Friday, January 17, 2020

Humor in Uniform – The Commendation – Part 1

Humor in Uniform

Fiction Short Story



During my long career in the Navy – I performed a variety of jobs.

Around 20 years ago – I looked after HR (Human Resources) and Training in the premier Naval Dockyard at Mumbai.

Among the multifarious HR and Training jobs – one of my tasks was the processing of cases for awards and commendations.

Before doing this job – I was an idealist – who believed that everything was fair and ethical – and only the truly deserving got awards and commendations.

But soon – I realized that I had been naïve – and things were quite different.

Let me tell you a story.

We were processing recommendations for award of commendations.

Since I had newly taken charge of my appointment – and I was doing this “processing” of awards for the first time – my boss advised me to consult Mrs. “T” in Headquarters.

Mrs. “T” was the UDC (Upper Division Clerk) in-charge of processing commendations and awards.

She had been on the same chair for over 20 years – ever since she joined as an LDC – and was an “authority” on the subject. 

In fact – Mrs. “T” was considered so “indispensable” that she had been kept in the same post by successive officers – she had not even been transferred locally within Headquarters.

I don’t know whether it was true or not – but someone told me that Mrs. “T” had refused promotion to the rank of “Office Superintendent” because that may entail transfer out of Mumbai or to a unit in some other part of Mumbai.

She lived quite nearby in Girgaum and commuted to Headquarters (in Fort) by bus – a very convenient arrangement – she was “well set” in her daily routine and did want to disturb it.

Maybe this was the reason that motivated her to work sincerely and efficiently – and become “indispensable” – so that she would not be transferred.  

I learned one more thing about Mrs. “T” – she had steadfastly refused to accept any award or commendation for her exemplary performance – she had told her successive bosses who wanted to recommend her that it would be “unethical” for her to accept commendations/awards since she herself processed the cases. (This also put “moral” pressure on her bosses not to “usurp” commendations/awards themselves while they were sitting in that chair).

I told my Personal Assistant (PA) to call up Mrs. “T” and ask her a suitable time when I could visit her.

(Protocol demanded that – since I was an Officer – she should have come down and met me in my office – but then – firstly – she was in a different organization – and – secondly – even the lowliest persons in Headquarters thought they were “Shore Based Moguls” who could summon anyone from ships or “subordinate” units. Of course – I could have met the concerned officer – but – my boss had asked me specifically to meet Mrs. “T”)

My phone rang – my PA told me that Mrs. “T” wanted to speak to me – and she connected Mrs. “T”.

“Hello, Sir…” Mrs. “T” said enthusiastically, “do you remember me…?”

“No…” I said, honestly.

“We have met at my niece’s wedding…” she said.

“Your niece…?” I said, confused.

Mrs. “T” told me her niece’s name – she had been my PA in my previous appointment – I had attended her wedding in Girgaum (Girgaon)  – but I did not recollect meeting Mrs. “T”.

Suddenly – Mrs. “T” came on the line – and she said to me: “Sir – is it okay if I come to your office at 11:30 AM…?”

I looked at the wall clock in my office – it was 10 AM – 11:30 AM was absolutely fine with me.

So – I said to Mrs. “T”: “Please come at 11:30 AM. I want to take your advice regarding commendations…”

“I know, Sir. I will get the file and discuss everything with you…” Mrs. “T” said.

At 11:30 AM – my PA ushered in Mrs. “T” into my Office.

I asked Mrs. “T” to sit down – and – I asked her: “What would you like to have – Tea – Coffee – Soft Drink…?”

“Sir – I have got something for you…” Mrs. “T” said – and she looked at my PA.

“Yes, Yes, Sir…” my PA said, “she has given me her tiffin carrier…”

“Tiffin Carrier…?” I said, surprised.

“Come on, Sir…” Mrs. “T” said, “Everyone knows what a foodie you are. My niece told me how you used to “taste” from everyone’s tiffin – and I see you walking and eating in Girgaum so often – having Sabudana Wada at Panshikar, enjoying Misal at Vinay Health Home – we have even seen you eating Fish at Anantashram in Khotachiwadi…”

This was getting quite embarrassing – so – I decided to change the topic.

“Let’s discuss about commendations first. Then I will taste what you have got for me…” I said to Mrs. “T”.

And then - Mrs. “T” started briefing me about how to process cases for awards and commendations.

“Gallantry Awards are given for specific acts of gallantry – but – for all other awards and commendations – there are “pro-rata quotas” – so that “justice” is done to all ships, units, branches etc…” Mrs. “T” said.

“Are these “quotas” specified anywhere…?” I asked.

“No. No. It’s all unofficial. You can always discreetly ask us – and we will tell you your quota for that award – and how many citations to send…” Mrs. “T” said, “You will have to send some “dummy” recommendations to enable us to “select” the right one…”

“Dummy recommendations…” I asked, curious.

“Yes Sir. For example – we will be asking for citations for a “distinguished service” medal soon. Your quota is just “one” – so – you will have to send at least 4 citations – 3 “dummies” and the one who you want to get the award – we do a similar “sifting” at HQ so that the right names reach NHQ…” Mrs. “T” said, “Your Boss knows all this – and he will tell you the names – of the chosen awardee – and the dummies. You have to write the citations in such a way that it is evident who the genuine recommendation is – you can write them in relative merit as well – in case a lucky second recommendation can be accommodated if there is spare quota…”

“Oh…” I said.

I must have looked confused – so Mrs. “T” said to me: “Sir – don’t worry – all that is later – and we will guide you at that time – and soon – you will become an expert. Now – let’s discuss “commendations”…”

“Okay…” I said.

Mrs. “T” opened her file – she took out a sheet of paper – gave it to me – and said: “Sir – for your ready reference – I have given all details for your “Yard” – the total number of commendations – and the “pro-rata” breakdown – department-wise, rank-wise, branch-wise, officers, sailors, civilians, all cadres – you just send us the names with citations accordingly and it will be easy for us to give a commendation to whoever you recommend – you will save us the effort of “sifting”, “sorting” and “filtering”…”

“Thank You…” I said.

“One more thing, Sir…” Mrs. “T” said, “Please recommend the number of ladies as indicated – our boss believes in women’s empowerment – so there is a “quota within a quota” for women. The “Yard’ has 3 Lady Naval Officers – so you have to recommend one of them – and – I have indicated details of the quotas for Civilian Lady Employees in pencil against each category…”

We discussed a few specifics – and then – my PA brought in the “Sabudana Khichadi” that Mrs. “T” had so kindly brought for me (for her – it was a “fasting” day – hence the Sabudana Khichadi).

Then – after a cup of tea – Mrs. “T” left for her office in Headquarters. 

To Be Continued in Part 2...

Copyright © Vikram Karve 
Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work. 
© vikram karve., all rights reserved. 

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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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) 

© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

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