Thursday, March 17, 2016

Was She The Lieutenant’s Girlfriend or The Captain’s Wife...?


A Spoof

Let me delve into my “Humor in Uniform” Archives  and narrate to you this unforgettable “memoir” from my wonderful Navy life – a delightful “love” story  romance in uniform – a story which will bring a smile to your lips...

(a spoof by Vikram Karve)

Part 1

The Lieutenant’s Girl Friend

Thursday 07 December 1978 MUMBAI (then called BOMBAY)

We sit on the lush green lawns of the Navy Officers Command Mess  drinking, smoking, eating snacks, and enjoying ourselves.

We watch the gorgeous sexy fashion models in skimpy outfits  walking the ramp  rehearsing for the Navy Ball Fashion Show.

The Navy Ball is going to be held two days later  on Saturday.

Time passes fast when you are enjoying yourself.

Suddenly it is 11 PM – and – the bar steward appears.

He requests permission to close the bar  and he asks us if we want any more drinks.

We order the last round of drinks – 3 large pegs of rum each.

I am feeling high – quite drunk – and I have lost count of the large pegs of rum I have consumed since 7:30 in the evening..

The fashion show rehearsal gets over.

Lieutenant “X” walks over to our table.

With him is a girl – a fashion model who was rehearsing on the ramp.

She looks very pretty in the yellow dress she is wearing.

I know Lieutenant “X” – he is a course-mate of our Gunnery Officer – and he comes over to our ship quite often to have a drink in the wardroom.

Though both “X” and I are Lieutenants  Lieutenant “X” is senior to me by around 3 years  we have enjoyed many drinking sessions together  and we have become quite good friends. 

(Now – a Naval Lieutenant is equivalent to an Army Captain – and those days – you remained in the rank of Lieutenant for 8 long years before you were promoted to Lieutenant Commander – equivalent to Major. 
This story happened in the 1970’s  much before the Ajai Vikram Singh (AVS) Report Bonanza in 2006. 
in the 1970’s  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).

Lieutenant “X” looks at me – and he says to me: “Hey  can I borrow a cigarette...?”

I am surprised.

I have never seen “X” smoking.

I am under the impression that “X” is a non-smoker  so I ask him: “Sir, when did you start smoking?”

“No  the cigarette is not for me – my friend has run out of cigarettes,” Lieutenant “X” says  gesturing towards the lovely girl in the yellow dress.

“Sure,” I say  and I pull out the packet of cigarettes from my pocket.

I open the flap  and I extend the cigarette packet towards the girl.

“Wow,” she exclaims, “this is my brand – how come a tough looking man like you smokes this ‘girlie’ cigarette...? This is a brand for ladies  isn’t it...?”

“Well  I like the light taste  the menthol flavour,” I say.

From the green coloured cigarette packet  she pulls out one slim long brown “girlie” cigarette wrapped in its distinctive dark brown paper.

I light her cigarette.

She smokes in a very stylish way  and this imparts to her persona a rather sensuous and seductive sexuality.

I want to be in the company of this woman longer  so I say: “Why don’t you join us for a drink?”

“No, No,” she says, “we’ve got to go – thanks for the cigarette.”

Then she looks at Lieutenant “X” – and she says to him: “You never told me that you get my favourite brand of cigarettes duty free on your ship. It is so difficult to get this brand in India  and I have to pay a fortune for buying it in black in Bombay.”

“Keep the pack,” I say  holding out the green coloured cigarette packet towards her, “Come on  keep it  don’t feel shy – I can get plenty of cartons of this brand of cigarettes on board my ship.”

“Thanks,” she says  and she takes the cigarette pack from me  and puts it in her purse.

I am quite surprised that she accepts my offer so easily  so I say: “Come on  sit down with us  have a quick drink – we’ve got rum – but if you want something else – I will get it…”

“Okay  I’ll just have a swig from your glass if you feel happy,” she says.

