Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Humor in Uniform : Rum Quota – Story of the “Alcoholic Teetotaller”

Humor in Uniform

Hilarious Memories of My Navy Days
A Spoof

I am sure you have read my yarn about the “Teetotaller Alcoholic”

Now – here is a story about an “Alcoholic” who was a Teetotaller – a most interesting character I came across long back – more than 30 years ago – in the 1980’s – yes – Believe it or not – I indeed met an unforgettable character  ‘An “Alcoholic” Teetotaller Colonel’.

But – Dear Reader – before I tell you this hilarious ‘memoir’ – let me give you a backdrop.


In the Navy – “regimentation” requires that you have to obediently do everything that they tell you to do.

Also – in the Navy – an Officer is supposed to be a “Jack of all Trades – and Master of One”

The one “Trade” in which you are supposed to be a “Master” is your professional job at sea and ashore (what they call “core competency” in the corporate world and industry) – but beyond that – you can be tasked with anything and everything – including “bum jobs”.

So – in addition to your professional “tradecraft” (your primary duty in which you are supposed to be a “Master”) – in the Navy – you are given a lot of “bum jobs” (euphemistically called “secondary duties”) – which you are supposed to perform to the best of your ability.

For civilian readers uninitiated with life in uniform – let me explain that in the Army, Navy or Air Force – you can be asked to do any “bum job” – which can include almost anything and everything – irrespective of your qualifications or specialization.

Hence – during my career in the Navy  I had to do a lot of “bum jobs”.

Yes – I have performed “bum jobs” ranging from running poultry farms, piggeries and milk dairies, managing catering and liquor bars in wardroom officers’ messes, running officers’ clubs, administering schools and libraries, doing Audit and Accounts, conducting a wide range of so-called “welfare” activities – and – organizing all sorts of Events – ranging from Sports Tournaments, Social Parties and Dance Balls – to Navy Melas (fêtes and carnivals) and Fleet Family Days – you name it – we did it.

As I said before – these “bum jobs” were in addition to our professional duties – and we were expected to excel in both our professional and extra-curricular duties (bum jobs).

And  by the way – in the military – you have to do all this extra work for free.

Unlike Civilians – who are paid extra duty pay – or are given overtime – for such extra-curricular tasks – in the Navy – you do not get paid for all the “bum jobs” you do.


The story I am going to tell you happened more than 30 years ago – in the mid 1980’s.

I had just assumed my new appointment as Teaching Faculty in IAT Pune as a newly promoted Lieutenant Commander.

My primary job was “instructional duties” – to teach and conduct a post graduate course leading to a Master’s degree in Engineering.

Of course – those days it took 11 years of commissioned service to become a Lieutenant Commander – unlike today – when you see greenhorns who haven’t yet fully grown their whiskers – strutting around wearing two and a half stripes – thanks to the benevolent Ajai Vikram Singh Cadre Review (AVS 2006).

The Institute of Armament Technology – or IAT – as it was called – was a unique institution whose Faculty was composed of Officers from the Army, Navy and Air Force – and there was also a peculiar species called “Scientists” – who were civilians.

The irony was that most uniformed service officers on the IAT faculty were more highly qualified than the “scientists”.

(In keeping with our penchant for changing names – IAT was later renamed DIAT Deemed University – and I believe it is now called MILIT – but it is still remains the same lovely place nestled in its sylvan surroundings in the verdant hills of Girinagar near Pune).

But let me get back to the 1980’s  when this story happened.

I was sinking my teeth into my new appointment  when I was summoned by my boss  who ordered me in typical Navy peremptory style: “Take over the CSD Canteen immediately. You have been appointed Chairman CSD Canteen.”

Before you get ideas that I was being elevated to the prestigious assignment of a “Chairman” – let me explain.

This was no great appointment.

This was a “bum job” – a sundry duty I had to do in addition to my primary job.

