The Navy Gets the Gravy and The Army Gets the Beans
A Naval Yarn
There is a hilarious song in the classic 1950s Comedy Movie “At War With The Army” starring Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis with the lyrics “The Navy Gets the Gravy and The Army Gets the Beans” sung by Jerry Lewis.
In the anecdote I am going to narrate the “navy” was indeed getting the “gravy” while a freeloader was getting the “beans”.
It was in the latter half of the year 1980, I think, that I was doing the “bum job” of Wardroom Mess Secretary in a Stone Frigate (a shore establishment)
[As I have told you earlier in the Navy you’ve got to be the Jack of all Trades but the Master of One].
We were served mutton twice a week and I noticed that the mutton curry was full of bones and there was hardly any meat.
The other in-living officers had also been complaining about the lack of meat pieces in the “bony curry”.
This was surprising since we bought quite a generous quantity of mutton and as per my calculations each diner should have got portion of at least 200 grams of mutton which is quite a sizeable quantity.
On inquiry the steward told me that the PMC was taking three kilograms of mutton on payment every week from the Wardroom.
(This facility was available to outliving members since the town was quite far away. They gave their demands and we included them in the purchase of meat, vegetables etc).
“But surely you include this amount when you purchase mutton, don’t you?” I asked.
“Yes, Sir,” the steward said, “but he wants Boneless Mutton. He has told me to remove the bones and only then weigh the mutton. But he is to be charged for only three kilograms at the market rate. Sir, the weight of the bones is roughly half the total weight and that is why you all get more bones in the curry.”
“Oh,” I said, understanding his game, “call me the next time you buy mutton.”
On D-Day I asked him weigh 6 kilograms of mutton.
Then I asked him to remove the bones and weigh the boneless mutton.
As I estimated the boneless mutton weighed roughly 3 kilograms.
“Send the 3 Kilograms of the boneless mutton to his house. Charge him for 6 Kilograms of mutton. And yes, remember to keep the 3 kilograms of bones carefully in the freezer. In case he complains you just tell him what I did and give him his 3 kilograms of bones,” I said.
We did this for three weeks.
As I expected, at the end of the month, when the mess bills were distributed, the PMC came rushing to the mess complaining that he had been overcharged and he was promptly offered the sizeable amount of carefully preserved bones (which were rightfully his, since he had paid for them).
Within a few days it dawned on the powers-that-be that I was overburdened with my main work and it was not fair to make me perform mess secretary duties. A suitable morally pliable officer was appointed as the new Mess Secretary.
I have seen this happening often – the moment someone attains a high rank he thinks that it his prerogative to freeload.
Yes, Rank Has Its Privileges (RHIP), but I am sure RHIP does not mean that you have the licence to make your juniors pay for what you consume and become a freeloader at someone else’s expense.
There is no free lunch.
Whenever you eat or drink something, someone has to pay for it.
If you don’t pay for what you consume, then either your juniors, or the organisation, or someone else has to pay for what you consume.
Freeloading may be petty corruption but it is the first step on the road to grand corruption.
As Lao Tzu wrote in Tao Te Ching: The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step
This is true of corruption as well – the journey to grand corruption starts with petty corruption like freeloading.
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.
I am sure you will like all the 27 stories in my recently published book of short stories COCKTAIL
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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 and blogger. Educated at IIT Delhi, IIT (BHU) 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 large 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 and magazines for many years, before the advent of blogging. Vikram has taught at a University as a Professor for 15 years and now teaches as a visiting faculty and devotes most of his time to creative writing and blogging. Vikram Karve 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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