Being happy might be a state of mind, but in the Indian Armed Forces, it’s different. Here new friends are made every new posting and old friends kept close to the heart.
Families are complete only every alternate posting and fellow cadets from the National Defence Academy or the Indian Military Academy may meet only once in about ten years. Obviously, happiness is indeed a cause for celebration! Some might argue here that celebration is a way of life in the armed forces; well, I am proud to say: guilty as charged. We celebrate with more aplomb than most people can boast of.
The ‘Happy Hour’ at the Wellington Gymkhana is one such occasion. Like most stations, the Wellington cantonment near Ooty has its share of institutions patronised by the men in olive green. Among them, the Wellington Gymkhana is a hot favourite, thanks to its highly subsidised rates and its historic tradition dating back to early 1900s when it was patronised by Scottish and British army units. Therefore, we do not find it necessary to stop dead in our tracks when we spot an array of bison heads mounted on plaques and displayed casually along the walls in this wooden Gymkhana. nor do we bother when we see descendants of those bison walking across the scenic golf course in pairs during the day with golfers enjoying their game. More on that later!
The Happy Hour is that time of the day or week created to ensue fun filled chaos when it starts, and “when do we do this again” when it ends. In keeping with this thought, the Wellington Gymkhana has fashioned its Happy Hours for officers and their families to partake in an hour of bingeing and bonding.
The Happy Hour at this particular institution is legendary for its short and sweet dose of fun. It adds a dash of hope to the impending weekend, and gives everyone something to talk about. While the crèche cum TV room caters to the little ones, there’s plenty of food outside to keep everyone happy. And not to mention: everything liquid. The ‘liquid state’ is crucial to the enjoyment and overall joie de voir quotient. The ladies come dressed in their cocktail best, following the current trend of classy yet understated style, while the officers ache to loosen their neckties ‘just a bit more’. The flow of good times does not stop just with the Happy Hour though. There is invariably a dance party that follows closely for couples who decide to stay back for an extra dose of fun.
Another essential aspect of the Happy Hour is the Tambola! Tambola enthusiasts grab chairs closest to the podium, while the newbies make as if they’re trying it for size this first time. Any which way, you finally have pairs of ears straining to catch the numbers, all the while wondering at their own addiction for the game.
The networking quotient at the Happy Hour is generally at an all-time high, with everyone trying to catch up on the latest with everyone! High volumes are in order, so to be heard above the din and orders are quickly shouted across counters. It presents a completely different and vibrant side of the otherwise sedate and more sophisticated Gymkhana that everyone is used to when visiting for their rounds of golf, tennis or the leisurely bridge.
On the menu is old pals catching up with each other, putting up a fitting display of what must have been classic camaraderie in the academy days, while the wives of these very officers stand to a side giving each other awkward smiles – are we supposed to be as pally considering we met a few minutes ago, while our husbands have known each other for 12 years! Well, this is where bonhomie enters the army – we all meet spontaneously and decide to take the best of every opportunity for new found friendship. While some may call this calculative, we call it a mind frame. The Happy Hours reflect this very mind frame and attitude.