Monday, June 18, 2012


Is FREELOADING a Privilege ? 
A Naval Yarn

The Navy was the best thing that happened to me. 

Way back, in the 1970s, when I joined the Navy, life was good. 

There was never a dull moment. 

Something was always happening, and I came across a variety of unique personalities.

Yes, I enjoyed some exciting situations and encountered some inimitable characters.

Those were the best days of my life. 

Even now, whenever I reminisce about my “good old” Navy days and recall the unforgettable characters I met there and whenever I hark back to the hilarious incidents (in hindsight), those cherished memories always fill me with cheer, and sometimes bring a smile, maybe a laugh, to my lips. 

They say every Naval Officer has a book inside him (or her). I am writing mine. 

In fact, I have decided to write two books – a fiction novel based on my early life in the Navy way back in the 1970s and a “memoir” comprising non-chronological vignettes from my naval life.

I will tell you more about all that later. 

Now, let me regale you with one such hilarious vignette featuring an unforgettable character. 

Let’s call him “F”

Why “F” ?

Well, it will be quite evident as you read on.

There was a time when senior naval officers were large-hearted and magnanimous. 

The senior always stood a drink for the junior, and whenever we had a party in the wardroom (officers’ mess), the party share was on stripe basis

You counted the total number of stripes on the shoulders of officers present and simply divided the overall damages for food and drinks by the total number of stripes and calculated the stripe share. 

You paid depending on the stripes you wore on your sleeves or shoulder. 

A Commander (who wore three stripes on his shoulder paid three times the share of a Sub Lieutenant who wore a solitary stripe). 

In effect, the seniors subsidized the bill of the juniors.

As traditions and attitudes began to change, and officers started becoming money conscious, the stripe share concept gave way to the “on the house” concept in which the party share was distributed equally amongst all present who attended the party and all members of the “house” paid the same amount irrespective of how much food and drink they consumed.

Of course, when things were “on the house”, those who drank and ate less subsidised those who topped-up to the hilt and gorged to their hearts’ content.

With the passage of time, as people became more and more money-orientated, and materialism became a way of life, this affected Naval Officers too, and many officers started counting their drinks (and worse, they counted others’ drinks too…!!!). 

Now we had a “chit system” and the party share was based on the principle of soldier’s share, or Going Dutch, in which you signed chits and you paid for whatever you consumed

In this “signing chits” scheme of things, no one subsidized anybody, and it was each for his own, irrespective of rank and seniority. 

Soon, wardroom traditions were turned upside down, money-consciousness gave way to stinginess and sort of “feudal” culture owing to selective interpretation of the RHIP concept which resulted in the proliferation of freeloaders in the senior ranks. 

This resulted in a preposterous situation wherein now it was the “magnanimous” juniors who were subsidizing their stingy yet greedy freeloading seniors

You know what RHIP stands for, isn’t it/

Well, RHIP is the acronym for RANK HAS ITS PRIVILEGES  (Rank Has Its Privileges)

Unfortunately, some thought that RHIP implied that it was their “privilege” to freeload and sponge on their juniors.

Things seem to have turned a full circle. 

Hey, I am digressing, let me get on with my story.

This story happened during the days of transition from the “on the house” to “soldier’s share” parties. There was some confusion – some parties were “on the house” and some parties were on the “chit system”. 

Now our protagonist “F” was a true maukatarian – and decided his “party strategy” accordingly. “F” was quite a senior officer - next in seniority to the PMC. 

If it was a “chit system” party – he would survive on water, or hang around someone and try to sponge a drink off him, or try to pilfer one of those gratis “ladies” soft drinks when he thought no one was looking.

Or, at the worst, if the party was too long and his freeloading tactics did not work and yield results, F would order a small peg of the cheapest Rum with Water (Rum-Paani) and hold it for the entire party. 

And if the party was “on the house” … well read on …

“F” arrived for a grand party one evening and asked me, “Is it chit-system?”

“No, Sir, on-the-house,” I told him, as planned, and I winked at the barman. 

The PMC, who was nearby, gave me a knowing smile of approval.

“Which whisky have you got?” F asked the barman.

“Sir, we are serving Black Knight and Red Knight,” the barman answered. 

The party was ashore and we were serving IMFL (Indian Made Foreign Liquor).

“Only BK and RK ...?” F turned his nose up in disdain, and then commanded, “Get me Peter Scot.”

The barman looked at me for a decision (Peter Scot was the most expensive IMFL whisky in the bar those days).

“Okay,” I said to the barman, Sahab ko Peter Scot pilao…”

Delighted that he was getting the most expensive Peter Scot whiskey on-the-house, F decided to make the most of it, and drank peg after peg, and at the end of the party, he got so drunk that he had to be almost carried to his house in drunken stupor. 

F had grandly “enjoyed” and made the most of the “on the house” cocktail party.

A month later F entered my office furiously waving his wardroom mess bill in his hand and angrily demanding how he had been charged for 11 large pegs of Peter Scot.

I was expecting this, so I got up and said, “Sir, let’s go to the PMC.”

“Any problem?” the PMC asked looking up from his desk, the moment we entered his cabin.

“Sir, I have been charged for 11 large pegs of Peter Scot for that cocktail party,” complained F.

“So?” the PMC said, “you drank 11 large pegs of Peter Scot, didn’t you?”

“Sir, I don’t remember.”

“But I do – you were in such glorious high spirits that you had to be carried away at the end of the party.”

“But Sir, the party was on-the-house.”

“Who told you?”

“The Mess Secretary,” F said, pointing an accusing finger at me.

“Well, the mess secretary is quite a clueless chap. All parties here are on the chit-system. You should have signed your chits before ordering your drinks and you should have checked the bar-book next morning if you had any doubts. No disputes now. That’s the Mess Rule,” the PMC pronounced, and dismissed F with a wave of his finger, and looked at me with a glint in his eyes.

That’s how we taught this maukatarian freeloader a lesson. 

Well, we taught this freeloader another lesson too – but that’s another story - the “boneless” chicken story which I will tell you soon, right here in my blog.

I enjoy writing and I have now started writing my two books. 

The first is autobiographical fiction, a novel with an engrossing story and characters you will love, and second, my “memoir”, a collection of vignettes from my life in the Navy, something like Tales of the South Pacific.  

I am putting my heart into writing these two books and in order to make them gripping and “unputdownable”. 

I am going to write leisurely, unhurriedly, savoring every moment and I am going to enjoy the writing process as I relive my navy days in my mind’s eye. 

But I’ll take a break from time to time, and, right here in my Creative Writing Blog, I will regale you with some more of my naval yarns, like this one.

Till my next Naval Yarn, Cheers, have a drink - it's “on the house”...

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.

Did you like this yarn?
I am sure you will like the 27 short stories from my recently published anthology of Short Fiction COCKTAIL
To order your COCKTAIL please click any of the links below:

If you prefer reading ebooks on Kindle or your ebook reader, please order Cocktail E-book by clicking the links below:

Foodie Book:  Appetite for a Stroll
If your are a Foodie you will like my book of Food Adventures APPETITE FOR A STROLL. Do order a copy from FLIPKART:

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.

Vikram Karve Academic and Creative Writing Journal:
Professional Profile Vikram Karve:
Vikram Karve Facebook Page:
Vikram Karve Creative Writing Blog:

© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

No comments: