Thursday, February 5, 2015

HUMOR IN UNIFORM - NAVY FICTION - 4 “Must Read” Books for every Naval Officer

4 “Must Read” Books for every Naval Officer
Reflections of a Retired Navy Veteran

When I joined the Navy in the 1970’s, there were three “must read” books for every naval officer:

1. THE CAINE MUTINY by Herman Wouk

2. THE CRUEL SEA by Nicholas Monsarrat

3. WE JOINED THE NAVY by John Winton

I wonder whether the “must read” list has changed, because a young naval officer I met recently had not even heard of these books, leave alone reading them.

As far as I was concerned, these books had a lasting impact on me.

If you intend joining the navy, or are a young naval officer, I suggest you read these three sea novels, besides the mandatory prescribed reading, because it will give you flavour of life at sea and will help you to understand naval life better  and look at things with a sense of humour.

By the way, all the three authors were Naval Officers and have based their novels on their experiences in their navy careers.

Here is a quote from “The Caine Mutiny” by Herman Wouk:

“The Navy is a master plan designed by geniuses for execution by idiots. If you are not an idiot, but find yourself in the Navy, you can only operate well by pretending to be one. All the shortcuts and economies and common-sense changes that your native intelligence suggests to you are mistakes. Learn to quash them. Constantly ask yourself, ‘How would I do this if I were a fool?’ Throttle down your mind to a crawl. Then you will never go wrong.”

~ Herman Wouk, The Caine Mutiny

Talking of sense of humour – which is sine qua non OLQ (Officer Like Quality) for military officers – I would strongly recommend that – in case you intend joining the Defence Services – you read a book called CATCH-22 by Joseph Heller

CATCH-22 is a satire that brings out the absurdities of military life through its crazy characters.

If you have served in the military – I am sure you would have come across many such unforgettable characters who resemble the characters in Catch-22.

A delightful example is the amusing character of DOC DANEEKA and his hilarious spoof on the absurdities of the military healthcare system.

During my long service in the Navy  I have seen plenty of Doc Daneekas in Uniform.

I will tell you those stories in my blogs soon – but before that let me tell you a bit about the original Doc Daneeka of Catch-22.


When anyone asks me how life is in the armed forces (the army, the navy, or, the air force), I tell them to read the famous World War II Novel “Catch-22” by Joseph Heller.

If you have served in the defence services, in all probability, you would have read Catch-22, and even if you have not read it, you would have experienced the essence of Catch-22.

If you are a motivated youngster who intends joining the army, navy or air force, I suggest you read Catch-22, so that you will be well prepared for the inimitable characters and unique situations you will encounter during your military service.

In CATCH-22 there is a character called Doc Daneeka – a Medical Officer or MO (as military doctors are called).

His style of diagnosis and treatment is simple.

In fact, Doc Daneeka has succeeded in elevating medicine to an exact science.

Doc Daneeka fully delegates diagnosis and treatment to his assistants – two soldiers called “Gus” and “Wes” – who run the healthcare system in the military unit on their own with so much efficiency that Doc Daneeka is left with nothing to do, which is fine with him, since he hates medical practice anyway.

The modus operandi of the healthcare system is as follows:

All “patients” (who report on sick parade) have a thermometer shoved into their mouths and have their temperature taken.

1. Those with body temperatures above 102 degrees Fahrenheit are rushed to the hospital in an ambulance.

2. Those having temperatures below 102 degrees Fahrenheit have their gums and throats painted with gentian violet (throat paint) and are given a dose of laxative to clear their stomachs and digestive systems.

3. Those who have a temperature of exactly 102 degrees Fahrenheit are told to come after one hour to have their temperature taken again so that the line of treatment could be decided as follows:

(a) Temperature more than 102 – rushed to hospital

(b) Temperature less than 102 – throat paint + laxative

4. After one hour, if a patient’s temperature is still 102  he is asked to keep reporting to the clinic every one hour till his temperature either goes above 102  or comes down below 102 so that he could be treated accordingly as per option 1 or option 2 above. 

