Monday, October 12, 2015

Humor in Uniform : A Question of Perks – The Story of Lieutenant “Z”


A few days ago, a young man asked me: “Is drinking alcohol compulsory in the Defence Services...? Are Young Officers forced to drink liquor...?

Not at all – no one is forced to drink alcohol,” I said, “It is your personal choice whether to drink booze or not to drink. But then – if you choose to abstain from drinking alcohol  and you remain a teetotaller  you will miss out on the most exclusive perk given to the armed forces.

“You are saying that I will miss out on the most exclusive perk if I do not drink...?” he asked, looking confused.

 “Yes,” I said, “Let me explain it to you in simple language.

Then – I gave him a long lecture to elaborate my point...

“...In the colonial days of the British Raj – a number of privileges, benefits and concessions were granted to the military.

After independence – most of these military privileges and benefits continued – but over the years – these exclusive military privileges have been extended to civilians as well.

Take the example of CSD Canteens – which provide concessional goods to military personnel and veterans.

When conceived – the CSD Facility was exclusively meant for military personnel.

Slowly – over the years – this CSD facility has been extended to all Civilian Employees working in various defence ministry offices and departments and public sector undertakings – though these civilian employees have a comfortable secure life without the hardships and regimentation suffered by the soldier.

Now – these civilian employees will enjoy CSD facilities even after retirement.

Civilian Employees are able to obtain maximum benefit because they have unions and associations who fight for their rights and do collective bargaining.

Sadly – soldiers are not allowed to form unions/associations – and hence – they have no one to fight for their rights – so they lose out vis-à-vis their civilian counterparts.

Coming back to CSD Canteens – only one military concession has not yet been extended to civilians – the CSD Liquor Quota.

Officially – civilians are not entitled CSD Liquor Quota (de jure)

But – the ground reality is that most civilians enjoy this privilege too – de facto – since many unscrupulous military personnel illegally give away some of their liquor quota to non-entitled civilians  and sometimes  some unethical faujis even barter or sell bottles of military rum to civilians. 

However – officially  CSD Liquor Quota” remains the “last bastion of military privileges...

After ending my long monologue – I looked at the young man – who was probably aspiring to become a fauji” officer.

He looked quite confused.

He asked me: “Sir  are you trying to say that some individuals are attracted to join the military because of this perk of cheap liquor...?

His question reminded me of the episode of Lieutenant “Z” – an unforgettable character I had met during my early days in the Navy.

So – I told him the story of Lieutenant “Z”

This hilarious story happened more than 37 years ago – in the 1970’s ...

The Story of Lieutenant “Z”
A Spoof


Lieutenant “Z” was transferred to Kolkata (or Calcutta – as the city was called in the 1970’s – but I will use the present name Kolkata in this story).

The “powers-that-be” thought Lieutenant “Z” would be very happy with his transfer  since Kolkata was his hometown.

But Lieutenant “Z” seemed very upset  and he rushed to his ship’s Captain to get his transfer cancelled.

“We thought you would be happy – Kolkata is your hometown,” the Captain said.

“Sir – I don’t want to leave the ship…” Lieutenant “Z” said.

“Oh – it’s good to see that you are a true ‘sea-dog’ – and you like the tough life at sea – but then – you have to go ashore…” the Captain said.

“But – Why – Sir…?” Lieutenant “Z” asked.

“See – you got your ‘watchkeeping ticket’ last year – and you have served for more than one year on board as a sea watch-keeping officer – and you will be due for your ‘Long Course’ after 2 years…” the Captain said to Lieutenant “Z”.

“Sir – I can spend these 2 years on board this ship – or some other ship – but I don’t want to go to Kolkata – especially in that shore appointment…” Lieutenant “Z” said.

The Captain was getting exasperated – so he said a bit angrily to the young officer: “Look here Lieutenant “Z” – there is a bloody shortage of ships and sea billets – and we have plenty of young officers waiting for their watch-keeping tickets – so you will have to cool your heels ashore for 2 years till your ‘Long Course’ comes through…”

“Okay – Sir – if I have to go ashore – then please change my transfer to some other place – I do not wish to go to Kolkata…” Lieutenant “Z” said.

“I just don’t understand you – what’s wrong with Kolkata – it is your hometown – you can be with your parents, family and friends – I personally talked to DOP to get you this appointment – your CO at Kolkata is my friend and he is an excellent officer – he will give you a thumping ACR…” the Captain said.

“Sir – I don’t want to go to Kolkata…” Lieutenant “Z” said firmly.

Lieutenant “Z” – I am warning you – if you act funny – we will send to ‘Kala Pani’ in the Andaman…” the Captain said threateningly.

“Sir – please send me to the Andamans…” “Lieutenant “Z” said happily.

“Are you crazy…? Why don’t you want to go to Kolkata…? Do you have you some family problems...?” the Captain asked.

“Sir – Booze is expensive in Kolkata…” Lieutenant “Z” said, matter-of-factly.

“What…? What do you mean ‘Booze is expensive in Kolkata’…? Is that the reason why you do not want to go there…?” an incredulous Captain asked “Lieutenant “Z”.

