Humor in Uniform – Rum “Bum” and Boot-Licking

During my Navy Days – whenever I reported to a new ship or establishment for duty – most bosses would give me the quintessential Navy Sermon.

This typical “motivational” sermon would commence with a “moral lecture” on hard-work and sincerity – devotion to duty – “Service Before Self” – Chetwode Credo – etc etc etc.

Then – my bosses would explain my job to me.

And – a few kindhearted bosses would ask if there was anything they could do for me.

But once – I came across a crazy boss whose first words to me were:

“I want your liquor card…”

Yes – the moment I was introduced to my Boss on reporting for duty in my new appointment – instead of giving me the customary “motivational lecture” – my Boss – a Commodore – said: “I want your liquor card…”

Yes – Dear Reader – his first words he said to me were:

“I want your liquor card…”

I was stunned – dumbstruck…

Here is the full story.

Read on…


Unforgettable Memories of my Wonderful Navy Days

A Spoof By Vikram Karve


In the colonial days of the British Raj – a number of privileges, benefits and concessions were granted to the military.

After independence – most of these military privileges and benefits continued – but over the years – these exclusive military privileges have been extended to civilians as well.

Take the example of CSD Canteens – which provide concessional goods to military personnel and veterans.

When conceived – the CSD Facility was exclusively meant for military personnel.

Slowly – over the years – this CSD facility has been extended to all Civilian Employees working in various defence ministry offices and departments and public sector undertakings – though these civilian employees have a comfortable secure life without the hardships and regimentation suffered by the soldier.

Now – these civilian employees will enjoy CSD facilities even after retirement.

Civilian Employees are able to obtain maximum benefit because they have unions and associations who fight for their rights and do collective bargaining.

Sadly – soldiers are not allowed to form unions/associations – and hence – they have no one to fight for their rights – so they lose out vis-à-vis their civilian counterparts.

Coming back to CSD Canteens – only one military concession has not yet been extended to civilians – the CSD Liquor Quota.

Yes – “CSD Liquor Quota” remains the “last bastion” of military privileges.

However – though civilians are not entitled CSD Liquor Quota (de jure) – the ground reality is that most civilians enjoy this liquor privilege – de facto

Here is a hilarious “memoir” from my wonderful navy days that illustrates my point…

Rum “Bum” and Boot-Licking – A Fictional Spoof by Vikram Karve


The catchphrase “Rum Bum Lash Navy” is no longer relevant – in fact – this is a thing of the distant past.

“Bum” was outlawed centuries ago.

In due course – the “Lash” was also abolished.

Even “Rum” was abolished in the Royal Navy on 31 July 1970 – the memorable last day when Rum Rations were served to sailors – and this day was observed as  “Black Tot Day”

Thankfully – the only saving grace is the Duty-Free Liquor you get on Navy Ships – and concessional “Fauji” Liquor you get ashore in CSD canteens.

Of course – unlike in the “Royal Navy” of yesteryear – when sailors were issued rum rations free of cost as a part of their perks – nowadays – you have to pay from your own pocket for your booze – and worse – you get a limited “Quota” of this “Fauji” CSD Liquor – depending on your rank.

The higher your rank – the more booze you can drink (an incentive for promotion).

And – for availing of this “Fauji” Liquor Quota – you have to get a CSD Liquor Card.

So – all that remains of the “Rum Bum Lash” Navy is the “Rum”

However – nowadays – Rum is not free – but you get “Military Rum” at concessional rates.

And though the Navy has outlawed “Bum” – there still remain the “Bum Jobs” plenty of which you have to do in the Navy.

BUM (“Bum Jobs”)

After slogging for more than 5 years as an Officer in the Navy – afloat and ashore – I was “selected” to undergo the 2 year M. Tech. course at IIT Delhi (Indian Institute of Technology, New Delhi)

On completion of my post graduation (M.Tech.) – I was posted to the military “Babudom” in Delhi – what we in the Navy jokingly referred to as the landlocked “Northern Naval Command”.

Though ostensibly it was an R&D billet (in consonance with my recently acquired M.Tech. qualification) – in actual fact – I was a pen-pusher – a “Babu” in Uniform.

I clearly remember the first day I reported to my new job after completing my M. Tech. at IIT Delhi (and my  INITIATION  – described in an earlier post in my blog) .

I sat in front of the Director (a Commodore).

Along with me sat a Commander who had also reported on the same day.

I was waiting for the usual “motivational mumbo jumbo” – the customary Navy Sermon on sincerity and hard-work, the “service before self” motto – or, maybe – an “inspiring” moral lecture on devotion to duty, diligence and the “Chetwode Credo”.

Instead – the first sentence the Commodore said to us was:

“Have you made your liquor cards…?”

“No, Sir…” the Commander said, “I have just come to Delhi last week.”

“You better go to the CSD canteen right now and get your liquor card made fast…” the Commodore told the Commander.

“Aye Aye, Sir…” the Commander said.

Then the Commodore looked at me – and he said to me:

“You also do the same thing and get your liquor card made fast. It is very important to have a liquor card – especially here in New Delhi.”

I wondered why the Commodore was interested in the fact whether we had liquor cards or not.

Maybe in New Delhi – as compared to ships – the work here sitting in office was so tough – that we would require a few drinks in the evening to de-stress and unwind.

But – the next sentence of the Commodore flummoxed me completely.

The Commodore said to both of us:

I want your liquor cards.

So – the moment you get your liquor cards – make sure you give your liquor cards to me…”

I looked at the Commodore – quite perplexed – wondering why he was so interested in our liquor cards.

I was about to ask the Commodore why he wanted my liquor card – when suddenly – his phone rang – he was wanted by the Admiral – so he left his office.

Soon – our duties were allocated.

Surprisingly – I had been given an independent assignment – though I was an Assistant Director – whereas the Commander was asked to look after day-to-day office administration – euphemistically called “coordination” – though he was a Deputy Director.

Those days – around 39 years ago – in the early 1980’s – in the “Uniformed Babudom” of the “Northern Naval Command” – the Head of a Directorate was a Captain or Commodore – who was called Director.

Commanders were Deputy Directors (DD) – and Lieutenant Commanders/Lieutenants were Assistant Directors (AD).

Sometimes – there was an additional Captain – and he was called Joint Director (JD).

However – we are a feudal society – obsessed with rank and status.

The uniformed bureaucracy is in constant “competition” with the civilian bureaucracy for “one-upmanship” game – and these designations were suitably “upgraded” after various cadre reviews – and new designations like “Principal Director” were created.

The whole thing is quite confusing – and whether all this has achieved anything or improved working efficiency – I really do not know.

Hey – I have digressed.

Coming back to our story – probably the Commander was rankled by this “unjust” allocation of duties – so he protested and he said to the Coomodore:

“Sir – I am senior – but I have been given “Coordination” which should be done by an Assistant Director.”

The Commodore looked at me – and he said to me:

“Okay – you look after “Coordination” in addition to your duties.”

This was going to be quite a heavy burden – my regular duties plus “coordination”

So – I asked the Commodore:

“Sir – do you want me to look after “Coordination” in addition to my duties…?”

“Yes – you will do both the jobs…” the Commodore said.

The Commander had been hoping to get my job.

But now – it appeared that he had been rendered jobless.

So – looking confused – the Commander asked the Commodore:

“Sir – what should I do…?”

“I have thought of something new for you – “Special Projects” – you will be Deputy Director (Special Projects) – DD (Special Projects)…” the Commodore said.

The Commander seemed to be happy about his new “prestigious” designation.

It was only after a few days that the Commander realized that “Special Projects” was a euphemism for “Bum Jobs”.

I will not go into the details of these “Bum Jobs” – because you may not believe me – but it will suffice to say that – the Commander was reduced to being the full-time “lackey” of the Commodore.

I marvelled at the fast thinking, quick-wittedness and ingenuity of the Commodore.

In a flash of a moment – he had killed two birds with one stone.

Firstly – he had satisfied the Commander’s “grievance” by giving him a high-sounding designation.

And – secondly – he had also created a glorified batman (“sahayak”) for himself.

(I doubt whether any Army Officer can boast of a “sahayak” of the rank of “Lieutenant Colonel”…)

Once the adroit Commodore observed the keenness of the eager-beaver Commander to please the Commodore – he started using the Commander for all his personal work.

We felt surprised that the Commander seemed quite happy at being the Commodore’s flunky.

Once – in our presence – when the Commander’s course-mate asked him that if he did not feel humiliated doing such demeaning work – the Commander replied:

“What can I do…?

It is all for a good ACR (Annual Confidential Report).

I know this Commodore well – if you unquestioningly do whatever he tells you to do – then he gives you an excellent ACR – otherwise he can be quite stingy.

I have served with him before – and let me tell you one thing – it is only because of him that I am a Commander today.

If it were not for the thumping ACR’s that he gave me – I would never have become a Commander…”

I was bewildered to hear the Commander speak in this manner.

(This story happened many years before the AVS 2006 Cadre Review when Commander was made a time-scale promotion – in those days – 39 years ago – in the early 1980’s – Commander was a select rank).

The Commander’s last statement was true.

He should have never become a Commander.

It seemed that  “The Peter Principle”  had not worked in his case – and he had been promoted well beyond his level of competence.

By the way – his bootlicking ways continued to pay him rich dividends – and he managed to rise to even higher ranks.


One day the “Bootlicker” Commander called me to his office – and he asked me:

“Why haven’t you given your liquor card to the Commodore…?”

I did not reply.

There was no way I was going to surrender my liquor card – Military Rum was my birthright – and my liquor card was my lifeline to happiness and joy.

Those were my glorious drinking days – my halcyon navy days when drinking and eating were my main epicurean passions.

Yes – those days – I was such a passionate drinker that I would have gladly handed over my identity card rather than my liquor card…!!!

I tried to avoid answering – but the Commander said:

“You can give your liquor card to me – now I am handling all affairs of the Commodore.”

