What did it mean being a fauji father & a hubby? – Part I

Did we bond over the lack of permanency in our lives?

During my quarter century with the Navy, had shifted residences 25 times, if not less; and number of stations, nearly 15 times on transfer. It’s like listening to fairy tale stories. When you are shifting towns, homes, schools and friends every two years, how would your child or wife feel? After six months of marriage the change and transition didn’t seem that intimidating any more to my wife. In fact, you begin yearning for change and every posting becomes a new chapter.

Getting a naval house on posting in 70s and 80s was a nightmare, as waiting time was anything from 12 months to 24 months. Many received their transfer orders, before they were allotted a house in so called naval cantonment. But we naval buddies always found some juggad (quick fix solutions), as most of us sailed in the same boat. Sharing a house, with loaded kitchen, furnished bed rooms and baths was without a second thought. Yes, the Kraft cheese in the refrigerator, Kamasutra under the pillow and Old Spice lotion in bath were basics, left behind, without hesitation.

When my children were four and one, we moved to Goa, on flying duties with my parent squadron INAS 333, from INS Rajput at Bombay. Goa was a touristic mecca and an accommodation in the naval base at Dabolim was tight. Since my last posting was at sea (equivalent to forward area of army), I manged to move into my own accommodation in six months’ time. But till then moved from one house to another from one week to 30 days, whenever, some colleague went on leave. We are particularly grateful to Saroj and Lt Cdr JP Modi, Kamal and Lt VK Bhnasali and many others who offered to share their flats and kitchen, even whilst they stayed on. That’s a naval sprit, can you think of it in civilian life?

Never the less, it didn’t stop us from visiting best of beaches and festivals of Goa. By then I had both a two-wheeler and a four-wheeler. But some how children enjoyed scooter ride more than car. It was indeed fun riding as four-some on a two-wheeler, to Panaji and Calangute in north to Cavelossim beach in south Goa from our Dabolim naval base.

My first experience was just the reversal at Cochin. After all, the surprises make life sweeter. After marriage in February 1978, I had a house allotted by the Navy, but my wife did not join as she had to appear for her graduation exams. So, one of my dear friend and a course mate, newly married, asked if he could shift in my house, till my wife arrives. I didn’t blink even once, as ready help was the norm. When my wife joined after a couple of months, the other lady refused to vacate as my friend was unable to find a suitable colleague going on vacations. I even offered to share my own house with them, as there were two bed rooms, but she refused. I guess she had not yet been baptised into sharing a house, a personal choice, which she learnt hard way later.

The word spread in town and there were half a dozen invites on my platter from squadron mates, to course mates as a goodwill gesture to the newly married. So, we shifted into another flat of my course mate Lt Ishwar Singh Yadav and Manju, who were senior in marriage and going on leave. We just walked into running kitchen and loaded refrigerator. While leaving, Manju yelled from the lobby, “Shail, I have many pairs of chappals and sandals, use them as you like”. I am glad that my wife, who came from a very traditional and orthodox family, didn’t ask a single question. It is indeed very difficult to digest when you have to sleep on someone else’s bed and linen. In fact, the tears of joy and affection rolled down her cheeks.

Our most memorable accommodation sharing experience was in 1986 in Mumbai, on return from Staff College at Wellington (in Nilgiris). Technically we were coming from peace station and hence waiting time was anything from 24 months to 30 months for a flat in Naval area in Colaba. You know, who were in my family those days? Besides, four of us, my father in his mid-70s and our long-time family nanny, Gopibai, say governess, who had seen my dad’s wedding and as well as my birth. She had been assisting from kitchen chores, to taking care of young kids and the household of my Dad. By the way we lost our mother when my father was just 48. Gopibai had come to our Haveli in Udaipur as an eleven-year-old widow, as her mother-in-law too had been working with my grandmother. Those were the days of paying back debt to our loyal staff, the tradition, we continued till Gopibai lived with us.

When we arrived in Bombay, my wife Shail, two kids, father and Gopibai  shifted to one Lt Cdr Verma’s flat in Anuradha at NOFRA (Naval Officers’ Residential Area), Colaba. Since we didn’t know Verma, it was arranged by our dear friend Lt Cdr Bhansali. Only one bed room was available, the other being locked by the owner, I took a room in the Naval Officers’ Mess, just a stone throw away. The family split, yet we had our meals together, whenever, I was not on duty. After 27 days when Verma and his family were about to return to station, we got an offer from my student and a junior colleague Lt SK Mishra, since he was proceeding on leave.So, we shifted to his flat in Archana building and since only one bed room was available, I continued to stay in the mess.