She picks up my glass  and she takes a big swig of rum  down the hatch  and she says, “Wow – that was good. Actually  I love rum – especially with Cola.”

“If you want  I’ll get some cola…” I say.

But Lieutenant “X” interrupts me  and he says to his girlfriend: “Aren’t we getting late?”

“Oh yes  we have to go...” the gorgeous fashion model says to her boyfriend Lieutenant “X”

Then  she takes a deep drag from her cigarette  and as she exhales  she is haloed by a mist of cigarette smoke  and this makes her look very tantalizing, very enticing, very sexy.

“Hey  I don’t even know your name,” I say  and I introduce myself.

Nisha,” she says, “my name is Nisha.”

Then  she says “Bye”.

And both of them  Lieutenant “X” and Nisha – they walk away.

My mind starts imagining things.

Like most Indian men  outwardly I may appear to be “modern” and broadminded , but inside  I am a rather old-fashioned prude  with a conservative patriarchal mindset  and I hold the rather chauvinistic view that only “fast” women smoke and drink in public.

Yes – you can call me whatever epithets you want to – prudish, straitlaced, narrow-minded, outdated, antiquated, old-fashioned, dogmatic, chauvinist, sexist – but way back then  I associated smoking and drinking by women as a sign of loose morals and promiscuity. 

Next evening  during the Navy Ball  in the fashion show  I stand in the distance and I admire Nisha as she walks the ramp  modelling various latest fashion skimpy outfits.

Nisha looks stunning – she is easily the most glamorous model on the ramp.

But  that is the last I see of her.

After the fashion show is over  the Navy Queen contest starts  and when the beauty pageant is over  I search for Nisha all over  but she is nowhere to be seen  and neither can I find her boyfriend Lieutenant “X”.

Maybe they have gone somewhere  to do something better than dancing...!

Next morning I go to meet Lieutenant “X” on his ship  but I am disappointed to learn that he has gone out for the weekend – the OOD says that Lieutenant “X” has taken a few days leave too  and he may come back after a week.

Unfortunately  my ship has to sail out for a long sailing  and by the time we return after a month  I learn that Lieutenant “X” has been transferred to Vizag.

I search and search – on other ships  in the hope that maybe Nisha is a “fleet auxiliary” – I search in the Mess – in the Club – I ask around – but there is no joy.

I cannot find Nisha anywhere – it seems as if she has disappeared into thin air.

Soon  I too am transferred out  and I never see Nisha again  but I can never forget Nisha – she always remains ingrained in my mind.

15 Years Later

Part 2

The Captain’s Wife

Tuesday 07 December 1993 New Delhi

The Frontier Mail reaches New Delhi on the dot at 7 PM.

At 8:30  after a shower  I sit in the bar of Kota House Naval Officers Mess.

I have a look at the dinner menu  and  I decide to have food outside.

Unlike the Navy Mess at Mumbai  where the food is delicious  here  the menu seems to be least appetizing.

By 10:30  I have imbibed 6 large pegs of rum  and I am feeling quite high.

top-up my hip flask with neat rum  before the bar closes.

Then – I start walking towards Pandara Road Market.

I am familiar with the place  having lived nearby at Curzon Road Apartments  around 10 years ago.

It is a cold winter night  and as I stagger along the isolated road  I take swigs of neat rum from my hip flask  in order to warm my insides.

By the time I reach Pandara Road Market  my hip flask is empty  and I am drunk (in Navy parlance – I am feeling “nice”).

Yes  I am feeling very “nice – and I am feeling very hungry.

To satiate my ravenous alcohol induced appetite  I have a hearty meal of Butter Chicken and Naans at Gulati (my favourite eatery in Pandara Market).

Then  I have a paan  and I light a cigarette. 

I am feeling on top of the world.

Suddenly  I see her  standing in the porch  as if waiting for someone.

I recognize her at once – it is Nisha.

I walk towards her  and I say to her: “Hello, Nisha.”

“Excuse me?” she says.

There is no trace of recognition in her eyes.

“Didn’t you recognize me?” I say.

“No,” she says  with quite a wary expression on her face.

She seems scared.

She should be.

Any lonely lady would be scared.

Just imagine the scene.

It is midnight  and she is all alone.

And – there is a ferocious looking huge man standing in front of her – and worse – the formidable man looks like a hooligan – and seems totally drunk  with disheveled hair  unruly beard  bloodshot eyes  chewing pan  lips stained red  cigarette in hand  lurching towards her  and trying to be familiar.

“Come on, Nisha  don’t tell me that you don’t recognize me – remember that night in the Navy Command Mess at Mumbai, where you were modelling, doing rehearsals for the Navy Ball fashion show – Ah  maybe this will remind you – here – have a cigarette – see  I still smoke the same brand as you do,” I say – and I take out the green cigarette packet from my pocket  and – from the pack  I proffer a brown coloured cigarette to her.

“Please Mister – now listen to me – whoever you are – there seems to be some misunderstanding – I don’t know you – I don’t smoke – and my name is not Nisha,” she says.

“Ah – so you have stopped smoking – that’s good – and you are saying that your name is not Nisha – then may I please know your name, Ma’am?” 

Usha – my name is Usha,” she says. 

“Ah – Usha – from Nisha – you have become Usha – from ‘night’ – you have become ‘morning’ – and now you will say you that have never been a fashion model…” 

“I am not a fashion model – I have never done modelling in my life – and now you listen – please stop bothering me and go away – my husband has gone to get the car – he will be coming anytime now – and he is a Defence Officer in the Navy…” she says, with a slight threatening tone.

“Of course I know your husband is in the Navy – his name is Captain “X” – isn’t it...?” I say.

“How do you know my husband...?” she asks, surprised.

“Come on, don’t you remember – we met in the Navy Command Mess Mumbai – in 1978 – you were with your husband “X” – of course  those days must have been his girlfriend – and you desperately wanted a cigarette – so you came over and took a cigarette from me – and you said we smoked the same brand – one slim long brown cigarette which I am smoking right now – you asked me why I smoked this “girlie” cigarette  remember – you called this a “girlie” cigarette  and you had a sip of rum from my glass too – don’t you remember – that day also you were wearing a yellow dress – and today also you wearing a yellow dress – it seems yellow is your favourite colour – and it suits you very well…”

“I don’t remember anything what you are saying – and  by the way  I have never been to Mumbai…” she says angrily.

“How is that possible?” I ask.

“Well  we have been married for 10 years  and we have been posted to Vizag, Cochin and Delhi  but we have never been posted to Mumbai – in fact  our next posting may be in Mumbai,” she says.

Then  she looks over my shoulder  and exclaims: “Ah – there comes my husband.”

A car drives up and stops nearby.

I can see “X” at the steering wheel of the car.

I open the door of the car for the lady.

Then I peep inside  and I say: “Hi, Sir – congratulations – I saw the promotion signal last week.”

“X” recognizes me at once.

“X” gets out of the car  he walks around to me  shakes my hand  and says warmly: “It is really so nice to see you. How come you are in Delhi?”

I tell him the nature of my visit.

“So  where are you put up?” he asks.

“Kota House, Sir,” I say.

“Come on  get inside  I’ll drop you at Kota House on the way,” he says.

I get inside the car  on the rear seat – behind Mrs “X”.

As we drive towards Kota House  I say to “X”: “Sir  you have become a Captain  and you recognized me  but your wife refuses to recognize me – it seems your rank has gone into her head…”

“No, No  nothing like that – and how can she recognize you – she has never met you before...” says “X”.

“Sir  I don’t know what’s wrong with you two – you both just don’t seem to remember anything  first your wife says that she has not met me – and now you too say the same thing – how can you forget that evening of the fashion show rehearsal in the Mumbai Command Mess...?” I say.

