Tuesday, December 31, 2013

THE TIME OF MY LIFE XIV...Health care and other perks in the Navy

Though I spoke about the Naval hospital in the context of my father-in-law’s treatment, I must devote some more footage to it. Anil our second son, was born in ASVINI in Mumbai. It is a fabulous hospital with rooms overlooking the sea. I was the only one in the maternity ward and the day I was to be discharged, the matron requested me to stay on till the Admiral’s inspection so he could get my views about the food and nursing care! During the 71 Indo-Pak war, there were many wounded officers and men hospitalized. Some of us from NOWA, would go and help them write letters to their families, read out books or simply chat with them. One evening, Lata Mangeshkar came to the hospital to sing for them. As volunteers, we were also invited. What an experience that was, sitting under the starlit night, listening to, India’s nightingale, regaling her unique audience with songs of their choice. Earlier, she had given an exclusive performance in the ward to a soldier who could not be moved from the bed.

I was once admitted to ASWINI for observation. Srivatsa and I were coming back on the scooter, from an evening college where we were doing a course in marketing management. As election duty jeep hit us and raced away even as we were thrown off. Another car passing by, stopped and took us to the hospital where doctor found I had a hairline fracture in the skull. I got the best attention and so did
Anil when he got his tonsils and appendix out.

When we were in Vishakapatnam (Vizag) in the East Coast, I was on the NOWA committee. It was headed by Sarala Kuldarni, wife of the commander-in-chief and Phyllis Pereria, wife of the admiral who was to be the Chief of Naval Staff a decade later. That is when I learnt the nuts and bolts of running a welfare organization for women. We hosted the first Husband Nite and selected a Navy King. We made the contesting officer’s do a catwalk, and crowned the winner after which the Admiral’s wife was teased into giving him a peck on the cheek as the Admiral does when the Navy Queen is crowned!!my close friends were Ranjana Auditto and Usha Sukul. Together, we organized a sports week for all the kids in Naval Park. We bought over 200 prizes and wrapped them! We got together all the children and directed plays, choreographed dances and held various competitions for them. One of the kids who participated in the group dance, went to become a famous actress, Amla. I directed the Play Bishop’s Candlesticks in which Rajeev Menon was the convict.

 Today, he directs feature films. He made waves as cinematographer of the film MUMBAI.  We launched a Naval Theatre Group and put up a full length comedy. See how they run. It was a ticketed performance which drew full houses. The admiral sent each of us, a very flattering note.
Usha often hosted musical soirees at her place after dinner. One of the popular singers here would be Kalyani Menon, mother of Rajiv Menon.  Kalyani and I spent a lot of time together. We played rummy for money! We were so crazy as to play a twosome. Her husband KK as we called him, had a droll sense of humour which both Srivatsa and I found very entertaining. Arjun, Anil and Rajeev and his brother Karun were great friends. They went to the central school together. When our husbands were out sailing, Kalyani and I would go to all the saree sales with no  money to buy. Gradually, we lost interest in cards and began our music sessions. She would sing my favourite songs and I would correct her pronunciation. A couple of years later, when KK died of cardiac arrest, it was a great shock to all his friends. For days, I used to sit alone in the room, brooding over Kalyani’s loss, feeling the pain. KK was a great fan of Kalyani’s music and had asked for a posting to Chennai so she could get into playback singing. It is a pity he did not live to see her and his sons’ success.