Thursday, December 3, 2015

Humor in Uniform – Is “Falling in Love” tantamount to “Conduct Unbecoming”...?

Humor in Uniform

Is “Falling in Love” tantamount to “Conduct Unbecoming” of an Officer...?

A few days ago someone asked me whether an officer was allowed to marry a soldier.

This reminded me of a story I had written a few years ago.

So – I delved deep into my “Humor in Uniform” archives and pulled out the story for you to read.

Dear Reader : Do enjoy the story – and do comment and tell me your views about love and marriage between officers and soldiers/sailors...


LOVERS IN UNIFORM
Fiction Short Story
A Spoof
By
VIKRAM KARVE


LOVERS IN UNIFORM  A Spoof by Vikram Karve

The young woman naval officer  a Lieutenant  parks her scooter and starts walking to her office in the navy shore establishment  a stone frigate.

The moment she enters her office  she sees her boss  the Head of the Education Department  a middle-aged Commander with a salt and pepper beard.

Like her  he too is a “schoolie” landlubber in white uniform  though he is 15 years her senior – and the senior-most Education Officer on the base.

The Commander (Ed) says anxiously: “Put on your peak cap and come with me fast. The Old Man wants to see you immediately.”

The “Old Man” – their Commanding Officer, a Commodore, looks at them sternly.

They see that the Commodore is furious – he does not return their salute.

Also  the Commodore does not ask them to sit down.

The Commodore gets straight to the point.

He looks at the young lady naval officer and asks her: “Where the hell were you last evening?”

“Sir…Sir…” she stutters.

“Come on, speak up – I haven’t got all day,” the Commodore shouts.

“Sir, I had gone for a movie,” she says.

“I know – at Eros – I was sitting right behind you,” the Commodore says.

“Sorry Sir – I did not see you – otherwise I would have surely wished you,” she says.

“Don’t give me bullshit – I don’t care two hoots whether you wish me or not. I want to know who was that man sitting right next to you – the bugger with whom you were indulging in a disgusting public display of affection – they call it PDA – don’t they?” the Commodore says.

“Yes, Sir – they call it PDA  public display of affection,” the Commander (Ed) says.

“You shut up. Did I ask you...?” the Commodore scowls at the Schoolie Commander (Ed)  who starts trembling inside.

The Commodore looks at the young woman Lieutenant and barks out loudly: “Speak up, will you? Who the hell was that man sitting next to you in the cinema...? I saw that you two were getting intimate – and you were shamelessly making out with him right there in the movie hall – you were indulging in most scandalous conduct. And that too in public. Bloody PDA or whatever they call it!”

“Sir –  he is a friend,” the lady naval officer says.

“Friend...? My bloody foot...! The bugger is a sailor...” the Commodore shouts.

“Sir –  he is a Chief ERA …” the lady naval officer says.

“I know he is a bloody ERA. He was on the last ship I commanded...” the Commodore says.

“Sir – he is Chief Petty Officer,” the lady navy officer says.

“So...? Does that make him a bloody officer...? Now – young lady – you listen to me clearly – I won’t have my officers shacking up with sailors…” the Commodore bellows.

The Commodore turns red as he shouts – he seems livid with anger.

The Commander (Ed) is perturbed at the Commodore’s profane language, so he says: “Sir, I will counsel her…”

“I told you to shut your bloody trap, didn’t I...?” the Commodore barks at the Commander (Ed).

“I am sorry, Sir...” the Commander (Ed) says.

Then  the Commodore looks at the young lady navy officer and asks her: “How do you know this guy?”

“Sir  we are childhood friends,” she says.

“You are childhood friends with a sailor...? How is that possible...?” the Commodore asks her.

“Sir  we were neighbours  we went to the same school – he was my elder brother’s classmate. And our fathers were good friends – they were from the same hometown. Sir  our fathers were in the navy,” the lady navy officer says.

“Your fathers were officers in the navy?” the Commodore asks her.

“No Sir – our fathers were sailors – they retired as Master Chief Petty Officers,” the lady naval officer says.

“Oh. So you became a naval officer  and your bloody boyfriend joined as an ERA...” the Commodore says.

“Yes, Sir...” the lady naval officer says.

“Why the hell didn’t your boyfriend join as an officer...?” the Commodore says.

“Sir  he tried for NDA after school  but he could not clear the exam – but he was selected as an artificer apprentice. His father was retiring that year  and he told him to join as an apprentice – his father was in a hurry for him to join and settle down in life...” the lady naval officer says.

“And you did your graduation and joined the navy as a bloody schoolie...?” the Commodore says.

“Yes, Sir...” the lady naval officer says.

“Anyway  call it fate  call it luck – call it destiny – but you remember one thing – you are an officer  and you cannot fraternize with sailors. Is that clear...?” the Commodore says.

“Sir  he plans to quit the navy and join the merchant navy as a marine engineer officer...” the lady naval officer says.

“And when the hell is that going to happen?” the Commodore asks her.

