Sunday, July 10, 2016

Humor in Uniform – “Porthole Strategy” – How to Deal with Inconvenient Orders


How to Deal with Inconvenient Orders
A Spoof


Around 39 years ago – in the 1970’s  we had a maverick Supply Officer (of the erstwhile S&S Branch) on our ship.

Those days – Supply & Secretariat (S&S) Branch Officers were the self-styled “experts” on all Secretarial matters like office correspondence. 

Later the Supply & Secretariat (S&S) Branch was renamed as the Logistics Branch and Supply Officers are now called Logistics Officers.

Why this was done – I do not know – but – the Navy seems to have a penchant for changing names and uniforms.

Getting back to the story – our ship was not air-conditioned.

Yes – our ship was one of the last of the Non-AC ships in the fleet – so this ship had portholes (windows) on the ships side – which we always kept open for fresh air and ventilation.

Also – in the 1970s – there was no internet, no email etc – so all correspondence was on paper by “snail mail” – via the postal service.

If the ship was sailing – which was most often the case – the letters would arrive in “mail bags” – which would chase the ship – and try to catch the ship in the next port-of-call.

Sometimes – it would take a month or so – or even more – for a letter to reach the ship.

One day – as we arrived in a distant port after a long sailing – a mail bag arrived – and among the mail was a letter from Headquarters asking for some inconsequential details – about which everyone in my department seemed clueless.

So – I went to our Supply Officer to seek advice.

“Do you feel the letter is important...?” the Supply Officer asked me.

“No Sir – I don’t think this letter is important – it seems to be a standard duty watch” type letter issued to all ships in which they are asking for some trivial details from all ships about which I am clueless...” I said.

“Is the letter classified...?” he asked.

“No Sir...” I said.

“Then – just throw the letter out of the porthole...” he said.

“What...? Throw this letter out of the porthole into the sea...?” I said, taken aback.

“Yes – throw it out of the bloody porthole. The way we are sailing – they will wait for at least a month or two for a reply – and maybe  they will forget about it – or they may send a reminder. So – it will take at least two months before the reminder arrives on board. Then – if and when a reminder letter comes – you throw that letter out of the porthole too. By the time the next reminder comes – both you and I will transferred be out of this ship – and our successors will figure out what the letter was all about...” the Supply Officer said.

“Aye Aye, Sir...” I said, happily

“Check again – I hope the letter is not classified...?” the Supply Officer asked me.

“No Sir – this letter is not classified...” I said.

“Good...” he said.

“Sir – I have a question...?” I said.

“Go ahead...” he said.

“Sir – what do we do with such inconvenient and inconsequential letters in case they are classified...?” I asked.

“If the letter is classified – then file it and forget about it...” he elaborated, File and Forget (“F&F”)...

I was impressed by the Supply Officer’s Mantra which encapsulated the gist of how to handle inconvenient/inconsequential letters:

“If the letter was unclassified  Throw it out of the Porthole

If the letter was classified  File and Forget...”

I did not have the guts to throw the letter out of the porthole into the sea – and  I had my doubts about whether the Supply Officer was being serious  or – was he just pulling my leg.

So – I buried the letter in a file  and I forgot about it.

Luckily – there was no reminder till I was transferred out of the ship 3 months later.

Soon – all ships were air-conditioned – so this “porthole strategy” probably became obsolete.

Also – the S&S Branch was abolished  and – the S&S Branch merged into the Executive Branch (“X” Branch).

So – after “S&S” was absorbed into the “X” Branch  and all “S&S” officers became “X” officers  such gems of “secretarial expertise” disappeared.

Of course – a few years after the merger of “X” and “S&S” – when some erstwhile S&S officers reached high rank and threatened to take over as CNS and CinC (since they were “Executive Officers” now) – in order to obviate this possibility – the “powers-that-be” quickly re-created the S&S Branch in a new avatar – and called it the Logistics Branch – but the new Logistics Branch never had the élan of the erstwhile S&S Branch.

And now – with the advent of internet – and leaps in information technology – the navy may have stopped all paper correspondence and become a paperless organisation using e-governance techniques and digital correspondence

I wonder how the “porthole strategy” can be applied to digital correspondence...?

But  I am sure that some tech-savvy geniuses must have found a way to do so  and now  “porthole strategy” must be much easier at the tap of some keyboard keys.


A few years later – I was “posted” to an inter-services organization  dominated by Army Culture.

One day a letter arrived from Army Headquarters.

The gist of the letter was that the “powers-that-be” had taken a “serious view” regarding misuse of “sahayaks” (batmen/orderlies).

The letter stated that “sahayaks” were combat soldiers.

So  “sahayaks” were not to be employed for “demeaning” work and “undignified” tasks.

The letter specified a list of “degrading” tasks for which the use of “sahayaks” was prohibited.

One of the “prohibited tasks” was walking the officer’s dog (dog-walking).

The letter clearly stated that “sahayaks” were not to be tasked with dog-walking the officer’s dog.

Yes  army officers were directed that they should not ask their “sahayaks” to take the officer’s dog for a walk.

If an officer asked his “sahayak” to take his pet dog for a walk – then it would tantamount to misuse of the “sahayak”.

Well – that is what the letter said.

The letter was marked for wide circulation – and  some wisecrack in the office had highlighted the point regarding dog-walking and endorsed: “copy to all dog owners”.

That is how a copy of the letter landed up on my table.

I had a pet dog.

But – being a Naval Officer – I personally looked after my own pet dog and took my dog for walks myself – since I did not enjoy the luxury of a “sahayak” like my army counterparts.

In the evening – when I took my dog out for the customary walk – I expected to see my fellow army officers walk their dogs – in compliance with the directive to army officers that “sahayaks” were not to be employed as “dog-walkers” for officers’ dogs.

But Lo and Behold  – what did I see...?

The dogs were on their walks – but I did not see any army officer taking his dog for a walk.

It was business as usual – and – it was the “sahayaks” who were taking their officer’s dogs for a walk.

The Brigadier’s Golden Retriever was on his walk with the Brigadier’s “sahayak”.

The Colonel’s Labrador  the Major’s German Shepherd  even the Captain’s Cocker Spaniel – all the “army dogs” were being taken for a walk by their respective “sahayaks”.

Only the “navy dog” was being taken for a walk by his Master (yours truly).

It seemed that the army too followed its own version of “porthole strategy” – to deal with inconvenient orders – they just ignored the orders.

Copyright © Vikram Karve 
1. If you share this post, please give due credit to the author Vikram Karve
2. Please DO NOT PLAGIARIZE. Please DO NOT Cut/Copy/Paste this post
© 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.

Copyright Notice:
No part of this Blog may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical including photocopying or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the Blog Author Vikram Karve who holds the copyright.

Copyright © Vikram Karve (all rights reserved)

No comments: