Wednesday, November 27, 2013

HUMOR IN UNIFORM - A TERRIBLY TERRIBLE FELLOW

HUMOUR IN UNIFORM

A TERRIBLY TERRIBLE FELLOW
An Apocryphal Story
By
VIKRAM KARVE

Disclaimer:
This story is a work of fiction. The characters and settings do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
NB:
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

A TERRIBLY TERRIBLE FELLOW - an apocryphal story by Vikram Karve

This happened long back, 33 years ago.

We were only two bachelors living on the first floor cabins of the staff block of the officers’ mess – Colonel “N” and myself.

Of course, I was a true unmarried bachelor, whereas “N” was a forced bachelor, a married bachelor, as his wife was working in Mumbai where she lived along with their school-going children.

Colonel “N” was a doctor, an Army Medical Corps (AMC) Officer, who was commanding the local Military Hospital (MH).

The MH was located inside our Naval Establishment, a training base located in the back of beyond.

It was a small hospital, with just a handful of doctors and staff.

In fact, the MH comprised just a few decrepit barracks located in a rather desolate corner of the base.

The only bright thing about the MH was its Commanding Officer – Colonel “N” – who was a most jovial chap.

N” was a Keralite, a Malayali, and like most officers from Kerala, he was a down-to-earth hardworking officer, very sincere in his job.

Though he was a senior Colonel, “N” did not pull rank. 

He did not exhibit unnecessary airs, he did not have an inflated ego, and we all liked his rather amiable disposition.

Despite the age difference between us (“N” was in his late 40’s and I was in my early 20’s) he had such a likable nature that we became close friends.

What we liked about “N” was that he was not rank conscious.

“Rank has got nothing to do with medicine”, he would bellow at fellow doctors who tried to pull rank over their juniors and patients, soldiers, sailors and airmen, who came for medical treatment to the MH from nearby military bases.

Every evening “N” and I would sit on the lawns of the officers’ mess, or on the terrace of the staff block, and polish off a bottle of rum, drinking late into the night, sometimes till the wee hours of the morning.

I remember one occasion, when “N” was in high spirits, topped up to the hilt, and suddenly he pointed towards the horizon and said, “Look – there is a fire over there – maybe some ship, an oil tanker is on fire.”

I looked at the distant eerie orange glow.

Soon the sun broke the horizon and we realized that it was sunrise.

Yes, it was no fire, but sunrise, as dawn broke, and the first rays of the sun emanated from just below the horizon causing an orange glow in the sky.

We had been drinking the entire night, right until dawn.

N” and I enjoyed our drinking sessions.

We both liked to talk, and we had many yarns to tell, especially “N” who regaled me with his never-ending “Medical Anecdotes” and “Army Stories”.

The most remarkable feature about “N” was his amusing diction.

At times, his choice of words was hilarious.

If “N” liked someone, he would say: “He is a terrible fellow.”

Spoken in his typical jovial Kerala accent, with N” rolling the two “R’s in the word terrible on his tongue, his signature phrase He is a terrible fellow had a rather delightful effect.

One day, at a meeting, our Commanding Officer (CO) asked “N” whether he knew anything about the Army Medical Corps (AMC) General from Headquarters who was coming down to inspect the Military Hospital (MH).

“Oh yes, I know the General quite well – he is a terrible fellow,” said “N” in his usual candid style.

On hearing this statement, that the inspecting officer was a “terrible fellow”, our career-conscious CO got quite anxious.

For our CO, a Technical Commodore who had never commanded anything in his life before, this was a crucial “do-or-die” appointment which would determine his further promotion to Admiral.

So he was extremely anxious that nothing should go wrong during his tenure. 

Strictly speaking, the MH was an independent entity, but still it was located inside the Naval Establishment and our CO did not want to take any chances.

Our CO was quite wary of the apparent easygoing ways and seemingly couldn’t-care-less attitude of “N”, who was the Officer Commanding Military Hospital (OC MH).

So, as the date for the inspection approached, our CO became extremely tense and jittery.

Our CO was very nervous and terribly paranoid that should something go wrong with the inspection of the MH, he may inadvertently end up getting a “black mark” which may ruin his career.

So, our CO took personal charge and pulled out all stops to ensure that the inspection was a success.

Our CO would personally take rounds of the MH every morning.

Our CO would spend hours planning, supervising, rehearsing and micromanaging every aspect of the impending inspection.

On the other hand, N” seemed to be quite nonchalant.

Actually N” was the OC MH and he should have been sweating” for the inspection of his MH, but he seemed to be cool and relaxed.

In fact, our CO had planned the itinerary meticulously down to the smallest detail, since our CO did not want the MH to be caught on the wrong foot by the “terrible fellow” AMC General who was coming for the inspection.

One evening, I commented to “N” that our CO seemed to be interfering a bit too much in the affairs of the MH.

N” smiled at me, and, in his usual unperturbed manner, he said, “Well, if your CO wants to do my job, he is most welcome to do so.”

