like these specimen. It seems that either special guys become cadets instructors or they are not special at all , cadets perceive them as such being the front end of the navy in their first encounter. we too were in awe of our div o, co , xo etal then, but was any one in such awe of us when we took up these roles in our own turn. have days changed or we did. i would love to know from new recruits, if they too met anyone like HS or shuklaji, who we thought was a legend. over time, we did change the character of GIs, technology becoming core competence over the drill and correct way of tying shoe laces. i wonder, but those were the days, one does not forget, in NDA or TIR

  2. Admiral Bansal Sir, as always I am honoured that you should consider my blog worthy of your comments. As you rightly brought out, we were always in awe of these GIs. For example, if a GI were to come to me as OOD to ask permission to go ashore, I would rather be checking my own turnout than his!

    You may also recall the time when we shifted to being at attention with fingers clenched from second knuckle. This was drilled into us so repeatedly that one of my course mates, in later life, when saluted by the GI, saluted him back with fingers clenched from second knuckle.

    In our heart of hearts we loved and respected them.

    1. why , you write so well , with humour and on topics close to any veteran or serving guys. you can think of compiling these in a book when you finally retire. for time being you could contribute in the quarter deck mag.

  3. Very nice sir. All your write ups are unique n precious collections . You have everything in you a writer required and very rare reach on this level of writing . I think you should follow Admiral Bansal Sahab’s advice …. Thanks