Wednesday, March 28, 2012


The Tragedy of Bosses

This happened long back, more than 33 years ago, in the early days of my naval career, when I was a bright young officer.

It was the farewell party of our boss, the Captain of our ship.

Everyone was happy to see him go ashore on transfer at the end of his tenure, for he had been a terrible boss, a ruthless taskmaster, quite a tyrant, and he had made our life hell. 

A strict authoritarian disciplinarian, he wielded total power and commanded the ship like a martinet, ruling us like an absolute monarch.

As far as he was concerned, it was “his” ship and there were just two categories of people onboard:
HE (the supreme master and commander)
WE (the rest of the crew, which included everyone else starting from the second-in-command right down the junior-most sailor).

He exemplified the naval saying immortalized by Captain Queeg in the classic Navy Novel by Herman Wouk – THE CAINE MUTINY:

 “…there are four ways of doing things on this ship – The Right Way, the Wrong Way, the Navy Way, and My Way. On my ship we do things My Way…”

I had nicknamed him: “Mughal”.

At the farewell party, whisky was flowing freely and everyone was thoroughly enjoying the party, downing peg after peg of the choicest whisky, happy to see off “Mughal” and celebrating in anticipation of the forthcoming “freedom” from “Mughal Tyranny”. 

For me, it was an evening of mixed emotions, since it was my farewell party as well, for as luck would have it, by sheer coincidence, I too was going ashore on transfer (In fact, our tenures, Mughal’s and mine, had been coincidental – we joined on board ship on the same day and we were leaving the ship together).

As it is customary to “look after” the farewell guest very well, my shipmates had plied me with plenty of whisky, peg after peg, down the hatch, and by the time I was called upon to deliver my farewell speech, I was feeling very “nice” (As I told you before, in the navy, officers don’t get drunk – they only feel “nice”. And I was feeling awfully “nice”).

Being the junior, I was called to deliver my farewell speech first.

As I told you, I was feeling awfully “nice” due to the enormous amount of whisky I had imbibed.

At first, I said the customary things – I thanked my shipmates, talked about the good times we had together in the wardroom, but as I spoke, my inhibitions started peeling off, and then, in a spurt of audaciousness thanks to the Dutch Courage fuelled by the alcohol flowing in my veins, gesticulating towards the Captain, I blurted out: “I know all of you are happy to see off this Mughal. But remember one thing – ONE MUGHAL REPLACES ANOTHER MUGHAL. Don’t be too happy, since it may well turn out that the new Mughal may be worse than this Mughal. And then you will reminisce and remember the “good old days” you had under this Mughal.”

After uttering those words, I narrated the story of one my favourite books – ANIMAL FARM (an allegorical novel by George Orwell) where the tyrant humans are overthrown by the animals, who achieve “freedom”, but soon, the pigs, who led the uprising, gradually assume control, and eventually the pigs become worse tyrants than the humans and they make life hell for all the other animals.

A few months later I ran into one of my ex-shipmates and he told me that my prediction had come true. Life onboard had indeed become so terrible under the new Captain that in the evenings, everyone sat in the wardroom drowning their sorrows and reminiscing about the “good old days” in the earlier “Mughal Empire”. “The earlier Mughal was a bullshitter, but at least he was an honest bloke,” the ex-shipmate said, “but this new Mughal is not only a terrible bullshitter but he is a bloody freeloader to boot!”

Isn’t this “Mughal” theory true in real life too?

Leaders come and go, elections happen, governments change, regimes come and go, sometimes democracy becomes dictatorship and dictatorship becomes democracy, socialism metamorphoses into globalization, liberalization, crony capitalism – all sorts of things happen, but for the common man (the “aam aadmi”) nothing much changes and his life remains just the same (in fact, sometimes, it may even get worse). Of course, there are exceptions – yes, there are a few genuine leaders who really make a difference, but nowadays, such examples are few and far between.

So before you rejoice too much on hearing the news that your tyrant boss is going to go away, remember what I said:


Cheers. Have a good day.

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2012
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.

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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. Educated at IIT Delhi, ITBHU 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 short fiction. An avid blogger, he has written a number of fiction short stories, 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 research papers in journals and edited in-house journals for many years, before the advent of blogging. Vikram has taught at a University as a Professor for almost 15 years and now teaches as a visiting faculty and devotes most of his time to creative writing. Vikram lives in Pune India with his family and muse - his pet dog Sherry with whom he takes long walks thinking creative thoughts.

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