Humor in Uniform
Story from My Vizag
Let me tell you a
hilarious story from my Vizag Navy Days.
This story happened
around 33 years ago.
If you are a Navy
Veteran – and have served in Vizag in the 1970’s/1980’s – you may have lived in
spacious, salubrious, verdant Naval Park – amidst trees and greenery.
(Sometime in the 1980’s – Naval
Park “Annexe” was built – a “concrete jungle” comprising multi-storey buildings
– but – I was lucky to get a house in the original Naval Park)
The Naval Park comprised
lovely old style houses – well laid-out in a rather expansive style with plenty
of greenery space in between.
Each building had 3
Storeys – a total of 6 houses – two houses on each floor – with spacious terraces
I was lucky to get a
ground floor house – with a lawn in front – garage on the side – and – garden
in the rear – a large “kitchen garden” in which some earlier occupant had
planted with papaya, coconut, mango, chickoo (sapota), sitaphal (custard apple) and “curry patta” trees.
We were a mix of
occupants in the 6 houses in our building – and in the similar block of 6
houses opposite – 12 of us with varying ranks from Lieutenant Commander to
Commodore – from diverse ships and shore establishments – and the spacious
common area in between the two buildings was called “Nukkad” – and we would
have frequent impromptu “pot luck” get-togethers there – especially during
“load shedding” (power cuts) – which happened quite frequently in the evenings.
(Those days – it took 11 years of
commissioned service to become a Lieutenant Commander – and – the type of
married accommodation was the same from Major to Brigadier (Lieutenant
Commander to Commodore) – so all of us lived together in common housing in
Naval Park – while there were 4 separate Bungalows for Rear Admirals – and the
C-in-C lived in his appointment house in Waltair near Vizag City)
My neighbour – Commodore
“N” was going on transfer to New Delhi.
We had invited him
and his wife for dinner (his children were in boarding school).
He and his wife were
leaving early next morning by the flight to Calcutta (now called Kolkata) –
from where they would catch the connecting flight to New Delhi.
(Those days – there was a Madras
(Chennai) – Vizag (Visakhapatnam) – Calcutta (Kolkata) flight in the morning –
which returned in the evening – and – there were hardly any other flights from
Vizag – maybe just one to Hyderabad.
In any case – those days – since
only Senior Officers were permitted Air Travel – most of us travelled by Train)
Commodore “N” and his
wife arrived dot on time at 7 PM in the evening.
The Commodore was
carrying a large envelope.
Commodore “N” gave me
the envelope and said: “Keep this envelope carefully with you. And – you will personally
hand over the envelope to Commander “XXX” in Headquarters tomorrow morning. I
have already spoken to him. He will be waiting for you…”
(The Naval Term “Aye Aye, Sir”
means “I understand your command and I will comply with your order” – the first
“Aye” means “I understand” – and – the second “Aye” means “I will comply”)
“You know Commander
“XXX” – don’t you…?” Commodore “N” asked me.
“Yes, Sir – we were
shipmates – he was Supply Officer on my second ship…” I said.
(“Supply Officers” were renamed “Logistics
Officers” sometime in the 1980’s after the “Supply and Secretariat” Branch
(S&S Branch) was abolished and reincarnated in a new “avatar” as the “Logistics”
“I know you two were
shipmates. Commander “XXX” told me about you. By the way – we – Commander “XXX”
and Me – we have served together on a ship too. I can trust him – and – I can
trust you…” Commodore “N” said, “You give Commander “XXX” the envelope first
thing in the morning on your way to office – and I can trust you to be
absolutely discreet about it – just keep it to yourself…”
“Of course, Sir…” I
said to the Commodore.
I went inside my
study room – and – I kept the envelope on my study table.
The large size
envelope was sealed – and was quite bulky.
The envelope seemed
to contain a number of documents.
I wondered what was
inside – probably some important documents – something classified.
I did not ask Commodore
“N” what was inside the envelope.
It was none of my
I was curious – but
there was no question of discussing the issue with Commodore “N”.
I would just hand
over the envelope to Commander “XXX” in the morning – and forget all about it.
Dear Reader – you
must be wondering why Commodore “N” trusted me so much.
Well – let me tell
you a bit about my “friendship” with Commodore “N” who was almost 10 years
senior to me.
I first met Commodore
“N” when he was a Commander and I was a Lieutenant.