And the high-sounding “Chairman” meant nothing – it was IAT parlance for what we in the Navy called “Officer-in-Charge”.

And – I was being appointed “Chairman” CSD Canteen – because I was most recently reported faculty member without a “bum job”.

If you are familiar with Army or Military Life – you will know that a CSD Canteen is a “departmental store” for all kinds of provisions and liquor which are available at discounted rates.

I took over as “Chairman” CSD Canteen – and in typical “Carry on Chief” style which I had learnt and successfully implemented on board ship – I adopted a “hands off” policy – and  I 100% delegated everything to the Canteen Manager (an Air Force Warrant Officer) – and let the Manager run the Canteen.


If you are familiar with Military Life – you will know that the only unique and worthwhile perk you get in the Defence Forces is concessional liquor aka “CSD Liquor Quota”.

In the Military – ‘Rank Has Its Privileges’ – RHIP – so this Liquor Quota also varied with rank – on the cardinal principle – that – “the higher your rank – the more booze you are required to drink”.

Frankly speaking – the only “attractive” item in the liquor quota was RUM – which was heavily “subsidized” – Rum being a “soldier’s and sailor’s drink” – and – as far the other liquor like Beer, Whisky, Brandy, Gin, Vodka etc were concerned – there was hardly any significant difference in price between “military rates” and “civil rates” – at least in those days.

So – Rum was in high demand.

I do not know why – but the monthly quota of Rum was restricted to 6 bottles – whereas there was no restriction for other types of booze – subject to the maximum quota.

I noticed that most “faujis” drew their full “rum quota” – and did not bother too much about whisky, brandy, beer etc


One morning – the Canteen Manager came to my office and wanted me to take a decision.

I tried to bullshit him.

“What decision…? I told you that you have my full authority to take whatever decisions you like to run the CSD canteen…” I admonished him.

“Sir – this is a very sensitive issue – and you will have to decide…” he said.

“What is the matter…?” I asked.

“I got a call from the CSD Depot Manager that there is going to be no issue of Rum for the next 2 or 3 months…” he said.

“Why…?” I asked.

“Sir – there is some pricing and taxation dispute – so – till that is sorted out – the distilleries are not going to supply Rum…” he said.

“Is the problem only for Rum…?” I asked.

“Yes, Sir – we can draw as much Whisky, Brandy, Beer etc as we want – in fact – the CSD Depot Manager said they are overstocked with these liquors – but there is going to be a shortage of Rum for the next few month…”

I put on a “thinking look” – as if I were doing some profound calculations in my mind (after all – I was an Officer).

Then – I said to the Canteen Manager: “Restrict Rum Quota to only 2 Bottles a Month.”

“Yes, Sir…”

“And – as far as other types of booze is concerned – let them have as many bottles as they want – no limit…” I said.

“Yes, Sir…”

“Good – this is a good opportunity to get rid that horrible whisky which no one wants – the one that tastes like country liquor – tell the staff to push sales of that cheap whisky in lieu of Rum…” I opined.

“Yes, Sir…”

“You can go now…” I said.



“There are some hardened Rum Drinkers who will create trouble – they will insist on their full quota of Rum…” the CSD Canteen Manager said.

“Hardened ‘Rum Drinkers’…? If anyone asks for more than 2 bottles of Rum just send him to me…” I said.

“Yes, Sir…” the CSD Canteen Manager said, looking relieved.

“Do you know what I will do with these ‘hardened rum drinkers’…? I will send each one of these chaps who want more than 2 bottles of Rum to the MI Room and ask the Medical Officer to certify that he is a “Rum Alcoholic”…” I said, “and those who get the “Rum Alcoholic Certificate”  we will give them extra bottles of Rum... – I smiled at my own brilliant idea.

“Yes, Sir…” the Canteen Manager said, smiling.

“Okay – now just go an implement my orders strictly – only 2 bottles of Rum Quota every month. That solves your problem – isn’t it…?” I said.

“Yes, Sir – if we restrict Monthly Rum Quota to 2 bottles – we have enough Rum stock for 3 months – and by the time  the issue should be resolved…” the CSD Canteen Manager said.

“Excellent – now make sure my orders are implemented strictly with immediate effect – no exceptions – do you understand…?” I said firmly.

“Yes, Sir…” the Canteen Manager said – he saluted and left my office.

In the evening – during our customary jog-cum-walk – I told ‘Doc’ (our Medical Officer) regarding the “Rum Alcoholic” Certificate.

‘Doc’ laughed and said: “If anyone comes to me – I will fill up an AFMS-10 Form for alcohol dependence and send him to the ‘Psycho’ Ward for Rehab…”


That very evening – there was a party in the Officers’ Mess – and I was summoned by the Dean – a Major General.

“The ‘OC Adm’ seems to be annoyed with you. “What is all this about ‘Liquor Quota Restrictions’…?” he asked me.

“Sir – only ‘Rum Quota’ has been restricted…” I said – and I told him the whole story.

Now – the Dean was one of those rare Generals with a sense of humor - so he smiled and asked me: “Do you know why the ‘OC Adm’ is annoyed with you…?”

“No, Sir…” I said.

“Well – ‘OC Adm’ sent his ‘batman’ to collect his Rum Quota of 6 bottles – and when the ‘batman’ returned with only 2 bottles – the ‘OC Adm’ rang up the Canteen Manager – and your Air Force guy told him to get a ‘Rum Alcoholic’ certificate – and this had made the ‘OC Adm’ furious. He is a senior Colonel  why don’t you just give him what he wants…” the Dean said.

“Aye Aye, Sir…” I said.

Sometime later – emboldened with ‘Dutch Courage’ after I had imbibed a few drinks – I saw the ‘OC Adm’ in conversation with the ‘Dean’ and a few bigwigs.

I saw a steward carrying a drinks tray.

I motioned the steward to follow me.

We walked up to the ‘exalted’ group.

I looked at the ‘OC Adm’ and said: “Sir – what are you drinking – I have got some Rum for you. I was told that you are a ‘hardened rum drinker’…”

I ordered the steward: 

“Jaldi – ‘OC Adm’ Sahab ko Ek Large Peg Rum do…” 

(Quick – Give ‘OC Adm’ One Large Peg of Rum…) 

Accordingly, the steward served one large peg of rum to the ‘OC Adm’ .

“What is this…?” the ‘OC Adm’ said angrily, “I don’t drink Rum. In fact – I don’t touch alcohol – I am a ‘teetotaller’ – don’t you know this…?”

“Sir – if you are a ‘teetotaller’ – why do you want your full quota of SIX bottles of Rum – won’t TWO bottles do…?” I said to the ‘OC Adm’, tongue-in-cheek.

The Dean gave me a stern look – so I quit the scene immediately.

Within a few days – at the behest of the ‘OC Adm’ – I was ‘sacked’ as CSD Canteen Chairman.

I was delighted.

Who wants to waste his time doing a thankless “bum job”…?


Do you think this is a true story…?

Or – do you think I am spinning a yarn…?

Well – why don’t you ask some of the ‘protagonists’ or someone who was in IAT Pune at that time…?

And – do you think I am capable of doing what I did in the story – especially after ‘topping up’ with a generous quantity of alcohol…?

Why don’t you ask some of my coursemates…?

There is saying in the Navy: “If you want to know the true character of an officer – ask his coursemates”.


Have a Good Day…!!!

Copyright © Vikram Karve 
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© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

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 is 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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Revised re-post of my story THE “ALCOHOLIC” WHO WAS A TEETOTALLER written by me one year ago in 2015 and posted by me Vikram Karve online earlier in my Academic and Creative Writing Journal Vikram Karve Blog at url: http://karvediat.blogspot.in/2015/10/humor-in-uniform-alcoholic-who-was.html

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