This anecdote has been reminded by my former Engineer Officer of INS Vipul: Syed Shahid Raza. This was his comment on my post ‘Viraat Ship’s Commander Overboard!’:

“Lovely Sir. Proud to have served under you on-board Vipul. The ward room of Vipul had also similar sentiments everyday. All officers only used to think about next day 10 Km early morning jog with you always beating all of us. Also remembered how you managed to bring all of us back in time for Navy Ball after 60 day operational deployment.”

The “similar sentiments” that he is talking about is if good fortune would come their way on Vipul and I would suddenly go ‘missing‘, as I did on Viraat! Regrettably for them, it didn’t happen.

We had a forward deployment in the Gulf of Kachchh due to our North-West neighbour’s intransigence in the year 1993-94. Life was tough and more so because of the CO – that is, mine – exacting standards. It was all building up in their minds, hearts and guts.

Generally, if the Wardroom officers want to tell the CO something obliquely, they come up with occasions to drink. After a few drinks, all such talk as would show the light of the day to the CO, would be automatically condoned or charged off to that beautiful phrase: “under the influence of alcohol he said it, but otherwise, he is a very fine guy”.

Now the problem was that their CO, that is me, was off drinks. Anyone of them was ready to bell the cat but the big-cat wasn’t giving them the opportunity.

Now, it would be a heartless Captain who doesn’t sense it all building up and I was anything but heartless. So, one fine make and mend afternoon, in Okha Harbour, when they invited me to the Wardroom to have a drink (“Sir can have nimbu-paani”), I went prepared. It didn’t take considerable cajoling from them for me to accept “just one glass of beer, Sir, only to keep company”.

Amongst the biggest lies or deceptions in the world is the expression: “just one glass of beer”. It is like saying: “just have one peanut”. Hence, one thing led to the other and by about 3 PM, we were competing with Viraat (seen in the background of Vipul in the picture) for launching – not aircraft – but, us into the air. And that’s when slyly (as planned by them), the talk began: “You are a very fine CO Sir” began the XO, in the manner of a great chess player moving Queen Pawn to d4. I expected the next move (of Queen’s Gambit) to begin with a ‘but’ and sure he didn’t disappoint me, “But, Sir, you need to relax and let go a bit……I mean, you are tough all the while……Steward, please fill up Captain’s glass….thank you”.

Well, many of you have been CO’s and you know the rest of the story. They insisted that I should have lunch too with them and I agreed. They had got it off their chests and I was happy for them.

But, now, it was my turn to invite them. And I did: “Okay, guys, we have had ‘just one glass of beer together‘ and I joined you in the activity that brings you loads of fun. Now, this evening, why don’t you join me on the jetty, in games rig, in my 10 Kms evening run?”

What happened during the evening jog? Any guesses? Most of you (the young guys, that is) won’t have seen the 1948 movie Pyaar Ki Jeet (What an apt name). In this movie, there was a very popular song penned by Qamar Jalalabadi and composed by the first music duo of Hindi films: Husanlal Bhagatram. It went like this:

इक दिल के टुकड़े हज़ार हुए,
कोई यहाँ गिरा कोई वहाँ गिरा I
बहते हुए आँसू रुक न सके,
कोई यहाँ गिरा …
(For those who cheated in their minimum Hindi test:
Ik dil ke tukade hazaar huye,
Koi yahan gira koi wahan gira.
Behte huye aansu ruk na sake,
Koi yahan gira…..)

P.S. When you go on long-distance runs, a time comes when hormones called endorphins are secreted within the brain. These activate body’s opiate receptors and the overall effect is as if being intoxicated. I should have told them this scientific fact so that they need not have wasted beer to be intoxicated!

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