Those days – I was
serving on a Leander Class Frigate – and he – then a newly promoted Commander –
he was the Captain (Commanding Officer) of a smaller warship – maybe you can
call it a Corvette – but not a strict sense.
My course-mate was serving
on his ship.
My ship had returned
to our base port Mumbai (then called Bombay) after a long sailing.
It was evening – and
– I saw my course-mate’s ship “parked” ahead of us – and – I decided to visit
him for a drink and then maybe we could go out for dinner somewhere.
I walked down to his
ship and climbed up the gangway.
I saluted the
quarterdeck – the quartermaster saluted me.
“I have come to meet
Lieutenant “A”. Please pipe him…” I said to the quartermaster.
“Sir – he is not on
board…” the quartermaster said.
I looked at the
officers’ state board.
Indeed – my
course-mate was not on board.
“Lieutenant “A” has
gone on leave. Is it anything urgent…” a gruff voice said behind me.
I turned around and
saw that the owner of gruff voice was a short podgy man wearing sports rig –
white T-Shirt, and white canvas shoes.
“I just wanted to
have a drink with him…” I said to the podgy man.
“You can have a drink
with me, dammit…” the short podgy man said in a commanding voice, “go and sit
in the wardroom and wait for me. I’ll finish my walk – shower – and join you…”
After uttering these
words – the man continued his walk on the deck.
I looked at the
quartermaster and raised my eyebrow.
“Sir – he is our new
Captain…” the quartermaster said.
(That was how I met Commodore “N”
for the first time – he was a newly promoted Commander then – the Captain of a
I went down to the
There was no one in
I sat down and picked
up the newspaper.
In a few moments –
the duty steward appeared – and asked me what I would like to drink.
“I’ll wait for the
Captain…” I said, “it’s not yet 7…”
“No. No. Sir – the
quartermaster said to give you a drink immediately….” the duty steward said.
“Okay – give me a
whisky and soda…” I said, “Do you have “Cutty Sark”…?”
“No, Sir – we have
Vat 69, Red Label, Teachers, Black Dog, Chivas Regal…”
“Okay – give me a
large “Chivas Regal” with Soda…” I said.
The steward placed a
tray with glass of whisky and a bottle of soda on the table – and he said to
me: “Sir – I’ll make some luncheon meat “small eats” – or something veg if you
“Luncheon Meat is
fine…” I said.
I sipped my drink and
read the newspaper.
After a few minutes –
the podgy man (Commander “N”) – he entered the wardroom.
Freshly bathed – he
was wearing a bush shirt, trousers and sandals – the favourite dress of naval
officers in the 1970’s – most suitable for the tropical climate of Mumbai.
The steward placed a
glass of beer before him.
“Ah…” he said, “I
always like to start off with beer – Cheers…!!!” he said – holding up his
“Cheers, Sir…” I said
– holding up my glass.
(Sailors don’t clink glasses).
“This bloody ship
doesn’t even have a proper Captain’s Pantry…” Commander “N” said, “So – I
prefer to use the wardroom. And – except your friend – all officers are married
– can you believe it – I am “holding the deck” for the OOD – the horny bugger
has gone home for a “quickie”…”
After some time – an
Officer entered the wardroom wearing Red Sea Rig – he seemed to be the OOD
(Officer of the Day)
I knew the officer by
face – as I had seen him once before with my course-mate.
Commander “N” looked
at the OOD and said: “So – you “horny” bugger – you had a good “screw”…?”
The OOD remained
silent – a slight blush on his cheeks.
Commander “N” said to
OOD: “Take proper rounds – and make sure the sailors are getting proper food…”
“Aye Aye, Sir...” the
OOD said – and he left.
After finishing his
beer – Commander “N” switched over to Whisky – and we – Commander “N” and Me –
we sat – we drank – we talked.
Alcohol is the
original “social lubricant” – alcohol reduces inhibitions – when you drink
together – strangers become friends – seniors lose rank-consciousness – and –
that is what happened between “N” and Me – as we became “Booze Buddies”.
Of course – we did
not sit and drink every evening – far from it – once in a while – when our
ships were in harbor – Commander “N” would send across a message – and I would
go across to his ship for a booze session.
My course-mate was
not amused – and once he chided me: “How the hell can you drink with our “old
“Why…” I asked my
“He is such a “pain
in the neck” – bloody sadistic bugger – he has made our life hell…” my
Our course-mate never
joined us – but would tactfully disappear when his “old man” and I sat for a
“Well – to me – he
seems to be quite an okay chap…” I said.
