Archive for February 12th, 2019

Valour on a Ship

February 12, 2019

Story of a Ship at Sea



Navy Sea Story

Humor in Uniform – How to “Fast”

February 12, 2019


Unforgettable Characters I Met in the Navy 

A Spoof By Vikram Karve



I notice that many people “fast” from time to time.

My wife loves “fasting”.

She indulges in and observes all types of fasts on various occasions.

When she “fasts” – my wife does not starve herself – or go on a “hunger strike” – but – she “fasts” with “fast food”.

Yes – her “fasts” are not true fasts in the rigorous ascetic Spartan sense.

In fact – they are delicious satiating fulfilling “fasts” – an appetizing change of cuisine – to savour what I call “Fast Food” – like sabudana khichadi, sabudana wada, coconut potato sweet kachori, pure milk sweets etc.

This “fast food is quite mouthwatering and yummy – and maybe it is a bit more calorie-rich than normal food – and – in fact – her “fasts” are more “feasting” than “fasting.

(Sabudana Khichadi, Potato Kachori, Milk Sweets like Malai Barfi and Kalakand – that’s the “Fast Food” I am referring to – not the Burgers and Pizza you thought…!)

Since we are on the topic of “Fasts” and “Fast Food” – let me tell you the hilarious story of an unforgettable character I met during my early Navy days – a Naval Officer on a “Fast”.

This story happened around 42 years ago – in the 1970’s.

So – Dear Reader – from my Humor in Uniform Archives – here is the Story of “The Navy Lieutenant on “Fast”…” 


Mumbai (around 42 Years Ago – sometime in the 1970’s)

The gangs of Dockyard “Mateys” were working incessantly throughout the day in Engine Room of our ship.

(Dear Reader – Let me explain the term “Dockyard Matey”.
In the Navy – Dockyard Workmen are affectionately called “Dockyard Mateys”. 
“Dockyard Matey”  is the traditional nickname for Non-Navy Civilian Personnel working in a Naval Dockyard. 
You will be surprised to know that the Navy probably has more civilian personnel than men in uniform. 
Yes – there are a large number of “Naval Civilians” in dockyards, depots, repair yards, shore establishments etc. 
In fact – most of the maintenance and logistics units of the Navy have a significant proportion of civilian personnel. 
A large majority of the Naval Civilian Personnel work in the two premier Naval Dockyards which play the vital role in keeping warships and submarines in good repair – seaworthy and fighting fit. 
“Dockyard Mateys” are tradesmen – ranging from highly skilled/experienced technical experts right down to to semi-skilled/unskilled workers (the designation “unskilled” is a misnomer because even the USLs (Unskilled Labour) are highly proficient workmen). 
Except for a handful of Navy Sailors in a few departments – Naval Dockyards are staffed entirely by Civilian Personnel. 
But – Naval Dockyards are entirely managed by Uniformed Naval Officers. 
Yes – the Admiral Superintendent, General Managers, Managers, Deputy Managers and Assistant Managers are Technical Officers of the Navy. 
For a Naval Officer of the Technical Branches – a Dockyard Appointment is considered a Prestigious “Criteria” Appointment. 
(I have served a total of 10 years of my long Navy career in both the premier Naval Dockyards in Mumbai and Vizag) 
Whereas the Naval Fleets/Flotillas are the frontline afloat component of the Navy – the Naval Dockyards (which keep the Warships/Submarines in good repair and fighting fit) can be considered as the “frontline” shore-based component of the Navy. 
Hey – I have digressed. 
Now – let me get back to my story…) 
Mumbai (1970’s)
The gangs of Dockyard “Mateys” were working incessantly throughout the day in Engine Room of our ship.

Lieutenant “S” was personally supervising the dockyard gangs.

The ship was due to sail next morning – and – the job had to be completed on top priority.

I stood on the quarterdeck – near the gangway.

Outside – it was getting dark.

It was raining heavily.

On one side of the ship was an angry dark grey sea – with white peaks and black troughs of the turbulent waves violently lashing against the ship’s side.

And – on the other side of the ship – the jetty was barely visible as the torrential rain lashed down on the wharf.

It was quite an eerie and scary atmosphere.

At 1900 Hrs (7 PM) in the evening – Lieutenant “S” came up to the gangway.

“Finished, Sir…?” I asked.

“Almost – we are boxing up now – the work should be finished in an hour or so…” he said.

“Shall I tell the Old Man…?” I asked.

“Yes – I think you should tell your Captain…” he said.

I dialled the Captain’s home number from the shore telephone.

