Saturday, January 28, 2017

Humor in Uniform – I Want Your Liquor Card

During my Navy Days – whenever I reported to a new ship or establishment for duty – most bosses would give me the quintessential Navy Sermon – “moral lecture” on hard-work, devotion to duty, service before self etc etc. 

Then – they would explain the job to me – and – a few would ask if there was anything they could do for me. 

But – I came across a crazy boss whose first words to me were: “I want your liquor card...” 

Read on...

Unforgettable Memories of my Wonderful Navy Days
A Fictional Spoof


In the colonial days of the British Raj – a number of privileges, benefits and concessions were granted to the military.

After independence – most of these military privileges and benefits continued – but over the years – these exclusive military privileges have been extended to civilians as well.

Take the example of CSD Canteens – which provide concessional goods to military personnel and veterans.

When conceived – the CSD Facility was exclusively meant for military personnel.

Slowly – over the years – this CSD facility has been extended to all Civilian Employees working in various defence ministry offices and departments and public sector undertakings – though these civilian employees have a comfortable secure life without the hardships and regimentation suffered by the soldier.

Now – these civilian employees will enjoy CSD facilities even after retirement.

Civilian Employees are able to obtain maximum benefit because they have unions and associations who fight for their rights and do collective bargaining.

Sadly – soldiers are not allowed to form unions/associations – and hence – they have no one to fight for their rights – so they lose out vis-à-vis their civilian counterparts.

Coming back to CSD Canteens – only one military concession has not yet been extended to civilians – the CSD Liquor Quota.

Yes – CSD Liquor Quota” remains the “last bastion of military privileges.

However – though civilians are not entitled CSD Liquor Quota (de jure– the ground reality is that most civilians enjoy this liquor privilege – de facto 

Here is a hilarious “memoir” from my wonderful navy days that illustrates my point...



The catchphrase “Rum Bum Lash Navy is no longer relevant – in fact, this is a thing of the distant past.

“Bum” was outlawed centuries ago.

In due course the “Lash” was also abolished.

Even “Rum” was abolished in the Royal Navy on 31 July 1970  the memorable last day when Rum Rations were served to sailors  and this day was observed as “Black Tot Day”.

Thankfully  the only saving grace is the Duty Free Liquor you get on Navy Ships  and concessional “Fauji Liquor you get ashore in CSD canteens.

Of course – unlike in the Royal Navy” of yesteryear – when sailors were issued rum rations free of cost as a part of their perks – nowadays – you have to pay from your own pocket for your booze – and worse – you get a limited “Quota” of this “Fauji” CSD Liquor  depending on your rank – the higher your rank  the more booze you can drink (an incentive for promotion).

And  for availing of this “Fauji Liquor Quota  you have to get a CSD Liquor Card.

So  all that remains of the “Rum Bum Lash Navy is the “Rum” – but nowadays Rum is not free – but you get “Military Rum at concessional rates.

And though the Navy has outlawed “Bum” – there still remain the “Bum Jobs” plenty of which you have to do in the Navy.

BUM   (Bum Jobs”)

After slogging for 5 years in the Navy  afloat and ashore  I was “selected” to undergo the 2 year M. Tech. course at IIT Delhi. 

On completion of my post graduation (M.Tech.)  I was posted to the military “Babudom” in Delhi – what we in the Navy jokingly referred to as the landlocked “Northern Naval Command”. 

Though ostensibly it was an R&D billet (in consonance with my recently acquired M.Tech. qualification)  in actual fact  I was a pen-pusher  a “Babu in Uniform.

I clearly remember the first day I reported to my new job after completing my M. Tech. at IIT Delhi (and my initiation – described in an earlier post in this blog) .

I sat in front of the Director (a Commodore).

Along with me sat a Commander who had also reported on the same day.

I was waiting for the usual motivational mumbo jumbo – the customary Navy Sermon on sincerity and hard-work, the “service before self” motto  or, maybe  an “inspiring” moral lecture on devotion to duty, diligence and the “Chetwode Credo”.

Instead  the Commodore asked us: “Have you made your liquor cards...?”

“No, Sir,” the Commander said: “I have just come to Delhi last week.”

“You better go to the CSD canteen right now and get your liquor card made fast...” the Commodore told the Commander.

“Aye Aye, Sir...” the Commander said.

