Social Etiquette in the Defence Services : “Calling On”
MILITARY SOCIAL ETIQUETTE : “CALLS”
Musings of a Veteran by Vikram Karve
SERVICE SOCIAL ETIQUETTE — TYPES OF “CALLS”
In the Navy (and probably in the Army and Air Force as well) — there exists a custom of “calling on” — a custom which every officer is expected to observe.
There are three types of “calls”:
- Official Calls
- Social Calls
Official Calls are made by newly reporting officers on their Commanding Officer (CO) in his office (in shore establishments) or in the Captain’s Cabin on board ships.
An Official Call is a formal occasion in ceremonial uniform (unless otherwise indicated by the CO/Captain)
Social Calls are courtesy calls to promote friendship and camaraderie among officers and their families.
Social Calls are made in the evenings at the residence of the officer in Civilian Clothes (Social Calls are never made in uniform).
Social Calls are made with prior appointment after ascertaining the convenience of the officer.
Social Calls are made with your wife (if you are married) — the duration should ideally be 30 minutes (but never more than one hour) — and — you are expected to have 2 or 3 drinks.
(having only one drink is “not done” — since there is a superstition that you have just one drink only with your enemy)
Maybe it is apocryphal — but — I read somewhere that the origin of “Social Calls” — and — the military tradition of “calling-on” — dates back to the pre-historic days of the cavemen — who left a carved stone outside a fellow caveman’s cave to express a desire for friendship.
“Bouncing” means young Naval Officers dropping in on Married Officers unannounced at any time of day or night demanding food and drink.
Normally — a married officer is “bounced” at odd hours of the night by hungry bachelors when the Officers Mess and Club are closed.
When I joined the Navy — in the 1970’s — Official Calls had become more relaxed — and — most COs/Captains did not insist on Ceremonial Uniform (№2’s) — but — COs asked Officers to come in normal working dress (№8 or 8A’s).
Some Senior Officers dispensed with the formality of “Official Calls” and would reply “Consider Calls Paid and Returned” when requested for “Time Convenient” to call on.
“Social Calls” too had become out-of-fashion and passé.
Those days — in the 1970’s — “Bouncing” had become the more popular way of socializing.
Later — I observed that even “Bouncing” was no longer appreciated by married officers and their wives — and — officers and their wives preferred enjoying “quality time” watching TV Soaps with their families — rather than socializing with fellow officers and ladies.
Like in civilian society — even in the military social environment — change is inevitable — times change — customs and traditions change — and — social culture changes too — and — today — it is more of “each man for himself”.
Here is a story on the subject…
A SPOOF BY VIKRAM KARVE
More than 18 years ago — in early 2004 — I went to attend a Naval Seminar with a few fellow Navy Officers.
The Seminar was held in a Naval Training Establishment (a Stone Frigate).
There — we met a young Naval Officer who we knew.
He was posted in that Naval Station.
In fact — the officer had been a student of mine at IAT Pune — and later — we had served together in Dockyard.
One of the other officers attending the seminar with me also knew the young officer — they had been shipmates — and — in the Navy — despite the seniority difference — a shipmate is always a shipmate.
We had nothing much to do in the evening — so we decided to “bounce” the young Naval Officer.
So — we landed up at his place in the evening at 7:30 PM.
He seemed delighted to see us — probably in anticipation of a merry drinking evening.
But — his wife was not exactly “overjoyed” to see us — barging into her home unexpectedly.
Her “displeasure” was quite evident from her body language and the expression on her face — though she tried to put on a mask of “forced geniality”.
I observed that the young wife was engrossed in watching her favourite soap serial on TV.
We settled down.
The young officer switched off the TV.
I looked at his wife.
The moment the TV was switched off — there was an expression of deep disappointment on the wife’s face.
She was a working woman.
She had probably just come home after a hectic day — and maybe she wanted to unwind watching her favourite entertainment on TV.
And — we “strangers” had suddenly landed up for dinner.
Now — her relaxed evening would be ruined — entertaining us, cooking for us — and keeping awake late into the night while we kept drinking and chatting.
Seeing her mood — I did not want to deprive the young woman of her favourite TV Serial and her daily dose evening of TV viewing — which seemed to be her relaxation after a hard day’s work.
So — I suggested to the young officer that why not we go over to the Officers’ Institute where we could drink and eat without disturbing his wife.
I said to him that — since his wife seemed to be tired — let us enjoy a “stag” booze-up session and dinner in the Officers’ Institute.
The wife seemed genuinely relieved — though she made some mock protestations.
I realized that times had really changed.
This episode happened more than 18 years ago — and — the fabric of the social milieu in the Defence Services may have changed even more now.
Earlier — a Military Wife had two choices — homemaker or teacher.
Now — things have changed.
There are hardly any full-time Military Wives — especially in the Navy.
Most Military Wives are serious Career Women with their own professional identities.
“New Age” Military Wives are no longer “Appendages” or “Arm Candy” of their Military Husbands.
Rather than call these “New-Age” Military Wives as “Army Wife” or “Navy Wife” or “Air Force Wife” — I prefer to address these Career Women Military Wives as:
“She is an IT Professional married to an Army Officer”
– or –
“She is an Investment Banker married to a Naval Officer”
– or –
“She is an Architect married to an Air Force Officer”
etc etc etc.
SOCIAL LIFE IN THE DEFENCE SERVICES
“Socializing” in the Defence Services keeps changing.
In our Bachelor Days in the Navy in the 1970’s — we found that formal “Calling On” had become passé — and — “Bouncing” was a more popular way of socializing.
Later — I realized that — with the younger generation of officers and their families — it seemed that “Bouncing” was on its way out too.
Change is inevitable — times change — traditions change — and social culture changes too.
1. Social “calling-on” is out.
2. “Bouncing” is out too.
Maybe — official socializing (in Officers’ Messes, Wardrooms, Institutes etc.) — official socializing may soon be on its way out too.
Whereas we loved having Parties and Mess Nights — I noticed that in my later years in the Navy — many officers and their wives were not too keen on “official” socializing too — and many complained that there were too many parties.
And — like is prevalent in the civilian world — even in the Defence Services — maybe — the preferred activity in the evenings is to spend “Quality Time” with your family — watching TV, parenting, having dinner together etc.
In my later years in service — I observed that officers and their wives did not appreciate being “bounced” at unearthly hours.
Even when a family went out for dinner — or an evening out at the officers’ institute or club — they did not like others “intruding” — and they preferred their familial privacy.
Are the days of social “bonhomie” and “camaraderie” over…?
Is the one “plus-point” of the unique social life we enjoyed in the services disappearing…?
Now — like in the “civvy street” — has it become “each to himself” — even in the defence services…?
I hope not.
We enjoyed “bouncing” our friends — and we enjoyed being “bounced” too — especially when we were newly married — when our bachelor friends would land up at unearthly hours at our tiny flat in Curzon Road Apartments demanding food and drink.
I will surely tell you some hilarious “bouncing” stories.
Have you read my story How to “Bounce” Your Boss’s Wife …?
By the way — maybe it is apocryphal — but I read somewhere that the origin of social calls — and the military tradition of “calling-on” — dates back to the pre-historic days of the cavemen — who left a carved stone at the entrance of the cave to express a desire for friendship.
Copyright © Vikram Karve
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- This story is a fictional spoof, satire, pure fiction, just for fun and humor, no offence is meant to anyone, so take it with a pinch of salt and have a laugh.
- All stories in this blog are a work of fiction. Events, Places, Settings and Incidents narrated in the stories are a figment of my imagination. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
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Link to my original post in my Blog Academic and Creative Writing Journal Vikram Karve: https://karvediat.blogspot.in/2017/01/humor-in-uniform-social-life-in-defence_3.html
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.
This is a revised re-post of my story SOCIAL LIFE IN THE NAVY posted online by me Vikram Karve earlier in my Academic and Creative Writing Journal Blog on 29 March 2014 and later at urls: http://karvediat.blogspot.in/2017/06/how-to-bounce-your-bosss-wife.html and http://karvediat.blogspot.in/2014/03/humor-in-uniform-social-life-in-navy-is.htmlandhttp://karvediat.blogspot.in/2016/04/social-life-in-defence-services-calling.html and https://karve.wordpress.com/2017/08/16/humor-in-uniform-calling-on/ and https://karve.wordpress.com/2019/06/28/calling-on/ and https://karve.wordpress.com/2021/07/04/military-social-etiquette-calling-on/ etc
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.