“Very Good…” the Captain said – after I told him that the repairs had been completed and the Dockyard Team was boxing up.

I saw Lieutenant “S” gesturing that he would like to speak to the Captain.

So – I said to the Captain: “Sir – Lieutenant “S” of the Dockyard would like to speak to you.”

“Oh – is Lieutenant “S” is still on board…? Yes, Yes – I will speak to him – give him the phone…” the Captain said.

Lieutenant “S” took the phone from me – and – he spoke to the Captain for a long time.

He seemed to be explaining everything – the nature of the defect – what repairs they had carried out – all the details.

Then – Lieutenant “S” held out the phone – and – he said that the Captain wanted to speak to me.

“I have told Lieutenant “S” to carry out a proper test and trial. I will speak to the GM about extending the overtime. You make sure that the “Dockyard Mateys” are looked after properly. It is raining heavily – you see to it that they get a hot meal – and don’t let them go ashore till the rain clears up. And make sure you look after Lieutenant “S” personally – he is an old shipmate of mine…” the Captain said.

“Aye Aye, Sir…” I said – and I put down the phone.

That’s what I liked about my Captain – his human touch – the compassionate way he cared for his men – and – everyone else – like the “Dockyard Mateys” too.

My Captain was a hard taskmaster – but he always put humans first.

Qualification-wise – the Captain was only a “matriculate” – since – in the early 1950’s – when he was commissioned as an Officer in the Navy – cadets were not awarded degrees.

But – I learnt more about Human Resource Management and Officership by observing our Captain – than I learnt from the many “HR Management” and “Leadership” Courses I did later.

I arranged for a hot meal for the “Dockyard Mateys” – and some bunks in the mess-decks for them to rest.

I asked Lieutenant “S” whether he would like to have a drink in the wardroom while I took my evening rounds.

“Sure…” Lieutenant “S” said, brightening up.

Having observed Lieutenant “S” downing peg after peg of whisky at various parties – I knew that he enjoyed his drinks – and that he particularly loved drinking Whisky.

Lieutenant “S” was a very senior Lieutenant – on the verge of becoming a Lieutenant Commander.

(This story happened in the 1970’s – much before the Ajai Vikram Singh (AVS) Report Cadre Review Bonanza in the year 2006 – which radically altered the “Rank Responsibility Authority” Equilibrium – and upset the well established “Rank versus Appointment” Balance.

In earlier times – you were promoted as Lieutenant after 3 years of commissioned service as a Naval Officer – and – you remained in the rank of Lieutenant for 8 long years – before being promoted as Lieutenant Commander after a total of 11 years of commissioned service.

Those days – most of the officers on board a ship were Lieutenants – but now – after the AVS Cadre Review – the significance of rank has been so diluted – that now – you probably have Commanders performing the duties of First Lieutenant (“Number One” or XO) – and Captains are XO’s of shore establishments…)

To return back to our story – as I escorted Lieutenant “S” to the wardroom – I asked him: “Sir – the “Old Man” said that you were his shipmate.”

“Yes. I was his Senior Engineer in his previous command. Besides – we are related – your Captain is my distant cousin. I know your Captain very well. That is why I am personally on board your ship to ensure that this job is completed on time…” he said.

I gave him a smile.

Now that I had this important piece of information – I knew that I would have to treat Lieutenant “S” in style.

I decided to offer him the choicest Super-Premium Scotch Whisky we had in the wardroom bar on board our ship – and get some good “small eats” made in the wardroom pantry – like our special fried luncheon meat – Chicken “65” – and fish fingers – followed by a sumptuous dinner – I would have to tell the cook to prepare a roast chicken – or maybe – butter chicken – whatever Lieutenant “S” preferred.

When we were seated at the bar in the wardroom – I asked the steward:

“Which is the best Whisky we have…?”

“Sir – we have got ‘Chivas Regal’ and ‘Royal Salute’ – and – if you prefer “Single Malt” – there is ‘The Glenlivet’ and ‘Glenfiddich’…” the bar steward said.

“No. No. Tonight I will like to have some Rum…” Lieutenant “S” said.

“Rum…? Sir – you want to drink Rum…?” I asked, surprised.

“Yes – today I will drink Rum – but you don’t worry – if you don’t have Rum on board – then give me any soft drink…” he said.

“Sir – of course we will serve you Rum – but – I have always seen you drinking Whisky – and – we have the best Scotch Whiskies on board – so – I thought you will prefer a good drink of the best Whisky…” I said.

