Armed forces officers’ clubs are recognised as the best run in the country and much sought after. Legally, these are actually institutes and deemed as officers’ messes. As such, they are exempt from tax liabilities and able to save liquor at canteen rates. This obviously enables them to provide premium services to defence services officers at affordable rates, a big plus point for aspirants of military careers.
However, such social clubs exclusively for military men and veterans are a post-Independence phenomena. They grew out of the decision of the then Bombay (now Maharashtra and Gujarat states) government to impose prohibition from whose provisions the armed forces were exempt. A Rajindra Sinhji Institute (named after the then Southern Army Commander and later Commander in Chief from 1953 to 1955) was started at Pune as a pragmatic solution. The success of the experiment led to the opening of service officers’ institutes all over the country.
Chandigarh’s Defence Services Officers’ Institute (DSOI) located in salubrious surroundings in Sector 36-C provides excellent facilities for wining and dining and holding functions such as weddings, parties and regimental reunions. It has grown into a viable institution for veterans. However, most members feel that the institute now needs to grow into a bigger entity providing a larger number of facilities. The accent on sports and leisure needs to be sharpened with provision for such things like a swimming pool and tennis, squash and badminton courts.
The existing canteen needs to be able to sell liquor too. The quantum of accommodation available needs to be increased. While funds for expansion don’t seem to be a problem, currently zoning and planning permissions need to be pursued with due diligence and perseverance.
Beating the Retreat 2014
The armed forces organised this year’s Beating of the Retreat in their usual immaculate, competent manner. The highlights of the ceremony were the profusion of indigenous tunes in complete harmony with the constant endeavour for excellence. The massed bands marched down Raisin Hill to the strains of ‘Jahan daal daal pe soney ki chidiyan’ arranged by Major Mahendra Das. A number of new marches, both quick and slow, were played to perfection by the pipe bands. Some traditional Scottish tunes brought about a link to the past.
The strathspey, ‘Marquis of Huntly’ was especially excellent. All tunes played by the superb Indian Navy and Indian Air Force (IAF) bands were not only new, but indigenous, many of them composed by Lieutenant Commander SK Champion and Squadron Leader G Jayachandran, who was also the principal conductor for the event.
Echoes by the army bands were very well done, creating a unique musical effect in the midst of Luttyens’ splendid architecture. Personally, I found ‘Drummers Call’ played by drummers from the pipe bands on their tenor and bass drums, especially admirable. The appreciative audience joined in by clapping to the tune of the drums. As the massed bands marched off to Iqbal’s immortal ‘Sarey Jahan Se Achha’ composed by professor A Lobo, a visible sense of national pride wafted through the cold January air. It felt good to be an Indian! The event was a masterpiece of precision and coordination, thanks to the unstinting efforts of personnel of the Services headquarters, Delhi Area, the units involved and above all the professional excellence of the musicians.
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