Friday, May 15, 2020

Humor in Uniform – The Captain with a Guilty Conscience

Fiction Short Story

The Captain looked at my “Name Tally” above my right breast pocket.

Then – he said to me: “Thank you for coming for my farewell party…”

Before I could say anything – the Captain said: “It’s good you came. I wanted to meet you before I retire from the Navy. I wanted to talk to you and clear my conscience…”

I looked at the Captain - like all of us – he was dressed in Red Sea Rig” Navy Evening Uniform – probably for the last time in his life – as this was his official retirement farewell party.

I did not know the Captain – I had not served with him – I had never seen him on ships – or in the Naval Dockyard in Mumbai - or in the “Stone Frigates” where I had served.

I wondered how the Captain knew me – at least – he seemed to know me by name.

And – he was saying that he wanted to talk to me and “clear his conscience”.

This made me quite curious.

“I have done injustice to you…” the Captain said.

“Injustice…?” I said.

“Yes. I have wronged you…” he said, “I had nothing against you – I didn’t even know you – but – if you favor someone – you automatically do injustice to someone else – don’t you…?”

“Sir – I did not understand…” I said.

“Do you know “S”…?” the Captain asked me.

“Yes, Sir – “S” is my course-mate…” I said.

“Do you know where “S” is right now…?” the Captain asked me.

“I don’t know exactly – but I heard that he is on a foreign deputation…” I said.

“Yes. “S” is on a foreign deputation. You were supposed to go for that foreign deputation…” the Captain said.

“Me…?” I asked, surprised.

“Yes. As per the Qualitative Requirements (QRs) – we made a merit list – you were on top – you were “No. 1” on the merit list – and – your course-mate “S” – he was at “No. 2” of the merit list. I tweaked the QRs – so that “S” became “No. 1” – and you were pushed to “No.2” – so – he went on the foreign deputation instead of you…” the Captain said, “I am very sorry I did this to you. Please forgive me…” 

I looked at the Captain – he seemed genuinely repentant and contrite.

Suddenly – an officer arrived – and he took the Captain away – saying that it was time for the farewell speech.

I had arrived in New Delhi the previous evening – and reported for duty in the morning.

My boss had told me that there was a farewell party in the Navy Mess and I was required to attend.

So – here I was – on the Mess Laws – attending the Farewell Party.

Though I had never served in New Delhi – I did know a few officers – and – after some small talk with them – I was walking to the bar to get a drink – when the Captain had accosted me.

And then – he had said all those remorseful things – about how he had done me injustice by sending “S” on a foreign deputation – though it was I who had deserved to go.

Of course – since I was working far away in a Naval Station – I had been blissfully unaware about all these machinations going on in the “Northern Naval Command” aka Naval Headquarters.

I was an idealist – and thought everything in the Navy was “fair and square” – but now – during my tenure as a “Babu” in Uniform in New Delhi – I would learn how things actually happened.

I was thinking these thoughts – when – suddenly – I heard my name being called out.

It was the President Mess Committee (PMC) speaking on the mike.

The PMC called out my name again – and he asked me to raise my hand.

I raised my hand.

The PMC welcomed me to the Mess – saying that I had just reported in the morning.

Then – the PMC spoke a bit about the retiring Captain.

After a short speech – the PMC handed over the mike to the Captain and requested him to deliver his farewell speech.

The Captain gave a most perfunctory farewell speech – standard platitudes – thanking everyone – saying that he would cherish his Naval Career – etc. – etc.

Then – everyone walked towards the buffet dinner laid out on tables.

After dinner – as I walked towards my cabin – an Officer accosted me – and he said to me: “The Captain wants to speak to you…”

“The Captain who retired today…?” I asked.

“Yes…” the Officer said, “Come with me – he is waiting for you…”

I walked with the Officer to the foyer of the Mess.

I saw the Captain standing with a group of Officers.

From his body language – he seemed to be quite drunk.

Maybe – the Officers had forced him to gulp the customary “down the hatch” Pegs of Neat Whisky given to Officers being Wined Out.

The moment he saw me – the Captain slurred: “I wanted to see you before I go…”

Yes – he was quite drunk.

The Captain looked at me – and – he said to me: “I am very sorry for the injustice I have done to you….”

I said to him: “It is okay, Sir – I believe that everything happens for the good…”

“Not for me…” the Captain said, “I am paying for my sins – my “Karma” has caught up with me…”

“Please, Sir – don’t get emotional…” the other Officers said – and – they took to Captain to the Staff Car in the Porch.

The Captain got inside the Staff Car – and – the Staff Car drove away.

Next morning – my Boss called me to his office and asked me to take over duties quickly so that my predecessor could be relieved and proceed to Mumbai for his “sea time”.

We finished handing/taking over by 12 Noon – and – my predecessor invited me for a glass of beer in the Navy Wardroom.

While we were sipping beer – I told my predecessor about the way the retiring Captain had apologized to me.

“That Captain – had it not been for this stupid mistake – he would have reached Flag Rank…” my predecessor said.

“Stupid mistake…?” I said.

“Yes – he was forced to “put in his papers” and retire…” my predecessor said.

“But why…?” I said.

“Moral Turpitude – Conduct unbecoming of an Officer…” my predecessor said.

“Conduct unbecoming of an officer…?” I said – surprised.

“Yes. He was caught stealing the affection of a brother officer’s wife…” my predecessor said.

“Bloody Hell…” I said.

“The Officer with whose wife the Captain had an affair – the “cuckold” officer – his name is “S” – you may know him – he is roughly of your seniority…” my predecessor said.

“Of course – I know “S” – he is my course-mate – but we haven’t met after the Academy days…” I said, “But hasn’t “S” gone on foreign deputation – so – how could the Captain have an affair with his wife…?”

“Well – “S” has gone a 6 month foreign deputation – and – you can take your wife only if the deputation period is for more than a year – so – “S” left his wife behind in Delhi – and the Captain was having a “good time” with her – and rumors reached the ears of the Big Boss – and you know how “straitlaced” he is…” my predecessor said, “so the Captain was asked to put in his papers and leave the service the honorable way…”

“That’s sad – now wonder the Captain was feeling so guilty…” I said.

“Well – it’s a double whammy for the Captain – he lost his job – and – he lost his wife too...” my predecessor said.

“He lost his wife…?” I said.

“The Captain was living alone in Delhi – his wife lives in Bangalore – it seems that she was totally clueless about her husband’s affair going on in Delhi – but now – she has come to know about her husband’s adultery – and – I believe she is divorcing him…” my predecessor said.

“What about “S”…? Does “S” know about his wife’s “hanky-panky” – that she was having an affair with the Captain…?” I asked.

“Well – I don’t know – “S” is still abroad – but then – I believe the affair was going on for quite some time – even before “S” left for the foreign deputation…” my predecessor said.

“So – it may be a “Quid Pro Quo”…?”

“Maybe…” my predecessor said, “let’s finish our beers and get back to office and tell the Boss that you have taken over my duties…”

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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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