Monday, May 18, 2015

Humor in Uniform - NAVAL OFFICER ON “FAST” - Unforgettable Characters I Met in the Navy


Unforgettable Characters I Met in the Navy
A Spoof


Today is a Monday. 

My wife is on a fast.

My wife loves fasting.

She indulges in and observes all types of fasts on various occasions.

No – she does not go on a hunger strike – but she fasts with fast food.

Yes – her fasts are not true fasts in the rigorous ascetic Spartan sense. 

In fact they are delicious satiating fulfilling “fasts”  an appetizing change of cuisine  to savour what I call “fast-food” – like sabudana khichadi, sabudana wada, coconut potato sweet kachori, milk sweets etc.

This fast food” is quite mouthwatering and yummy  and maybe it is a bit more calorie-rich than normal food  and  in fact  it is more “feasting” than “fasting”. 

(well that’s the “fast food” I am referring to  not the burgers and pizza you thought!). 

Since we are on the topic of fasts and fast food”  let me tell you the hilarious story of the Naval Officer on a fast.

So  Dear Reader  from my Humour in Uniform Archives  here is the Story of The Lieutenant on “Fast” 


The gangs of Dockyard “Mateys” were working incessantly throughout the day in engine room of the ship.

Lieutenant “S” was personally supervising the dockyard gangs.

The ship was due to sail next morning and the job had to be completed on top priority.

I stood on the quarterdeck, near the gangway.

Outside, it was getting dark.

It was raining heavily.

On one side of the ship was an angry dark grey sea, with white peaks and black troughs of the turbulent waves violently lashing against the ship’s side.

And on the other side of the ship, the jetty was barely visible as the torrential rain lashed down on the wharf.

It was quite an eerie and scary atmosphere.

At 7 in the evening, Lieutenant “S” came up to the gangway.

“Finished, Sir?” I asked.

“Almost – we’re boxing up now – should be finished in an hour or so,” he said.

“Shall I tell the Old Man?” I asked.

“Yes, I think you do that,” he said.

I dialled the Captain’s home number from the shore telephone.

“Very Good,” the Captain said after I told him that the repairs had been completed and the Dockyard Team was boxing up.

I saw Lieutenant “S” gesturing that he would like to speak to the Captain.

So I said to the Captain, “Sir  Lieutenant “S” of the Dockyard would like to speak to you.”

“Oh – Lieutenant “S” is still on board, is he? Yes, yes  I will speak to him – give him the phone,” the Captain said.

Lieutenant “S” spoke to the Captain for a long time. 

He seemed to be explaining everything – the nature of the defect  what repairs they had carried out – all the details.

Then Lieutenant “S” held out the phone  and he said that the Captain wanted to speak to me.

“I have told him to carry out a proper test and trial. I will speak to the GM about extending the overtime. You make sure that the Dockyard Mateys are looked after properly. It is raining heavily – see that they get a hot meal  and don’t let them go ashore till the rain clears up. And make sure you look after Lieutenant “S” personally – he is an old shipmate of mine,” the Captain said.

“Aye Aye, Sir...” I said and put down the phone.

That’s what I liked about my Captain – his human touch  the compassionate way he cared for his men and everyone else like the dockyard mateys too. My Captain was a hard taskmaster  but he always put humans first. 

Qualification-wise  the Captain was only a matriculate  but I learnt more about Human Resource Management and Officership by observing him  than I learnt from the many HR Management and Leadership Courses I did later.

I arranged for a hot meal for the Dockyard Mateys  and some bunks in the mess-decks for them to rest.

I asked Lieutenant “S” whether he would like to have a drink in the wardroom while I took my evening rounds.

“Sure,” he said, brightening up.

Having observed Lieutenant “S” downing peg after peg of whisky at various parties  I knew that he enjoyed his drinks  and that he particularly loved drinking Whisky.

Lieutenant “S” was a very senior Lieutenant, on the verge of becoming a Lieutenant Commander.

This story happened in the 1970’s  much before the Ajai Vikram Singh (AVS) Report Bonanza in the year 2006 – which radically altered the Rank Responsibility Authority Equilibrium and upset the well established Rank versus Appointment Balance

In earlier times  you were promoted as Lieutenant after 3 years service as a Naval Officer  and you remained in the rank of Lieutenant for 8 long years before being promoted as Lieutenant Commander after a total of 11 years of commissioned service. 

Those days  most of the officers on board a ship were Lieutenants  but now  after the AVS Cadre Review  the significance of rank has been so diluted  that now  you probably have Commanders performing the duties of First Lieutenant (“number one” or XO)  and Captains are XO’s of shore establishments.

To return back to our story  as I escorted Lieutenant “S” to the wardroom  I asked him, “Sir, the Old Man said that you were his shipmate.”

“Yes. I was his Senior Engineer in his previous command. Besides, we are related too – your Captain is my distant cousin. I know your Captain very well. That is why I am personally on board,” he said.

I gave him a smile.

Now that I had this important piece of information  I knew that I would have to treat Lieutenant “S” in style – the choicest premium whisky we had on board, some good “small eats” like our special fried luncheon meat – Chicken 65  and fish fingers  followed by a sumptuous dinner – I would have to tell the cook to prepare a roast chicken or maybe butter chicken – whatever, Lieutenant “S” preferred.

When we were seated at the bar in the wardroom  I asked the steward, “Which is the best whisky we have?”

“Sir, we have got Chivas Regal and Royal Salute  and if you prefer Single Malt  there is The Glenlivet and Glenfiddich,” the bar steward said.

“No. No. Tonight I will like to have some Rum,” Lieutenant “S” said.

“Rum...?” I asked, surprised.

“Yes  today I will drink Rum – but you don’t worry – if you don’t have Rum on board  then give me any soft drink,” he said.

“Sir – of course we will serve you Rum – but I have always seen you drinking whisky  and we have the best whiskies on board – so I thought you will prefer a good drink of the best whisky...” I said.

“I know. But I am fasting today...” Lieutenant “S” said.

“Fasting...?” I asked, flabbergasted.

“Yes, I fast on Thursdays – it’s an old habit,” he said.

I looked at him in silence  trying to comprehend what his words.

Seeing my confusion  Lieutenant “S” said: “Let me explain. Some things are allowed during fasts  and some things are not allowed. For example  during fasts  you cannot eat grains like wheat, rice, or pulses like daal, or most vegetables  and of course  non-veg items like meat and eggs are totally prohibited. But you can eat starchy things like potatoes, sweet potato and sago, and all types of nuts  and you can have milk, curds and all milk products, and you can eat all types of fruits – and  of course  you can have sugar during fasts – that is why Rum is allowed  because Rum is made from sugarcane.”

“I see. On your fasting days you don’t drink whisky and beer because they are made from grain  but you can drink Rum because Rum is made from sugarcane.”


“That means even Brandy and Wine are allowed  since they are made from grapes  a fruit...

“Yes. But on my fasting days  I prefer Rum,” Lieutenant “S” said.

I wondered whether our ship’s bar stocked Old Monk or Hercules Rum.

With the best quality of select duty free foreign liquor available on board  I had hardly seen anyone drinking Indian Rum on board ship.

Sensing what was going on in my mind  Lieutenant “S” said, “Hey – if you don’t have Rum, it doesn’t matter – I will have a glass of fruit juice”.

“Of course we have Rum, Sir – we have the best Rum in the world,” the bar steward said  and he proudly placed a bottle of Lemon Hart Rum in front of Lieutenant “S”.

“Lemon Hart – the original Navy Rum – that’s really great,” a delighted Lieutenant “S” said, caressing the bottle.

Within seconds he was enjoying his stiff drink of Rum and Water  while I sipped on my Whisky Soda.

We sat and enjoyed our drinks  especially Lieutenant “S” who seemed to be thoroughly enjoying his Rum. 

At midnight  when it had stopped raining  I escorted Lieutenant “S” off the gangway.

Lieutenant “S” had thoroughly enjoyed his “fast”.

Lieutenant “S” had polished off more than half the bottle of Lemon Hart Rum  and he was in the highest of spirits.

Of course  since he was “fasting”  Lieutenant “S” did not have any dinner.

He just had a few plates of peanuts and a few packets of potato wafers  both of which were permitted “fast food”  like Rum.

EPILOGUE – An Expert Opinion on Permitted “Fast Food”

Later on – during my leave in Pune – I checked up with my grandmother – and I asked her whether Rum was allowed on fasts.

Though she did not approve of drinking alcohol  especially during fasts  she confirmed that “theoretically” speaking – purely from the technical angle  Lieutenant “S” was right.

Sugar was allowed for fasts.

And if Rum was prepared from Sugarcane – then  at least theoretically – Rum was allowed as a “fast food” too.

Ethically and Morally – it may not be desirable to drink Rum during a fast.

But Theoretically – purely from the “Technical angle  Rum was a permitted “fast food”.

Unforgettable Characters I Met in the Navy

I met many unforgettable characters in the Navy  each with their own idiosyncrasies and eccentricities  but I can never forget Lieutenant “S” – The “Fast Food” Lieutenant.

I wonder where Lieutenant “S” is nowadays  and I hope he reads this memoir”  and has a hearty laugh reminiscing those “good old days”  more than 37 years ago  in the 1970’s...

Copyright © Vikram Karve 
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1. This story is a spoof, pure fiction, just for fun and humor, no offence is meant to anyone, so please take it lightly with a sense of humor and 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 story 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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Copyright © Vikram Karve (All Rights Reserved)

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