Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Humor in Uniform : Jiggery Pokery – The Gravy and The Meat

A Spoof



There is a hilarious song in the classic 1950s Comedy Movie “At War With The Army” starring Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis with the lyrics “The Navy Gets the Gravy and The Army Gets the Beans” sung by Jerry Lewis.

In the anecdote I am going to narrate the “Navy” was indeed getting the “Gravy” while a freeloader was getting the “Beans” (meat).

It was in the latter half of the year 1980, I think, that I was doing the “bum job” of Wardroom Mess Secretary in a shore training establishment.

As I have told you earlier, in the Navy you have got to be the Jack of all Trades but the Master of One.

We were served mutton twice a week  and I noticed that the mutton curry was full of bones  and there was hardly any meat in the gravy.

The other in-living officers had also been complaining about the lack of meat pieces in the “bony curry”.

This was surprising since we bought quite a generous quantity of mutton and as per my calculations each officer should have got a portion of at least 200 grams of mutton which is quite a sizeable quantity (200 grams of meat are about 5-6 chunks of mutton)

On inquiry  the steward told me that the PMC was taking three kilograms of mutton on payment every week from the Wardroom. 

[PMC is the acronym for President Mess Committee]

All Officers – including Married Officers – were allowed to buy items from the Wardroom – so the PMC taking 3 Kgs of Mutton on Payment every week was okay.

“But surely you include this amount when you purchase mutton  don’t you?” I asked.

“Yes, Sir,” the steward said, “but the PMC wants Boneless Mutton. He has told me to remove the bones and only then weigh the mutton. But he is to be charged for only 3 kilograms at the market rate. Sir  the weight of the bones is roughly half the total weight  and that is why you in-living officers eating in the mess get more bones in the curry.”

“Oh,” I said, understanding the PMC’s game.

I told the steward: “Call me the next time you buy mutton.”

On D-Day I asked him weigh 6 kilograms of mutton.

Then  I asked him to remove the bones and weigh the boneless mutton.

As I had estimated  the boneless mutton weighed roughly 3 kilograms.

“Send the 3 Kilograms of the boneless mutton to the PMC’s house. But make sure that you charge him for 6 Kilograms of mutton. And yes  remember to keep the 3 kilograms of bones carefully in the freezer. In case he complains  you just tell him what I did – and you give him his 3 kilograms of bones,” I said to the steward.

We did this for three weeks.

As I expected  at the end of the month  when the mess bills were distributed  the PMC came rushing to the wardroom mess office complaining that he had been overcharged.

I explained to the PMC what we had done – and I said to him“Sir, you wanted only boneless mutton. So we got 6 Kilograms of mutton for you – and we removed the bones which yielded 3 Kilograms of the boneless mutton which was sent to your house. We have kept your 3 Kilograms of bones carefully in the freezer in case you want them.

Then  I gestured to the chief steward.

The Chief Steward went to the freezer  and he got the packet of carefully preserved bones.

The PMC was promptly offered the plastic packet containing the sizeable amount of carefully preserved bones – which were rightfully his  since he had paid for them.

When he saw the packet of bones – the PMC was furious. 

He walked out of the mess office in a huff. 

He did not take the packet of bones with him.

I told the steward to feed the bones to the dogs who hung around the cookhouse for scraps and leftover food.

After this episode  I knew that my days as Mess Secretary were numbered.

Surely  I would be sacked as Wardroom Officers Mess Secretary (which is what I actually wanted since I was fed up of this thankless “bum job”).

It happened faster than I thought.

The very next morning it dawned on the powers-that-be that I was overburdened with my main primary instructional duties  and it was not fair to make me perform additional duties of the Mess Secretary. 

A suitable morally pliable officer was appointed as the new Mess Secretary.

And soon – things were back to normal.

“Normal service was resumed  as they say in the Navy.



I have seen this happening often – the moment someone attains a high position or senior rank he thinks that it his prerogative to freeload.

Many Senior Officers assume that Freeloading is a Privilege of Rank.

Yes  Rank Has Its Privileges  (RHIP

But  I am sure RHIP does not mean that you have the licence to make your juniors pay for what you consume and become a freeloader at someone else’s expense. 

There is no free lunch.

Whenever you eat or drink something, someone has to pay for it.

If you do not pay for what you consume – then someone else has to pay for what you consume. 

When a person misuses his rank or position and starts “freeloading” – then someone else has to bear the brunt (since money does not grow on trees).

This someone else who pays for your freeloading may be your juniors – or the “organisation” – or the taxpayer – or you may fleece some other vulnerable people  like contractors, clients etc

Some Officers  when they attain High Rank  they start thinking that it is their privilege to “Freeload.

They feel that everything they eat, drink, use and consume must be given to them free of cost. 

Many Senior Officers interpret that RHIP means that once you are promoted to high rank then everything is gratis – or  “on-the-house”. 

This tendency is seen everywhere – Politicians, Civil Servants, Corporate Honchos – all feel that “freeloading” is their right once they reach high positions.

Freeloading may be “Petty Corruption”.

But  “Petty Corruption” is the first step on the road to “Grand Corruption”.

As Lao Tzu wrote in Tao Te Ching:

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step”.

This is true of corruption as well.

The journey to “Grand Corruption starts with “Petty Corruption.

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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. 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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