Monday, December 1, 2014

Humor in Uniform - RUM BUM and BOOTLICKING


I saw plenty of humour in uniform.

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

This happened more than 30 years ago, in the early 1980’s.

A Spoof


The catchphrase “Rum Bum Lash Navy is no longer relevant – in fact, this is a thing of the distant past.

“Bum” was outlawed centuries ago, and in due course the “Lash” was abolished.

Even “Rum” was abolished in the Royal Navy on 31 July 1970, the last day when Rum Rations were served to sailors, and this day was observed as “Black Tot Day”.

Thankfully, the only saving grace is the Duty Free Liquor you get on Navy Ships and concessional “Fauji Liquor you get ashore in CSD canteens.

You get a limited “Quota” of this “Fauji” CSD Liquor, depending on your rank – the higher your rank, the more booze you can drink.

And for availing of this “Fauji Liquor Quota you have to get a CSD Liquor Card.

So, all that remains of the “Rum Bum Lash Navy is the “Rum” – but nowadays Rum is not free – but you get “Military Rum at concessional rates.

And though the Navy has outlawed “Bum” – there still remain the “Bum Jobs” plenty of which you have to do in the Navy.


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.

I sat in front of the Director (a Commodore).

Along with me sat a Commander who had also reported on the same day.

I was waiting for the usual motivational mumbo jumbo – the customary navy sermon on sincerity and hard-work, the “service before self” motto, or, maybe, an “inspiring” moral lecture on devotion to duty, diligence and the “Chetwode Credo”.

Instead, the Commodore asked us: “Have you made your liquor cards?”

“No, Sir,” the Commander said, “I have just come to Delhi last week.”

“You better go to the CSD canteen right now and get your liquor card made fast,” the Commodore told the Commander.

“Yes, Sir,” the Commander said.

Then the Commodore looked at me and he said to me, “You also do the same thing. It is very important to have a liquor card, especially here in Delhi.”

I wondered why the Commodore was interested in the fact whether we had liquor cards or not.

Maybe the work here was so tough that we would require a few drinks in the evening to de-stress and unwind.

Soon, our duties were allocated.

Surprisingly, I had been given an independent assignment, though I was an Assistant Director, whereas the Commander was asked to look after day-to-day office administration, euphemistically called “coordination”, though he was a Deputy Director.

Those days, in the “Uniformed Babudom” of the “Northern Naval Command”, the Head of a Directorate was a Captain or Commodore who was called Director.

Commanders were Deputy Directors (DD) and Lieutenant Commanders / Lieutenants were Assistant Directors (AD). 

Sometimes, there was an additional Captain and he was called Joint Director. 

However, we are a feudal society obsessed with rank and status.

The uniformed bureaucracy is in constant “competition” with the civilian bureaucracy for oneupmanship game, and these designations were suitably “upgraded” after various cadre reviews and new designations like “Principal Director” were created.

The whole thing is quite confusing and whether all this has achieved anything or improved working efficiency, I really do not know.

Hey, I have digressed.

Coming back to our story, probably the Commander was rankled by this “unjust” allocation of duties, so he protested, “Sir, I am senior, but I have been given Coordination which should be done by an Assistant Director.”

The Commodore looked at me and said, “Okay, you look after Coordination in addition to your duties.”

This was going to be quite a heavy burden – my regular duties plus coordination – so I asked the Commodore, “Sir, you want me to look after coordination in addition to my duties?”

“Yes, you will do both the jobs,” the Commodore said.

The Commander had been hoping to get my job.

But now it appeared that he had been rendered jobless.

So, looking confused, the Commander asked the Commodore: “Sir – what should I do?”

“I have thought of something new for you – Special Projects – you will be DD (Special Projects),” the Commodore said.

The Commander seemed to be happy about his new “prestigious” designation.

It was only after a few days that he realized that “Special Projects” was a euphemism for “Bum Jobs”.

I will not go into the details of these “bum jobs” because you may not believe me, but it will suffice to say that the Commander was reduced to being the full-time lackey of the Commodore.

I marveled at the quickwittedness and ingenuity of the Commodore.

In a flash of a moment he had killed two birds with one stone.

Firstly, he had satisfied the Commander’s “grievance” by giving him a high-sounding designation.

And, secondly, he had also created a glorified batman (“sahayak”) for himself (I doubt whether any Army Officer can boast of a “sahayak” of the rank of Lieutenant Colonel).

As the adroit Commodore observed the keenness of the eager-beaver Commander to please the Commodore, he started using the Commander for all his personal work.

We felt surprised that Commander seemed quite happy at being the Commodore’s flunky.

Once, in our presence, when his course-mate asked him that if he did not feel humiliated doing such demeaning work, the Commander replied, “What to do? It is all for a good ACR. I know this Commodore well – if you unquestioningly do whatever he tells you to do, then he gives you an excellent ACR, otherwise he can be quite stingy. I have served with him before and let me tell you one thing – it is only because of him that I am a Commander today. If it were not for the thumping ACRs he gave me, I would never have become a Commander.”

