Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Friends Forever Asli FFA

In their seventies but still young at heart--accurately describes these fourteen grandparents who celebrate their bonding and camaraderie of 40+ years. Navy-- INS Valsura to be precise, brought them together 43 years ago. All of them have since retired from the Navy. But their bond of friendship has continued. Each one of these 'young at heart' buddies has also excelled in their second innings in civil life.

These buddies for four decades, have been sharing their joys and sorrows. Besides attending each other's weddings, they have also graced the weddings of each others' children and such other family celebrations. This September, these young grandpas with their spouses are once again reuniting in Andaman Islands. Like a true Naval operation, planning for this trip started nine months ago. Our cover picture says it all.



These Naval officers do not belong to one single course or batch. As bachelors, many of them lived in the Wardroom Mess at INS Valsura, Navy's electrical school in Jamnagar Gujarat. In 1970s, they were allotted cabins on the first floor in the Officers' Mess. This led to the birth of  an informal group called 'FFA'- the First Floor Association. FFA was somewhat different from group of school mates, college mates, squadron mates, hostel mates, wingies (my BITSian buddies-- are you listening?) and so on. Married officers were granted 'honorary' membership of FFA. FFA members were passionate about teaching. No wonder many of them took it up as a career in their second innings. 
Here is an FFA picture. 



In the picture above L to R: Lieutenants SK Banerjee, PG Bhat, Gian Prakash, JVR Moorty, GR Nair and Raman Kumar.

These guys moved on from Valsura to various ships and establishments in the Navy but the FFA bond kept them connected (no Facebook those days!). They are now between 64 and 77 years of age. Therefore this reunion further cements the bonds of FFA era. Perhaps FFA has now got a new meaning-- 'Friends Forever Asli'-- in line with bilingual tag lines such as 'Yeh Dil Mange More'. Asli  असली in Hindi means 'real'. And they sure portray real friendship.
Stories of FFA's previous reunions can be browsed on the links below:
2012- Mumbai - Picture collage below



2013- Jamnagar Reunion (click here for picture story)  

2013- Video snapshot of these crazy guys how they looked in 1970s

2014- Kochi Reunion (click here for picture story)

Meet these crazy 'young' buddies (they hate the word 'oldies') one by one- in alphabetical order below.












Talking of Kwatra's poetry, sample this on life after retirement:

Thanks Satish for that wonderful composition. More from Satish Kwatra will follow in subsequent picture stories from Andmans.






Sadly, two of the buddies have since lost their spouses. We all miss Mrs Anita Nair and Mrs Paramjeet Sadiora. Our humble tribute and remembrance to both the ladies.



Besides these fourteen buddies, there are many others of FFA-vintage who could not make it this time. Some of these FFA and 'honorary' FFA buddies are listed below (in alphabetical order):
Usha and PG Bhat
Sudha and AM Boopathi
Jagdish Chandra
Gopa and Ranjit Deb
Nandini and Vijay Dixit
Jyoti and Late Vilas Gokhale
Megha and BC Jayaprakash
Kukum and Prabhat Jindal
Meena and Ashok Kalra
Karuna and Raman Kumar
Vijaya and JVR Moorty
Gowri and TN Pranesha
Lakshmi and NR Ravi
Chitra and JN Roy
Premila and Mani Thomas
Shailaja and MV Vasudevan

Ghumakkad may be pardoned for names which may have been missed out. But all these buddies who were faculty members (called 'instructors' in military parlance) in INS Valsura rocked together. Hail FFA!

This story was meant as the curtain raiser for FFA's forthcoming Andamans trip. More posts on Anadmans will follow. Andaman islands have their unique charm. For those not familiar with its location, see the map below:

Am sure each one of you would be regaling with similar memories of a reunion with buddies of yesteryears. As someone said "Friendship is like a violin; the music may stop now and then, but the strings will last forever".

Here is to 'Friends Forever Asli'!

Thanks for browsing
    -Harsh-the-Ghumakkad/ 14th Sept 2016