Sir – the only worthwhile perk we get is ‘concessional liquor’ – that is why I want to remain on board ship so that I can enjoy ‘duty-free booze’ – but if I have to go ashore – please send me to a place where ‘Military Booze’ is cheap – Sir – the price of CSD Quota Liquor in Bengal is 3 times more expensive than the price out here in Maharashtra…” Lieutenant “Z” said.

(This story happened in the 1970’s – when CSD Quota Liquor was cheapest in Maharashtra. 

However – since tax concessions are given by State Governments – and local taxes/concessions keep changing from time to time – the situation may be quite different now – and it is possible that Military Booze may be more expensive in Maharashtra than in other states.

But even now – the prices of CSD Quota Liquor vary widely from state to state – so ‘Military Booze’ is cheaper in some states – and more expensive in other states)

Now – after this brief aside  let us continue with the interesting tête-à-tête between Lieutenant “Z” and his Captain...

“So – you wanted to remain on board this ship so that you can enjoy cheap ‘duty free booze’…?” the Captain asked Lieutenant “Z”.

“Yes – Sir…” Lieutenant “Z” said.

“And you even prefer to go to the Andamans because booze is cheaper there…?” the Captain asked Lieutenant “Z”.

“Yes – Sir…”

“It seems that you joined the Navy to drink liquor…!”

“Yes – Sir…”

“What nonsense…? Are you crazy…?” the Captain shouted at Lieutenant “Z”.

“Sir – the main reason I joined the ‘Boozy Navy’ was to enjoy the best of ‘duty-free’ booze – that is the reason why I want to serve on ships for the maximum possible time – but if I have to go ashore – the least I can do is to enjoy my full quota of CSD ‘Military Liquor’ at the cheapest possible rates…” Lieutenant “Z” said, speaking candidly.

“Are you mad…? Are you saying that the only reason why people should join the Defence Services is to drink alcohol…? That means – according to you – teetotallers should not join the Navy – or the Armed Forces…” the Captain said.

“Sir – I told you before – the only worthwhile perk we get in the Defence Services is ‘concessional liquor’ – so what is the point of wasting your life in the Military if you are not going to enjoy this exclusive ‘Fauji Perk’ of ‘Military Booze’…? And if you don’t drink – if you are a teetotaller – you might as well take up a civilian job, live a comfortable life, and earn plenty of money…” Lieutenant “Z” pontificated.

“I am a strict teetotaller – I don’t touch alcohol…” the Captain said angrily, “…are you saying that I am wasting my time in the Navy…?”

“Sir – just think of all the ‘Duty-Free’ Booze and CSD Quota Liquor you have missed out on in all these 25 years of your service…” Lieutenant “Z” said – with genuine regret in his eyes.

“You are a crazy bugger…! Just get out my cabin…” the Captain shouted at Lieutenant “Z”.


Two things happened after this amusing tête-à-tête between Lieutenant “Z” and his Captain.

The Captain picked up the phone and spoke to the DOP (who was his course-mate).

The DOP had a big laugh when the Captain told him the reason why Lieutenant “Z” wanted his transfer changed.

Since there was no billet available in the Andamans (where ‘Military Booze’ was the cheapest those days) – DOP did the next best thing possible – and  Lieutenant “Z” was transferred as a Divisional Officer to NDA near Pune where the price of CSD Quota Liquor was the same as in Mumbai  since both Pune and Mumbai were in Maharashtra State.

Then – the Captain thought about his conversation with Lieutenant “Z”. 

Lieutenant “Z” had a point.

Every job had its perks – the Railways gave free Rail Passes to its employees – Airlines gave free Air Tickets – Academicians got sabbaticals – the Corporate Sector too gave a variety of perks and freebies to its Executives – and everyone availed of these perks. 

Similarly – the Defence Services too had their perks – and the most unique Military Perk was Concessional Liquor.

So – what was the point in joining the Navy and not availing of this most precious perk?

Why forgo something given to you  and then regret and complain later that you could not make the most of all the perks given to you by the Navy?

The Captain thought of the notional loss he had incurred during the 25 long teetotalism years of his service in the Navy because he had sacrificed this authorised Military Perk’ by not availing his ‘Liquor Quota and by not enjoying ‘duty-free’ Booze on board all the ships on which he had served.

There is a saying: Better Late than Never”.

The Captain asked his steward to get him some chilled beer.

It was only 11 o’clock in the morning – but that did not matter – he had to make up for all these 25 lost years of teetotalism.

At first  the Captain’s steward was a bit surprised – but – when he saw the Captain gesturing him to hurry up – the steward served the Captain a chilled can of premium imported beer (available dirt cheap at ‘duty-free’ rates on board ship).

This was the Captain’s first sip of booze ever since he joined the Navy more than 25 years ago.

Cheers !!!


Instead of wasting money on all those fancy unrealistic military recruitment advertisements  why don’t the Defence Services highlight CSD Quota Concessional Liquor as the USP of Military Life – and  of course  Duty Free Booze as a special incentive to join the Navy...

Think about it ... !!!

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1. This story 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. This Story and 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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Revised version of my article THE BOOZY NAVY written by me Vikram Karve on 25 May 2015 and and posted online in my blog at url:

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