And then  I narrate the entire story of that unforgettable evening on the lawns on Navy Command Mess Mumbai on Thursday the 7th of December 1978.

Mrs “X” seems to have turned her head slightly.

I can sense that she is hearing my words intently.

I harp again and again on the salient points – the rare “girlie” brand of cigarettes that we two smoked  his wife and I

I narrate the episode of Mrs “X” swigging rum from my glass – her yellow dress  like the one she was wearing now – her stunning performance on the ramp the next evening during the Navy Ball Fashion Show.

I narrate everything in full detail.

And then  I deliver the coup de grace:

“And Sir  now your wife tells me that she has never met me. She says that she was never a fashion model. And  best of all  your wife says that she has changed her name from Nisha to Usha.”

“X” looks at me via the rear view mirror – and he says: “I think you are confused. I don’t remember any such incident.”

I feel puzzled.

First  Mrs “X” denies it.

Now  “X” himself is denying it.

What the hell is going on...?

Suddenly  “X” says: “Ah – here is Kota House.” 

And  he pulls up the car beside Kota House gate.

I get out of the car  wish them good night  and then I stagger towards my cabin.

1 Day Later

Part 3

The Casanova Lieutenant turned Henpecked Captain

7 AM Wednesday 08 December 1993 Kota House Mess New Delhi

There is a loud knock on my cabin door.

I wake up  feeling groggy after last night’s excesses  and I open the door.

It is Captain “X” 

“X” looks angrily at me and he says: “You bloody drunkard – why did you blurt out all that nonsense to my wife? That female with me in the Command Mess at Mumbai 15 years ago was someone else, not my wife. Her name was Nisha – and my wife’s name is Usha – they are two different persons – do you understand?

“Really? Nisha and Usha – but they look so similar – and the yellow dress – so much coincidence – I am sorry – I made a mistake,” I say, feeling contrite.

“What bloody mistake – my wife is furious...” says “X”.

“You didn’t tell your wife about that female Nisha – your girlfriend in Mumbai?” I ask.

“Are you crazy...? Of course not! I have not told my wife anything about that female – it was just a passing affair,” he says.

“Oh, shit – just tell your wife that I was drunk and I was talking nonsense,” I say.

“I told her that – but she says that people who are drunk always speak the truth – you have really got me into trouble – she is suspecting all sorts of things,” he says.

“Sir, you should have told her about your girlfriend – why did you hide your past love life from your wife…?” I said.

“It is too late for all those ifs and whys now – let us not discuss all that  now if you want to help me save my marriage  you just do exactly as I tell you. Come on – get ready quickly. I am taking you home for breakfast,” says “X”.

“Your home? For breakfast?” I ask, bewildered.

“X” looks at me and he says: “Yes. You are coming with me right now. You will tell my wife Usha that it was not me and her that you met that night in Mumbai  but someone else – do you understand – you never met me in the Navy Command Mess in Mumbai that evening in 1978 – and you never met her in Command Mess that evening – it was someone else – some other couple  and you made a mistake – you were drunk – you got confused – you have to convince her somehow – do you understand?”

“Yes, Sir,” I say.

“And remember  my wifes name is Usha  not Nisha – in fact  you will never utter the name Nisha again – that chapter is over, finished, closed forever – do you understand?  he warns me.

“Aye Aye, Sir,” I say.

“X” drives me down to his house for breakfast.

I do exactly as I am told.

I tell Mrs “X” exactly what her husband “X” had asked me to tell her.

But whether Mrs “X” is convinced or not – I do not know.

Once the seed of suspicion is sown  the mind can think all sorts of things  and even go berserk in strange directions.

After breakfast at his home  as “X” drives me back to the Kota House Mess  I look at “X” – and I wonder: “Was Nisha his only pre-marital love affair...? Or  like a quintessential sailor  did he have a girl in every port...?

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 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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