“After 5 years, Sir – the moment he finishes his 15 year contract,” the lady naval officer says.

“That’s a long way off. Now you listen to me carefully – as long as you are a naval officer and he is a sailor in the navy  you are not to meet him or maintain contact with him in any way – you are not to have any sort of relationship or friendship with him – is that clear...?” the Commodore says firmly.

“Sir – Please Sir – he is more than a friend – we are thinking of getting married,” the lady naval officer says.

“You want to get married to a sailor...? Are you bloody crazy...? I hope he is not screwing you – that’s the last bloody thing we want – officers and sailors fornicating with each other...!” the Commodore yells.

“Sir  please don’t use such foul language…” the lady naval officer says.

“Oh! So you don’t like foul language, is it? Okay, young lady – I will talk to you in plain and simple language that you can understand. Now you listen carefully – if you don’t do as I say – if you meet that sailor again – you will be in deep trouble – we will throw the book at you,” the Commodore says menacingly.

“Throw the book at me, Sir?” the lady naval officer asks.

“The Navy Act – I suggest you buy a copy – it is available at any bookstore which sells law books. Of course  there may be a copy in our library too. And make sure you read Chapter VIII – Articles of War...” the Commodore says.

“Articles of War...? Sir  but there is no war going on...” the lady naval officer says, confused.

“The Articles of War are a set of regulations – the statutory provisions in the Navy Act that regulate and govern the conduct and behaviour of officers and sailors of the navy – and since you are in the navy  they apply to you too – and they very much apply to that high-and-mighty Chief Petty Officer – that bloody boyfriend of yours. We will see to it that both of you are punished severely...” the Commodore says threateningly.

“Sir  but what wrong have we done...? We are just in love with each other. And please tell me what is his fault...? Is it his fault that he is a sailor and he is love with me who is an officer...? Sir  I don’t want you to harm him in any way...” the lady naval officer pleads.

“You are asking me what wrong you have done...? I told you, didn’t I? You are an Officer. He is a Sailor. And  an Officer cannot fall in love with a Sailor – that is what is wrong. You are both are guilty of fraternization – so we will charge you both – and both of you are likely to face court-martial...” the Commodore warns the lady officer.

“Court-martial...? Sir  please don’t say such things. You are talking as if we have broken the law  as if we have committed some grave offence...” the lady naval officer says, trembling with trepidation.

“Of course, you have committed an offence,” the Commodore says matter-of-factly.

“Offence? What offence have we committed, Sir? We are just seeing each other. With what offence can you charge us?” the lady naval officer asks.

“We can always charge you with the “catch-all offence” – you will be charged with conduct prejudicial to good order and naval discipline – both of you – under Section 74 of the Navy Act.”

“Sir  please tell me. How is our conduct prejudicial to good order and naval discipline? You want to charge us with breaking discipline just because we went out together on a date...?”

“Yes. You are an officer and he is a sailor – you must respect the difference in your ranks. You are breaking discipline by fraternizing with a sailor and not respecting the difference in rank.  An officer engaging in an unduly familiar relationship with a sailor is prejudicial to good order and naval discipline and is unacceptable behaviour. It is just not done. It is gross indiscipline. Do you understand?”

“Sir, it is our personal life. We see each other when we are off-duty – and we meet outside in civilian areas. So how are we breaking discipline?”

“There is no personal life once you join the navy. You better fall in line and behave yourself  or you both will be charged and punished – and – as for you there is one more thing...” the Commodore says.

“What, Sir?” the lady naval officer says.

“Since you are an officer  you will be also charged with scandalous conduct unbecoming the character of an officer.”

“Scandalous...? Conduct unbecoming the character of an officer...?” the lady naval officer asks, bewildered.

“Yes  conduct unbecoming of an officer. That’s section 54 (2) of the Navy Act – go and check it up. I told you we will throw the book at you if you don’t behave yourself...” the Commodore says, looking the Lady Lieutenant in the eye.

The young lady naval officer – the Lady Lieutenant – looks as if she is going to break down with fear.

Then  the Commodore looks at the Schoolie Commander (Ed)  and the Commodore shouts at the Schoolie Commander: “As for you  if you don’t stop her from continuing this nonsense  we will charge you with abetment of all the offences she is committing – and you can say goodbye to your career.”

“Abetment...?” the flabbergasted Schoolie Commander (Ed) asks.

“Go and read Section 76 of the Navy Act,” the Commodore says to the Schoolie Commander (Ed).

The Schoolie Commander starts trembling  and he mumbles, “Yes, Sir.”

The Commodore warns the Schoolie Commander, “I assure you that if this hanky-panky does not stop immediately – all of you will be in big trouble – you – Commander (Ed) – the sailor boyfriend – and especially you, young lady,” the Commodore says  turning to the young lady naval officer.

The Commodore looks at the Lady Lieutenant and repeats his last words: “Yes  especially you, Lieutenant – you will be in real deep trouble – they may even throw you out of the Navy – dismissed with disgrace...”

