Friday, July 5, 2019

The Gregarious Officer

Story from My Navy Days
Short Fiction

42 Years Ago – Circa 1970’s

“Uncle, Uncle – please come home…” the two girls said.

The two cute girls – sisters – one 9 years old – the other 7 – they were the two daughters of the gregarious Commander “D”.

In that desolate “Stone Frigate” Training Establishment – where we were undergoing our Specialization Course – as young Sub Lieutenants – more than 42 years ago – in the 1970’s – the affable Commander “D” was the most sociable officer – in whose home – we felt truly welcome.

The other 3 Commanders (and the few married Lieutenant Commanders) – they were quite standoffish – and they kept their distance from trainee officers like us.

So – after the mandatory “social call” – we never visited their homes in view of their rather unsociable attitude towards us.

But – Commander “D” was different.

He was most welcoming and hospitable – and very generous in offering food and drink whenever we young bachelors visited his home.

He kept an open home – and – every evening there would invariably be some bachelor officers enjoying his food, drink and generous hospitality.

I visited Commander “D” quite often – at least once a week – or even more.

He had two cute daughters – 7 and 9 – and they had a special liking for me.

They had nicknamed me “Shrikhand Uncle” – and – whenever they saw me – they would say to me:

“Uncle, Uncle – please come home…”

Let me tell you why the two small girls had named me “Shrikhand Uncle”.

Actually – I felt quite guilty “sponging” on Commander “D” – enjoying his food and drink so often.

So – one evening – I took a bottle of Rum with me.

Commander “D” was furious with me and admonished me:

“In my home – you will have my booze and food – do you understand…?”

His wife said to me:

“And – don’t you dare get food packed from the Mess into my kitchen. Here – in my home – you will eat whatever I cook…”

I did not know how to return his hospitality since Commander “D” refused invitations to come to the Wardroom Mess.

One Sunday – we had gone to the nearby town (Jamnagar) – and – as was our routine – we watched the afternoon movie show – and – we were enjoying Kachori and Rasgullas at our favourite Sweet Shop.

As usual – I bought my weekly quota of 1 Kilogram of Shrikhand (which I kept in the Wardroom Dining Hall Fridge to have with my Lunch every afternoon in the Mess).

I suddenly got an idea.

I bought 1 Kilo of Shrikhand for Commander “D” too.

If he objected – we would tell him the Shrikhand was for his daughters.

In the evening – I walked towards to the bungalow of Commander “D”.

His two daughters were playing in the park.

When they saw me – they came running to me – and said excitedly:

“Uncle, Uncle – please come home…”

“I have brought something for you…” I said, “And – I gave them the packet of Shrikhand…”

Surprisingly – the small girls hadn’t tasted Shrikhand before.

The moment we reached Commander D’s home – the girls made their mother open the Shrikhand packet and started tasting the Shrikhand.

The small girls loved the Shrikhand – and they came and told me how much they had liked the Shrikhand.  

Then – we followed the usual routine.

I played “Ludo” and “Snakes and Ladders” with the two small girls.

After some time – around 7:30 PM – the mother called the girls for dinner.

I went out on the lawn to join Commander “D” – who was already drinking Rum.

He poured me a drink – and we started drinking in earnest.

The girls came out after their dinner – they wished us Good Night – and they ran inside to their bedroom to sleep.

Commander D’s wife got us plenty of “Small Eats” to enjoy with our drinks – and she sat with us with a soft drink.

We talked – thoroughly enjoying our drinks, the “small eats” and the lively conversation.

Normally – there would be many officers – but tonight – surprisingly – I was their only guest.

Yes – every evening there would be someone or the other – enjoying Commander D’s hospitality.

Commander “D” and his bachelor officer “guests” would drink till late at night and have dinner after midnight.

That night – we drank till well after midnight – we had dinner at around 1 AM – and – by the time I returned to my cabin in the Wardroom Mess – it was almost 2 AM – in the wee hours of the morning.

As I told you – someone or the other “bounced” Commander “D” every evening – so – it was a “party” every evening in Commander D’s bungalow.

Commander D’s two small daughters would play in the children’s park – near the Wardroom – and whenever they saw a bachelor officer – they would say:

“Uncle, Uncle – please come home…”

I made it a point to get “Shrikhand” for them from town every Sunday – and since the two small girls had nicknamed me “Shrikhand Uncle” – the moment the saw me – they would say:

“Shrikhand Uncle, Shrikhand Uncle – please come home…”

For 6 months – we – the entire course – we enjoyed the generous hospitality of the magnanimous and gregarious Commander “D” – drinking copious quantities of his Rum – and – relishing the delicious food cooked by Commander D’s benevolent wife.

And – one day – our course was over – and we joined our respective ships – at Mumbai and Vizag.

I was lucky to get a Mumbai Based Ship – which enabled me to enjoy the delights of “Maximum City” whenever my ship was in harbor.

3 Years Later

I was lucky – after 2 years on a frontline frigate – I was appointed on a frontline destroyer – also based at Mumbai.

So – I had spent 3 years in Mumbai.

One evening I was strolling on Marine Drive.

I was delighted to see Commander D’s two daughters sitting on the parapet by the sea.

I waved out to them.

They recognized me.

“Hello “Shrikhand Uncle” – so nice to see you here…” the girls said.

They looked slightly grown up – 3 years had passed since I had met them last – then – they were 7 and 9 – now – they would be 10 and 12 – but they still looked very cute.

“What are you doing here on Marine Drive…?” I asked them.

“We live over there…” they said – pointing to a building across Marine Drive.

(Those days – many Naval Officers lived in houses in “South Bombay” (So Bo) – in posh localities of Mumbai – like Marine Drive, Churchgate, Backbay Reclamation, Colaba, Cuffe Parade, Apollo Bunder, Malabar Hill etc.

Earlier – even the Naval Officers’ Western Command Mess was located off Marine Drive in a building called “Vasant Sagar” on “A” Road Churchgate – and – Sailors’ Home was in Cooperage…)

I looked at Commander D’s two pretty daughters and said to them:

“When did you come to Mumbai…?”

“We came last week…” they said.

I expected them to say “Uncle, Uncle – please come home…” as they used to say 3 years ago whenever they saw a bachelor Naval Officer.

But – since they didn’t say it – I said to them:

“Come – take me to your home – I want to meet your Daddy and Mummy…”

The girls looked at me with an odd expression on their faces.

They remained silent.

So – I said to them:

“Oh – I don’t have “Shrikhand” with me – but I promise to get “Shrikhand” next time…”

The elder girl – 12 – she looked at me and said:

“Uncle – please don’t come home. If you come home – Daddy will start drinking – and – we don’t want him to drink…”

On hearing this – I was nonplussed – I didn’t know what to say.

On seeing the expression on my face – Commander D’s elder daughter said to me:

“You know how much Daddy used to drink. They have told him to stop drinking – but – he doesn’t listen. We are trying our best to stop his drinking – but – someone or the other comes home – and he drinks with them. Just yesterday – he got badly drunk. If you come home – he will drink with you all night. So – uncle – please don’t come home…”

I felt terrible.

Tears welled in my eyes.

“Please don’t cry, Uncle…” the elder girl said – with tears in her eyes – and her younger sister had tears in her eyes too.

The small girls I knew – they had suddenly grown up.

I said “goodbye” to Commander D’s daughters – and – I walked back to my ship.

I felt very sad for the two small girls.

3 Years ago – whenever they saw me – they would say to me:

“Uncle, Uncle – please come home…”

But today – when they saw me – they said to me:

“Uncle, Uncle – please don’t come home…” 


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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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