Saturday, April 9, 2016

Humor in Uniform : The “Apolitical” Officer

Humor in Uniform

THE “APOLITICAL” OFFICER
Unforgettable Vignettes of my Glorious Navy Days
A Spoof
By
VIKRAM KARVE


WARDROOM ETIQUETTE – TABOO TOPICS

When I joined the Navy  I was told that certain things were not to be discussed in the wardroom (officers’ mess).

Firstly  Officers should not “talk shop” (about work) in the wardroom.

Secondly  Three Topics were considered Taboo in a Navy Wardroom:

1. Religion

2. Politics

3. Women

I am sure the same was true for Army and Air Force Officers’ Messes as well – you were not supposed to talk shop” – and you were not supposed to discuss religion, politics or women in a wardroom or officers mess.

But this was all in theory.

In actual fact  I found that things were vastly different.

On my ship  and in other ships and shore establishments too  officers invariably “talked shop” in the wardroom – even during PLDs and Parties.

Of the three taboo topics  the first – Religion – was never discussed (at least in my ships wardroom).

On my ship  with so many young strapping testosterone charged bachelors around  the third topic (women) was always a hot topic of discussion.

Our ship was based in Mumbai (then called Bombay)  and those were laissez faire halcyon days in the Navy – guests were freely allowed on ships  in the evenings and on holidays  and many “smart” libidinous bachelors brought girl friends (or “fleet auxiliaries”) on board ships  for an amorous drink in the wardroom  or a quickie in their cabins  and these “peccadilloes” were hotly discussed with great excitement by the envious sex-starved puritans  who were secretly yearning for female company.


POLITICS IN THE WARDROOM

Towards the end of 1979  General Elections were announced to be held in the first week of January 1980  and suddenly  everyone started discussing politics.

I was surprised to see the political awareness  and keen interest in the elections – among Naval Officers.

Of course  this may have been due to the political instability due to the disastrous performance of two successive shaky coalition governments since 1977 – which kept on splitting  till they collapsed  and elections were announced after 2 years.

Or maybe  this interest in politics was because we had many “politically connected” officers on board.

The father of one of the young officers was a veteran politician – and he was contesting this election too.

The brother of another officer was a politician too – and he was also contesting elections  albeit from a different party.

Many other officers evinced keen interest in current affairs and held divergent political views  which led to lively discussions.

Yes  politics was definitely discussed in the wardroom.

However  there was one officer who showed absolutely no interest in the proceedings – he seemed totally “apolitical”.

He came to the wardroom to drink – in fact  it seemed that he had joined the Navy to drink  and  like some people who “live to eat”  this officer “lived to drink”.

While everyone was engrossed in animated “political discussions”  he would sit disinterestedly in the corner downing peg after peg of Scotch whisky.

Voting day was in the first week of the coming January  and  as the elections approached  some of us got our postal ballots  and some did not.

Outside – in the civilian world  political temperatures were getting heated up  and inside the wardroom too  there took place rousing political discussions  stimulated by the imbibing of enormous amounts of alcohol.

Of course  our “apolitical” friend kept aloof – and remained indifferent to the political goings on  despite imbibing even greater amounts of alcohol than the others.

At last  voting took place.

The next day  counting of votes began.

That evening  carrying our whisky-topped hip-flasks in our pockets  we trooped down to the Indian Express Building at Nariman Point to watch the election results unfold.

Late at night  it became clear that Indira Gandhi was heading for a massive victory.

(Her party  Congress (I)  would win 353 of the 542 seats)

Most of us were happy – because now  there would be a stable government for 5 years.

The two “politically connected” officers were happy too – their relatives, father and brother, had won in the elections too.

A celebration was called for  so the wardroom bar was opened the moment we returned back onboard at around midnight.

The “whiff” of the wardroom bar being opened mysteriously reached the “apolitical” officer sleeping in his cabin  and he joined us in a jiffy  topping up his glass with whisky to celebrate.

“There was so much political excitement going on during these elections – and you were totally disinterested,” someone said to the “apolitical” officer.

“Actually I was worried...” he said.

“Worried? You were worried?” we asked, puzzled.

The “apolitical” officer took a gulp of whisky  and he said to us: 

“I was worried about my booze. The previous guy was a prohibitionist – he even wanted to stop booze in the defence services and give dry fruits in lieu of liquor. I am happy he has lost the elections – at least the new guys who have won will let booze flow freely. Come on. Cheers. Drink up. The next round of drinks is on me.”

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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