Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Humor in Uniform – LLQ – LADY LIKE QUALITIES


Delightful Memories of My Navy Life

“Can you carry a small packet and deliver it to my wife?” the officer asked me.

“Sure Sir,” I said.

“Thanks. Just some Ayurvedic Medicines, that’s all. I’ll come on board your ship tomorrow and give it to you,” he said.

“Sure Sir, no hurry, we are leaving day after tomorrow morning,” I said.

The officer was a friend of my ex-shipmate who had been posted to Cochin a few months ago and with whom I was having a drink in the Navy Club at Cochin (now Kochi).

The officer had joined us for a drink, my ex-shipmate had introduced me, and when the officer came to know that my ship was going to Bombay (now Mumbai) he requested to me to carry a packet and deliver it to his wife in Bombay.

Since my ex-shipmate was calling him “Sir” – I too addressed him as “Sir” – and when he came on board the next day, I noticed that though he wore two stripes of a Lieutenant like me, he had the green 9 year long service ribbon.

(Those days it took 3 years to become a Lieutenant, and then one remained a Lieutenant for 8 long years, so there were “junior” Lieutenants like me and “senior” Lieutenants like him).

Next afternoon just before lunchtime, the officer came to my cabin onboard my ship and gave me the packet.

He also gave me a slip of paper on which was written his home address in NOFRA.

“I am stuck here in Cochin for the next 3 months doing a bloody course,” he complained, sipping his beer.

“Cochin is a lovely place,” I said.

“I know – but my wife is in Bombay – and, as they say, there is no life without wife,” he remarked.

“Sir, we are stopping over for two days at Goa and we plan to reach Bombay by Friday, so I will deliver your packet on Saturday or Sunday,” I said.

“No problem – I have already posted a letter to my wife in the morning about the packet,” he said.

(35 years ago, when this happened, writing letters was the common mode of communication, because junior officers did not have landline phones at home so a “trunk call” was inconvenient, telegrams were for emergencies and mobile phones had not yet been invented)

On Saturday evening I rang the bell of a flat on the 6th floor of a high-rise building that housed Married Accommodation for Lieutenants.

A beautiful young lady opened the door.

I introduced myself.

“Yes, yes, do come in,” she said in a mellifluous voice, “I got my husband’s letter two days ago – I have been expecting you today.”

“Sorry Ma’am, I couldn’t come in the morning…” I said, and handed her the packet her husband had sent from Cochin.

“Oh, come on – it was so nice of you to get the packet – do sit down – I will get you something to drink – what will you have?”

“Just a glass of water…” I said, and I sat down on the sofa.

I looked at the lady as she opened the fridge, took out a bottle of water, poured some in a glass, and brought the glass in a tray towards me.

I was impressed by the way she carried herself – she had so much élan, grace and poise.

She excused herself, went into the kitchen and then she came out and asked me: “Come on – have a drink – the bar is over there – and then we will have dinner – you like chicken, don’t you – or are you a vegetarian?”

“Ma’am – please don’t take the trouble…”

“What trouble? There’s no trouble at all – my maid will do the cooking while we talk – in fact it is you who have taken the trouble to deliver the packet and the least I can do is to offer you a meal,” she said.

I felt uncomfortable having a hard drink alone in her company, so I asked for a soft drink, and she had one too.

I think she realized that I was feeling a bit awkward, so she tried to put me at ease – we talked, we had dinner – the evening passed in a haze of delight.

As I rode my scooter back to ship I thought about her – she was a perfect navy wife – her social graces, her etiquette, her polish, her refinement, her poise – well, it is difficult for me to describe everything about her in words, so I will just say that she had all the “Lady Like Qualities”.

A few months later I ran into her in the US Club Library.

“Good evening, Ma’am,” I wished her.

“Oh, hello – how are you?” she said politely.

Suddenly, her husband came in.

He looked at me, recognized me, and smiled, “Hi.”

“Hello, Sir – welcome back to Bombay,” I said.

“Come – why don’t you join us for a drink – let’s go to the bar,” he said.

“Sure Sir,” I said.

While we walked down to the bar, I noticed that the lady was giving me a rather curious look.

I smiled at her.

“Why are you calling my husband, “Sir”? You are senior to him, aren’t you?” she asked me.

“No Ma’am – your husband is senior,” I said.

“You look so old, that when you came home the other day, I thought you were senior to my husband,” she said.

I did not know what to say.

I certainly did not look that “old” as if I were an elderly senior citizen.

But with my copious beard, bulky body size and rather podgy physique, I certainly looked older than my age.

So I said, “ Yes, Ma’am – you are right – I do look a bit older than my age and many persons do think that I am more senior than I actually am – in fact, once a senior Lieutenant once mistook me for a Lieutenant Commander and was surprised when he saw me in uniform next morning.”

“Oh – all that doesn’t matter,” remarked her husband, the senior Lieutenant.

But as far as she was concerned, it was obvious that it did matter.

The moment she realized that I was junior to her husband, her demeanor towards me changed drastically as compared to the courteous obsequiousness on the day I had visited her home when she thought that I was senior to her husband.

But now, she behaved so cold towards me – the disdain with which she ignored my presence – her scornful vibes – all this made me feel uncomfortable and I excused myself from their company after a drink, saying that I had to go somewhere.

On my way back I had a big laugh – it was evident that her “Lady Like Qualities” – her LLQ – was quite selective.

Yes, her LLQ was indeed quite selective.

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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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