Thursday, June 26, 2014




Amusing Musings

There was a time when a number of Indian Navy Officers quit the “Fighting Navy” (White Ensign) for a second innings in the Main Fleet of the Merchant Navy (Red Ensign) and kept sailing on the high seas till a ripe old age.

Nowadays, most Indian Navy Officers opt for a second innings in the Auxiliary Offshore Fleet comprising small ships like Offshore Support Vessels (OSVs), Platform Supply Vessels (PSVs), Multi-Purpose Support Vessels (MSVs) etc

Maybe today’s ex-Navy officers avoid joining the Main Fleet of the Merchant Navy, probably because it requires extensive professional and seagoing requirements, higher qualifications and competencies, and involves a tougher life on the high seas.

I have a book of humorous memoirs called “With A Pinch of Salt” written by Commodore Vinod K Sharma, from the first batch of Direct Entry Officers of the Executive Branch (Benbows), who served in the Indian Navy for 29 years (from 1948 to 1977), followed by a second innings of 16 years in the Main Fleet of the Merchant Navy.

In the chapter where he narrates how he had to adapt to a new culture when he changed over from the “White Ensign” to the “Red Ensign” and became a Merchant Mariner, he writes that the most striking change is the relationship between the various ranks and branches.

“While the Captain is the de jure Master, the Chief Engineer is de facto his own boss, and is addressed – and addresses himself – as “Barra Saheb” meaning “Big Shot”, while the Captain is merely “Captain Saheb”.

The Chief Officer is called “Maloom Saheb” meaning “Mr. Know-all”.

The Second Officer is called “Aadhaa Maloom Saheb” or “The Half-Knower” by the crew, and he doesn’t mind being addressed as such.

The relatively younger Third Officer is referred to as “Kuchh Nahin Maloom Saheb” meaning “The Clueless Officer” …”

This delightful book “With A Pinch of Salt” is a “must read” for connoisseurs of humour in uniform.

I am sure many of the stalwarts who have had two innings, one in the Indian Navy and the second in the Merchant Navy, will be able to tell us of their hilarious experiences while coping up with the cultural change.

We too have “nicknames” and “monikers” in the Navy.

And I am sure the sister services, the Army and Air Force, have typical nicknames for various appointments too.

Come on, Dear Readers in Uniform – do tell us about some of the more interesting and amusing nicknames in uniform that you have come across during your career.

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