“Sir – I cannot give you my liquor card…” I said firmly.

“But – the Commodore desires that you give him your liquor card…” the Commander persisted.

“Then – let him desire…” I said.

“What do you mean by that…?” the Commander said angrily.

“Sir – I am a heavy drinker – and I require my full monthly liquor quota – I cannot spare even a single peg of rum – leave alone a bottle…” I said.

“I will have to report this to the Commodore…” he threatened.

“Sir – please tell me – why does the Commodore want our liquor cards…? Is the Commodore “alcohol-dependent” or something…? Is the Commodore an alcoholic…?” I asked.

“Alcoholic…? The Commodore is a teetotaller – he does not touch alcohol…” the Commander said.

“If the Commodore is a teetotaller – why does he want my liquor card…?” I asked.

“Why don’t you try to understand…? This is Delhi. We have to keep the civilian bureaucracy (“Babus”) happy…” the Commander said.

“I don’t understand…” I said.

“Once in a while – we have to give a bottle or two of rum or whiskey to the “Babus” – so that they clear our files quickly…” the Commander said.

“But – isn’t it their job to clear files quickly…?” I asked.

The Commander gave me a long lecture:

“Yes – but the civilian “Babus” at the ministry can always raise queries, delay, stonewall – and hold up files.

And – after all – the ACR of our boss depends on how fast he can get proposals cleared by the ministry.

That is why our Commodore is doing so well – he has got a fantastic reputation that he can get anything sanctioned fast – he can get approvals cleared quickly – whereas his counterparts keep going round in circles.

With so many Commodores sweating it out for promotion – it is very stiff competition to become an Admiral – and our boss surely wants to be the first in his batch to become an Admiral.

So what is the harm in a bit of “mamool” – a rum bottle here or there – to “lubricate” the system – like “speed money” in other offices – here we have “speed booze” – to speed up things.

Out here in Delhi – if you keep the “Babus” happy – then you will do well in your career.

We must to be loyal to our Commodore – if he does well – then he will be happy – and he will give everyone good ACRs – and we will all do well too…”

I heard his long sermon – and then – I said to the Commander:

“Sir – Military Quota Liquor is not meant for Civilians.

It is written on each and every bottle that this CSD Military Liquor is strictly meant for consumption of Defence Personnel Only….”

On hearing this – the Commander said angrily to me:

“You shut up…!!!

Don’t think you are too damn smart.

I know all this.

If you want to be dogmatic and not cooperate – I will tell the Commodore about your obstinate behaviour.

But – let me tell you that – your “rigid attitude” will not help you in your Navy Career…”

Thereafter – no one asked me for my liquor card.

But – from time to time – the Commodore used to comment to me that “drinking was not good for health”.

Meanwhile – I felt ashamed whenever I saw the Bootlicker Commander toadying in an obsequious manner before minor civilian “Babus”– sometimes giving them rum bottles or whiskey bottles from his CSD liquor quota – ostensibly to “get the work done”.

It hurt me to see how unbridled ambition had reduced this senior officer into a disgusting “ass-kisser” and he seemed to have lost all self-respect.

One day the Bootlicker Commander came to my office – and he asked me:

“Have you got your liquor card with you…?”

“Sir – I told you that I cannot give my liquor card to get booze for those bloody “Babus”. I will not give you my liquor card…” I began to protest.

“No. No. I don’t want your liquor card. I want two bottles of whisky – one bottle of rum – and some bottles of beer – I want this booze for myself…” the Commander said.

“For yourself…? You want liquor for yourself, Sir…?” I said, taken aback.

“Yes. I want the liquor for myself. I am having a party at home…” he said.

“Sir – if you want the booze for yourself – why don’t you take it on your own liquor card…?” I asked.

The Commander said to me:

“My liquor card is with the Commodore – and the monthly liquor quota on my liquor card has already been exhausted by the Commodore by distributing liquor bottles here and there.

So – I was wondering if you could spare a few bottles for me from your liquor quota…”

I did not know whether I should laugh or cry.

I felt a sense of pity looking at the Commander – it was sad that sycophancy and “boot-licking” had reduced him to this pitiable state.

So – I said to the Bootlicker Commander:

“Sure, Sir – of course I can spare a few bottles for you from my quota.

I will go to the CSD Canteen right now – and I will get you whatever booze you want….”

The Commander’s lips smiled at me – but his eyes said it all.


Copyright © Vikram Karve
1. If you share this post, please give due credit to the author Vikram Karve
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© 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.

Copyright Notice:

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)

Link to my original post in my Blog Academic and Creative Writing Journal Vikram Karve:

This post is an abridged updated extract of my story THE CRAZY COMMODORE – Part 3 : THE BOOTLICKER COMMANDER AND RUM RAJ earlier posted in my Academic and Creative Writing Journal Blog on 25 November 2013 Posted by me Vikram Karve in this blog at 11/25/2013 12:51:00 PM at url: and later reposted at urls: and and and and etc

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