Happy New Year?

I have lost count of the number of times I have been on duty in my ship or establishment on the New Year Eve. Somehow, my friends – my ‘good friends’, that is – have talked me into paying the price of having them as ‘good friends’ in a manner not dissimilar to what Eklavya (of Mahabharta) had to pay having Guru Drona (or his statue) as his mentor in archery. Eklavaya, the low-caste, lost his thumb only once; whereas, yours truly, the bottom-most (gullible) caste, had lost my liberty and entertainment on several new year eves.

One such New Year Eve was to be on Himgiri, under the command of Captain R Patel (Jerry Patel) at Cochin. On this occasion, honestly speaking, not even lots were drawn. Most of the wardroom officers made yours truly people’s choice #1 and departed in the evening with great back-slapping etc with hefty promises such as: “Don’t you worry, old chap, you shall not miss out on the fun; as every-time we have a drink or dance, we shall think of you.”

A few stayed back on the ship and busied themselves in having drinks in the ante-room and then later join in the general revelry on the ships (blowing of ship’s siren and firing of Very pistols (signalling pistols giving out red, green or white flares) at the stroke of midnight, when the ship’s bell too is rung.

ship's bell

I finished taking my rounds of the ship and found that all was well in God’s world in general and on Himgiri in particular. And then I entered the Wardroom to have my dinner. One look at the would-be-revellers brought out that the mood was rather sombre. A direct enquiry from me brought out that they wanted to usher in the New Year with champagne and the wine steward had told them that there were only two bottles of good French champagne Moet (Brut Imperial) but these had been reserved for the Captain.

I asked for the Wine Steward and told him that the Regs Navy made me, the Officer of the Day (OOD), as Captain for the time being and that I was going to release for the thirsty souls what had been reserved for me as Captain. The Wine Steward saluted and used the wonderful naval expression that has won many a heart the world over: “Aye aye, Sir”. Anon, two of the best of the bubblies stood before me, bowing to my authority as the OOD.

It would take time to chill these and hence in the meantime, enjoying my power to bring cheer in their otherwise d and d lives, I invited the caboodle in the ante-room to Captain’s cabin. The stewards were given the surprise-test-of-professional-abilities to produce the best for the best in the world; that is, the jing-bang from the wardroom.

Ladies and gentlemen, this old chap called Albert Einstein, like many Germans, knew exactly what he was talking about when he came up with the Theory of Relativity of Time. It appeared to us that in the time it takes one to read E=mc2, several bottles of liquor flowed down the Ganges in Captain’s cabin and soon I, and not poor Albert E, was being nominated for the Nobel Prize.

Soon, when it came to ringing out the old year and ringing in the new year on the ship that I had charge of as Captain-for-the-time-being, it appeared to me that a fair amount of ringing had already been done in the Captain’s cabin itself.

After a brief ceremony on the helo-deck, wherein we witnessed sounding of siren, ringing the ship’s bell and firing of Very pistols; when the j-b returned to Captain’s cabin to further usher in the New Year, yours truly had sobered down quite a bit and wanted it to end abruptly like Dhoni’s test career. However, now that I had aroused a sleeping giant (the last such “arousing of the sleeping giant”, if you recall, was on 7th Dec 1941 with Admiral Yamamoto’s fighters wreaking havoc on Pearl Harbour with the war-cry of “Tora! Tora! Tora!”), it was well-nigh impossible to let them sleep until they had completely ransacked the Captain’s bar. It was at around 1:30 AM, when my constant endeavour to restore ‘Good Order and Naval Discipline’ had some effect and the wild lot departed, loudly singing, “Ravi’s a jolly good fellow….so say all of us”.


It took me another one hour to get the Captain’s cabin ship-shape and that’s about the time the party from US Club landed on board led by Captain Jerry Patel. As I saw him off to his cabin, Jerry asked me to have a drink with him to ‘usher in the new year properly‘. I declined saying that it wasn’t proper for me to drink on duty!

I was quite sure, in the night, that I had removed from his cabin the last traces of a drunken soiree or mayhem. But, next day, after breakfast, frantic announcements for me to report to Captain’s cabin told me something was amiss.

I reported there breathlessly and there was our beloved CO staring at an object on his table in a manner similar to the police looking at the dead body in  James Hadley Chase novels. It turned out to be CO’s Visitors Book and there, et tu Brutus, my good friends, in their stupor had all signed one by one with melodramatic messages of “Happy New Year, Sir”, “You and your OOD are the bestest guys this side of Suez” etc.

It is the ruddy Visitors Book that did me in.

I hate New Year; Goddamn Happy New Year!

P.S. Later in (what-was-left-of) the night, I had to send the Fire and DC Party to extinguish a slow smouldering harmless fire in a sulphur dump next to our commercial berth; this fire being caused by the firing of Very pistols to – you guessed it right – usher in the New Year properly.

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