Wednesday, August 28, 2013

TERRIBLE FELLOW - Humor in Uniform

Humour in Uniform
A Naval Yarn

This story is a work of fiction. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.


This happened long back, almost 35 years ago.

We were only two bachelors living on the first floor cabins of the staff block of the officers’ mess – Colonel “N” and myself.

Of course, I was a true unmarried bachelor, whereas “N” was a forced bachelor, a married bachelor, as his wife was working in Mumbai where she lived along with their school-going children.

Colonel “N” was a doctor, an army medical officer, who was commanding the local Military Hospital (MH).

The MH was located inside our Naval Establishment.

It was a small hospital, with just a handful of doctors and staff.

In fact, the MH comprised just a few decrepit barracks located in a rather desolate corner of the base.

The only bright thing about the MH was its Commanding Officer – Colonel “N” – who was a most jovial chap.

N” was a Keralite, a Malayali, and like most officers from Kerala, he was a down-to-earth hardworking officer, very sincere in his job.

Though he was a senior Colonel, “N” did not pull rank. He did not exhibit unnecessary airs, or have an inflated ego, and we liked his rather amiable disposition.

Despite the age difference between us (“N” was in his late 40’s and I was in my early 20’s) he had such a likable nature that we became close friends.

What we liked about “N” was that he was not rank conscious.

“Rank has got nothing to do with medicine”, he would bellow at fellow doctors who tried to pull rank over their juniors and patients, soldiers and sailors.

Every evening “N” and I would sit on the lawns of the officers’ mess, or on the terrace, and polish off a bottle of rum, drinking late into the night, sometimes till the wee hours of the morning.

I remember one occasion, when “N” was in high spirits, topped up to the hilt, and he pointed towards the horizon and said, “Look – there is a fire over there – maybe some ship, an oil tanker is on fire.”

I looked at the distant eerie orange glow.

Soon the sun broke the horizon and we realized that it was sunrise – yes, it was no fire, but sunrise – we had been drinking the entire night.

N” and I enjoyed our drinking sessions.

We both liked to talk, and had many yarns to tell, especially “N” who regaled me with his never-ending “Medical Anecdotes” and “Army Stories”.

The most remarkable feature about “N” was his amusing diction.

At times, his choice of words was hilarious.

If “N” liked someone, he would say: “He is a terrible fellow.”

Spoken in his typical jovial Kerala accent, these words had a rather delightful effect.

One day, at a meeting, our Commanding Officer (CO) asked “N” whether he knew the Army Medical Corps (AMC) Brigadier who was coming to inspect the Military Hospital (MH).

“Oh yes, I know the Brigadier quite well – he is a terrible fellow,” said “N” in his usual candid style.

On hearing this, that the inspecting officer was a “terrible fellow”, our career-conscious CO got quite anxious.

Strictly speaking, the MH was an independent entity, but still it was located inside the Naval Establishment and the CO did not want to take any chances.

Our CO was quite wary of the apparent easygoing ways of “N” and was paranoid that should something go wrong with the inspection, he may inadvertently end up getting a “black mark”.

So, our CO took personal charge and pulled out all stops to ensure that the inspection was a success.

Our CO would personally take rounds of the MH every morning and spend hours planning, supervising, rehearsing and micromanaging every aspect of the impending inspection which he had planned meticulously to the smallest detail, since our CO did not want the MH to be caught on the wrong foot by the “terrible fellow” who was coming for the inspection.

One evening, when I commented to “N” that our CO seemed to be interfering a bit too much, “N” said nonchalantly, “Well, if your CO wants to do my job, he is most welcome to do so.”

Contrary to our CO’s expectations, the “terrible fellow” turned out to be a most “jolly good fellow” – yes, the AMC Brigadier was a most informal and unfussy inspecting officer and he carried out the inspection in a most jovial and relaxed manner exchanging witty jokes and banter with the CO, the staff, the patients and all of us in the entourage.

In the evening, there was a cocktail party to “celebrate” the successful inspection.

Our nonplussed CO was looking quite sternly at “N” who was thoroughly enjoying his drinks along with the AMC Brigadier.

Suddenly, a happily drunk “N” pointed towards the AMC Brigadier and said loudly to our CO, “I told you that he is a terrible fellow.”  

A few days later, one morning, “N” summoned me to his office, which was quite unusual.

He had said it was something urgent, so I rushed to his office in the MH.

“Hey, there was a matrimonial enquiry about you,” he said.

“From who?” I asked, quite surprised, as I was not aware of any matchmaking moves.

“I just got a call from an AMC General. He is a Maharashtrian like you. He is looking for a suitable match for his daughter.”

“Well, I don’t know anything…”

N” looked at me and said, “You know how these things work – by word of mouth. Someone back home must have told the General or his wife about you – and that you are posted here. So the General must have thought it best to ask me, the nearest AMC Officer, about you.”
“So, what did you tell the General?” I asked.

N” looked at me with warm affection and said, “I told the General that you are a terrible fellow. In fact, I like you so much that I told him that you are a terribly terrible fellow.”

Those momentous words of “praise” put an immediate end to the rather promising matrimonial prospect for me and there were no further inquiries about me from the AMC General.

A few years later, one evening, I met “N” on Colaba Causeway.

N” had retired from the Army and was working at a leading hospital in Mumbai.

I invited “N” over to my ship for a drink.

We sat in the wardroom, drinking and talking of the good old days.

The Captain sent down his compliments to me in the wardroom asking me to bring along “N” for a drink to the Captain’s cabin.

After we were seated in the Captain’s Cabin, drinks in hand, the Captain looked at “N” and said: “Sir, do you remember me? I was once admitted to MH Khadki and you were the Medical Officer in-charge of the Officers’ Ward.”

N” looked carefully at the Captain and suddenly his eyes lit up and he said, “Oh, so you are the one who used to disappear without a bloody outpass to romance with my pretty nursing officer? What a terrible fellow!”

“Sir, thanks to you, I got married to her,” my Captain said.

“Really? I must say you are truly a very terrible fellow.”

We talked. We drank. It was hilarious to hear of their escapades.

It was almost midnight by the time we finished and we were quite happily drunk.

As a mark of respect to “N”, the Captain came to see him off the gangway.

The OOD, the duty PO and the Quartermaster were all smartly lined up at the gangway.

As we crossed the gangway, everyone saluted.

Suddenly, “N” turned around and shouted jovially to the OOD and the gangway staff: “Let me tell you one thing. You are very lucky. Your Captain is a terrible fellow. Yes, he is an utterly terrible fellow.”

Next morning, rather contrite, I went to the Captain to explain: “Sir, actually he meant that you are a jolly good fellow.”

“I know. “N” rang me up in the morning to thank me for the hospitality. And do you know what he said about you?”

“What did he say about me, Sir?” I asked quite curious.

“He told me that you were a terribly terrible fellow – Isn’t that the ultimate compliment?” the Captain said, and broke into a laugh.

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.

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.
No part of this Blog may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical including photocopying or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the Blog Author Vikram Karve who holds the copyright.
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:

Amit said...

Nice one :-)