I have a Facebook Group on Humour in the Indian armed forces titled ‘Humour In And Out Of Uniform’ (the acronym HIAOOU has become a popular greeting between the members of the group close to 25000). The group encourages original anecdotes concerning humour. Even after more than three years of its inception, the group gets, on an average four to five original posts everyday.
Sometimes, of course, I get more than my hands full (in order to discourage spam and nonsensical posts, I have instituted pre-approval of admins for all posts; my course mate Balasubramaniam Mariappan and I are the admins).
This post came about when recently there was a spate of posts; we were inundated:
I am reminded of this lady complaining to another, “I don’t know what’s wrong with my husband? On Sunday I made carrots; he relished them and told me so. On Monday, I made carrots; he found them very tasty. On Tuesday, he appreciated my carrots. On Wednesday, he liked them. On Thursday, he said they were alright. On Friday, he suddenly picked up the dish of carrots and threw it down. I can’t understand him”!
And pray, why was she serving him carrots with such devotion? Simple, she had received them in Entitled Rations or RIK (Rations in Kind)!
These Rations in Kind introduced in 1979-80 for the armed forces personnel, changed the lifestyle of services officers forever. Here is a scenario that actually happened many times:
Let’s say you got fed up of eating brinjals at home because RIK issue centre suddenly gave you 2.5 Kgs of brinjals. So, you rang up your best friend’s wife, “Nisha, Lyn and I are coming over to have dinner at your place.” Chances were that Nisha too would serve you brinjals; having received them too from the RIK. There was no getting away from brinjals and RIK!
Now, of course, in the Navy at least, we have sorted out the quality of rations. At one time, these were generally of such poor quality that we thought of ways and means of getting rid of them. It is about that time that I was made member of a board for fixing rates of fresh provisions from the local market. I am a communicator and hence very well conversant with the security classifications in the Navy. In routine communications, the highest that we go to is CONFIDENTIAL (Please also read ‘Armed Forces’ Penchant For Secrecy’). However, to my shocked surprise, the proceedings of this board were marked ‘SECRET’ by the ASC guys and the President of the Board, a Colonel. I laughingly told my wife, that evening, about how ludicrous I found that proceedings of board to decide on rates of provisions should be ‘SECRET’. She told me that that afternoon only she had got the rations from the RIK and she understood as to why they won’t want anyone to know that we were getting such poor rations. There was thus some method in the madness of the ASC guys, after all.
On one occasion, my wife was complaining about the poor quality of RIK in a gathering of ladies. She particularly mentioned about carrots being of poor quality. There was this Admiral’s wife who added her two bit how half of them were mildewed. Lyn later told me at home that RIK issue centre should at least supply the right stuff to Admiral’s houses. She was taken aback when I told her that Admirals were not actually entitled to these rations!
Rations are not the only things that are uniform in the uniformed armed forces. Most of us visit the same places and pick up similar things; eg, from Srinagar and North-East. Hence, give or take a few things here and there, most drawing rooms look alike.
In the Navy, for example, at one time, you would find Mauritius sofa sets in many drawing rooms and centre tables made from ‘Paduak’ – Andaman’s well known, premier wood, especially from Chatham Saw Mill in Port Blair.
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