Sunday, April 7, 2013



A Naval Yarn

Disclaimer: Please read this story only if you have a sense of humour. This is a spoof, an apocryphal yarn, a tall story. So first convince yourself that you have a sense of humour and only then read the yarn and have a laugh.

Once in a while, when I hark back to my glorious days in the Navy, I recall such hilarious instances that I burst out laughing.

Here is one such amusing episode – it happened in the year 1989.

I was very keen on doing the staff college course so I studied sincerely, prepared well, and qualified my staff college exam with flying colours at the first opportunity in 1986. I had qualified in my first attempt.

Though a merit list was not declared, I had written all papers in the exam so well that I was sure that I was somewhere on the top of the merit list.

Thereafter, I completed my “sea time” and in early 1989 I thought I would be sent for staff college that year. After all, I had qualified the exam in my first attempt.

But to my surprise, and dismay, I found that my name did not figure on the list. 

I was also taken aback to see that the names of some who had cleared the exam in the second and third attempts included in the list. 

Now it was clear to me as to why there was a reluctance to openly declare the entrance exam merit list immediately after the examination.

I felt that I deserved to go to staff college. After all I had cleared the qualifying exam in my first attempt and completed my mandatory sea time.

So I wrote a letter to the concerned person at Naval Headquarters and received a classic reply whose gist was as follows:

1. Yes, I had qualified the staff college entrance exam in the first attempt which was very creditable and praiseworthy.

2. However, a few years back, I had been selected for an M. Tech. (Master of Technology) course at IIT Delhi and I had successfully completed my M. Tech. in 1983.

3. As per the existing policy, M. Tech. qualified officers were not being empanelled for staff college. This was in order to give equitable opportunity to all officers in training courses and also because an M. Tech. degree from an IIT was considered a higher qualification than the M. Sc. Degree given after staff college.

4. Hence, I was not being sent to staff college in the current year.

So far, the logic given was perfectly fine, but what followed was a classic non sequitur:

5. However, this policy (of not sending M. Tech. qualified officers to staff college) may be reviewed and, in the future, it was quite possible that some M. Tech. officers may be empanelled for staff college. 

6. But even if the policy is changed in the future, I would not be eligible for staff college, as at that future point of time I would be too senior and out of the “seniority bracket” for empanelment to the staff college course. 

I showed this letter to my Ship’s Captain who had a hearty laugh and said: “Bad Luck. You can forget about staff college. But it looks like they want to send some ‘blue-eyed-boy’ who is junior to you, and who has done M. Tech., to staff college.”

Sure enough, two years later, an M. Tech. qualified officer was sent to staff college (looks like the “policy” was changed to suit the particular officer).

There was a saying in the bureaucracy: SHOW ME THE FACE AND I WILL SHOW YOU THE RULE

A witty friend of mine who also was once a victim of another such selective interpretation of “flexible” HR Policy had even coined an acronym for this phenomenon. 

He called it DRDODifferent Rules for Different Officers.

And talking of the DRDO, I must tell how I was a victim of another classic example of a Catch-22 No-Win Situation created by NON SEQUITUR HUMAN RESOURCE (HR) MANAGEMENT:

Long back I applied for permanent secondment to the DRDO.

My application was promptly sent back to me saying that as per Navy Policy only Superseded Officers who were passed over for promotion would be spared from the Navy for permanent secondment to the DRDO. 

Many years later I was was superseded for promotion in the Navy. 

So, I applied for permanent secondment to the DRDO.

This time, my application was promptly recommended and forwarded by the Navy to the DRDO, saying that I would be spared from the Navy for permanent secondment.

However, the DRDO sent back my application back saying that as per their policy, superseded officers were not eligible for permanent secondment.

A really great Catch-22 situation due to Non-Sequitur HR Policies, is it not? 

When you are eligible, the navy will not let you go. 
And when the navy lets you go, you are not eligible. 

This means that it was not possible for an officer to be permanently seconded. 

[Of course, everything was possible if they decided to favour someone using the DRDO (Different Rules for Different Officers) dictum]

But one thing is sure. 

Whenever you feel aggrieved by favouritism and some injustice has been done to you, instead of becoming bitter, it is best to look at the funny side.

Yes, humour is the best antidote to frustration and laughter is the best medicine.

A hearty laugh is an excellent safety valve to dissipate hurt, pain, bitterness and anger.

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. 
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Copyright © Vikram Karve 2013. 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 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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1 comment:

Shaivi said...

Hehe! Good account of how favoritism rules the show in many organizations. I agree wth ur thought of finding the funny element in such situations.