I know I will be castigated and made to walk the plank for the title! Fact is that the term ‘rude naval officer’ is an oxymoron, an anomaly. The officer may hurl the choicest expletives and epithets in the work environment or at a stag party of batch mates but in a social environment, he is an epitome of dignity and grace – the quintessential gentleman. As a matter of fact, most naval officers can put the knights to shame in matters of chivalry and even compete victoriously with the ‘nazakat’ of Lucknavi nawabs. So it was rather surprising when we – self and wife – did happen to run into a rude naval officer.
Once upon a time, in the bygone decade of 90s, yours truly was posted to Mumbai. We were staying in the Officer’s transit accommodation pending allotment of a house. My wife was in the family way – in her last trimester. I was posted onboard a ship which sailed frequently but then, this was not a bother since we were staying in the cocooned safety of naval environment. The naval community is close knit and there is never a dearth of assistance.
Meticulous planning is the hallmark of a naval officer! So I had studied the delivery date given by the Gynecologist and planned my annual leave so as to optimize my home stay post baby’s arrival. Any layman would immediately point out the flaw in my ‘meticulous’ planning – it was based on the assumption that my wife delivers the baby on the exact date predicted by the Gynecologist. So, my wife’s going into labour coincided with my ship being at sea!
The wise and the old amongst us may recall a world sans mobiles. In the early 90s, there were these ubiquitous black telephone instruments which were highly temperamental. Unable to get in touch with any friend, she went down the mess parking area looking for someone to give her lift to Asvini, the naval hospital. She found a young naval officer standing next to a car and requested him for a drop to the hospital which is less than a kilometer away. Ordinarily, such request would have elicited a response marked with alacrity and concern. But horror of horrors, the officer actually demurred. He seemed reluctant and tried to stall the trip. He even suggested that at times the labour pains are false and hence there is no urgency to go to the hospital. After a bit of politeness and time, my wife’s patience was running thin and she demanded that she be dropped to the hospital immediately. The officer reluctantly went over to the driver’s seat, started the car and drove slowly to the hospital. After what seemed like an eternity and zillion jerks, they reached the hospital. My wife was whisked away to the maternity ward. We never met this officer again for a long time and so, I could not, out of politeness, express my gratitude. At the same time, we were appalled at the indifference shown by him.
About 5 years later, we were posted to Goa. We ran across this officer at a naval party. This time, the officer shed his reluctance and proactively came to meet us. After the usual small talk, he turned to my wife and said “ Ma’am , I am sorry about that day. Actually it was not my car. And I had never driven a car before in my life so I was petrified to drive one – that too with you inside”