My dad retired recently and I thought about all those beautiful customs and practices that make Army, very different from any other organization.
These Army traditions are the drills that make Indian Army what it is today.
So few of the customs that exist in the Army today that you should definitely know about are:
1. Cardinal Puff:
This is one of the first things I remember as an Army kid in a mess party. When an officer joins a regiment, this is one ritual they have to go through. They are given a glass or whiskey and they have to drink it in a regime. First you speak “I drink the cardinal Puff for the first time”, then take a sip, wipe your mustache once and place the glass down. Then you say “I drink the cardinal puff puff for the second time” and repeat the same twice. Then you do it for the third time, finish your drink, repeat it three times and then tap your glass two times and put it on the table upside down. Similar thing happens when you are posted out i.e. transferred from one station to another.
2. Bawa Pool:
A tradition of honor and grace. Restricted to the Bombay Sappers, this is one of my favorites. Right in front of the officer’s mess in Pune is this long rectangular pool with showers on both sides. When an officer enters the mess for the first time he has to march down this pool with water pouring from all sides, a bagpipe band playing and all the officers and their spouses clapping in rhythm. After crossing the pool he/she meets the commandant and they both share a glass of wine. Similar thing happens when you retire; you walk from the mess to the outside gate via this pool.
3. Jolly Good fellow Chair:
When an officer is posted out he/she doesn’t go out on foot. Army has its own ways. There is a special chair in which the officer sits and is picked up and dropped at the gate while singing “he is a jolly good fellow……and so say all of us”. No better way to be escorted out.
4. Baton Change:
When the commanding officer is posted out, he has to handover his powers and responsibilities to another officer. And this transfer is symbolized by transferring the commanding baton from the past to the present commanding officer.
5. Permission for Marriage
Taking forward the British tradition, a junior officer has to ask his/her commandant before getting married. The woman/man has to be approved by his/her CO only then he/she is allowed to get married. Previously it was done as that lady would then become a part of their family and thus has to be approved by the senior of the family but now I believe it is just for fun.
6. Sarv- Dharm Sthal
We in the Army don’t believe in division in the name of religion. So we have really unique worship places in which one side is a Gurudwara, one a masjid, one a temple and other a church, they all share a common wall. All festivals are celebrated on a large scale and by anybody and everybody. Army literally shows unity in diversity.
7. Rope Pulling
When the commanding officer is posted out, he is given a see off by pulling his jeep till some distance. The jawans of that regiment tie ropes to the front of the jeep and pull.
8. Promotion Whiskey
When an officer gets promoted, certain stars are added to his uniform. In order to make the process interesting, these stars are placed inside a whiskey glass and you have to drink your way to them. I just hope nobody ever swallowed the stars; otherwise there goes the promotion literally down the drain.
9. Five Course Dinner
Army doesn’t let anybody retire without honor, so for the farewell dinner, a beautiful five course meal is organized starting from soup and appetizers to coffee with chocolate. It is a very formal setting where people only whisper and then toasts are made to the retiring officer and his/her spouse and also to the President.
Army is not just an occupation but it’s a way of life. It gives you a style, an attitude and makes you a royalty.
The kind of loyalty and respect that you get in this profession you get nowhere for sure.
And as my dad said that “these traditions are the reasons why Army is so closely knit, because we have no one on those far off postings, it’s only our Army family and these small traditions that keeps us going.”