Monday, January 13, 2014


Here is a Rum Tale from my HUMOUR IN UNIFORM archives:

Unforgettable Characters I Met in the Navy


1. Please read this story only if you have a sense of humour. This is a spoof, a yarn, just for a laugh, no offence meant to anyone, so please take it with a pinch of salt.
2. 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.
Copyright Notice
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)

A RUM TALE By Vikram Karve

The gangs of Dockyard “Mateys” were working incessantly throughout the day in engine room of the ship.

Lieutenant “S” was personally supervising the dockyard gangs.

The ship was due to sail next morning and the job had to be completed on top priority.

I stood on the quarterdeck, near the gangway.

Outside, it was getting dark.

It was raining heavily.

On one side of the ship was an angry dark grey sea, with white peaks and black troughs of the turbulent waves violently lashing against the ship’s side.

And on the other side of the ship, the jetty was barely visible as the torrential rain lashed down on the wharf.

It was quite an eerie and scary atmosphere.

At 7 in the evening, Lieutenant “S” came up to the gangway.

“Finished, Sir?” I asked.

“Almost – we’re boxing up now – should be finished in an hour or so,” he said.

“Shall I tell the Old Man?” I asked.

“Yes, I think you do that,” he said.

I dialled the Captain’s home number from the shore telephone.

“Very Good,” the Captain said after I told him that the repairs had been completed and the Dockyard Team was boxing up.

I saw Lieutenant “S” gesturing that he would like to speak to the Captain.

So I said to the Captain, “Sir, Lieutenant “S” of the Dockyard would like to speak to you.”

“Oh – he’s still on board, is he? Yes, yes, give him the phone,” the Captain said.

Lieutenant “S” spoke to the Captain for a long time. He seemed to explaining everything – the nature of the defect, what repairs they had carried out – all the details.

Then he held out the phone and said that the Captain wanted to speak to me.

“I have told him to carry out a proper test and trial. I’ll speak to the GM about extending the overtime. You make sure that the Dockyard Mateys are looked after properly. It’s raining heavily – see that they get a hot meal and don’t let them go ashore till the rain clears up. And make sure you look after Lieutenant “S” personally – he is an old shipmate of mine,” the Captain said.

“Aye Aye, Sir,” I said and put down the phone.

(That’s what I liked about my Captain – his human touch, the way he cared for his men and others like the dockyard mateys too. He was a hard taskmaster, but he always put humans first. Qualification-wise, the Captain was a matriculate, but I learnt more about Human Resource Management from him than from the many HR Management Courses I did later).

I arranged for a hot meal for the dockyard mateys and some bunks in the mess-decks for them to rest.

I asked Lieutenant “S” whether he would like to have a drink in the wardroom while I took my evening rounds.

“Sure,” he said, brightening up.

Having observed Lieutenant “S” downing peg after peg of whisky at various parties, I knew that he enjoyed his drinks and that he particularly loved drinking Whisky.

(Lieutenant “S” was a very senior Lieutenant, on the verge of becoming a Lieutenant Commander – this story happened in the 1970’s, much before the Ajai Vikram Singh (AVS) Report Bonanza in 2006. In earlier times, you were promoted as Lieutenant after 3 years service as a Naval Officer, and you remained in the rank of Lieutenant for 8 long years before being promoted as Lieutenant Commander after a total of 11 years of commissioned service. Those days, most of the officers on board a ship were Lieutenants, but now, after the AVS Cadre Review, the significance of rank has been so diluted, that now you probably have Commanders performing the duties of First Lieutenant (“number one” or XO) and Captains are XO’s of shore establishments).

To return back to the story, as I escorted Lieutenant “S” to the wardroom, I asked him, “Sir, the Old Man said that you were his shipmate.”

“Yes. I was his Senior Engineer in his previous command. Besides, we are related too – he is a distant cousin. I know your Captain very well. That is why I am personally on board,” he said.

I gave him a smile.

Now that I had this important piece of information, I knew that I would have to treat Lieutenant “S” in style – the choicest premium whisky we had on board, some good “small eats” like our special fried luncheon meat and fish fingers, followed by a sumptuous dinner – I’ll have to tell the cook to prepare a roast chicken or maybe butter chicken – whatever, Lieutenant “S” preferred.

When we were seated at the bar in the wardroom, I asked the steward, “Which is the best whisky we have?”

“Sir, we have got Chivas Regal and Royal Salute, and if you prefer Single Malt, there is The Glenlivet and Glenfiddich,” the bar steward said.

“No. No. Tonight I will like to have some Rum,” Lieutenant “S” said.

“Rum?” I asked, surprised.

“Yes, today I’ll have rum – but don’t worry – if you don’t have rum on board, then give me any soft drink,” he said.

“Of course, we’ll serve you rum – but I have always seen you drinking whisky and we have the best whiskies on board,” I said.

“I know. But I am fasting today,” Lieutenant “S” said.

“Fasting?” I asked, flabbergasted.

“Yes, I fast on Thursdays – it’s an old habit,” he said.

I looked at him in silence, trying to comprehend what his words.

Seeing my confusion, Lieutenant “S” said: “Let me explain. Some things are allowed during fasts, and some things are not allowed. For example, during fasts, you cannot eat grains like wheat, rice, or pulses like daal, or most vegetables, and of course, non-veg items like meat and eggs are totally prohibited. But you can eat starchy things like potatoes, sweet potato and sago, and all types of nuts, and you can have milk, curds and all milk products, all types of fruits and, of course, you can have sugar – that is why rum is allowed because rum is made from sugarcane.”

“I see. On your fasting days you don’t drink whisky and beer because they are made from grain but you can drink rum because rum is made from sugarcane.”


“That means even Brandy and Wine, made from grapes, a fruit, is allowed.”

“Yes. But on my fasting days, I prefer rum,” Lieutenant “S” said.

I wondered whether the ship’s bar stocked Old Monk or Hercules Rum.

With the best quality of select duty free foreign liquor available on board, I had hardly seen anyone drinking Indian Rum on board ship.

Sensing what was going on in my mind, Lieutenant “S” said, “Hey – if you don’t have rum, it doesn’t matter – I’ll have a glass of fruit juice”.

“Of course we have rum, Sir – we have the best rum in the world,” the bar steward said, and he proudly placed a bottle of Lemon Hart Rum in front of Lieutenant “S”.

“Lemon Hart – the original Navy Rum – that’s really great,” a delighted Lieutenant “S” said, caressing the bottle.

Within seconds he was enjoying his stiff drink of Rum and Water, while I sipped on my Whisky Soda.

We sat and enjoyed our drinks, especially Lieutenant “S” who seemed to be thoroughly enjoying his Rum. 

At midnight, when it had stopped raining, I escorted Lieutenant “S” off the gangway.

Lieutenant “S” had thoroughly enjoyed his “fast” – he had polished off more than half the bottle of Lemon Hart Rum and was in the highest of spirits.

Of course, since he was “fasting”, Lieutenant “S” did not have any dinner.

He just had a few plates of peanuts and a few packets of potato wafers, both of which were permitted “fast food”, like Rum.


Later on, during my leave in Pune, I checked up with my grandmother whether Rum was allowed on fasts.

Though she did not approve of drinking alcohol, especially during fasts, she confirmed that “technically” speaking Lieutenant “S” was right – sugar was allowed for fasts, and if rum was prepared from sugarcane, then at least theoretically, Rum was allowed as a “fast food” too – yes, Rum was a permitted fast food.

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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