I came across many such “Doc Daneeka” style Doctors during my service in the Navy.

Here is a story of a Lady “Doc Daneeka” I came across at a place called IAT Pune.

I have already told you this story in a previous blog post:


However, I will briefly tell you the story, once again, for the sake of continuity.


A fellow naval officer once took his 3 year old daughter to the IAT MI Room (Military Inspection Room – that’s what they call a clinic in the army and air force. In the navy, it is called a “sick bay”).

The officer’s small daughter had severe loose motions (diarrhoea).

The moment he entered the lady doctor’s office she looked up at his face and shouted at him: “Why are you coming here? How many days SIQ (Sick in Quarters) do you want? Just go to the office, tell the attendant, and take the SIQ slip.”

The stunned officer told the lady army medical officer: “Nothing is wrong with me. I don’t want SIQ.”

“Then why have you come here?” the “fauji” lady doctor asked him.

The naval officer pointed to his daughter and said, “My daughter has got loose motions.”

The lady army medical officer looked down from the officer’s face to his tiny daughter holding his hand and standing below him.

Then, the lady medical officer said, “Loose motions can be very serious – especially in children. You must take her to the Military Hospital (MH) immediately. I will call the ambulance and fill up her hospital admission form. You rush and take her to the Military Hospital.”

Later, at a party, the “fauji” lady doctor tried to rationalize her actions: “You see, most of the officers here have come for a training course after a hectic field posting and they want to relax in this peace tenure, so they mostly come to the MI Room for SIQ.”

However, we noticed that she was running the healthcare system like clockwork, in a most efficient way that would have done “Doc Daneeka” proud.

Any officer reporting to the MI Room would be given 3 days SIQ.

If any officer protested that he was genuinely ill, he would be rushed to the Military Hospital in an ambulance.


Well, I thought I was done with “Doc Daneekas” when I retired from military life – but no – I found “Doc Daneekas” in action in the ECHS too.

I have observed another “Doc Daneeka” technique, used sometimes by the ECHS in its clinics, since it works better for veteran senior citizen ex-servicemen.

There is a saying: “Time is a great healer”.

The essence of this ECHS technique is to make the patients wait indefinitely in the crowded waiting room of the clinic and let “time” do the “healing”.

On reporting, the hapless aged frail unwell ex-serviceman is made to stand in a long queue and then given a chit.

Then the sick old man is made to wait indefinitely, for a long time, in a congested jam-packed waiting hall.

Four things can happen while the patient, an ill and ailing old man, waits at the ECHS clinic:

1. The patient drops dead (in this case no further treatment is required at the clinic)

2. The patient faints, becomes unconscious, or goes into a delirium, as he becomes seriously ill (in this case he is rushed to the nearest Military Hospital)

3. The patient gets fed up of waiting and goes to the nearest private clinic for treatment for which he has to pay from his own pocket (the ECHS view is that it is the patient’s personal choice whether to avail ECHS treatment or to go to a private medical practitioner)

4. The patient actually starts feeling well during the waiting period – he is cured by the long relaxed wait – after all, rest is the best cure for many illnesses (and since he has become well, he does not need any ECHS treatment). 

Dear Veteran: Do visit an ECHS clinic and tell us whether you see the Doc Daneekas around.

Remember, the cardinal Doc Daneeka Principle is to make patients disappear, and I think the ECHS is trying hard by introducing more and more “hurdles” like increasing red tape and paperwork, introducing hassles like repeated renewal of cards etc trying its best to make patients go away elsewhere.

By the way, it was also a “Doc Daneeka” type masterstroke by which the Armed Forces abdicated responsibility for post-retirement healthcare of their own veteran retired ex-servicemen by creating the ECHS and effectively passing the buck.

In the next few blog posts I shall tell you a few “Doc Daneeka” stories.

But before that  in order to help you acquaint yourself with the lighter side of navy life  I urge you to read the 4 “Must Read” Books I have mentioned above – especially CATCH-22.

Till then – keep smiling.

To be continued in DOC DANEEKA IN UNIFORM – Part 2

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1. This blog post is a spoof, satire, 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.

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