Sunday, June 16, 2013

HUMOUR IN UNIFORM - JIGGERY-POKERY - Story of the Boneless Meat

Story of the Boneless Meat
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 officer should have got a portion of at least 200 grams of mutton which is quite a sizeable quantity (200 grams of meat are about 5-6 chunks of mutton)

On inquiry the steward told me that the PMC was taking three kilograms of mutton on payment every week from the Wardroom.

“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 in-living officers eating in the mess 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 wardroom mess office complaining that he had been overcharged.

I explained to him what we had done.

Then, I gestured to the chief steward who went to the freezer and got the packet of bones.

The PMC was promptly offered the sizeable amount of carefully preserved bones (which were rightfully his, since he had paid for them).

The PMC was furious. 

He walked out of the mess office in a huff. 

He did not take the packet of bones with him.

I told the steward to feed the bones to the dogs.

I knew that my days as Mess Secretary were numbered and I would be sacked as Wardroom Mess Secretary soon (which is what I wanted since I was fed up of this thankless “bum job”).

It happened faster than I thought.

The very next morning it dawned on the powers-that-be that I was overburdened with my main primary duties and it was not fair to make me perform additional mess secretary duties. 

A suitable morally pliable officer was appointed as the new Mess Secretary.

And things were back to normal.

“Normal service was resumed - as they say in the navy.


I have seen this happening often – the moment someone attains a high position or senior rank he thinks that it his prerogative to freeload.

Many Senior Officers assume that Freeloading is a Privilege of Rank.

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 dont pay for what you consume then someone else has to pay for what you consume

When a person misuses his rank or position and “freeloads” then someone else has to bear the brunt (since money doesnt grow on trees).

This someone else who pays for your freeloading may be your juniors (or the organisation” or the taxpayer or you may fleece some other vulnerable people, like contractors). 

Some officers, when they attain high rank, start thinking that it is their privilege to freeload.

They feel that everything they eat, drink, use and consume must be given to them free of cost or gratis “on-the-house”.

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 2013
Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this book review. 
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

All stories in this blog are a work of fiction. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
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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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Neha Sharma said...

Good One.

Vikram Waman Karve said...

@ Neha - Thanks. There is so much humor in uniform!

Bedaanga Sarma said...

Nice read..