While the Commodore commanding the stone frigate is reading the riot act to the young lady naval officer  the Captain of the frigate (the ship on which the young woman’s lover, the Chief Petty Officer, is borne) is acting with speed and dispatch.

Yes  the Captain of the ship is taking swift action on the Lady Lieutenant’s boyfriend  her “lover boy” sailor.

Before he realizes what is happening – the hapless sailor is instantly transferred to a ship headed east – to be dropped off to his new duty station on a remote desolate island in the middle of the sea.

Next morning  the young lady naval officer is sitting in a train  on her way to take up her new appointment as the Education Officer of a small naval base in a remote place in the back of beyond.

The “powers-that-be” hope that distance will make the ardour of the lovers cool off.

As they say: ... out of sight – out of mind” ...

In true navy style  an awkward problem has been neatly solved.

The “lovers in uniform” have been separated.

A scandalous liaison has been terminated. 

A messy court martial has been avoided. 

Navy customs and traditions have been upheld.

As the speeding train heads towards her new destination  the Lady Lieutenant yearns for her boyfriend  yes  naval officers have hearts too.

As her heart aches for her “lover boy” sailor – the heartbroken young lady naval officer remembers the consoling words of her ex-boss, the Schoolie Commander, who had come to see her off at the railway station: “The Navy is a System – and you should never fight against the system – because the system always wins...!”


EPILOGUE

“Fraternization” is a uniquely military concept.

“Fraternization” is the term traditionally used to identify personal relationships that contravene the customary bounds of acceptable senior-subordinate relationships.

In the Defence Services  “Fraternization” is prohibited because it is considered to be prejudicial to good order and discipline.

Any “unduly familiar relationship” between a senior and a junior is deemed to be fraternization.

Marriage (which includes intimate sexual relationship) is an “unduly familiar relationship”.

Many other relationships like dating, living together and other intimate friendships can also be deemed to be “unduly familiar relationships”.

Strictly speaking  prohibition of Fraternization should apply to all Military Personnel – both to Officers and to PBOR (Personnel Below Officer Rank which comprise all Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen).

However  in the Indian Armed Forces  a lot of leniency is shown as far as relationships between senior male officers and junior female officers are concerned (despite their difference in rank).

Many male officers have “unduly familiar relationships” with female officers (marriage).

Is this not fraternization?

Strictly speaking  it is fraternization. 

However  in practice it is not treated as fraternization.

In fact  “brother officers” are permitted to marry “sister officers” – yes  male officers are allowed to marry female officers.

There are many “in-service couples” in the Armed Forces  and this trend of DIFC (Double Income Fauji Couples) is increasing in all the three Defence Services.

Someone even said that the Army, Navy and Air Force encourage marriages between uniformed Fauji officers by providing various sops like common postings (spouse postings) and dual accommodation seniority carry forward etc.

This encouragement to marriage in uniform” is evident if you observe the increasing number of marriages between male officers and female officers in the uniformed services.

Does this not go against the tenets of “fraternization”?

Suppose  in the Navy  a male Commander marries a female Lieutenant  or  in the Army  a male Lieutenant Colonel marries a female Captain  or  in the Air Force  a male Squadron Leader marries a female Flight Lieutenant – is it not a case of “fraternization”...?

Surprisingly  marriages and intimate relationships between two officers are not considered fraternization in the Indian Armed Forces.

It is okay for a male officer to have an “unduly familiar relationship” (marriage) with a female officer  despite their difference in seniority.

But  what will happen if a female defence officer wants to marry a male soldier, sailor or airman...?

It can happen – anyone can fall in love with anyone.

Will the armed forces allow officers to marry soldiers, sailors or airmen?

For example  will the Army allow a female Major to marry a male JCO...?

Like in the story above  will the Navy allow a female Lieutenant to marry a male Chief Petty Officer...?

If officers can marry, date, romance or have relationships with other officers – then why prohibit relationships between officers and PBOR (Personnel Below Officer Rank)...?

Strictly speaking  fraternization includes officer-officer relationships as well – and should apply to intimate/romantic relationships between two officers of varying seniority.

However  it appears that the definition of “fraternization” has been tweaked to apply only to relationships between officers and PBOR (soldiers, sailors, airmen).

Such Officer/PBOR relationships are considered taboo – whereas relationships and marriages between senior officers and junior officers is considered okay

As society becomes more modern and progressive  things may change.

You may say that is is a colonial legacy of the Raj” – but – at present  the class system is still prevalent in India  both in the Defence Services – and even in the Civilian Bureaucracy.

Everywhere  there are two classes – Officers and Non-Officers.

Coming back to life in military uniform  will class barriers ever break down – at least as far as “fraternization” is concerned?

Maybe  it will happen sometime in the near future.

Till then  “fauji” love stories that cross the class barrier will have sad endings – like the story of the ill-fated Lovers in Uniform.

VIKRAM KARVE
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Disclaimer:
1. This story is a spoof, satire, pure fiction, 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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