Monday, November 16, 2015

Why did you join the Navy…? : Humor in Uniform

Humor in Uniform

A Spoof

The moment we reported to Naval Academy (NAVAC) Cochin (Kochi) – we were asked the quintessential question: 

“Why did you join the Navy…?”

Most of us gave unimaginative stereotyped answers which everyone had heard before.

Acting Sub Lieutenant “M” was different.

He said: “I joined the Navy to drink.”

(Those days – the first Officer Rank in the Army/Navy/Air Force was Second Lieutenant (2nd Lt)/Acting Sub Lieutenant (Ag Sub Lt)/Pilot Officer (P/O)respectively. In 2006 – thanks to the AVS Cadre Review Bonanza – this lowest officer rank was abolished – and Officers were commissioned as Lieutenants/Sub Lieutenants/Flying Officers in the Army/Navy/Air Force respectively – which were the ranks above the erstwhile “2nd Lt”/“Ag Sub Lt”/“Pilot Officer” which were the lowest officer ranks earlier)

The Officer-in-charge and Staff Officers of NAVAC thought “M” was joking – but “M” was dead serious – he had indeed joined the Navy to drink.

We were “University Entry Officers”.

We were selected via the “University Entry Scheme” (UES) – an “Earn while you Learn” Recruitment Scheme – which was highly successful in attracting the best Engineering talent.

Under the UES – Navy Selection Teams visited premier Engineering Colleges/IITs/RECs (NITs) at the beginning of our pre-final year – and they interviewed and shortlisted candidates – who had to appear before a Services Selection Board (SSB) at Allahabad, Bhopal or Bangalore.

Those selected by the SSB and found medically fit were offered a commission as an Officer in the Navy from the beginning of the final year of Engineering.

So – we were Naval Officers drawing handsome pay during our final year of Engineering – owing to which we enjoyed great prestige and relative affluence as compared to our fellow student classmates.

On completion of our B. Tech. / BE courses – we joined the Naval Academy for Basic and Divisional (B&D) Training.

We had heard that “M” had taken his appointment letter (as an officer in the Indian Navy) to a Military Unit near his college and managed to get a Liquor Card from the Unit CSD Canteen which enabled him to enjoy his full “quota” of booze during his final year of Engineering.

Coming back to the Naval Academy – on our very first “liberty” a month later – while we headed for Movie Halls and Restaurants in Ernakulam – “M” rushed to nearest Bar to get gloriously drunk.

In fact – “M” enjoyed himself so much  downing peg after peg  to cure his thirst  that he passed out ‘dead drunk’ in the Bar.

Luckily for “M” – a ‘Good Samaritan’ saw his Navy ID Card – and he carried the blissfully ‘comatose’ “M” into his car  drove down to the Naval Base  and deposited “M” outside the OOD’s Office.

This episode resulted in some heavy “punishments” and “restrictions” for “M” – including cancellation of his liberty’ (shore leave’ in Navy Jargon) till the end of the term – since the “powers-that-be” realized that “M” meant business  as far as his reason for joining the Navy was concerned.

However – “M” was not to be deterred from his aim – and – within a few days  he used his initiative to get access to booze.

As I told you – we were already Officers when we joined the Naval Academy (NAVAC) – and we were drawing full pay and allowances.

So – we dined in the Officers’ Wardroom – the Southern Naval Area (SNA) Wardroom Officers Mess.

[A few years later  SNA was upgraded to SNC (Southern Naval Command)]

Of course – since we were not allowed to wear stripes during training – we dined in a separate “Gun Room” – but – we were full-fledged members of the Wardroom Mess.

There were no “free” authorized rations those days – so – as officers  we paid for our food – unlike cadets – who dined in cadet dining halls in the Academy and got free food.

During Basic Training – we were not officially allowed to drink liquor – but we were permitted to smoke – and we bought our cigarettes at the Wardroom Bar by signing chits  since we were full-fledged members of the Wardroom Mess.

On working day evenings – we dined in “Red Sea Rig” uniform.

On Weekends/Sundays/Holidays – we were permitted to wear “civvies”.

One Sunday evening – while we were buying cigarettes at the Bar – “M” asked the steward for a Large Peg of Rum  and – with confident flourish  “M” signed a chit for the Rum.

The steward served “M” a Large Peg of Rum.

It was as simple as that.

From then on – every evening – “M” would sneak out from his cabin during the pre-dinner “Study Hour” – and head for the Bar for his daily quota – and then join us for dinner in the “Gun Room”.

Once our Basic Training was over – and we passed out of the Naval Academy – we could officially drink all the liquor we wanted to – especially top class “duty free” foreign liquor on ships – and for “M” – this was the bonanza for which he had joined the Navy.


“M” enjoyed his bachelor days “soaked in alcohol” – imbibing all the booze he could lay his hands on.

For “M” – it was the happiest time of his life – and the Navy was the best thing that had happened to him.

Sadly – one day – “M” got married – and he got a “tough cookie” wife – who cracked down heavily on his drinking.

In fact – his redoubtable wife banned alcohol in the house – and she kept an “eagle eye” on her husband at parties – so “M” would surreptitiously gulp a quick “down the hatch” peg of Rum whenever he got an opportunity – followed by some cardamom (Elaichi) to mask the smell of alcohol.

A few years later – “M” landed up for an advanced specialization course at IAT Pune – where I was his instructor.

Every evening – “M” would tell his wife that he wanted to “clear some doubts” about the subject I was teaching him – and he would land up my house.

Of course – there were no “doubts” he wanted cleared.

“M” would have 3 quick pegs of Rum at my place – and then head home.

When his wife questioned him on his “happy” state – “M” would plead that I was his instructor – so how could he refuse my generous offer of a drink.

M’s wife blamed me for “spoiling” her husband – and – one day – she had her revenge.

On Holi evening – when I was taking a long evening walk to sober up from the boisterous morning celebrations – M’s wife waved out to me and called me to her lawn.

(“M” was probably sleeping inside – he had “passed out” in the morning after surreptitiously downing huge amounts of a deadly cocktail of Rum and Beer – his wife had permitted him one bottle of Beer as a special case for the occasion).

M’s wife looked charmingly at me – and she said that she would give me something to cure my hangover.

After some time – M’s wife emerged from kitchen – and – with an innocent smile – she served me a glass of Khus “Sherbet”.

What I did not know was that M’s wife had laced the cool green Khus “Sherbet” with a heavy dose of “Bhang”.

She had slipped me a potent “Mickey Finn” – and I naively drank the “Bhang” spiked cool drink.

What happened thereafter…?

Well – that is another story…

Copyright © Vikram Karve 
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1. This is a spoof, satire, just for fun and humor, no offence is meant to anyone, so take it with a pinch of salt and have a laugh.
2. 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.

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