The Story of My Navy Beard

Last month – in December 2017 – I visited my professional alma mater INS Valsura Jamnagar for the Platinum Jubilee Celebrations of the Stone Frigate. 

There – while walking around the Quarterdeck (Parade Ground) – and looking at the Captain’s Office nearby – I remembered this story… 

THE STORY OF MY NAVY BEARD 

“What if…?”

“What if – I hadn’t joined the Navy…?”

Well – if I hadn’t joined the Navy – three things wouldn’t have happened:

  1. I wouldn’t have become a “drunkard”
  1. I wouldn’t have become a “writer”
  1. I wouldn’t have grown a beard

Yes – I give the Navy full credit for these three things.

These three things wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t joined the Navy.

However – some things have changed now.

I am no longer a “drunkard”.

I am living a life of strict sobriety for 15 years now – ever since I quit drinking alcohol.

Now – I am more of a “Blogger” than a “Writer”.

Yes – from a “Writer” – I have metamorphosed into a “Blogger”

But – as far as my beard is concerned – there is no change.

I still have my glorious beard.

I grew my beard in January 1978 – and – I have kept my beard continuously for 40 years  – and now – in January 2018 – my beard celebrates its 40th Birthday.

Some of my Navy friends kept growing beards and shaving them off from time to time – but – I loved my beard so much – that I never ever thought of shaving it off.

As I said – before I joined the Navy – I was clean shaven – and – I never imagined that I would keep a beard.

So – the full credit for my beard must go to the Navy.

Why did I grow a beard…?

What prompted me to suddenly take a decision to grow a beard…?

Let me tell you the story of my majestic beard…

JOIN THE NAVY – AND – GROW A BEARD 

Link to my original post in my Writing Blog: https://karve.wordpress.com/2016/09/02/the-story-of-my-majestic-beard/

THE STORY OF MY MAJESTIC BEARD By VIKRAM KARVE

If you are an Unemployed Unwanted Uncelebrated “Retired” Navy Veteran like me – what is the best thing to do…?

Reminisce.

Yes – I can hark back in time and reminisce – and I can talk about my “good old navy days”.

But – what do I do if there is no one to talk to…?

I can write about my unforgettable reminiscences.

Well – that is exactly what I am going to do now.

I will hark back in time to my early Navy days – take you back to the 1970’s – and tell you why – thanks to the Navy – I grew my handsome beard – which adorns my face till today.

By the way – if I had not joined the Navy – I probably would not have kept a beard.

Yes – before I joined the Navy – I was clean shaven – and I had never contemplated having a beard.

But then when you join the Navy – everything changes – and you change – whether it is for the better or for the worse – well – that depends on you!

I remember my first day at the Naval Academy in Cochin (now called Kochi).

The moment we reported to the Academy – an army of barbers descended on us to chop off most of the copious hair adoring our heads – and shave the stubble on our faces.

We were given crew cuts – and our faces were shaven clean.

A few young men did have moustaches – but these moustaches were ruthlessly removed.

At the Naval Academy – even moustaches were not permitted – and all trainees had to be “clean shaven”.

“SEAMANLIKE” APPEARANCE

Dear Reader – before I proceed further with my story – let me digress – and tell you a bit about the navy tradition of sailors keeping beards.

After independence – we imbibed our military traditions from our erstwhile rulers – the British – and accordingly – our Navy adopted the customs and traditions of the Royal Navy.

Hence – even on the subject of moustaches and beards – the Indian Navy had adopted, verbatim, the regulations of the British Navy – which required that a naval officer or sailor had either to have both “beard and moustache” or neither.

This means that you had to have a “full-set beard” (a full beard and moustache).

The beard must be complete – joined from sideburns – covering the entire jawline and chin – and joining the moustache.

A Navy Officer or Sailor had to have a “full-set beard” or nothing.

A moustache on its own was not permitted.

You were required to obtain the approval of your Commanding Officer to “discontinue shaving” or to “continue shaving” – every time you wanted to change your appearance.

If you wanted to grow a beard – you had to put in a request to stop shaving – yes – you had to formally seek permission to “cease shaving”.

If your request was granted – you were allowed three weeks (21 days) to grow your beard.

During this time of 21 days – as the beard grew – the beard grower was not permitted to go ashore or to be seen in public until the Commanding Officer felt that the beard was fit for public viewing.

A Naval Officer or Sailor was required to have a rugged, “full set”, masculine looking, well-developed beard which gave you a macho appearance.

Wispy or wimpy looking beards were not allowed – and “designer stubble” was certainly not permitted.

If the Commanding Officer (Captain) approved of your beard – you were allowed to keep a beard.

But – if your Commanding Officer deemed your beard to be “unworthy of a seaman” – you were ordered to “shave off” your beard.

Suppose you were allowed to have a beard – and – you kept the beard for a few years – but later – if you wanted to shave off your beard – you had to seek permission to “start shaving”.

Beards were not permitted in the Army and Air Force – but you were allowed to keep moustaches.

