Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Humor in Uniform - INITIATION RITES


I saw plenty of humour in uniform.

Here is one such hilarious story from my Humour in Uniform archives, once more, for you to enjoy.

This happened 33 years ago.

An Apocryphal Story

After slogging for 5 years in the Navy, afloat and ashore, I was “selected” to undergo the 2 year M. Tech. course at IIT Delhi. 

On completion of my post graduation (M.Tech) I was posted to the military “babudom” in Delhi – what we in the Navy jokingly referred to as the landlocked “Northern Naval Command”. 

Though ostensibly it was an R&D billet (in consonance with my recently acquired M.Tech. qualification), in actual fact I was a pen-pusher, a “Babu in Uniform”.

I clearly remember the first day I reported to my new job after completing my M. Tech. at IIT Delhi.

The officer who I was relieving was delighted that I had reported.

He was a few years senior to me and was looking forward to proceeding for his sea time on a good ship.

He explained the duties of the position to me.

Then he took me to the Director (a Commodore)

“Has he been initiated? Has he successfully completed his initiation?” the Commodore asked him.

“No, Sir,” my predecessor said.

“Then why have you brought him to me? See that he is properly initiated first and then bring him to me – you will be relieved of your duties only after that,” the Commodore said to my predecessor.

I was totally bamboozled and I wondered what this “initiation” was all about.

I felt confused.

Was this office in the navy or had I landed in some occult outfit?

To be frank, the sinister way in which the Commodore had said “has he been initiated” sent shivers down my spine.

The whole thing sounded macabre, something paranormal.  

Yes, I was indeed truly petrified on hearing the Commodore’s words: “Has he been initiated? Has he successfully completed his initiation?” 

All sorts of scary thoughts filled my mind.

My imagination ran wild and I trembled with trepidation as I wondered what the “rituals of initiation” would be like.

Would there be skulls, black magic, weird dances, eerie agonizing initiation rites, or something more macabre, or worse still, something perverted, abnormal or unnatural...?

“Don’t worry – it is not what you are thinking,” my predecessor said as if he was reading my thoughts, “be ready at 6:30 in the evening – I will come and pick you up from your house.”

Well, in the evening I realized that my fears were totally unfounded.

In fact, the so-called “initiation ceremony” turned out to be a damp squib.

I was taken to a rather salubrious, serene and tranquil place to learn meditation.

After the first training session was over, my predecessor said to me, “You keep coming here every morning and evening till you learn how to meditate properly.”

“Okay, Sir,” I said.

“Please take it seriously and learn how to meditate quickly, so that I can be relieved and proceed for my sea time. It is only when the Guru rings up our boss and tells him you have learnt how to meditate can you start coming to office and take over my duties,” my predecessor pleaded with me.

I enjoyed learning how to meditate – it was a simple method based on breathing.

I learnt how to meditate in 3 days and the Guru told me that I need not come to him anymore, but I must meditate twice a day at home.

So, in fact, this so-called “initiation” turned out to be quite good for me, after all, and I often practice meditation even till today.

But I liked to practice meditation in my own time – in the mornings and evenings at home – because I felt that this was my personal affair.

However, my boss did not think so.

For him, meditation was not a personal matter to be practiced in the privacy of your home.

He had institutionalized the practice of meditation and everyone in the office was meditating away to glory.

Some were meditating individually.

Some were meditating in groups.

And if the boss saw you meditating then you earned brownie points.

For example, let me tell you the story of the officer who had dozed off to sleep after imbibing a generous amount of beer at the customary Friday afternoon Pre Lunch Drinks (PLD) in the Navy wardroom.

Guzzling Chilled Beer on a Hot Summer Afternoon has a salutary effect and so this officer was in deep slumber at his desk when the Commodore peeped in with a file in his hand.

The officer sitting next to him, at the neighbouring desk, panicked and thought, “It seems to be something urgent, or else why would the Commodore come here to our office.”

So the officer at the neighbouring desk tried to wake up the sleeping officer.

“No,” signalled the Commodore with his hands, and then, the Commodore said to the officer in soft admonishment, “don’t disturb him. Can’t you see that he is meditating? When he finishes meditating, ask him to come to my office.”

We were encouraged to meditate singly, we were encouraged to meditate in groups, especially at lunchtime, and, once a week, there would be combined group meditation at lunchtime which was compulsory for everyone.

Yes, each and everyone had to attend the group meditation – from the Commodore right down to the peon.

The Commodore explained to us that whereas individual mediation would benefit us individually, group mediation would release positive vibes in the entire office and this would improve interpersonal relationships and indeed uplift the performance of the entire office.  

This combined group meditation was conducted by the Commodore in the main office hall.

It was during one such combined group meditation session that the Admiral urgently wanted to see the Commodore.

“Sir, no one is picking up the phone in the Commodore’s office,” the Admiral’s Staff Officer said.

“Then you personally go there and call him,” the Admiral shouted.

The Staff Officer returned empty handed and said, “Sir, the Commodore is not in his office. Even his PA is not there. So we don’t know if he has gone somewhere.”

“Then get some other officer from that directorate,” the Admiral said.

“Sir, there is no officer on his seat,” the Staff Officer mumbled.

“What nonsense!” the Admiral roared.

The angry Admiral walked out of his office and he started striding down the corridor, pushing open doors of offices, surprised to find them empty, till he reached the main office hall at the end of the corridor.

The Admiral pushed open the door of the main hall.

For a moment, he was stunned by what he saw.

Everyone, officers and staff, men and women, were sitting as if in a trance – eyes closed and in deep meditation.

“Stop this nonsense!” the Admiral roared.

The Admiral’s loud voice broke our blissful trancelike spell of meditation.

Then the Admiral looked at the Commodore and shouted: You come to my office immediately.”

That was the end of institutionalized group meditation.

However, the Commodore continued to exhort us to meditate surreptitiously in the office whenever we wanted to.

The Commodore did not give up – he kept on trying to convince the Admiral to get “initiated”.

But then the Admiral was an elbow-bending down-the-hatch booze imbibing officer of the “old mould”.

He believed that drowning yourself in spirits was a better way to achieve enlightenment than drowning yourself in spirituality.

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All Stories in this Blog are a work of fiction. Events, Places, Settings and Incidents narrated in the stories 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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