Then the Commodore looked at me  and he said to me: “You also do the same thing and get your liquor card made fast. It is very important to have a liquor card  especially here in New Delhi.”

I wondered why the Commodore was interested in the fact whether we had liquor cards or not.

Maybe the work here was so tough  that we would require a few drinks in the evening to de-stress and unwind. 

But the next sentence of the Commodore flummoxed me completely.

The Commodore said to both of us: “I want your liquor cards. So – the moment you get your liquor cards – make sure you give me your liquor cards...” 

I looked at the Commodore – quite perplexed – wondering why he was so interested in our liquor cards – and – I was about to ask him – when – suddenly – his phone rang – he was wanted by the Admiral – so he left his office. 

Soon  our duties were allocated.

Surprisingly  I had been given an independent assignment  though I was an Assistant Director  whereas the Commander was asked to look after day-to-day office administration  euphemistically called “coordination”  though he was a Deputy Director.

Those days  around 34 years ago  in the early 1980– in the “Uniformed Babudom” of the “Northern Naval Command”  the Head of a Directorate was a Captain or Commodore  who was called Director.

Commanders were Deputy Directors (DD)  and Lieutenant Commanders/Lieutenants were Assistant Directors (AD). 

Sometimes  there was an additional Captain  and he was called Joint Director. 

However  we are a feudal society  obsessed with rank and status.

The uniformed bureaucracy is in constant “competition” with the civilian bureaucracy for one-upmanship game  and these designations were suitably “upgraded” after various cadre reviews  and new designations like “Principal Director” were created.

The whole thing is quite confusing  and whether all this has achieved anything or improved working efficiency  I really do not know.

Hey  I have digressed.

Coming back to our story  probably the Commander was rankled by this “unjust” allocation of duties  so he protested, “Sir  I am senior  but I have been given Coordination which should be done by an Assistant Director.”

The Commodore looked at me  and he said to me, “Okay, you look after Coordination in addition to your duties.”

This was going to be quite a heavy burden – my regular duties plus coordination – so I asked the Commodore, “Sir  do you want me to look after coordination in addition to my duties?”

“Yes  you will do both the jobs,” the Commodore said.

The Commander had been hoping to get my job.

But now it appeared that he had been rendered jobless.

So  looking confused  the Commander asked the Commodore: “Sir – what should I do?”

“I have thought of something new for you – Special Projects – you will be DD (Special Projects),” the Commodore said.

The Commander seemed to be happy about his new “prestigious” designation.

It was only after a few days that the Commander realized that “Special Projects” was a euphemism for “Bum Jobs”.

I will not go into the details of these “bum jobs” because you may not believe me  but it will suffice to say that the Commander was reduced to being the full-time lackey of the Commodore.

I marvelled at the fast thinking, quick-wittedness and ingenuity of the Commodore.

In a flash of a moment  he had killed two birds with one stone.

Firstly  he had satisfied the Commander’s “grievance” by giving him a high-sounding designation.

And  secondly  he had also created a glorified batman (“sahayak”) for himself.

(I doubt whether any Army Officer can boast of a “sahayak” of the rank of Lieutenant Colonel).

Once the adroit Commodore observed the keenness of the eager-beaver Commander to please the Commodore  he started using the Commander for all his personal work.

We felt surprised that Commander seemed quite happy at being the Commodore’s flunky.

Once  in our presence  when the Commander’s course-mate asked him that if he did not feel humiliated doing such demeaning work  the Commander replied: “What can I do...? It is all for a good ACR. I know this Commodore well – if you unquestioningly do whatever he tells you to do  then he gives you an excellent ACR  otherwise he can be quite stingy. I have served with him before and let me tell you one thing – it is only because of him that I am a Commander today. If it were not for the thumping ACRs he gave me  I would never have become a Commander.”

This story happened many years before the AVS 2006 Cadre Review when Commander was made a time-scale promotion  in those days – 34 years ago  in the early 1980 Commander was a select rank).

The Commander’s last statement was true.

He should have never become a Commander.

It seemed that “The Peter Principle” had not worked in his case  and he had been promoted well beyond his level of competence.

By the way  his bootlicking ways continued to pay him rich dividends  and he managed to rise to even higher ranks.


One day the “Bootlicker” Commander called me to his office  and asked me: “Why haven’t you given your liquor card to the Commodore?”

I did not reply.

There was no way I was going to surrender my liquor card – military rum was my birthright  and my liquor card was my lifeline to happiness and joy.