Earlier in 1979, we had moved to Bombay, before my deputation posting, without family, to Russia (then USSR). Since I had moved in from Cochin, a peace station, there was no question of an accommodation for next 18 months. Though I was to proceed to USSR, who cares where the family stays. Send them to your native place with either of your parents. Well that’s the life of Faujis. We as Faujis, leave it to the God, and cross the bridge when it comes.

Incidentally, on arrival at Mumbai, naval hospital declared that my wife was pregnant, and my wise colleagues advised to apply for accommodation on this ground, of which I was unaware. Sure enough, in a month’s time we moved into Vasant Sagar at Churchgate, meant for such out of turn temporary accommodation on compassionate grounds. God is great and helps all those with good intent and positive thoughts. Perhaps, today I realise it was because of my good Karmas of the past.

When my daughter Pracchi was 11 and son Nakuul was 8, I was posted to Port Blair, in Andaman and Nicobar Islands, as Squadron Commander, where my unit was engaged in aerial surveillance and patrol of Bay of Bengal. Since I had come to Port Blair after my command at sea from Visakhapatnam, as a commanding officer of Naval Air Squadron 318, was given proper preferential accommodation. The flat was a three bed-room with living room, large drawing-dining and a servant quarter.

Our naval air station (airport), INS Utkrosh was just about two kilometres at a picturesque location. The hills pockmarked with tropical rainforest trees, thick vegetation of ferns and orchids were ably supported by palm-lined white sand beaches. If I did not have to fly on mission sortie, then Sundays were spent exploring and picnicking. Our kids, Pracchi and Nakuul would come home with stories of their discoveries and adventures, their pockets full of oddly shaped rocks and sand, to their hearts content.

We also had an opportunity to sail in a Coast Guard ship for a visit to Barren Island when it had become dormant. Only the few daring ones, which included my kids, boarded a Gemini craft for landing on the Island. Believe me it was a life time experience for all of us. Sounds like a recipe for National Geographic channel!

Continue… Part II

50 thoughts on “What did it mean being a fauji father & a hubby? – Part I

  1. Wanted to read this ever since Sir you & Nakuul shared this a few days ago & finally got a chance.. it was indeed a pleasure reading your experience being a fauji husband & father.. Having always heard a lot about how a fauji’s life is, I can only imagine what you must had to go through!! Lots of respect for you.. Thank you for serving for our Nation..

  2. Dear Sir Metha,
    Thank you for sharing your journey.. truly commendable! Love ..Respect .. Honor for you and your family Sir:) I salute and bow to the Indian Navy!
    Follow Nakuul on twitter and Instagram.. he’s such a gem, admire him and I can tell where he gets this quality from 🙂
    Can’t wait to read the next part …

  3. Dear Sir Metha,
    Thank you for sharing your journey.. truly commendable! Love ..Respect .. Honor for you and your family Sir! Salute and bow to the Indian Navy
    I follow Nakuul on twitter and Instagram.. he’s such a gem of a person, truly admire him. And I can tell where it comes from 🙂

    Can’t wait to read the next part …

  4. sir your are such a great person i have ever know i know your lovely son @nakuulmetha is soo nice cute and handsome and all that is because he has such a great father like you who has gone through all the stuggle in his life for up bring his kid your really lovely sir and sir your courage and patients heads off to you i known that your son @nakuulmetha is amazing and also you are really awesome and amazing i surely loved your life time story and which makes me feel proud that i know you coz of your son and you are lovely sir

  5. Sir, it was great reading about your life, about how you describe all those hardships you faced as a navy officer and it’s really wonderful how you describe it with so much beauty.. I’m a fan of your son, and thus just tried reading this seeing the link he shared, and now I’m so happy that I didn’t skip reading this.. the positivity you spread through such descriptions of your life experiences is noteworthy..your life teaches how to live with love, compassion and how blood is not required for having family like relationships between people. I promise i shall share it with all my dear ones, since all you have said should be learnings for many and I am eagerly waiting for part 2.
    P.s. sir, I’m from Cochin, and if you find time in your busy schedule, please do visit Cochin again .. would love to meet you in person!!

    1. Thank you Purnima for such a big heart to appreciate the life of a Naval officer. Sure, if anything brings us to Cochin, now Kochi, we shall let you know. In the meantime continue to enjoy Ishqbaaz and love Nakuul.

