However big or small we are, whether in the armed forces or not, we have a fascination for foreigners, especially Americans (Read: ‘Is America The Perfect World That We Imagine?’). We Indians may be as far from the American way of life as we can get, but, if we have to give any really good example of humour in the armed forces, we turn to foreigners and especially the Yanks.
I have a group on humour in the Indian armed forces named ‘Humour In And Out Of Uniform’. Take this group for example. I don’t know whether an American Facebook group on Humour In Uniform has even a remote mention of anything Indian (unless it is to show us in a pejorative way) but, we relentlessly put up posts, cartoons, pictures, poems here that show their soldiers, sailors and airmen as the most sensitive fathers, exceedingly respected citizens, braves and perfect in every way; and of course very witty. I started the group nearly two years ago and I have yet to see an equivalent picture of excellent ‘humour’ in the Indian armed forces, of say, a jawan hugging his daughter whilst proceeding to battle the terrorists.
Our fascination takes another shape, ie, to think of their armed forces as supremely powerful and professional. Take this anecdote that has been put up here: ‘A US SEAL is being interviewed on the television. The anchor after observing that they have conducted operations in various countries comments, “So, then you must be knowing a number of foreign languages.” And the SEAL replies, “Ma’am, we don’t go there to talk.”’ Ah, what business-like approach!
Is it simply because we imagine the Americans to be what we ain’t? Or is it because cut and paste of American humour is easily available?
No, I don’t think so. When we had just joined the Navy, the Internet and cut-and-paste were not there. And yet we used to relate the apocryphal incident of our sea-going tug Hathi challenging the USS Enterprise on flashing light, “Which ship? Where bound?” and Enterprise responding with, “I am US Naval Ship Enterprise; and who are you?” When Hathi replied, “I am Indian Naval Ship Hathi”, Enterprise reportedly chuckled and flashed back, “Don’t be funny.” And we were amused to hear of the incident.
Our fascination for foreigners knows no bounds. It is another matter that the 1971 War’s East Pakistan operations by the Indian armed forces are being taught in the war colleges of the West as the finest examples of planning and conduct of war. But, we somehow imagine that the goras know and do things better.
When I was commanding a missile vessel Vipul, the Local Flotilla was hosting three French ships visiting Mumbai under the command of ALINDIEN, a French naval acronym designing the admiral in charge of the maritime zone of the Indian Ocean, and of the French forces there. Besides other social interactions, it is customary to invite them to play games with our teams.
Now, we have divided games into what we call as troop games such as hockey, football, volleyball and even cricket. But, we do look at games like Golf, Squash-racquets and Lawn Tennis as purely officers’ sports. You don’t have golf courses, for example, in our services where jawans can play.
So, when we invited the French ships to play Golf, Lawn Tennis and Squash Racquets with us, we took it for granted that they would be sending their officers only. In the two venues: US Club Golf Course and IMSC we had arranged for our own officers to have high tea with them. Imagine our discomfiture when for all these “officer-oriented games”, sailors from the French ships landed up and played with our officers in those venues whereat our own sailors are never permitted.
Bending over backwards for the foreigners, including in HIAOOU, keeps our spines erect. I finally told the members of HIAOOU to keep up the good work; the best ten posts eulogizing the Americans and their humour would get free trips (all expenses paid) to the perfect world that we imagine.
Even after this, it is difficult to keep the Indians, ie, us, not to think of putting up posts concerning humour in the foreign armed forces but to concentrate on the Indian armed forces
Not many of our people realise that Google, arguably hand in glove with CIA to spy on foreigners including Indians (as revealed by Edward Snowden), has very little to offer on anything good about the Indian armed forces; if you want to see images of the impressive International Fleet Review conducted by the Indian Navy in 2001 in Mumbai, you would hardly see any pictures. However, if you Google mishap on INS Sindhuratna that eventually led to the Indian Navy Chief resigning, every little aspect of that mishap has been documented.
I am, however, determined to keep my group Humour In And Out Of Uniform reflecting the best of the humour in the Indian armed forces despite the carpet bombing by foreigner oriented members.
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