Sometimes – we would
go out for food – to our favourite foodie joints.
I sometimes wondered
why “N” preferred to drink with me.
He was “miles” senior
to me – and – why didn’t he drink with his course-mates – or officers of his
seniority – but – I never asked him.
Commander “N” was not
a bachelor. He had left his family behind in New Delhi (his previous posting) –
till the end of the academic session – to enable his 7 year old son to complete
his academic year in the same school. He told me that he had a 3 year old daughter
Dear Reader – please
don’t get the impression that I spent all my evenings in Mumbai drinking with
Far from it – at the
most – we met once a week – but – it was an enjoyable booze session – we would
“top up” – and then – we would go out for food to one of those quintessential
“late night” street-food joints in Mumbai.
Then – my ship was
off to the “East” for a long deployment – and – a few weeks later – suddenly –
my transfer orders arrived – and – I was disembarked at Madras (Chennai) – and
I proceeded to my new station – Jamnagar.
I could not meet
Commander “N” on my way to Jamnagar – and – I lost all contact with him
10 years later – in
Vizag – one morning – as I was about to leave for work – the doorbell rang.
I was surprised and
delighted to see the person standing in front of me.
It was “N” – in
uniform – wearing the broad stripe of a Commodore.
So – Commander “N”
was now Commodore “N”.
Earlier – he was
Now – he was
“Bloody Hell…” he
said, “what a wonderful coincidence – I am going to be your neighbour…”
“That’s great, Sir –
when did you come to Vizag…?” I asked him.
“I reported last week
and took over as the Flotilla Commander…” he said, “I was allotted this house
“My ship was sailing,
Sir – we just returned yesterday…” I said, “Please come in and have a cup of
I introduced him to
my wife – and – we had a cup of tea.
“We are old friends…”
Commodore “N” told my wife, “and I am so happy that we are neighbours. I will
bring my wife in the evening – we are temporarily put up the mess guest rooms…”
“Sir – you must have
dinner with us…” I said.
Commodore “N” said, “We will “top up” like the good old days and have some good
It was a delightful
evening with Commodore “N” and his wife who was a simple lady – she was
friendly – she had no airs – and was a good cook – a quintessential housewife.
Their children – son (17) and daughter (13) – they were studying in a
prestigious boarding school.
Mrs. “N” was a genuinely
good neighbour – and she really helped my wife – especially when my ship was
evening – Commodore “N” and I – we went for a long walk to Dolphin’s Nose –
followed by a drinking session – and dinner.
On the other alternate
days – the officers’ swimming day – I went for a vigorous swim in the beautiful
swimming pool nearby (Commodore “N” was
never seen in the swimming pool).
I noticed that (like
in his Mumbai days 10 years ago) – Commodore “N” wasn’t very socially popular –
and hardly anyone visited him – and my course-mates and “peers” – some of whom
were COs of the Flotilla Ships under his command – they wondered how I could be
so friendly with Commodore “N” – whom they all despised – and they unanimously
agreed that he was a “*******” (I will spare you the expletive).
As neighbours – we
had a very nice time in Vizag – like one big family – especially when his kids
came home on vacation.
Officially – I had no
interaction with him at all – and – I think – both of us preferred it that
One year passed – and
suddenly – Commodore “N” was transferred to New Delhi.
Commodore “N” wasn’t keen on
going to the “Northern Naval Command” to push files.
He wanted to remain
But – they told him
that he had spent one year in the “criteria” appointment and he had to make way
for others to get a chance. Besides – he had never served in Naval Headquarters
as a “Babu in Uniform” – which was a must if he had to achieve higher Flag Rank.
So – Commodore “N” was
off to New Delhi.
All his “Official”
Farewell Parties were over.
He did not have very
friendly social relations with his course-mates and “peers”.
Some of his COs did
invite him for dinner – and they were happy when he declined.
As far as I was
concerned – I did not have to invite him for dinner – we had dinner together so
often – and it was understood that – after all his truck was loaded and luggage
gone – Commodore “N” and his wife would spend their last evening in Vizag with
It was a wonderful
evening – rum flowed freely – and Commodore “N” was enjoying himself
Mrs. N and my wife
were engrossed in conversation – they had become good friends – and were quite
sad to say “good-bye” to each other.
