Travel Memoirs : On a Slippery Slope





I just saw a message on our Navy Veterans Group that The President’s Colour is being awarded to INS Valsura on 25 March 2022

INS Valsura is my professional alma mater.

I completed my specialisation training at INS Valsura in the mid-1970’s and a few years later I did a stint on the Instructional Staff (Faculty)

This story pertains to my tenure in INS Valsura as an Instructor (Faculty).




This story happened 42 years ago – in the year 1980.

Today – “Fauji” (Military) Officers are a pampered lot.

All Defence Officers travel by Air from the day they are commissioned into the Armed Forces.

But – in those “good old days” – Air Travel was a luxury permitted only for senior officers above the rank of Colonel/Captain/Group Captain – a rank very few achieved – and that too after slogging in cut-throat competition for around 25 years.

So – most Defence Officers travelled by the magnificent Indian Railways – and long train journeys were an essential part of military life – while travelling on duty and while going home on leave – and we still remember many of those memorable train journeys.

Nowadays – since Defence Officers and their families mostly travel by air – they miss out on the romance of train journeys.

But – in those “good old days” – The Indian Railways were an integral part of the romance of military life.

Here is the story of a memorable and unforgettable train journey I enjoyed during my Navy days.



An Unforgettable Train Journey

Story by Vikram Karve





You may have heard of the WAVY NAVY – the RNVR (Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve) and the RINVR (Royal Indian Naval Volunteer Reserve) – whose officers wore “wavy” rank stripes – while Royal Navy (RN) Officers wore “straight” rank stripes.

You may have also heard the witty quote by a famous Second World War “Wavy Navy” Officer of the RNVR:

…“the difference between the “Straight Navy” (RN) and “Wavy-Navy” (RNVR) is that  the “Straight Navy” RN Officers look after the Navy in peacetime  while the “Wavy-Navy” RNVR Officers do the fighting in War…”

He was hinting that Regular (RN) Officers “fight” in “peacetime” – whereas Reservists (RNVR) fight the actual war.

This highlighted the difference between “peacetime soldiering” mainly done by Regular Officers – and “warfighting” mainly done by the Reservists – especially in the Second World War.

So – now you have heard of the WAVY NAVY.

But – have you heard of the OILY NAVY…?

Well – I certainly hadn’t heard of the “Oily Navy” – till this rather comical incident happened to me.

So Dear Reader – let me delve into my “Humour in Uniform Archives” and narrate to you – once more – this hilarious story of “peacetime soldiering”



The best thing that happened to me in the Navy were the three glorious years I spent serving on ships based in Mumbai (then called Bombay) in the 1970’s – around 45 years ago.


(Hence – in this story – for Mumbai – I shall use the old name “Bombay” – which was the name of Mumbai when this story happened)


Both my ships were Frigates – frontline warships of the Western Fleet – the “sword-arm” of the Navy – and both ships were based at Bombay.

We sailed for a few days – sometimes visiting various ports – but for the remaining days we were tied alongside in Bombay Dockyard which is in the heart of the city.

I loved sailing.

But more than that – I loved spending time in a harbour like Bombay – which was most exciting as the vibrant metropolis had so much to offer for young bachelors like me with a zest for life.

It was the happiest time of my life.

My appointments on these two ships based at Bombay was the best thing that happened to me in the Navy.

The worst thing that happened to me in the Navy was my unexpected to transfer to Jamnagar – which put an end to my happy time in Bombay.

I was looking forward to an appointment to a shore billet in Bombay – which would enable me to continue to enjoy the life of bliss in “maximum city” to the fullest.

In fact – a few months earlier – I had been informally told by a Senior Naval Officer that I would be appointed in the Naval Dockyard at Bombay – as was the norm for young Technical Officers after appointments at sea.

But – someone pulled strings in Delhi – and – I was on my way to Jamnagar.

After a fantastic time in Bombay – the desolate Naval Base at Jamnagar was most disappointing – especially for a young bachelor like me who had a zest for life.

My only aim was to get out of that dreary place as fast as possible.

That is why – when the first opportunity came – a temporary duty to Bombay – I jumped at the opportunity.

And – on my journey from Jamnagar to Bombay – happened this “Oily Tale” which put me on a “Slippery Slope”







Time: 1000 Hours (10 AM)

Date: Sunday 26 October 1980

Place: Navy Base (INS Valsura) Jamnagar


I was all set to proceed on Temporary Duty (Ty Duty) to Bombay.


(Mumbai was known as Bombay then and I shall refer to Mumbai as Bombay hereinafter – since that was the name of the city when this story happened – though I personally prefer the name Mumbai).


