Thursday, March 6, 2014



An Apocryphal Story

1. Please read this apocryphal story only if you have a sense of humor. This yarn is a spoof, pure fiction, just for fun and humor, no offence is meant to anyone, so take it with a pinch of salt and have a laugh.
2.  This story is a work of fiction. Events, Places, Settings and Incidents narrated in the story are a figment of my imagination. 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)

An Apocryphal Story by VIKRAM KARVE

The Senior Engineer was going crazy.

The Senior Engineer was going crazy because his boss, the Engineer Officer, Commander (E), would not give the Senior Engineer any leave.

“Senior”, as the Senior Engineer Officer was affectionately called, had not got leave for even a single day since he joined the ship almost six months ago.

At sea, there was no leave since the ship was sailing, and the Senior Engineer was indispensable.

In harbour, Commander (E) denied leave to the hapless Senior Engineer on the pretext that there was repair and maintenance to be done.

At sea, while the Senior Engineer slogged below decks in the heat and grime of Engine Room in his overalls, the Commander (E) would sit in spotless whites playing bridge in the wardroom along with the other “unemployed” officers like “Pusser” (the Supply Officer), “Schoolie” (the “Education” Officer) and “Quack” (the Ship’s Doctor).

In harbour, the Commander (E) made Senior’s life hell by making him do all the tough and dirty work on board, while he spent most of his time ashore networking with senior officers in the Headquarters to build his career and generally having a good time.

Commander (E) was a sadist.

A “pen-pusher” landlubber self-styled Marine Engineer who had spent most his naval career pushing files in Delhi, Commander (E) was always dressed in spotless whites and never wore the customary overalls which Engineers wore on board ships.

He spent most of his time in his cabin and in the wardroom.

Some witty sailors joked that Commander (E) probably did not even know where the engine-room was located.

He had come all the way from Delhi just to “earn” his all important “Sea ACR” – the vital performance appraisal report for his “criterion” sea appointment.

The moment one year sea-time was over, he would be back at his comfortable desk in Delhi, and thanks to his first-rate Sea ACR, he would be wearing one more stripe on his shoulder.

Then onwards, it would be smooth sailing and it was just a matter of time before he became an Admiral.

Yes, once this crucial sea-time was over, he would “manage” everything.

Like all sadists, Commander (E) was a blustering braggart – a gasbag who put on an outward show of brashness, but the reality was that deep inside he was terribly insecure.

Commander (E) was insecure because he was professionally clueless.

In order to cover up his lack of technical knowledge, Commander (E) had made sure he was assigned a good Senior Engineer to do all the dirty work.

Commander (E) knew that all he had to do was to take charge of his of meek Senior Engineer so that everything ran smoothly.

This would ensure that Commander (E) got an excellent ACR which would clear his way for future promotions.

Now suddenly the Senior Engineer wanted a few days leave to go home for an urgent domestic commitment.

And there was this long sailing coming up.

Commander (E) dreaded sailing without the Senior Engineer, lest he be exposed if something went wrong.

In fact, Commander (E) refused to give leave to Senior in harbour too, as Commander (E) was afraid that his technical ignorance would be discovered by the Dockyard Officers.

“30 days leave? On a frontline ship? Are you crazy?” bellowed Commander (E) when he saw Senior’s Leave Application.

“Sir, my sister’s marriage has been fixed. I just got a telegram yesterday.”

“But 30 days?”

“Sir, I have to arrange everything. I am the only brother.”

“Bullshit. A Senior Engineer can’t be absent for a month.”

“Please, Sir. I have to be there for the marriage.”

“Leave the application with me. I’ll see later. And get the ship ready for sailing. What happened to the defects on the boiler?”

“Sir, dockyard is working…”

“You should do it yourself – you bloody shammer.”

“Sir, but …”

“But? What? Don’t stand there looking lost like a clueless clot with your thumb in your bum and your brain at neutral. Go and get on with your job,” shouted Commander (E).

The hapless Senior Engineer got on to the job and got the ship ready for sea.

A few days later, after they returned from the sea sortie, the Senior Engineer asked Commander (E) about his leave application.

“All you can think about is your leave. Have you prepared the defect list?” Commander (E) yelled.

“Defect list? Which defect list?” Senior asked.

“The bloody refit defect list.”

“Sir, the refit is 6 months away.”

“So? I want see the defect list first. Only after that will even I look at your leave application.”

“Sir, it will take me at least a week to prepare the defect list.”

“So? Do it.”

“Sir, I have to go on leave right now. My sister’s marriage is next week.”

“What do you mean you ‘have to’ go on leave? You bloody impertinent bastard. This is the bloody navy. in the Navy, Leave is a Privilege, not a Right. Do you understand? In any case, there is no chance of any leave for you right now. I have just come to know that there is an important sailing coming up. So just bugger off and get on with your job.”

“Sir, please, sir. Try to understand. How can I be missing from my sister’s wedding?”

“That’s your problem. You should have thought about all that before you joined the navy. That’s the problem with you dope-entry chaps – you buggers are civilians in uniform.”

“Sir, I want to see the Captain.”

“You’ll see my bloody arse. Now get out of here – go to the engine room and get on with your job,” Commander (E) thundered.

Senior Engineer did not go to the Engine Room.

He went straight to the wardroom.

He needed to talk to someone.

He saw “Guns”, the Gunnery Officer, sitting in the Wardroom.

It was only 11 o’clock but Guns already had a glass in his hand.

On Saturdays, the bar opened at 12, but guns had such a formidable personality that the steward dared not refuse him a drink, whatever the time of the day or night.