Lieutenant “S” looked at me and said:

“You are right. I normally drink Whisky. But – I am “fasting” today…” 

“Fasting…?” I asked, flabbergasted.

“Yes – I “fast” on Thursdays – it’s an old habit…” he said.

I looked at him in silence – trying to comprehend what his words.

Seeing my confusion – Lieutenant “S” said to me:

“Let me explain to you.

Some things are allowed during “fasts” – and – some things are not allowed.

For example – during “fasts” – you cannot eat grains like wheat, rice, or pulses like dal, or most vegetables – and of course – you cannot eat non-veg items like meat, chicken, eggs etc which are totally prohibited.

But – during “fasts” – you can eat “starchy” things like potatoes, sweet potato and sago, and all types of nuts – and you can have milk, curds and all milk products – and you can eat all types of fruits.

And – of course – you can have Sugar during “fasts” – that is why Rum is allowed – because Rum is made from Sugarcane…”

This was education for me.

So – I said to Lieutenant “S”:

“I see your logic.

On your “fasting” days – you don’t drink Whisky and Beer – because Whisky and Beer are made from Grain – which is not allowed for your “fasts”. 

But – you can drink Rum – because Rum is made from Sugarcane – which is allowed for your “fasts”…”

“Yes…” Lieutenant “S” said.

“That means even Brandy and Wine are allowed – since they are made from grapes – a fruit…”

“Yes. But – on my “fasting” days – I prefer Rum…” Lieutenant “S” said.

I wondered whether our ship’s wardroom bar stocked Old Monk or Hercules Rum.

With the best quality of select Duty-Free Foreign Liquor available on board our ship – I had hardly seen anyone drinking Indian Rum in the wardroom of our ship.

Sensing what was going on in my mind – Lieutenant “S” said to me:

“Hey – if you don’t have Rum – it doesn’t matter – I will have a glass of fruit juice…”

I looked at the Bar Steward – and I asked him: “Do we have Rum…?”

“Of course we have Rum, Sir – we have the best Rum in the world…” the Bar Steward said.

And – the Bar Steward proudly placed a bottle of ‘Lemon Hart’ Rum in front of Lieutenant “S”.

“Wow – ‘Lemon Hart’ – the original Navy Rum – that’s really great…” a delighted Lieutenant “S” said, caressing the bottle.

Within seconds – Lieutenant “S” was enjoying his stiff drink of “Rum and Water” – while I sipped on my “Whisky Soda”.

We sat and enjoyed our drinks – especially Lieutenant “S” – who seemed to be thoroughly enjoying his Rum.

At midnight – when it had stopped raining – I escorted Lieutenant “S” off the gangway.

Lieutenant “S” had thoroughly enjoyed his “fast”.

Lieutenant “S” had polished off more than half the bottle of ‘Lemon Hart’ Rum.

So – he was in the highest of spirits.

Of course – since he was “fasting” – Lieutenant “S” did not have any dinner.

He just had a few plates of peanuts and a few packets of potato wafers – both of which were permitted “fast food” – like Rum.


An Expert Opinion on Permitted “Fast Food”

Later on – during my leave in Pune – I checked up with my grandmother – and – I asked her whether Rum was allowed on “Fasts”.

Though she did not approve of drinking alcohol – especially during fasts – she confirmed that “theoretically” speaking – purely from the “technical” angle – Lieutenant “S” was right in saying that Rum was allowed for “Fasts”.

Sugar was allowed for “Fasts”.

And – if Rum was prepared from Sugarcane – then – at least “theoretically” – Rum was allowed for “Fasts” – as a “fast food” too.

Ethically and Morally – it may not be desirable to drink Rum during a “Fast”.

But Theoretically – purely from the “Technical” angle – Rum was a permitted “Fast Food”.



I met many unforgettable characters in the Navy – each with their own idiosyncrasies and eccentricities.

But – I can never forget Lieutenant “S” – The “Fast Food” Lieutenant.

I wonder where Lieutenant “S” is nowadays…?

I hope Lieutenant “S” reads this “memoir” – and has a hearty laugh – reminiscing those glorious “good old” Navy days – around 42 years ago – in the 1970’s…


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 please take it lightly with a sense of humor and 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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Link to my original post in my Blog Academic and Creative Writing Journal Vikram Karve:

Copyright © Vikram Karve (all rights reserved)

This Story was written by me Vikram Karve 7 years ago in the year 2012 and First Posted Online by me Vikram Karve at 10/07/2013 02:56:00 PM in my Academic and Creative Writing Journal Blog at url: and and  and  and

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