The 3-tonner truck arrived at my cabin in the Wardroom (Officers Mess) to pick me up.

“Why have they sent a bloody 3-tonner for an officer…? I am going on duty. I thought they would send me a staff car or jeep…” I asked the driver.

“Sir – both staff cars are out – one is with CO who will be going to town with his wife for shopping and lunch – the other staff car has been taken by the Commodore who has come from Delhi – he left early in the morning with his family for pilgrimage to Dwarka and Okha – and the XO has taken the jeep to town – he has gone to see a movie with his family…” the driver said.

I seethed at the feudal culture still prevalent in the services where senior officers treated government resources as if they were their own personal fiefdom.

As an officer proceeding on duty – I had the first claim on a staff car – but I would have to ride in a truck since senior officers had commandeered the cars for their personal enjoyment.

I took my small bag – and I got in beside the driver.

Instead of proceeding to the main gate – the driver diverted the vehicle to the Married Officers Accommodation.

Lieutenant Commander “X” (a “Schoolie” Education Officer) was proceeding on leave to Madras (now called Chennai) with his family – and he was taking a lift in the transport meant for me.

I got down – let “X” sit with his wife and small daug
hter in front with the driver – and I sat at the rear – in the 3-tonner.

At the guard room – there were a few sailors and their families, proceeding on leave – and some “liberty-men” – waiting to take a lift in the 3-tonner – to “Teen-Batti” – near the old metre-gauge Jamnagar Railway Station.


In those good old “metre-gauge” days – there were only two trains from Jamnagar:

  1. The Saurashtra Mail – which originated at Okha – and passed through Jamnagar at 11 AM (1100 Hrs)


  1. The Saurashtra Express – which originated at Porbandar – and passed through Jamnagar at 5 PM (1700 Hrs)


The morning Saurashtra Mail was convenient for those going towards Bombay and the south.

The evening Saurashtra Express was ideal for those going towards Delhi and “up-north” in the through slip coaches via Viramgam and Mehsana – which were later attached to the connecting metre-gauge Ahmedabad Delhi Mail.

Of course – both trains had connecting broad gauge trains of the same names at Viramgam to take you towards Bombay.


At the guard room – I reported to the Officer of the Day (OOD).

The OOD made an entry in the ship’s log book that I was leaving “ship” – and proceeding on Temporary Duty.

Lieutenant Commander “X” had also followed me into the OOD office to make an entry regarding his proceeding on Annual Leave.

As I started to walk out – the OOD said to me:

“Wait – you have to carry some items to Bombay…”

I turned and looked at the OOD.

“Items…?” I asked.

“Yes, you have to carry three oil tins…” the OOD said.

“Oil tins…?” I asked.

“Yes – you have to carry 3 oil tins – and deliver them to these addresses…” the OOD said.

He gave me a chit with the names of 3 Commodores – their designation and phone numbers – and their home addresses in NOFRA Bombay – written below each name.


Now – in those good old days – as far as Naval Officers were concerned – Jamnagar was famous for five things:

  1. The Unique Colourful Bandhani (tie and dye) Sarees
  2. Soft Lohi Blankets-cum-shawls from Digjam Mills
  3. White Uniform Buckskin Shoes made to order by a cobbler in the heart of old Jamnagarcity (nowadays, buckskin shoes are not permitted, I think)
  4. Luscious Rasgullas, Sweets and lip-smacking Farsan from Shikhand Samrat and inimitable Dry Fruit Sweets and Kachori from HJ Vyas near Mandvi Tower.

And – last but not the least:

  1. Groundnut Oil (because groundnut refined cooking oil was much cheaper in Saurashtra than in Bombay)


I would have had no problems if someone had requested me to carry the other items like Sarees or Rasgullas.

But there was no way I was going to carry three huge cumbersome 16 Kg tins of groundnut oil.

I came out of the OOD office.

I saw some Duty Sailors loading three large 16 Kg groundnut oil tins into the 3 tonner.

The OOD had also come out of his office and was watching the proceedings.

I looked at the OOD and said to him:

“Sorry – I can’t take these oil tins with me.

Please ask the sailors to unload them from the truck…”


The OOD looked at me in disbelief and said to me:


You are going on Ty Duty to Bombay – aren’t you…?”


“Sir – I am not going on Ty Duty to deliver those bloody oil tins – the purpose of my Ty Duty is something else…” I said.

“Don’t act smart. The Commanding Officer (CO) desires that you have to carry these 3 oil tins and deliver them to the 3 Commodores whose names are written in the chit I gave you…” the OOD said.

