Monday, May 16, 2016

Girinagar Memories – The “Killjoy” Commodore

Humor in Uniform

One more hilarious story from my Girinagar Days

I met many “Killjoys” in the Navy.

Here is the story of the “Killjoy” Commodore who ordered me “Not to Enjoy Parties”


THE KILLJOY COMMODORE WHO ORDERED ME NOT TO ENJOY PARTIES
A Spoof
By
VIKRAM KARVE


Part 1: 

THE KILLJOY” COMMODORE’S “BOTTLE”:
YOU WILL NOT ENJOY PARTIES” 

“You will attend all parties – but you will not enjoy them,” the Commodore ordered me.

I was stumped.

I had read the inimitable war novel CATCH 22 – in which there was an amusing anecdote where a Colonel orders all Officers to attend USO entertainment shows which have been organized to raise morale of the officers fighting the war.

But the combat weary officers are least interested in watching these boring USO shows – the officers just want to survive the war  complete their missions  and go home.

So – in a role reversal – as per directives of higher-ups who have arranged these USO Troupes – the Colonel orders all Officers to attend these USO shows in full strength in order to keep up the morale of the artists of the USO troupes.

Addressing all officers, the Colonel says: “…these people are your guests…they have travelled over three thousand miles to entertain you. How will they feel if nobody wants to go out and watch them? What’s going to happen to their morale?... I want every one of you who isn’t sick enough to be in a hospital to go to that USO show right now and have a good time, and that’s an order.”

Here – the Colonel was ordering his officers to “enjoy a boring event” like the USO show.

But in my case – it was the exact reverse – the Commodore was ordering me “not to enjoy parties”.

And  I thoroughly enjoyed attending the wonderful parties we had in the services.

So  I was totally baffled when the Commodore ordered me to stop enjoying parties. 

This story happened 34 years ago – when I was posted to IAT Pune – which was an inter-service training establishment.

My boss was a Commodore from a landlubber branch.

He was the PMC  and I was the Secretary of the Officers’ Mess.

A Naval Officer is supposed to be a “Jack of all Trades but Master of One”

So – in addition to your professional “tradecraft” (your primary duty in which you are supposed to be a “Master”) – in the Navy – you are given a lot of “bum jobs” (euphemistically called “secondary duties”) which you are supposed to perform to the best of your ability.

One of the “bum jobs” I enjoyed was organizing parties.

There were plenty of parties those days – at least one a week – and I thoroughly enjoyed these parties – till one morning the Commodore summoned me to his office and said: “I have been observing you for some time now – and I have observed that you enjoy parties.”

“Of course I enjoy parties, Sir,” I said, “I thought parties are meant to be enjoyed.”

“You are the first chap to arrive – and the last chap to leave…” the Commodore said.

“Sir – I am the Mess Secretary – that is why I arrive well in time – and leave after winding up the party…?”

“But there is no need for you to enjoy yourself so much…”

“Sir – what’s your problem if I enjoy myself at parties – what are parties meant for – to enjoy – or to be gloomy…”

“Don’t give me bullshit – last evening there was a Chief – a CinC – and so many senior officers and their wives – and you were drinking away, eating away  and you were laughing away in high spirits – and I was getting so nervous…” the Commodore said.

“Nervous? Sir, why were you nervous? I thought the party was a grand success…” I said.

“What do you mean ‘grand success’…? I was on the tenterhooks – especially when you were in full form with that “Queen of Sheba’ game you have every time – there were so many VIPs around and anything could have gone wrong – and you were totally in high spirits – laughing loudly and having a good time and prolonging the party – and I was getting all stressed out waiting for the party to end…” the Commodore said.

“Come on, Sir – why do you get so stressed out at parties..?”

“Don’t you understand? I am the PMC – if there is a slightest faux pas – the Admiral will write me off… ” the Commodore paused for a moment, and said, “But you don’t seem to be bothered about me – you just drink up and enjoy yourself in your carefree wild style as if it is the last day of your life…”

“Okay, Sir – I will not attend any parties from now on…” I said.

“How can you be absent from parties? You are the Mess Secretary.”

“Sir – it is obvious that you are not happy with me – so why not get a new Mess Secretary who you like…”

“Who says that I am not happy with you as a Mess Secretary? You are a good Mess Secretary. You organize parties very well. My only problem is that you enjoy yourself at parties…” the Commodore said.

“So – what do you want me to do, Sir…?”

“You will organize all parties – you will attend all parties – but you will not enjoy parties – do you understand – you will stop enjoying parties forthwith – and that is an order...” the Commodore said to me in an imperative tone of voice.

I was baffled out of my wits. 

I thought “parties were meant to be enjoyed  and this “Killjoy” Commodore was ordering me “not to enjoy parties”...

It was amazing – the types of crazy characters you have in the Navy.


Part 2: 

TETE-A-TETE WITH THE KILLJOY” COMMODORE’S VIVACIOUS WIFE

Next morning  while walking on East Street in Pune Camp  I suddenly met the “Killjoy” Commodore’s vivacious wife.

The “Killjoy” Commodore’s wife was an accomplished career woman – and she had a distinct identity of her own – unlike most military wives those days  whose only identity was their husband’s rank.

“Good Morning, Ma’am,” I wished her.

“Hi – what are you doing here?” she asked.

“I have to come to Command Hospital,” I said.

“Anything wrong?” she asked.

“No – for my annual medical exam – I gave my blood etc in the morning – I will collect the report at 12:30 – see the specialist – and go back by the 1:30 bus. Till then – I thought I’ll pass some time loafing on Main Street,” I said.

“Oh – I was feeling hungry – so I just came out for a bite. Why don’t you join me?” she said.

“Sure – would love to – where shall we go – Burger King…?”

“I was thinking of the same place…” she said.

We sat in ‘Burger King’ – waiting for our Burgers.

“I must say – I really enjoyed Sunday’s party,” she said.

“But your ‘killjoy’ husband doesn’t think so…” I said.

“Ha Ha – ‘Killjoy’…” she laughed, “so you call my husband ‘Killjoy’…”

I smiled sheepishly.

After the “Killjoy” Commodore’s wife finished laughing  she said: “What happened…?”

I told her the whole story.

“I know,” she said, “He gets very tense – he even tells me to be formal and sober – you know he is in promotion zone – and with so many senior officers coming here – he is nervous that even one small mistake may affect his promotion prospects…”

“Just imagine – he has ordered me not to enjoy parties…” I said.

“Why don’t you teach him how to enjoy parties?” she said, with a mischievous twinkle in her eye.


Part 3: 

KILLJOY” COMMODORE ENJOYS THE PARTY

It was a grand affair – the Navy Day Party – and I was determined to ensure that my “Killjoy” Commodore enjoyed the party thoroughly.

I could see that he was hugely tensed up – so the first thing I had to do was to loosen him up.

The moment the Commodore welcomed the Chief Guest – I sent across two drinks – a Rum/Pani (which was the Chief Guest’s usual drink) and a large 3-finger “Patiala Peg” of Whisky/Soda for our Commodore.

My instructions to the Stewards were clear – as far as the Commodore was concerned – “let whisky flow freely but keep soda scarce”.

“Sir – why don’t you just say that you want him make drunk?” the Chief Steward said.

“Drunk…? How dare you say that…? Don’t you know that in the Navy: ‘Officers never get drunk – they only feel nice’… only sailors get drunk…” I admonished the Chief Steward.

“Aye Aye, Sir – I will make sure that the Commodore feels very ‘nice’…” the Chief Steward assured me.

The stewards were veterans at their job – the “Killjoy” Commodore was given stiff “three finger pegs” of whisky in quick succession – and the moment he picked up his glass  it was topped with soda  and the soda was quickly taken out of sight.

Now the “Killjoy” Commodore had to choose one of the two options:

1. Either he could leave the coveted inner circle of Senior Officers by excusing himself from the “VIP” and walk all the way to the bar to get soda or water.

2. Or  he could continue to be in close company with the “VIPs” – and keep sipping his strong drink.

Obviously  the careerist Commodore chose the second option.

And – after a few sips – his palate would get used to the strong drink of whisky.

I had expected the “Killjoy” Commodore to start feeling “nice” after an hour or so – but  I was surprised to see that hardly within a few minutes  the Commodore was feeling “happy”.

In fact – I did not realize it at that time – but I had badly misjudged his alcohol tolerance level – the way he was swinging after just 2 or 3 pegs – it looked like the “Killjoy” Commodore had a liver the size of an ant’s liver.

I was happy to see that the Commodore was thoroughly enjoying the party – and there was absolutely no stress or tension was visible on his face.

His wife was looking at him in a curious way – and even the “VIP” guests seemed quite amused at seeing the normally prosaic Commodore in full form – dancing, joking, and even flirting with the ladies.

A few more drinks “down the hatch” – and he was unsteady on his feet – and cracking bawdy jokes – and suddenly – the Commodore’s wife was at my side, and she said, “I told you to teach him how to enjoy parties – not become the source of enjoyment for others…”

“Ma’am – I did not know he had such less drinking capacity…”

“How much has he had to drink…?”

“Not much – maybe about 3-4 large pegs – about half a bottle…”

“Half a bottle…?” the Commodore’s wife said, looking aghast, “He can’t even stand two small pegs…”

“I am sorry…”

“It’s okay – just be around him and see that he doesn’t make a fool of himself in front of the bigwigs…” she said.

But – I was pleasantly surprised when I saw that the bigwigs seemed mighty impressed by the Commodore’s antics…

“I have never seen you so happy and cheerful,” the Admiral said to the Commodore, “normally you are so serious and morose – it’s great to see you letting your hair down and enjoying yourself.”

To cut a long story short – the party was a great success.

After that party was over  after imbibing a generous amount of alcohol for the first time in his life – the Commodore was in high spirits – cheerfully drunk and merry.

In his happy state – he insisted on “one for the road”.

And then – he drank “one more for the road” – followed by “a few more for the road” – till he literally “hit the road”.

Yes – the “Killjoy” Commodore passed out dead drunk”.

Totally inebriated – he collapsed – and  he literally had to be “carried home”.


EPILOGUE

At the next party – I saw that the “Killjoy” Commodore had a glass of juice in his hand.

The “Killjoy” Commodore was not even drinking his customary “small” whisky with plenty of soda.

The Commodore looked at me and said: “You enjoy yourself – you drink as much as you want – okay – you enjoy the party…”

The Commodore’s vivacious wife smiled at me.

She looked at the glass of juice in her husband’s hand – and she gave me a canny look.

VIKRAM KARVE
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