Sunday, January 27, 2013



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, we thought that he was better 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. 

He would have been better off wearing Army Olive Green (OG) rather than donning Navy 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 and bearing 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 big pain in the neck.

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. He looked totally shocked and appalled.

But he did not say anything there but just drove by. 

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, “you uncivilized buggers were eating Pani Puri at a roadside stall? 

It is just not done! 

You must have class. You are no longer college students. As officers you must dine in good decent restaurants. 

Remember that your conduct is being watched at all times. 

As Officers you are expected to conduct yourselves with proper dignity.

Officers are not expected to hang out like hooligans in the open and eat junk food at roadside stalls.”

Then he admonished us, “you bloody riff-raff are not fit to go ashore so I am stopping your liberty as a punishment.

So, as punishment for our foodie escapades “Colonel Blimp” stopped our liberty and we could no longer go out and enjoy the delights the city had to offer. 

Thus 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 in the Curzon Road Apartments on Kasturba Gandhi Marg to Bengali Market for our customary evening “tiffin” snacking when I suddenly spotted “Colonel Blimp” at the famous Chaat Stall in Bengali Market. 

Standing next to him was a beautiful woman who was eating Pani Puri

“Colonel Blimp” was looking at the gorgeous lady in a rather cold and disapproving way, but this did not seem to bother the ravishing beauty who was thoroughly 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.

“Colonel Blimp” in turn introduced the gorgeous woman as his fiancée.

“Care for some Pani Puri ?” the lovely lady asked us.

This was an offer I could not refuse so I said “Sure, we’d love it,” and then we all relished plate after plate of lip-smacking pani puri and chaat 

Yes, we gorged on pani puri and all types of delicious chaat 

We all ate, except “Colonel Blimp”.

He looked on with discomfiture, staunchly refusing our repeated invitations to join us in eating the delicious mouthwatering Pani Puri and chaat

While leaving, “Colonel Blimp” gave me a tough look.

I knew he was itching to deliver a moral lecture on “OLQ”.

But then, in his rule-book, “it was just not done” to bullshit juniors in front of ladies. So I was spared the agony of a scolding.

On our way back, I told my wife the story of “Colonel Blimp”.

My wife was was sure that the killjoy OLQ obsessed “Colonel Blimp” would dump his fun-loving unofficerlike fiancée as they seemed most incompatible. 

But to our surprise we soon got an invitation for their wedding. 

Of course, his wedding reception was held in the service institute and everything was done in a most officer like manner - it was an extremely decorous and most formal occasion, as if it were an official party. 

His newly wedded wife was conducting herself in a very prim and proper manner and we were convinced that “Colonel Blimp” had taken charge of his wife and indoctrinated her on the finer aspects of “OLQ” social graces and ettiquette and drilled into her as to what was expected of her as a typical Naval Officer's wife.

It looked like the fun loving vivacious young girl had been converted into a quintessential NWWA type Naval 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. 

I could not believe my eyes. 

Yes, “Colonel Blimp” was actually relishing Pani Puri on a roadside stall. 

The moment he saw us, he waved to us and invited us over for some Chaat and Pani Puri 

I was stunned.

This was an invitation we could not refuse. 

It was great to see him standing on the roadside, smiling and laughing with abandon, thoroughly enjoying himself, digging into chaat and then popping pani puris  into his mouth, eating gol gappa after gol gappa, in a very carefree manner, totally oblivious of the surroundings.

The vivacious girl had succeeded in transforming the spit and polish, prim and proper, OLQ obsessed killjoy “Colonel Blimp” Pongo into a carefree happy-go-lucky Sailor.

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2013
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?
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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 an anthology of short fiction. An avid blogger, he has written a number of fiction short stories and 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  and academic 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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