Yes – if you are in the Army or Air Force – you can either keep your face clean shaven – or you can keep a moustache (without a beard).

I am sure the Army and Air Force have regulations governing moustaches which specify the types of moustaches permitted, sizes, shapes, styles etc.

But – I have seen that the Air Force has a fondness for handlebar moustaches – and so do some Artillery Officers.

Sadly – most officers now prefer the “metrosexual” clean-shaven “chikna” look – in the Navy – and in the Army and the Air Force too.

MOUSTACHES IN THE NAVY

Sometime in the 1970’s – due to pressures from youngsters and to be in sync with prevailing customs – the Indian Navy relaxed the provisions governing wearing of moustaches and beards.

The regulations were amended so that – now – the issue of permitting “moustaches without beards” was left to the Commanding Officer’s discretion.

After these amendments – the Captain could permit officers and sailors to wear moustaches and beards or shave them off, if they so desired.

Moustaches and beard could be worn with or without the beard and moustaches respectively.

Side whiskers (sideburns) were permitted right down to the level of the lobe of the ear.

Moustaches, beards and whiskers had to be neatly cut and trimmed.

Of course – this privilege may be withdrawn in cases of untidy growth.

This relaxation has resulted in many Navy youngsters sporting moustaches.

Of course – the seasoned “sea-dogs” preferred “full-set” beards.

WHY I GREW A “FULL SET” NAVY BEARD

After completing our basic Naval Training – we were sent for our specialization course.

As I told you earlier – consequent to the relaxation of “appearance” regulations – a few young officers had started sporting moustaches – and I too felt like having a moustache.

So – the moment we reported for the specialization course – I applied for permission to grow a moustache.

The Commanding Officer (CO) refused permission for me to grow a moustache.

I protested to my training officer – but he showed me the Navy rules and regulations which stated that granting permission for moustache was the Commanding Officer’s prerogative.

“Sir – suppose I seek permission to grow a beard…?” I asked.

“If you apply for permission to grow a beard – the CO will have to grant you permission – at least for three weeks…” the Training Officer said.

My request to “cease shaving” was promptly granted by the Commanding Officer.

I stopped shaving – and my beard started to grow.

Around 15 days later – during Friday morning Divisions (Parade) – the Commanding Officer – while inspecting the Under Trainee Officers Division – he suddenly stopped before me – yes – the Commanding Officer stopped before me and looked at me.

The Commanding Officer looked at my face – as if scrutinizing it – and he said to me:

“You look good in a beard. Your beard suits you well. Keep your beard…”

This happened more than 40 years ago – in January 1978 – and now – in January 2018 – my beloved beard celebrates its 40th Birthday.

Quite funny – isn’t it…?

I actually wanted to grow a moustache – but – thanks to quirks of the Navy – I landed up growing a beard instead.

But – once I grew my beard – I started liking my beard – and soon – my beard became sacrosanct to me – and I never shaved it off.

I love my majestic beard.

My beard has been my loyal companion throughout my entire Naval career – and now – my beard is my faithful friend in my lonely retirement days

I am proud of my beard.

I am glad I have a beard.

In hindsight – I do not know whether joining the Navy was good for me – or whether I would have done better in the “civvy street”.

But – one thing is for sure.

I owe my beard to the Navy.

Had it not been for the Navy – I may not have kept a beard.

I love my beard.

And as I write this – from time to time – I lovingly caress my lovely beard.

QUOTES ON BEARDS

In conclusion – let me give you 3 quotes on beards:

A woman with a beard looks like a man – and a man without a beard looks like a woman

~ Afghan saying

There are two kinds of people in this world that go around beardless – boys and women – and I am neither one

~ Greek saying

He that hath a beard is more than a youth – and he that hath no beard is less than a man 

~ William Shakespeare

So – Dear Reader – this is the story of my majestic beard…

VIKRAM KARVE

Copyright © Vikram Karve
1. If you share this post, please give due credit to the author Vikram Karve
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© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

Disclaimer:

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.

Copyright Notice:

No part of this Blog may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical including photocopying or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the Blog Author Vikram Karve who holds the copyright.

Copyright © Vikram Karve (all rights reserved) 

Link to my original post in my Blog Academic and Creative Writing Journal Vikram Karve: http://karvediat.blogspot.in/2016/09/me-and-my-navy-beard.html

Revised Version of my story posted online by me Vikram Karve earlier in my Academic and Creative Writing Journal Blog on 21 Sep 2014 at url: http://karvediat.blogspot.in/2014/09/why-i-have-beard-humor-in-uniform.html  and on 29 April 2015 at url: http://karvediat.blogspot.in/2015/04/join-navy-and-grow-beard-story-of-my.html  and in Aug 2015 at url:  http://karvediat.blogspot.in/2015/08/navy-memories-why-i-grew-beard.html and in May 2016 at url: http://karvediat.blogspot.in/2016/05/join-navy-and-grow-beard.html

1 Comment »

  1. 1
    Gurmel samrao Says:

    You really look good with your beard.

    Liked by 1 person


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