Okay, guys and gals, I am back again. As you probably know, ‘Leave’ in the Navy is called ‘Leave’, whereas short leave ashore is called ‘Liberty’. Unlike the Army, which has a lot of manpower, ships don’t have much to man all Action Posts and, at the same time, send people on Leave. From the time I joined the Navy in 1973 until I left last year, ‘Leave’ was always restricted. This is in sharp contrast to our Army brethren who not only get full Annual Leave but also Casual Leave, Study Leave etc.
Therefore, various kinds of excuses are often devised to somehow get leave or extension of leave.
I was on duty as an Officer of the Day (OOD) on board a ship in Cochin (the spellings had not yet been changed to Kochi) harbour. ‘Liberty’ is permitted for Senior Sailors until thirty minutes past midnight and for Junior Sailors until midnight. It is the job of the Duty Chief Petty Officer to report to the OOD at forty-five minutes past midnight that all Libertymen have returned aboard safely. The OOD in turns makes a report, only if there is default, to the Executive Officer (XO, the second in command). On that particular night, I was hovering around the gangway when the Duty Chief came to report to me that all Libertymen were correct except for Leading Signalman Pillai.
I was furious and being a young and enthusiastic Subaltern Lieutenant that I was I thought of waiting at the gangway itself so that I could give Pillai a good dressing down as soon as he’d step on board. Fifteen minutes went by and there was no sign of Pillai getting back, drunk or otherwise. I had already built up to the harangue that I would give him. Another fifteen minutes went by and now steam had already started coming out of my ears. Still no sign of the errant boy.
It was getting late; but I reckoned if I had waited this long, I might as well wait a little longer to participate actively in the fireworks on his arrival.
At about 1:40 AM when I had tough time in keeping awake, the gangway phone rang (there were no cell phones during those days). The quartermaster picked up the receiver, listened for a while, nodded his head, and then handed the receiver to me.
There was a feminine voice at the other end whose opening query was to ask me if I was the Odd Man. Calmly I confirmed that I was the OOD. Next she wanted to know if Pillai was from my ship. I expected the worst; what if Pillai had met with an accident? She said I and the ship should be proud of Pillai. Once again I confirmed to her that yes indeed we were and he was to get his just reward (at least seven days of No. 11 punishment, that is, extra work and drill for an hour each in the morning and evening; but that I didn’t tell her).
Next she enquired if Pillai was ever let off from the ship without completing his assigned task. I confirmed to her that such an eventuality never took place. Now, she switched to her sexiest tone and said that if I was so proud of Pillai, then how was it that I wanted him to return on board without completing his task….with her?
The Navy trains you well but nothing in my naval training had prepared me well to answer that query.
|Pic courtesy: Stinkbrown.org|
I believe one of my superiors on another ship did well to answer a similar query. A telegram was received on board, “Request extension ten days; wife not satisfied.” This officer had the good humour to send response, “Extension granted until wife satisfied.”
Another telegram received on board for a sailor read: “Mother serious; come home immediately for Diwali.”
Then there is this one that was told to me:
A sailor returned late from Liberty and was produced in front of the OOD as a defaulter. The OOD asked him to tell what went wrong. The sailor explained that he had gone home only to find that his wife was having a bath.
“So?” boomed the OOD.
“So, sir, I opened the door a little and saw her” replied the sailor.
“And naturally you got aroused. But that shouldn’t have taken you all of six hours” blasted the OOD again.
And the sailor replied, “That’s correct Sir, but, it took me that much time to dry my uniform.”
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