Wednesday, May 28, 2014



Unforgettable Characters I Met in the Navy

When I was in the Navy I used to jokingly say:

There are two types of Senior Naval Officers  Alcoholics and Workaholics

I too had my share of both.

But, going by my own experience, I prefer an alcoholic boss anyday rather than a workaholic boss.

Around 25 years ago, when I was in Vizag Dockyard, the telephone rang in my house around midnight when I was fast asleep.

It was my boss speaking on the other side of the telephone line.

He said nonchalantly: Can you come over?

I looked at my watch  the time was 2345 hours (11:45 PM)  almost midnight.

I washed up, changed my clothes, and walked across to his house in Naval Park.

I noticed that his house was dark inside.

I rang the bell.

A light was switched on inside, and soon, the door opened.

My bosss wife was standing in the door, sleepy-eyed, in her nightie.

Good evening, Ma’am. Your husband rang me up and called me for some work, I said.

He hasnt come home yet. He must be still working in the office, she said.

What happened next?

Well, I will tell you the full story sometime soon.

Meanwhile, let me share with you one of my earlier hilarious experiences with a workaholic boss and his vivacious wife.


This happened long back, in the late 1970’s.

(Try to take yourself back to the Mumbai of 35 years ago – remember that there were no mobile phones those days)

We once had a terrible boss – he was a workaholic and he would remain on board ship till late evening, sometimes even into the night, even if there was no work.

The problem was that, even on a ship in harbour, in the navy, a junior officer was required to take permission to proceed ashore, if the Captain or HOD is on board, irrespective of working hours.

This was the practice 35 years ago, and things may have changed now with the advent of a more permissive atmosphere in the navy.

Those days, even an HOD would seek permission from the Captain to proceed ashore.

Seeking permission to proceed ashore was okay in working hours.

But, unfortunately for us, working hours for our workaholic boss would extend till late evening, sometimes even into the night.

If we went to ask him for permission to proceed ashore to enjoy the delights of Mumbai, he would start asking us all sorts of questions, and, in fact, he would create work for us and make us stay on board.

Apart from being a workaholic, our boss had one more weakness – bridge (the card game, also called contract bridge).

After he finished his work on board, he would go to CCI to play bridge, and return home late in the night.

Even on Sundays and Holidays, or whenever he got time, he would play bridge in his club.

Our boss spent all his time doing only two things – Working or playing Bridge.

Once, when we had returned to harbour after a long sailing, we were eagerly waiting to go ashore, but unfortunately our boss remained on board.

All married officers had rushed home the moment the ship arrived in harbour, but our boss was “busy” on board and he was showing no inclination of going home to his wife.

We dared not ask him permission to proceed ashore, as he would create some infructuous work for us like making a defect list for a refit that was many months away.

We decided to teach him a lesson.

In the evening, we changed into civvies and quietly left the ship, without taking his permission.

We had picked up a bottle of perfume and some chocolates from the ship’s canteen.

We went straight to the home of our boss on Marine Drive.

His wife opened the door and was quite surprised to see us.

She welcomed us in.

She was delighted when we gave her the perfume and chocolates.

Then we told her that her husband had invited us for dinner.

She seemed taken aback and looked quite bewildered on hearing this.

“My husband hasn’t come home yet – I thought he was still working on board the ship,” she said, looking confused.

“No, ma’am, he left the ship in the afternoon the moment we arrived in port,” my friend said.

“Maybe, he has gone to CCI to play bridge,” I added, nonchalantly.

The moment she heard me, his wife seemed to be getting angry. 

She hated her husband’s bridge addiction – like there are “golf widows”, she was a “bridge widow”.

“I think we have come at a wrong time…” I said.

“Sorry, ma’am, we thought he was going straight home in the afternoon and he would inform you that he has invited us for dinner,” my friend commiserated.

“We did not know that he would get so engrossed in his bridge game that he would forget to come home after so many days of sailing.” I said.

“Ma’am, sorry for disturbing you – we will come some other time,” my friend said.

Our boss’s wife looked at us, and then she said: No, No. You two sit down and pour yourself a drink – I’ll rustle up some dinner for you.”

“Why not go out for dinner – to someplace in Churchgate – say, to Gaylord, or to Kamling,” I said.

She looked at us, a bit hesitant.

“Please ma’am, don’t say ‘No’ – tonight we will treat you – and you can cook us a nice dinner some other time,” my friend said.

Her face lit up, and she said, “Okay. That sounds good. I’ll get ready.”

So we and our boss’s wife enjoyed a lovely dinner at Gaylord followed by Ice Cream at Yankee Doodle and then we had a nice stroll down Marine Drive in the cool sea breeze.

It was 11 PM by the time we returned to her place for coffee.

I cannot describe the expression of shock on our boss’s face when he opened the door.

“Where were you guys? I was looking for you all over the ship,” he shouted at us.

Our boss’s wife looked at her husband sternly for some time, and then she said: “Don’t shout at them. And don’t lie to me and tell me that you were working on your ship? I know that you were in CCI playing bridge,” the boss’s wife said.

Our boss looked stunned.

Then he recovered, and said to his wife: “CCI? Bridge? Who told you that? I was on the ship doing some important work. I have just returned half an hour ago and I find you missing from home.”

“Please don’t lie. I know you left the ship in the afternoon and you were playing bridge at CCI,” the boss’s wife said.

“That is not true – who told you that?” our boss asked his wife.

“Let’s not argue – I don’t want to spoil the lovely evening I have enjoyed after so many years,” our boss’s wife said to our boss, her husband.

We excused ourselves and left.

Next morning our boss summoned us to his cabin and said: “From now on, you need not take my permission before proceeding ashore on liberty.”

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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.

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