Contrary to our CO’s expectations, the “terrible fellow” turned out to be a most “jolly good fellow”.

Yes, the AMC General was a most informal and unfussy inspecting officer and he carried out the inspection in a most jovial and relaxed manner exchanging witty jokes and banter with our CO, the staff, the patients and all of us in the entourage.

In the evening, there was a cocktail party to “celebrate” the successful inspection.

Our nonplussed CO was looking quite sternly at “N” who was thoroughly enjoying his drinks along with the AMC General.

Suddenly, a happily drunk “N” looked at our CO. 

N” pointed towards the AMC General and said loudly to our CO, “I told you that he is a terrible fellow.”  

A few days later, one morning, “N” summoned me to his office, which was quite unusual.

N had said it was something urgent, so I rushed to his office in the MH.

“Hey, there was a matrimonial enquiry about you,” he said.

“From who?” I asked, quite surprised, as I was not aware of any matchmaking moves.

“I just got a call from one of ex-bosses. He is a Brigadier in the AMC who is posted in Pune. He is a Maharashtrian like you. He is looking for a suitable match for his daughter.”

“Well, I don’t know anything…”

N” looked at me and said, “You know how these things work – by word of mouth. Someone back home must have told the Brigadier or his wife about you. They must have found out that you are posted here. So the Brigadier must have thought it best to ask me, the nearest AMC Officer, about you.”
                                                                          
“So, what did you tell the Brigadier?” I asked.

N” looked at me with warm affection and said, “I told the Brigadier that you are a terrible fellow. In fact, I like you so much, so I told him that you are a terribly terrible fellow.”

Those momentous words of “praise” put an immediate end to the rather promising matrimonial prospect for me and there were no further inquiries about me from the AMC Brigadier.

A few years later, one evening, I met “N” on Colaba Causeway.

N” had retired from the Army and was working at a leading hospital in Mumbai.

I invited “N” over to my ship for a drink.

We sat in the wardroom, drinking and talking of the good old days.

The Captain sent down his compliments to me in the wardroom asking me to bring along “N” for a drink to the Captain’s cabin.

After we were seated in the Captain’s Cabin, drinks in hand, the Captain looked at “N” and said: “Sir, do you remember me? I was once admitted to MH Khadki and you were the Medical Officer in-charge of the Officers’ Ward.”

N” looked carefully at the Captain and suddenly his eyes lit up and he said, “Oh, so you are the terrible fellow who used to disappear without a bloody outpass to romance with my pretty nursing officer? What a terrible fellow you were!”

“Sir, thanks to you, I got married to her,” my Captain said.

“Really? I must say you are truly a very terrible fellow,” N” said.

We talked. We drank. It was hilarious to hear of their escapades.

It was almost midnight by the time we finished and we were quite happily drunk.

As a mark of respect to “N”, the Captain came to see him off the gangway.

The OOD, the duty PO and the Quartermaster were all smartly lined up at the gangway.

As N crossed the gangway, everyone saluted.

Suddenly, “N” turned around and shouted jovially to the OOD and the gangway staff: “Let me tell you one thing. You are very lucky. Your Captain is a terrible fellow. In fact, your Captain is an utterly terrible fellow.”

Next morning, rather contrite, I went to the Captain to explain: “Sir, actually he meant that you are a jolly good fellow.”

“I know,” my Captain said, “By the way “N” rang me up in the morning to thank me for the hospitality. And do you know what he said about you?”

“What did he say about me, Sir?” I asked quite curious.

“He told me that you are a terribly terrible fellow – Isn’t that the ultimate compliment?” the Captain said, and he broke into a laugh.

VIKRAM KARVE
Copyright © Vikram Karve 
Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work. 
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

Disclaimer:
All stories in this blog are a work of fiction. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
NB:
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)

Did you like this story?
I am sure you will like the 27 short stories from my recently published anthology of Short Fiction COCKTAIL
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About Vikram Karve

A creative person with a zest for life, Vikram Karve is a retired Naval Officer turned full time writer and blogger. Educated at IIT Delhi, IIT (BHU) Varanasi, The Lawrence School Lovedale and Bishops School Pune, Vikram has published two books: COCKTAIL a collection of fiction short stories about relationships (2011) and APPETITE FOR A STROLL a book of Foodie Adventures (2008) and is currently working on his novel and a book of vignettes and an anthology of short fiction. An avid blogger, he has written a number of fiction short stories and creative non-fiction articles on a variety of topics including food, travel, philosophy, academics, technology, management, health, pet parenting, teaching stories and self help in magazines and published a large number of professional  and academic research papers in journals and edited in-house journals and magazines for many years, before the advent of blogging. Vikram has taught at a University as a Professor for 15 years and now teaches as a visiting faculty and devotes most of his time to creative writing and blogging. Vikram Karve lives in Pune India with his family and muse - his pet dog Sherry with whom he takes long walks thinking creative thoughts.

Vikram Karve Academic and Creative Writing Journal: http://karvediat.blogspot.com
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