Monday, November 25, 2013



Unforgettable Characters I Met in the Navy


An Apocryphal Story

Continued from THE CRAZY COMMODORE Part 1 and Part 2

1. Please read this story only if you have a sense of humour. This is a spoof, a work of fiction. So first convince yourself that you have a sense of humour and only then read the yarn and have a laugh. No offense is meant to anybody.
2. This story is a fictitious yarn. It is a work of fiction. The characters do not exist. The characters and incidents 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 - all rights reserved



Having successfully completed my “initiation” I sat in front of the Commodore along with a Commander who had also reported recently (apparently he had been “initiated” earlier as he had already worked with the Commodore in a previous appointment).

I was waiting for the usual motivational mumbo jumbo – the customary navy sermon on hard-work, the “service before self” motto, or, maybe, an “inspiring” moral lecture on devotion to duty, diligence and sincerity.

Instead, the Commodore asked us: “Have you made your liquor cards?”

“No, Sir,” the Commander said, “I have just come to Delhi last week.”

“You better go to the CSD canteen right now and get your liquor card made fast,” the Commodore told the Commander.

“Yes, Sir,” the Commander said.

Then the Commodore looked at me and said, “You also do the same thing. It is very important to have a liquor card, especially here in Delhi.”

I wondered why the Commodore was interested in the fact whether we had liquor cards or not.

Maybe the work here was so tough that we would require a few drinks in the evening to de-stress and unwind.

Soon, our duties were allocated.

Surprisingly, I had been given an independent assignment, though I was an Assistant Director, whereas the Commander was asked to look after day-to-day office administration, euphemistically called “coordination”, though he was a Deputy Director.

(Those days, in the “Uniformed Babudom” of the “Northern Naval Command”, the Head of a Directorate was a Captain or Commodore who was called Director, Commanders were Deputy Directors and Lieutenant Commanders / Lieutenants were Assistant Directors. Sometimes, there was an additional Captain and he was called Joint Director. However, we are a feudal society obsessed with rank and status, and the uniformed bureaucracy is in constant “competition” with the civilian bureaucracy for one-upmanship and these designations were suitably “upgraded” after various cadre reviews and new ones like “Principal Director” were created – the whole thing is quite confusing and whether all this has achieved anything or improved working efficiency, I really do not know)

Coming back to our story, probably the Commander was rankled by this “unjust” allocation of duties, so he protested, “Sir, I am senior and have been given Coordination which should be done by an Assistant Director.”

The Commodore looked at me and said, “Okay, you look after Coordination in addition to your duties.”

This was going to be quite a heavy burden – my regular duties plus coordination – so I asked the Commodore, “Sir, you want me to look after coordination in addition to my duties?”

“Yes, you will do both the jobs,” the Commodore said.

The Commander had been hoping to get my job.

But now, it appeared that he had been rendered jobless.

So, looking confused, the Commander asked the Commodore: “Sir – what should I do?”

“I have thought of something new for you – Special Projects – you will be DD (Special Projects),” the Commodore said.

The Commander seemed to be happy about his new “prestigious” designation – it was only after a few days that he realized that “Special Projects” was a euphemism for “Bum Jobs”.

I will not go into the details of these “bum jobs” because you may not believe me, but it will suffice to say that the Commander was reduced to being the full-time lackey of the Commodore.

I marveled at the quick-wittedness and ingenuity of the Commodore.

In a flash of a moment he had killed two birds with one stone.

Firstly, he had satisfied the Commander’s “grievance” by giving him a high-sounding designation.

And, secondly, he had also created a glorified batman (“sahayak”) for himself (I doubt whether any Army Officer can boast of a “sahayak” of the rank of Lieutenant Colonel).

As the adroit Commodore observed the keenness of the eager-beaver Commander to please the Commodore, he started using the Commander for all his personal work.

We felt surprised that Commander seemed quite happy at being the Commodore’s flunky.

Once, in our presence, when his course-mate asked him that if he did not feel humiliated doing such demeaning work, the Commander replied, “What to do? It is all for a good ACR. I know this Commodore well – if you unquestioningly do whatever he tells you to do, then he gives you an excellent ACR, otherwise he can be quite stingy. I have served with him before and let me tell you one thing – it is only because of him that I am a Commander today. If it were not for the thumping ACRs he gave me, I would never have become a Commander.”

(Those were the pre-AVS Cadre Review days when Commander was a select rank)

His last statement was true.

He should have never become a Commander.

It seemed that “The Peter Principle” had not worked in his case and he had been promoted well beyond his level of competence.

His bootlicking ways continued to pay him rich dividends and he managed to rise to even higher ranks.

One day the “Bootlicker” Commander called me to his office and asked me, “Why haven’t you given your liquor card to the Commodore?”

I did not reply.

There was no way I was going to surrender my liquor card – my lifeline to happiness and joy.

Those were my glorious drinking days – my halcyon navy days when drinking and eating were my main epicurean passions.

Yes, those days, I was such a passionate drinker that I would have gladly handed over my identity card rather than my liquor card!

I tried to avoid answering, but the Commander said, “You can give your liquor card to me – now I am handling all those affairs.”

“Sir, I can’t give you my liquor card,” I said firmly.

“But the Commodore desires…”

“Then let him desire…”

“What do you mean by that?” the Commander said angrily.

“Sir, I am a heavy drinker and I require my full monthly liquor quota – I can’t spare anything,” I said.

“I will have to report this to the Commodore,” he threatened.

“Sir, please tell me – why does the Commodore want our liquor cards – is he an alcoholic or something?” I asked.

“Alcoholic? The Commodore is a teetotaller – he does not touch alcohol,” the Commander said.

“Then why does he want my liquor card?” I asked.

“Why don’t you understand? This is Delhi. We have to keep the Babus happy,” the Commander said.

“I don’t understand,” I said.

“Once in a while, we have to give a bottle or two to the Babus so that they clear our files quickly.”

“But isn’t that their job?”

“Yes, but the guys at the ministry can always raise queries, delay, stonewall, and hold up files – and, after all, the ACR of our boss depends on how fast he can get proposals cleared by the ministry. That’s why he is doing so well – he has got a fantastic reputation that he can get anything sanctioned fast – he can get approvals cleared quickly, whereas his counterparts keep going round in circles. With so many Commodores sweating it out for promotion, it is very stiff competition to become an Admiral – and our boss surely wants to be the first in his batch to become an Admiral. So what’s the harm in a bit of mamool, a bottle here or there, to lubricate the system and speed up things? Out here in Delhi, if you the Babus happy then you do well. We must to be loyal to our Commodore – if he does well, then he will be happy and we will all do well too.”

“Sir, military quota liquor is not meant for civilians – it is written on each and every bottle that this liquor is for consumption of defence personnel only,” I said.

“Shut up! Don’t think you are too damn smart. I know all this,” the Commander said angrily, “If you want to be dogmatic and not cooperate, I will tell the Commodore about your obstinate behaviour – but let me tell you that this rigid attitude will not help you in your career.”

Thereafter, no one asked me for my liquor card, but from time to time the Commodore used to comment that drinking was not good for health.

Meanwhile, I felt ashamed whenever I saw the Bootlicker Commander toadying in an obsequious manner before even minor civilian babus ostensibly to “get the work done”.

It hurt me to see how unbridled ambition had reduced him into a disgusting ass-kisser with no self respect.

One day the Commander came to my office and asked me: “Have you got your liquor card with you?”

“Sir, I told you …”

“No. I don’t want your liquor card. I want two bottles of whisky, a bottle of rum and some bottles of beer – I want this booze for myself,” he said.

“For yourself?” I asked, taken aback.

“Yes. I want the liquor for myself. I am having a party at home. And my monthly quota on my liquor card is exhausted giving bottles here and there. So I was wondering if you could spare a few bottles from your quota,” he pleaded.

I did not know whether I should laugh or cry.

“Sure Sir,” I said, “whatever you want.”

His lips smiled at me – but his eyes said it all.

Copyright © Vikram Karve 
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 (All Rights Reserved)

© vikram karve., 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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