A granddaughter’s love shines through as she regales us with a few lighter moments of her grandfather’s long stint in the Indian Navy. Read to find out about such moments in the life of our member, Commodore Subrata Bose.
By Roshni Srimany
As a Naval Officer, my grandfather, Commodore Subrata Bose, has had many memorable, and often amusing experiences. One of these was when he was posted onboard a hydrographic ship called “Investigator” as a sub-lieutenant. On joining the ship, he was in for a pleasant surprise—he found a baby deer onboard.
The “Investigator” had been, at that time, surveying an area around the Gujarat coast, around the Rann of Kutch, where there were a lot of deer. The ship owned jeeps, and whenever it anchored, people onboard moved on land in these jeeps. One night, the second-in-command of the ship came across a baby deer standing in the light given off by the headlights of the jeep. Its mother was nowhere to be seen and so he picked it up, and from then on, that baby deer was his. Aptly named Bambi, it would follow the officers around on the ship, and it went wherever they went. Bambi was almost never seasick, and adapted wonderfully to the ship’s environment. Whenever a party was thrown onboard, Bambi was the centre of attention. The friendly little deer happily roamed about all over the ship and had a particular affinity for champagne and potato chips. Sadly, the second-in-command of the “Investigator” tok Bambi with him when he was transferred to another ship.
Of the many trips made abroad, another memorable incident took place when my grandfather had been stationed on the INS Amba. They had worked very hard in Russia, and the three months of hard work had worn them out. On the way home, they docked at Casablanca. At that time of the year, most jetsetting Europeans used to make their way there, and it was, therefore, a booming town, brimming with a variety of enterntainment. It is a tradition of the Indian Navy to entertain, whenever they dock at a foreign port, the local who’s-who, including the mayor of the town. INS Amba, too, hosted a party, which was attended by many Moroccan and French officers. They decided to go and see a cabaret show for they wanted to see what belly dancing was like. Therefore, they asked the Indian Ambassador to suggest a nightclub, and he happily agreed to drop them off at the best nightclub in town, after the party was over.
On arriving at the nighclub, they saw that there were a number of shows taking place—firebreathers, and so on. Finally, the lights dimmed, and Arabic music came on. A belly dancer appeared, clad in the belly dancer’s traditional costume. She went around the tables, dancing, particularly teasing men who had ladies accompanying them, in order to embarrass them. Suddenly, they saw her coming to their table. She began dancing in front of the youngest officer, and plonked herself on his lap, causing him to blush, and the others to laugh heartily. When she got up, my grandfather promptly moved his chair away, as he didn’t want her to do the same to him. She noticed that, and suddenly he realised that she was dancing very close to the chair. Before he could do anything, she tipped his chair over with her hip, and he went flying across the dance floor, causing the entire room to roar with laughter. Then she danced over to him, and asked him if he was hurt, to which he replied, “Only my ego is!”
My grandfather sportingly asked the belly dancer to join them for a drink, to which she agreed. After her show was over, she sat at their table, chatting with them. She asked each of them where they were from, and when my grandfather said that he was from the eastern part of India—from Calcutta, she immediately recognised the name and said, “Tagore? Rabindranath Tagore?’’ His jaw dropped at the fact that a belly dancer in Morocco knew about Tagore, and he was floored for the second time that night!
Here were a few lighter moments in my grandfather’s long stint in the Indian Navy. On a serious note, his most memorable experience was completing the Cadet and Midshipman’s Course, and then being commissioned on 1st July, 1957, as a sub-lieutenant.
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