Those were my glorious drinking days – my halcyon navy days when drinking and eating were my main epicurean passions.

Yes  those days  I was such a passionate drinker that I would have gladly handed over my identity card rather than my liquor card!

I tried to avoid answering  but the Commander said: “You can give your liquor card to me – now I am handling all affairs of the Commodore.”

“Sir  I cannot give you my liquor card,” I said firmly.

“But the Commodore desires…” the Commander persisted.

“Then let him desire…” I said.

“What do you mean by that?” the Commander said angrily.

“Sir  I am a heavy drinker – and I require my full monthly liquor quota – I cannot spare even a single peg of rum  leave alone a bottle,” I said.

“I will have to report this to the Commodore,” he threatened.

“Sir  please tell me – why does the Commodore want our liquor cards? Is he alcohol-dependent or something? Is the Commodore an alcoholic...?” I asked.

“Alcoholic...? The Commodore is a teetotaller – he does not touch alcohol,” the Commander said.

“Then why does he want my liquor card...?” I asked.

“Why don’t you understand,,,? This is Delhi. We have to keep the Babus happy...” the Commander said.

“I don’t understand...” I said.

“Once in a while  we have to give a bottle or two to the Babus  so that they clear our files quickly,” the Commander said.

“But isn’t it their job to clear files quickly?” I asked.

The Commander gave me a long lecture: 

“Yes  but the guys at the ministry can always raise queries, delay, stonewall, and hold up files – and  after all  the ACR of our boss depends on how fast he can get proposals cleared by the ministry. That is why he is doing so well – he has got a fantastic reputation that he can get anything sanctioned fast – he can get approvals cleared quickly  whereas his counterparts keep going round in circles. With so many Commodores sweating it out for promotion  it is very stiff competition to become an Admiral – and our boss surely wants to be the first in his batch to become an Admiral. So what is the harm in a bit of mamool  a rum bottle here or there  to lubricate the system  like speed money in other offices  here we have speed booze – to speed up things. Out here in Delhi  if you keep the Babus happy  then you will do well in your career. We must to be loyal to our Commodore – if he does well  then he will be happy  and he will give everyone good ACRs – and we will all do well too.”

I heard his long sermon  and then I said: “Sir  military quota liquor is not meant for civilians – it is written on each and every bottle that this CSD Military Liquor is strictly meant for consumption of defence personnel only.”

“Shut up! Don’t think you are too damn smart. I know all this,” the Commander said angrily, “If you want to be dogmatic and not cooperate  I will tell the Commodore about your obstinate behaviour – but let me tell you that this rigid attitude will not help you in your navy career.”

Thereafter  no one asked me for my liquor card,

But  from time to time  the Commodore used to comment that drinking was not good for health.

Meanwhile  I felt ashamed whenever I saw the Bootlicker Commander toadying in an obsequious manner before minor civilian Babus – maybe even giving them rum bottles  ostensibly to “get the work done”.

It hurt me to see how unbridled ambition had reduced this senior officer into a disgusting ass-kisser with no self respect.

One day the Bootlicker Commander came to my office – and he asked me: “Have you got your liquor card with you?”

“Sir  I told you…” I began to protest.

“No. I don’t want your liquor card. I want two bottles of whisky  a bottle of rum  and some bottles of beer – I want this booze for myself,” the Commander said.

“For yourself...? I said, taken aback.

“Yes. I want the liquor for myself. I am having a party at home,” he said.

Sir – if you want the booze for yourself  why don’t you take it on your own liquor card...?” I asked.

“My liquor card is with the Commodore  and the monthly liquor quota on my liquor card has already been exhausted by the Commodore by distributing bottles here and there. So I was wondering if you could spare a few bottles from your quota...” the Commander pleaded.

I did not know whether I should laugh or cry. 

I felt pity for the Commander – it was sad that sycophancy and boot-licking had reduced him to this pitiable state.

“Sure Sir,” I said, “I will go to the CSD Canteen right now  and I will get you whatever booze you want.”

The Commander’s lips smiled at me – but his eyes said it all.

Copyright © Vikram Karve 
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1. This story is a fictional 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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This post is an abridged updated extract of my story THE CRAZY COMMODORE – Part 3 : THE BOOTLICKER COMMANDER AND RUM RAJ  Earlier Posted in my Academic and Creative Writing Journal Blog on 25 November 2013 

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