I tried to reason with the OOD and I said to him:

“Sir – please try to understand.

I just have one small bag.

In Bombay – a Lieutenant does not get transport – so I intend taking Bus No. 123 from Bombay Central to RC Church and walk down to Command Mess.

I can’t lug these three huge oil tins around – and I don’t intend hiring porters just to carry these bloody oil tins.

And Sir – who is going to carry these bulky oil tins from metre-gauge to broad gauge at Viramgam…?”

After saying this – I looked at the OOD.

The OOD seemed surprised by my refusal to carry the oil tins.

He looked at me firmly before speaking.


“Look here – I told you once – you don’t try to act smart – the CO has directed that you carry these oil tins. All officers going to Bombay on Ty Duty carry oil tins…” the OOD said.

“Well – I am not going to carry these bloody oil tins for sure. And now – I have to go – otherwise – I will miss my train…” I said.

“You don’t try to take “panga” – I told you that the CO has ordered you to carry these oil tins…” the OOD said.

“Then you can tell him that I am not going to carry these bloody oil tins…” I said firmly.

“If you act funny and disobey orders – they will transfer you out from this place…” the OOD warned me.

This was music to my ears.

So – I said to the OOD:

“I will be the happiest person if they transfer me out of this godforsaken place…”

I said these words with a smile.

When threatened with transfer – this was my trump card.


Lieutenant Commander “X” was hearing the argument between me and the OOD.

“X” looked at me and said to me in a patronizing manner:

“Why are you making such a big issue out of this…?

Everyone going on Ty Duty takes some items that senior officers want delivered.”


Bolstered by the support from “X” – who was a Lieutenant Commander – the OOD said to me:

“You will bloody well have to obey the orders of the CO.

Do you understand…?”


I had my doubts whether the CO had actually ordered me to carry the oil tins to Bombay – so I said to the OOD:

“Why didn’t the CO tell me personally about the oil tins…?

I think you are bluffing.”


“Are you accusing me of telling lies…?” the OOD said getting angry.

“I didn’t say that…” I said.

“You will not leave the base unless you take those oil tins – do you understand…?” the OOD shouted at me.

“Listen, Sir – I told you very clearly that I am not taking those oil tins with me. I am getting late and I will miss my train. If you detain me any further – I will not proceed on Ty Duty…” I said firmly.

As I said earlier – I thought that the OOD was bluffing when he said that the CO had ordered me to carry the oil tins.

But it seemed that the CO had indeed done so – because on hearing my refusal – the OOD went all ber
serk – he picked up the phone, dialled furiously – and then – he started talking excitedly – about my refusal to carry the oil tins.

I wondered who the OOD was talking to on the phone – but the way he was saying “yes sir, yes sir” in an animated manner – it was either the CO – or someone senior at the other end of the phone line.

Soon – I heard the OOD mention the name of Lieutenant Commander “X”.

And then – the OOD gave the phone to Lieutenant Commander “X”.

Now – it was Lieutenant Commander “X” saying “yes sir, yes sir” on the phone.

The upshot of the conversation was that now – instead of me – Lieutenant Commander “X” would carry the oil tins to Mumbai.

On reaching Mumbai – Lieutenant Commander “X” would dutifully deliver the 3 oil tins to the 3 Commodores in Bombay – and then – he would catch the Dadar – Madras Express in the afternoon – and proceed to Madras (Chennai) to enjoy his Annual Leave.




Time: 1200 Hours (12 noon)

Day: Sunday 26 October 1980

Place: Travelling on board the Okha Viramgam (metre gauge) Saurashtra Mail just departed from Jamnagar Railway Station


I sat in the old style first class compartment (which you see in ancient black and white Hindi movies) in the metre-gauge train which ran from Okha to Viramgam.

The berths were fore-and-aft – the compartment was bright, airy and roomy due to the three large windows on each side alongside the lower berths.

The train had left Jamnagar at 1130 (11:30 AM) and would reach Viramgam at 19:30 (7:30 PM) – covering a distance of roughly 300 kilometers in 8 hours – so you can imagine the slow speed of the train as it chugged along unhurriedly pulled by an archaic steam engine belching smoke and soot as it puffed along.

It was a most boring journey – with hardly any big railway stations – except Rajkot – and for a Foodie like me – the only thing available was various kinds of fried “bhajji” (pakoras).

But I had come well stocked – a bottle of XXX Hercules Rum – my favourite set of plastic tumblers which accompanied me on my journeys – a “surahi” of drinking water (acquired at Jamnagar station and topped up with cool water from the water cooler) – and some “small eats” like boiled eggs, aloo parathas and potato fingers (packed from the Officers Mess).

