Sunday, April 6, 2014



A Tall Story

25 years ago, in the latter part of the 1980’s, during my Vizag tenure, I lived in 17 Naval Park.

It was a well located lovely old-style house, on the ground floor, with a small lawn in front and kitchen garden at the rear.

We were mix of occupants in the 6 houses of the 3 storey building, and in the similar block of 6 houses opposite – 12 of us with varying ranks ranging from Lieutenant Commander to Commodore and from diverse ships and shore establishments (we called the common area between the two blocks “Nukkad” and would have frequent “pot luck” get-togethers there).

Those days there was “load shedding” (planned electricity power cuts) every evening from 7 to 9 (1900 – 2100 hrs in Naval Parlance).

I believe in the saying: “If life gives you a lemon – make lemonade”.

So I turned the “load shedding” into an “opportunity”.

The sun sets early on the eastern seaboard, so I would be back from my walk/swim at 1830 and would put out a table and chairs on the lawn with a bottle of Rum, 2 jugs of cold water, 6 stainless steel glasses, a packet of cigarettes, and “small eats”.

I would pour a drink of rum-pani and the moment the lights went out, I would start drinking.

At 9 PM (2100 hrs) when the lights came on, I would stop drinking and move in to watch TV and have dinner.

I was never alone – anyone and everyone was cordially invited to share my booze – and many joined in for a drink – my friends from the “Nukkad”, or even passersby, walking around to pass time during the load shedding. 

That was the reason for the 6 stainless steel glasses – which were safer in the dark too, especially for us “drunkards” groping about in the dark.

(Though otherwise I am a “thrift and frugality” type, my friends will vouch for my generosity with booze – liquor was always flowing freely in my house, and all were welcome to join in).

My “next door neighbor” was an officer posted on a survey ship.

The officer had gone on a long sailing and his parents had come over for “nanny duties” to look after the officer’s small children since the officer’s wife worked as a manager in a bank in Visakhapatnam and she had long working hours.

The officer had two small children who were looked after full-time by the grandmother – and the old man (grandfather) felt lonely without his wife in his native place and so he too had come over to Vizag to be with her.

One evening, I noticed the old man looking at me intently as I made arrangements for the evening’s drinking session.

I observed the yearning in his eyes as he looked at the bottle of Rum, so I called him over, “Sir, why don’t you join me for a drink?”

The old man readily accepted my invitation – and he accepted an offer of a cigarette too – and soon we were drinking and smoking and talking.

Within minutes, two officers from the “Nukkad” had joined us – and one of them had even brought a huge bowl of “Chicken 65” to go along with the drinks.

After some time, stimulated by the alcohol in his system, the old man started talking uninhibitedly, “I used to be a forest officer – I love my drinks and food – and look how my children turned out to be – I put both my sons in the defence services – and both turned out to be non-drinkers and non-smokers – it is a bloody disgrace – and this one in the navy – he is so bloody henpecked – as it is there is no booze in the house, and his wife has banned non-veg too – the other day I got a bottle of beer and some mutton and my daughter-in-law made a big hungama – I am really enjoying drinking with you all – and this chicken is delicious – I am having it after a long time…”

“Sir, don’t worry – you are always welcome to join us in the evenings,” I said to the old man.

We drank, we smoked, we nibbled the small eats, and we talked.

The old man was a natural raconteur and regaled us with yarns of his forest officer days – his adventures, and the shikar and barbeque parties they had.

When you are enjoying yourself, time passes fast, and suddenly the lights came on – it was 9 pm.

I poured the last round of drinks, to kill the bottle.

I noticed that the old man was in high spirits and swayed a bit as he walked home and I felt good doing my bit to make the old man happy.

On the next day too, the old man joined us promptly at 7 in the evening for our drinking session.

There was a bigger crowd, 5 of us from the “Nukkad” and the old man, and people had brought assorted snacks as small eats.

The old man was in full form and we were enjoying his tall stories.

The old man told us about the bungalow he had built back home and invited all of us to visit him there and promised us booze and barbeque.

“Hey, let’s have tomorrow evening’s session on my ship,” the officer who was commanding a ship said, “I will tell the cook to prepare some good chicken and mutton dishes – and some fish and prawns for small eats – Sir, I hope you like fish…” he asked the old man.

“Of course, I love fish – I like anything non-veg – chicken, mutton, fish, anything…” the old man said.

That evening, watching the old man swaying happily on his way home, I realized that he was in even higher spirits than the previous evening.

Next day, when I came home in the afternoon for my lunch break, my wife said: “Mrs “X” was here this morning on her way to work.”

(You guessed right – Mrs “X” was my next door neighbour’s wife – the bank manager – the old man’s daughter-in-law).

“So, why was she here?” I asked.

“She told me that you were spoiling her father-in-law,” my wife said.

“Spoiling her father-in-law? What nonsense? The old man is double my age. How the hell can I spoil him?” I said.

My wife looked at me and said: “Mrs “X” was very rude. She said that you were already a drunkard, a kabaabi and sharaabi. And now you were making her father-in-law a drunkard. She has asked me to tell you not to call her father-in-law for drinks…”

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. 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.
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