My children were
sleeping inside after having their dinner.
We killed a bottle of
Rum – and sat down for dinner.
After dinner – I
pulled out my coveted box of cigars – and – Commodore “N” and Me – we sat in
the living room – nursing a glass of cognac and smoking our cigars.
Mrs. “N” and my wife
were in the kitchen making coffee.
“My flight is at 7:30
AM – I must leave at 6 AM – so – make sure you give me a “hard shake up” with some
hot Tea at 5 AM…” Commodore “N” said to me.
“Of course, Sir…” I
said, “And I will come to the Airport to see you off…”
“No. No. You relax.
We will say “goodbye” here itself…” Commodore “N” said, “I have made sure that
there will be enough officers to see me off at the Airport. All COs of Ships of
my Flotilla and all my Staff Officers will be there…”
“That’s good, Sir – a
rousing send-off…” I said,“but we want to some to see you off. My wife and I will definitely come to the airport to say goodbye to you and your wife…”
Commodore “N” smiled
like a “Cheshire Cat” and he said to me: “Do you know what is in that envelope
I gave you…?”
contains ACRs of all COs and Staff Officers…” Commodore “N” said.
“ACRs…?” I said,
(“ACR” stands for “Annual
Confidential Report” – the Performance Appraisal Report for Naval Officers)
“Yes – the envelope
contains the ACRs of my officers – they don’t know this – no one else knows –
only you know this now – and – of course – Commander “XXX” in Headquarters –
who will hand over the envelope to the secretary of the big boss personally…”
Commodore “N” said.
I remained silent –
waiting for him to continue.
Commodore “N” took a puff
on his cigar and said: “I told my Flotilla COs and Staff Officers to submit
their ACR forms to me 10 days ago. Since then – I have kept them on
tenterhooks. They have been hounding my staff officer asking him whether I had
written their ACRs and forwarded them to the Reviewing Officer (RO) in
Headquarters. So – I told my staff officer to tell them that I would be taking their
ACR Forms with me to Delhi – I would fill up their ACRs in leisure once I reach
Delhi – and send them to the RO from there…”
“Sir – why the
suspense…?” I asked.
“The bastards hate me
– once they know that I have filled up their ACRs and sent them to the RO –
they won’t even show me their bloody face. Now – they are competing with each
other in order to please me…” Commodore “N” said, “Have you heard of the “Recency
“Yes, Sir – we give
undue importance to recent events and information…”
Commodore “N” said, “Now – all these bloody officers think that what they do in
these last few days will have maximum impact on their ACRs – so I am making
them run around doing all my jobs…”
“I have been seeing
that, Sir – the way they have been helping you in packing and doing everything.
I thought they were doing it out of “Goodwill”…” I said to him.
laughed, “yes – “ACR Goodwill” – or – rather “ACR Motivation” – that’s the only
motivation in the Navy…”
Commodore “N” looked
at me and said: “Mark my words – if I had told those bastards that I had filled
up their ACRs – not even a single bugger would have turned up at the airport to
see me off – now – all of them will be standing in a line at the airport to see
me off – in fact – they may even come here with breakfast early in the morning…”
“Sir – I don’t think
that’s true – I am sure they respect you…” I said.
“You are a good-natured
genuine simpleton…” Commodore “N” said. “That’s why I like you so much…”
The ladies came out
of the kitchen.
Commodore “N” extinguished
his cigar and rose from his seat.
Before he left –
Commodore “N” said to me: “On second thoughts – I think I’ll make the buggers
sweat a bit more – some of my Flotilla Officers are from Delhi – so I’ll make
them organize a few things for me over there. You don’t give the envelope to
Commander “XXX” tomorrow – you keep the envelope safely with you. I will call you from Delhi and tell you when to give the ACRs to Commander “XXX”. I’ll speak to Commander “XXX” and tell him…”
Next morning – I saw
a large number of Officers and their Wives present to say “goodbye” to
Commodore “N” and his wife – at his house and at the airport too.
It was amusing to see
the sycophancy and fake emotions on display.
A few ladies even
broke into fake tears – saying how “sad “ they were that Commodore “N” and his
wife were going away.
I think my wife and I were the
only persons who were genuinely sad to see them go.
One week later –
Commodore “N” called me from Delhi – and he told me to hand over the sealed
envelope containing the ACRs to Commander “XXX”.
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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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