Just last evening, Guns had ordered the ship’s barber to shave off half the moustache of the gangway quartermaster for being slack on duty.

Sailors were petrified of Guns, and even most officers steered clear of him.

As per his usual style, Guns was drinking rum.

A bottle of rum, an ice box and a jug of water were placed on the table before him.

“Come, Senior, have a drink,” Guns said.

Senior liked Guns.

Though Guns was quite a fearsome tyrant, he had somehow taken a liking to the rather docile Senior Engineer.

The steward was alert (when Guns was around, sailors were on their toes).

He knew Senior’s drink.

A glass of beer was placed before Senior.

“Sir, today, I am thinking of having rum,” Senior stammered.

“That’s good! So you are becoming a true-blue sea dog. Here, take the bottle and pour some rum into your beer – don’t worry – rum and beer, no fear!” Guns said.

Senior took a big gulp of beer.

Then he topped up the glass with rum.

He swirled the glass to let the beer and rum mix properly, and then took a huge gulp of the concoction, down the hatch.

Guns looked at Senior curiously and said, “Come on, Senior, get it off your chest.”

“Sir, Commander (E) is not giving me leave for my sister’s marriage.”

“I know. He was boasting to the XO and telling him how he was screwing the hell out of you. Both of them are bastards. They are hand-in-glove. So you can forget about your leave.”

“Sir, but I have to go for my sister’s marriage.”

“Then skip.”


“Just pack your bags and push off.”

“Sir, you are telling me to break ship, to go AWOL. I will be marked ‘run’ and then I will be caught and I will be punished.”

“Then take the punishment like a man. You have to decide your priorities for yourself – you decide what is more important for you – attending your sister’s marriage or cowering before that bloody Commander (E).”

“Sir, I am feeling scared.”

“Don’t worry. Have some more rum – it will give you Dutch-Courage,” Guns said, and he topped up Senior’s glass with neat rum.

Senior took a big gulp of rum. He felt better – a bit high – the cobwebs in his head began to clear.

It was almost 12 noon. The wardroom mess secretary, the SCO, came in to make arrangements for the Saturday afternoon PLD.

Suddenly, Commander (E) barged into to wardroom.

He was stunned to see his Senior Engineer sitting in the wardroom, drinking away to glory.

“What the hell are you doing here? Just go down to the engine-room right now. That’s a bloody order. And there is no liberty for you till further orders,” Commander (E) shouted at Senior in anger.

“Screw your liberty – I am going on leave,” Senior slurred drunkenly.

On hearing these defiant words, for a moment, Commander (E) was dumbstruck.

Then, Commander (E) recovered his wits and said to Senior in a threatening manner, “If you don’t go to the engine-room right now, I will have you arrested and locked up.”

“You go and hop,” Senior said mockingly. The alcohol in his veins was making him feel braver and braver.

Seeing the situation going out of control, the SCO quietly left the wardroom.

Things were turning nasty and the SCO did not want to be a witness to the fracas.

Besides, he had to inform the Captain immediately, because, after all, like all SCOs on ships, he was the Captain’s spy in the wardroom.

By the time the Captain came down to the wardroom, the situation had blown up, and Senior was seen menacingly moving towards Commander (E).

The Senior Engineer was waving the empty bottle of rum dangerously at Commander (E) and Guns was trying to restrain him.

“Stop it,” the Captain shouted in his commanding voice, “What the hell is going on?”

“Sir, Commander (E) is not giving me leave for my sister’s marriage,” Senior said, looking at the Captain.

“I know,” the Captain said.

“Sir, that’s not true. I want this insubordinate officer punished,” Commander (E) said to the Captain.

“We’ll see about that later. First, you tell me why you aren’t giving him leave,” the Captain asked Commander (E).

“Sir, there is a sailing programme,” Commander (E) said.

“So? Is he indispensable? Suppose he drops dead tomorrow, what will you do? It will take at least a month to get a relief Senior Engineer. Won’t the ship sail? What the hell are you here for?” the Captain said sternly to Commander (E).

There was silence in the wardroom.

The Captain looked at Commander (E) and said, “Now listen carefully, Commander (E). I am approving one leave application today – either Senior’s or yours. You decide who is more indispensable – you or your Senior Engineer. Either he goes on leave or you go on leave.”

A few hours later, Senior Engineer was seen crossing the ship’s gangway, with a bag on his shoulder, on his way home on a month’s leave to attend his sister’s marriage.

The technical incompetence of Commander (E) was thoroughly exposed during the sailing. 

In fact, the ERAs made sure of that by creating false alarms and putting Commander (E) in a spin. 

The engine-room sailors liked Senior Engineer and wanted to teach Commander (E) a lesson for treating Senior so shabbily.

For the entire sailing, by creating one “defect” after another, the engine-room sailors kept Commander (E) in a tizzy, resulting in the clueless Commander (E) being frequently summoned to the bridge by the Captain who bullshitted the hell out of the Commander (E).

When Senior Engineer returned from leave, the Captain summoned him to his cabin.

“We had a lot of problems during the last sailing,” the Captain said.

“I know, Sir. The ERAs told me. But don’t worry, Sir. I will get everything shipshape,” Senior said.

“That’s good,” the Captain said.

“May I go, Sir?” Senior asked permission to leave.

The Captain looked at Senior Engineer and said, “There is one more thing. I am thinking of sending Commander (E) on long leave. Can you manage on your own?”

“Of course, Sir – no one is indispensable,” Senior Engineer said, tongue-in-cheek.

“Yes. No one is indispensable,” the Captain laughed.

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)

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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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