Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Humor in Uniform – The Telephone


An Unforgettable Memoir of My Glorious Vizag Navy Days

Let me delve into my Humor in Uniform Archives  and pull out for you  a story from my unforgettable Vizag days.

This happened almost 30 years ago  in the late 1980’s – when we were in Visakhapatnam (Vizag).

My wife always says that our delightful Vizag Navy Days was our best time in the Navy (though my favourite Navy Days are my Mumbai Navy Days).

Dear Reader: Please remember that this story happened 30 years ago – in the 1980’s – and  those were the days of landline telephones – much before the advent of mobile cellphones – and – yes – those were the days of the pre-liberalization Licence-Permit-Quota Raj socialist regime which existed till liberalization happened in 1991 – and then – everything changed.

And – in those days of socialism  many things we take for granted nowadays – like a telephone connection – were difficult to get.

Read on – and have a laugh...

A Spoof


“There was no need for you to come personally all the way to my house so late at night – you could have called up and taken my approval on phone,” my boss, a Commodore, said to me when I went to his office first thing in the morning.

“Sir, I don’t have a phone at home,” I said.

“What? I had sanctioned a residential phone for you almost a week ago – on the very same day that you reported for duty,” the Commodore said.

“Sir, the phone has not been installed so far,” I said.

“Have you checked up with Commander ‘X’?” the Commodore asked me.

(Commander ‘X’ was the officer in charge of telephones).

“Yes, Sir – but Commander ‘X’ told me that there are no spare connections available right now and it will take some time to give me phone at home,” I said.

“What nonsense? I had clearly told him to install the phone surrendered by Commander ‘Y’ at your residence – I wanted you to have the same number, so it becomes easy to me to remember,” my boss said.

(Commander ‘Y’ was my predecessor who had handed over charge to me a week ago before proceeding on transfer to his new faraway station – in fact, Commander ‘Y’ had got what was considered a “prize posting”)

“I don’t know, Sir – but the phone has still not been installed at my residence,” I said.

The Commodore pressed the intercom switch and said to his PA sitting in the next room, “Call Commander ‘X’ here to my office – I want him to personally report to me immediately.”


And while we wait for Commander ‘X’ to come, let me tell you a bit of the background of this episode.

This story happened almost 30 years ago, in the 1980’s.

Of course, there were no mobile phones then.

And in those days, in the navy, having a landline residential phone was a luxury.

In fact, having a residential phone was considered a big status symbol.

Only very senior officers were given phones at home.

As far as the other officers were concerned, only those in “key” appointments were given residential phones.

Now, it seemed that I was in a “key” appointment, at least as far as my boss was concerned.

So, he had sanctioned a residential phone for me, just like my predecessor Commander ‘Y’ had been given.

But Commander ‘X’ had not installed the phone so far, and it looked like Commander ‘X’ was going to get a bottle from the Commodore, who seemed quite annoyed.

(In navy parlance, a “bottle” means a scolding – a full blast navy style reprimand in colourful language – a severe dressing-down)


After a few minutes, Commander ‘X’ arrived in the Commodore’s office, and he saluted the Commodore.

(My Boss, the Commodore sitting in front of us, was his boss too).

The Commodore did not ask Commander ‘X’ to sit down.

The Commodore pointed his fingers towards me, looked at Commander ‘X’, and asked him, “Why didn’t you install a phone in his house?”

“Sir, there is no spare connection,” Commander ‘X’ said.

“What bloody spare connection? I told you shift the same phone that was with Commander ‘Y’ to his house – I want him to have the same number,” my boss said, pointing at me.

“Sir, Commander ‘Y’ has retained accommodation. He has left his wife behind in station,” Commander ‘X’ said.

“So? Commander ‘Y’ can retain accommodation  he can leave his wife here  but he has to surrender his residential phone before proceeding on transfer. Why the bloody hell did you sign his outgoing clearance if he had not surrendered his telephone?” my boss asked, raising his voice.

“Sir, I was given instructions…” Commander ‘X’ mumbled.

“Instructions…? What bloody instructions?” my boss said, looking angrily at Commander ‘X’.

“Sir, I was told not to disconnect the phone from Commander Y’s house – I was told that the same number was to remain there…” Commander ‘X’ mumbled.

“Who the hell told you that…” my boss shouted at Commander ‘X’.

Commander ‘X’ uttered a name. It was the name of another Commodore who probably was a course-mate of my boss.

On hearing the name, my boss became livid, and he shouted at Commander ‘X’: “So you are still taking orders from your old boss? I am your boss now – you remember that. I hate disloyalty. Now you listen to me carefully – I want that telephone shifted from Commander Y’s house right now and installed in his house within the next one hour…” my boss said pointing his fingers at me.

“Sir, but…” Commander ‘X’ tried to say.

“You just shut up. If you don’t obey my orders I will make you sign on your ACR. Do you understand?” the furious Commodore shouted at Commander ‘X’ who was now trembling at the prospect of an adverse remark in his ACR.

Then my boss turned towards me and he said to me, “You go to your house right now and see that commander ‘X’ installs the telephone properly. The moment the phone is connected, you give me a call – I will be waiting for your call.”

Then the Commodore turned towards Commander ‘X’ and warned him: “If his call does not come within one hour, you will deeply regret it. I will not tolerate any further insubordination from you.”

The Commodore’s words galvanized Commander ‘X’ into action, and he personally supervised the shifting of the telephone from Commander Y’s residence to my home.

The phone was installed in my house within 45 minutes.


The happiest person was my neighbour’s wife.

Yes, the moment the inquisitive lady realised that a phone was being installed in my residence, she was delighted.

She asked me for my telephone number.

Then she immediately rushed to the solitary STD booth in the market, rang up her mother and gave her my residence number.

She told her mother to call up at 8 PM at night.

Those days the only way to make outstation calls was to queue up at 7 PM outside the lone STD booth in the market and wait your turn to make your call.

Why 7 PM?

Well, STD rates were half after 7 PM.

If you made an STD call, you had to foot the bill.

But if you had a phone at home, your relatives could call you, and they would have to foot the bill.

And also, you had better privacy than at the STD booth.

Now, that I had a residential phone, and it was the only phone in our block of 4 houses, we would have to do a bit of “social service” and let our neighbours use our phone, and also offer them drinks and snacks while they waited for their calls.

So, at around 7:45 PM, my neighbour and his wife arrived at my house, to celebrate our new telephone.


A few minutes before 8 PM, my neighbour’s wife was sitting in anticipation beside the telephone, waiting for her mother’s call from Delhi, while I poured a drink of rum-paani for her husband.

Suddenly, the phone rang.

My neighbour’s wife picked up the phone and excitedly said, “Hello, Ma…”

Then she was quiet for some time, as if listening intently.

Slowly, the expression on her face changed.

Then she gave a puzzled look and she kept down the phone.

“What happened?” I asked her.

“It was some strange man – he was calling me ‘Sugar’ – and he was saying all sorts of obscene and dirty things to me…” my neighbour’s wife said.

Suddenly the phone rang again.

This time I picked up the telephone and placed the receiver near my ear.

“Hey, ‘Sugar’ darling – why did you disconnect – I am back in town – it was a terrible trip – I really missed you – I’ll come over at 9 and then we will…” the male voice said.

“Excuse me – I think you have dialled the wrong number…” I interrupted him.

“Wrong number? Isn’t this number ******…?” the male voice at the other end said, repeating the 6 digits of my phone number.

“The phone number is correct – but there is no ‘Sugar’ around here,” I said, tongue-in-cheek.

“Who the hell are you? And what are you doing in Mrs Y’s house?” the male voice said angrily.

Comprehension began to dawn on me pretty fast.

I remembered the name mentioned by Commander ‘X’ in my boss’s office (the name of X’s previous boss who had asked ‘X’ not to shift the phone from Y’s house).

I decided to have some fun.

“By any chance, are you ***** speaking…?” I said, mentioning the name.

“That’s right. I am ***** speaking – but who the hell are you?” he said.

I identified myself  and then  I said: “Sir  this phone is now with me.”

“What…? How…? Who shifted the phone from Y’s house...?” he seemed confused.

I wanted to end the conversation  so I wished him “good night” and disconnected the phone.

I realized that my neighbour’s wife was “all ears” – and she was listening intently to the conversation.

So I had no choice but to tell everyone the full story – about the telephonic conversation and what had happened earlier in the morning in the office.

Everyone started laughing.

My neighbour’s wife was a gossipy type.

I knew that juicy gossip of this “telephone affair” would spread like wildfire  and soon  the NWWA Ladies Network would be abuzz with spicy versions of this “stealing affections” hanky-panky – and – of course  the extramarital” passionate telephonic affair.

As we laughed  the phone rang.

This time it was my neighbour’s wife’s mother from Delhi.

Yes – it was the telephone call we had been waiting for.

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. 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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