  6. Dear Mr.Pratap Singh Mehta,
    This is Saajidha from Srilankan. I was a very huge fan of your son Nakuul for his exellent appearance on-screen. And now, knowing a lifetime service of a brilliant Navy commander who managed and experienced so much in his life besides his family made me ready for the tomorrow’s challenges. Sir, the dedication and the sincerity you showed for your duty is priceless. PROUD TO BE A FAN OF YOU SIR! Eagerly waiting to read the part 2…

  7. Uncle thanks for sharing Ur Experience I don’t know life of Captain it was so beautiful a way u have penned down is awesome uncle and this is true all incident give us some lessons … desperately waiting for next part uncle

  8. Very influencing blog about your service life Sir..Your sincerity and dedication to your work had made you ‘The Great Captain of the Life’…‍✈️

  9. You are very great, we are proud that people like you work for our country and make the country’s name bright
    I’m waiting for another part…..

  10. Dear Mr. Mehta,

    This is just so thrilling!!! For many of us Fauji , means , he is fighting for the country and protecting the civilians. But the above tells us , how he and his entire family is a real FAUJI. Unless one is emotionally strong, he cannot be a stable person.
    Hats off to you and more so to your wife. I really wonder how did she manage so many changes in her life. And yes, your children too. But when you are small, its more that your parents decisions that the young ones follow. But yes, change of schools and especially making new friends all the time, uff …its so very difficult.
    But I think this must have also brought your family really very close to each other and yes also the different experiences must have enriched the young children. Practical knowledge plays a very important role than bookish knowledge.
    I dont know much about your daughter. But yes, the way Nakuul has related himself to life ( the info available on internet) , his journey to stardom, to be courteous and humble with all such fame, is not everyone’s cup of tea. This is imbibed in him by his parents .
    All your blogs can be combined in a series of books..part 1,2 3,….

    Curiously awaiting PART II

  11. Sir, your writing is so real and heartfelt. Portrayed each and every situation that you all went through. Thanks for sharing such good blogs for a Unique content reader like me. Your works are inspirational, picturesque and amazing above all.

  12. Respected Sir,
    I read only the first part of your article and it gave me goosebumps.Hats off to all the country men who choose to serve their country because its not only about serving your nation but to adapt certain changes in your life.Its like you don’t live for your family instead your family lives for you.They support you in all the ups and downs of life no matter what.It is definitely not easy for a family to undergo so many home shifts.
    This year I was shortlisted to undergo SSB training in Bhopal but I was not able to clear the screening part .
    Lots of love and respect to you and your family and all the people who pour selfless love to their country.

  13. Sir,
    As a civilian I can’t even imagine moving so many times! Once was enough for me. The bonding shared by colleagues in the Forces is something to emulate, though unimaginable.
    It was wonderful to read a part of your story. Looking forward to reading more!

  14. Oh soooo amazing and beautiful story of your life papa @pratap Mehta I love it so this very important and useful to know how was began your life in the past you are very lucky because you have a great wife son and daughter like preaching and my lover nakuul you must be a proud of your wife and your daughter and your son’s nakuul he is successful he is amazing really I can’t describe him I wish to meet you my father Mehta and your family someday my god keeps and bless you and them always ♥♡more of happiness and success to you papa yours faithfully #RusulNakuul with you from Iraq I’m so pleased to know you and this honour to me If I talk with you face to face someday papa

  15. Yeah it’s looking like dat I watch geography channel. Your journey is so tough besides it is also adventures .I love to read this.

  16. Great salute to u & ur family sir because it’s really very hard to transfer from one place to another place .Moreover the navy people life is not like normal person life becoz I saw them during my journey in INS from Yemen to Djibouti.we were evacuated from Yemen during crisis period that time navy personnel helps us lot by offering their beds, providing food and taking care of our safety upto the end of our place . I won’t forget that memories in my life . Hats off to all the navy personnel.

  17. Courage, Trust And Satisfaction Have No Price Tags. No Need of A Perfect Day just Need A Day Full of Love with Your Loved Ones.Sir ! You are lucky enough to lead a fairy tales Life

  18. Sir your life time story,is an inspiration & reminds me of my story too,the same who had your children gone through I know the meaning of it too even I feel every single word you wrote every single imotions you feel,sir God always bless people like you upon him or his children look at your Son Iam from TurkeyAnd respect him a lot ,you have fans and him too from world wide ,you raised up such wonderful person,you too reminds me of my dad,sir you are a leader mentor even your experiences must be documented and if you allowed must be a movie story to inspire people , teach them the meaning of being patience,calm,knowing nothing but supporting a family bringing joy to their life,if you allowed me be my mentor ,lot of respect and will read all your blogs,please visit my Twitter page @semaciel0101 I try to post positivity as could as it possible and it will be an honor if you liked any of my life time experiences quotes.may your days blessed.all the best.

      1. Thanks so much and it’s such a pleasant moment fulfilling with honor .your integrity such an inspiration,your genuine such anEngel’s attitude,the light in me sees the light in you NAMASTE

  19. All I can say is , cannot wait to read part two. Please post it soon.

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