(This happened many years before the AVS 2006 Cadre Review and those days Commander was a select rank)

His last statement was true.

He should have never become a Commander.

It seemed that “The Peter Principle” had not worked in his case and he had been promoted well beyond his level of competence.

By the way, his bootlicking ways continued to pay him rich dividends and he managed to rise to even higher ranks.


One day the “Bootlicker” Commander called me to his office and asked me, “Why haven’t you given your liquor card to the Commodore?”

I did not reply.

There was no way I was going to surrender my liquor card – military rum was my birthright and my liquor card was my lifeline to happiness and joy.

Those were my glorious drinking days – my halcyon navy days when drinking and eating were my main epicurean passions.

Yes, those days, I was such a passionate drinker that I would have gladly handed over my identity card rather than my liquor card!

I tried to avoid answering, but the Commander said, “You can give your liquor card to me – now I am handling all those affairs.”

“Sir, I cannot give you my liquor card,” I said firmly.

“But the Commodore desires…” the Commander persisted.

“Then let him desire…” I said.

“What do you mean by that?” the Commander said angrily.

“Sir, I am a heavy drinker and I require my full monthly liquor quota – I cannot spare even a single peg of rum, leave alone a bottle,” I said.

“I will have to report this to the Commodore,” he threatened.

“Sir, please tell me – why does the Commodore want our liquor cards – is he an alcoholic or alcohol dependent or something?” I asked.

“Alcoholic? The Commodore is a teetotaller – he does not touch alcohol,” the Commander said.

“Then why does he want my liquor card?” I asked.

“Why don’t you understand? This is Delhi. We have to keep the Babus happy,” the Commander said.

“I don’t understand,” I said.

“Once in a while, we have to give a bottle or two to the Babus so that they clear our files quickly,” the Commander said.

“But isn’t that their job?” I asked.

The Commander gave me a long lecture: “Yes, but the guys at the ministry can always raise queries, delay, stonewall, and hold up files – and, after all, the ACR of our boss depends on how fast he can get proposals cleared by the ministry. That’s why he is doing so well – he has got a fantastic reputation that he can get anything sanctioned fast – he can get approvals cleared quickly, whereas his counterparts keep going round in circles. With so many Commodores sweating it out for promotion, it is very stiff competition to become an Admiral – and our boss surely wants to be the first in his batch to become an Admiral. So what’s the harm in a bit of mamool, a bottle here or there, to lubricate the system and speed up things? Out here in Delhi, if you the Babus happy then you do well. We must to be loyal to our Commodore – if he does well, then he will be happy and we will all do well too.”

I heard his long sermon, and then I said: “Sir, military quota liquor is not meant for civilians – it is written on each and every bottle that this liquor is for consumption of defence personnel only.”

“Shut up! Don’t think you are too damn smart. I know all this,” the Commander said angrily, “If you want to be dogmatic and not cooperate, I will tell the Commodore about your obstinate behaviour – but let me tell you that this rigid attitude will not help you in your career.”

Thereafter, no one asked me for my liquor card,

But from time to time, the Commodore used to comment that drinking was not good for health.

Meanwhile, I felt ashamed whenever I saw the Bootlicker Commander toadying in an obsequious manner before minor civilian babus ostensibly to “get the work done”.

It hurt me to see how unbridled ambition had reduced him into a disgusting ass-kisser with no self respect.

One day the Bootlicker Commander came to my office and he asked me: “Have you got your liquor card with you?”

“Sir, I told you …” I began to protest.

“No. I don’t want your liquor card. I want two bottles of whisky, a bottle of rum and some bottles of beer – I want this booze for myself,” he said.

“For yourself?” I asked, taken aback.

“Yes. I want the liquor for myself. I am having a party at home. My liquor card is with the Commodore and the monthly liquor quota on my liquor card is exhausted by the Commodore distributing bottles here and there. So I was wondering if you could spare a few bottles from your quota,” he pleaded.

I did not know whether I should laugh or cry.

“Sure Sir,” I said, “I will go to the CSD Canteen right now and get you whatever you want.”

His lips smiled at me – but his eyes said it all.

Copyright © Vikram Karve 
1. If you share this post, please give due credit to the author Vikram Karve
2. Please DO NOT PLAGIARIZE. Please DO NOT Cut/Copy/Paste this post
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

1. This story is a spoof, pure fiction, just for fun and humor, no offence is meant to anyone, so take it with a pinch of salt and have a laugh.
2. 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.

Copyright Notice:
No part of this Blog may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical including photocopying or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the Blog Author Vikram Karve who holds the copyright.

Copyright © Vikram Karve (all rights reserved)

This is an abridged updated extract of my story THE CRAZY COMMODORE – Part 3 : THE BOOTLICKER COMMANDER AND RUM RAJ  Earlier Posted in my Academic and Creative Writing Journal Blog on 25 November 2013 

No comments: