COLONEL BLIMP and PANI PURI
THE STORY OF A SPIT AND POLISH PONGO IN WHITES
A Naval Yarn
Way back in the 1970s, when we were trainees, we had a Colonel Blimp type Training Officer. Though he was only a few years senior to us, he was a pompous snob with rather outmoded ultraconservative views - this officer was truly a relic of the Raj.
A Military School and ex-NDA type, he was rather suited for the Army than the Navy – yes, he was more of a spit and polish prim and proper Pongo than a carefree happy-go-lucky Sailor and would have been better off in Olive Green than in Whites.
His favourite pastime was to give us moral lectures on OLQ (Officer Like Qualities) and pontificate about service etiquette and how we must conduct ourselves as officers.
One thing was sure – he practiced what he preached. His turn out was always perfect, his officer-like conduct was unblemished and he always put service before self. But for us young happy-go-lucky youngsters who wanted to enjoy life, this “Colonel Blimp” was a pain in the arse.
One evening while on liberty (shore leave) we were enjoying eating delicious Pani Puri (Gol Gappa) at a roadside stall.
“Colonel Blimp” who was driving by on his scooter saw us and was totally shocked and appalled.
But he did not say anything there. Next morning he lined us up and gave us what in Naval parlance is called a “bottle” – a very severe reprimand and scolding which I remember even today. “How can officers behave like this?” he said looking aghast, “eating pani puri at a roadside stall? It is just not done! Officers must dine in good restaurants not eat junk on roadside stalls.”
Then he admonished us, “you bloody riff raff are not fit to go ashore,” and as a punishment, he stopped our liberty. So we had no choice to spend the rest of our training period drowning our sorrows in the bar.
A few years later on a winter evening in Delhi, my wife and I walked down from our flat on Curzon Road to Bengali Market for our customary evening snacking when I suddenly spotted “Colonel Blimp” at the Chaat Stall. Next to him was a ravishing beauty who was eating Pani Puri. “Colonel Blimp” was looking at the lady in a rather cold and disapproving way, but this did not seem to bother the beauty who was enjoying herself downing pani puri after pani puri.
I could not miss this opportunity, so I walked up to “Colonel Blimp” and introduced my wife and “Colonel Blimp” in turn introduced the gorgeous woman as his fiancée.
“Care for some Pani Puri?” the lovely lady asked us, and we said “Sure, we’d love it,” and we all relished plate after plate of lip-smacking pani puri and chaat while “Colonel Blimp” looked on with discomfiture, staunchly refusing our repeated officers to join us in eating Pani Puri.
When I told my wife the story of “Colonel Blimp” she was sure he would dunp his fiancée but to our surprise was soon got an invitation for his wedding. Of course, his wedding reception was held in the service institute and everything was very decorous. His newly wedded wife was conducting herself in a very prim and proper manner and seemed that “Colonel Blimp” had taken charge of his wife.
A few days later, one evening, while we were walking down from Kota House towards India Gate on Shahjahan Road, we suddenly saw “Colonel Blimp” eating Pani Puri at the famous UPSC Chaat Wala stall – yes, they both, even “Colonel Blimp” was relishing Pani Puri. The moment he saw us, he waved to us and invited us over for some Chat and Pani Puri– this was an invitation we could not refuse. It was great to see him standing on the roadside, thoroughly enjoying himself, digging into chat and popping pani puris into his mouth in a carefree manner, totally oblivious of the surroundings.
The vivacious girl had succeeded in transforming the spit and polish prim and proper Pongo into a carefree happy-go-lucky Sailor.
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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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