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Anchoring their life in the city

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BIRD’S EYE VIEW: A Navy sky diving team in Kochi.
BIRD’S EYE VIEW: A Navy sky diving team in Kochi.

Kochi plays home to a host of retired Navy officials who prefer

the city over their home towns.

KOCHI: From Kashmir to Kanyakumari is a hackneyed phrase. Maybe, that is why Lieutenant Commander (Retd) A.K. Bhan pulled a stop a little short of Kanyakumari. At Kochi, that is! He landed in Kochi in 1958 and retired from service exactly 20 years later. As the city grew in size and character, he made it his own, like many officers of his ilk.

Kochi plays home to a host of retired Navy officials who prefer the city over their home town for a comfortable life. While it is a matter of convenience for some, others have chosen the city. For a person from the armed forces, home town need not necessarily be the place of upbringing. It could well be the place where he served the longest or which held sway over his service life. Like a Madras Regiment Brigadier from Punjab who named his son Anpu (love) and refers to Chennai as “our place”.

Mr. Bhan believes that his life is inextricably linked to the growth of the city. In the 1950s, he and his folks in the Navy would have to wait for a launch to commute between the island and mainland. Once the 20-metre canal was levelled, cyclists began to ride to work. He still remembers the only lieutenant commander who owned a private car and was the cynosure of all eyes. The city went to sleep at 6 p.m. as the only coffee shop and the Woodlands hotel on the Broadway would close by then. Dosa was available at 15 paisa. “There was no social life, but the face of the M.G. Foot Road began to change in the 1970s when shops started mushrooming,” says Mr. Bhan.

When he retired in 1978, Mr. Bhan didn’t want to go back to Srinagar. “There was no job opportunity there. Moreover, my children were studying here. They grew up as Keralites,” he says. Mr. Bhan doesn’t regret that he hasn’t gone back to his native State and only faintly remembers going to a primary school in Ganderbal as a fourth class student.

Commander Alok Kumar Nayak opted out of service last year at the age of 44 and joined Air India Express as a pilot. He has been in the city for 11 years and is more than comfortable with its environs. “Having left my home town Cuttack in 1973 as a Class V student, I have never been home-sick,” he vouches. For Commander Rajesh Pratap Singh, who has also joined Air India Express after flying everything from Islander to the Dorniers and the Avros in the Navy, finds Kochi an advanced locale.

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