My co-passengers in the compartment were the “schoolie” Lieutenant Commander “X” – his wife – and their small 3 year old daughter – and – of course – the 3 big Oil Tins – placed strategically at a safe place near the bathroom door – and guarded zealously by Lieutenant Commander “X” – who was keeping an “eagle-eye” on the Oil Tins.

The moment the train started from Jamnagar – I opened the bottle of my favourite “XXX Hercules Rum” – and I poured myself a drink of Rum and Water (Rum-Pani).

In those good old days – passengers were permitted to drink alcohol and smoke cigarettes in first class compartments – provided other passengers did not object.

There was no question of the “schoolie” Lieutenant Commander “X” objecting – since I had poured him a drink too – though his wife was giving me dirty looks – as if I were “spoiling” her husband.

At the first stop – a small station called Hapa – the Train Conductor (TC) appeared – and he asked us if we wanted to order lunch at Rajkot.

His eyes lit up the moment he saw the bottle of Rum.

I offered him a drink.

He pulled out a large stainless steel glass from his bag – and I poured in a generous tot of Rum.

The TC did not add water to the neat Rum – but to my utter surprise – he drank the neat Rum in one gulp – straight “down the hatch”.

Imbibing “spirits” seemed to have raised his “morale”.

“Sir – you don’t worry…” the Train Conductor said, “the Railway Refreshment Room Food in Rajkot is not that good – I will get chicken dishes for you from “Sher-e-Punjab” Restaurant – so you can enjoy your drinks – the train stops for 30 minutes – and the hotel is just outside the station.”

It was great to see the sense of camaraderie” between the Railways and Defence Services – and – this warmed the cockles of my heart.

Three hours later – at around 3 o’clock – with half a bottle of Rum and generous amounts of Tandoori Chicken, Butter Chicken and Rotis inside me – I was satiated enough for my afternoon siesta – and the moment I hit the bunk – I fell into deep sleep.

I woke up around 6 o’clock in the evening – and had a cup of refreshing masala tea – at railway station called Surendranagar Junction – where the train had halted for a long time for a crossing.

The moment that train started – I had a shower in the spacious old-style bathroom of the first class compartment – and I was ready for the evening action – commencing with a “sundowner”.

It was still one hour to go for Viramgam – there was enough time for a drink or two.

The “Schoolie” Lieutenant Commander X” and his wife were sitting on the opposite berth with their daughter – and all of them were looking utterly bored.

The Lieutenant Commander’s eyes lit up the moment he saw me taking out the Rum bottle – but his wife gave him a stern look – and he refused my offer of a drink.

I noticed that the Lieutenant Commander’s Wife had been giving me angry looks throughout the journey.

Maybe – it was because I had made her husband drink in the afternoon.

Or – maybe – it was because she was annoyed that her husband was saddled with the three bulky oil tins – thanks to my refusal to carry them.

I think it some frustration was building up inside her – and she couldn’t hold it any longer – so – she said to me:

“We were thinking of visiting my relatives in Matunga and then catching the Madras Express in the afternoon at Dadar.

And now – we have to go all the way to Colaba to deliver these oil tins.

Our full morning will be wasted.

It is all because of you….”

After saying this – she gave me an angry look.


“All because of me…?” I protested, looking at her in surprise.

“Yes – you refused to carry the oil tins – so – my husband is forced to carry them…” she said.

“He could have also refused…” I said.

On hearing my words – the “Schoolie” Lieutenant Commander “X” said bitterly to me:

“It is very well for you to say this – you are a non-bothered “couldn’t-care-less” type – and you are a junior Lieutenant – but I am a Lieutenant Commander in the “promotion zone” – my Commander’s Selection Board is next year – and as it is – in the Education Branch there are just one or two vacancies – and it is very difficult to get promoted – so – I have to do whatever they tell me…”


This story happened 1980 – much before the AVS Cadre Review 2006 – when – in the Navy – Commander was a Select List Rank – and only a selected few Lieutenant Commanders became Commanders.

Those days – in the Navy – there was a selection boar
d for promotion from Lieutenant Commander to Commander rank – after around 15/16/17 years of service

(Ranks till Lieutenant Commander were based on years of service and seniority gained on your performance in Training)

Now – after AVS Cadre Review 2006 – 100% Officers are promoted to the rank of Commander (Lt Col/Wg Cdr) after 13 years of Service.


So – Lieutenant Commander “X” with around 15 years service – was “sweating” for his promotion.

I felt sorry for him.

But – I was not going to be “emotionally blackmailed” by him or his wife – into taking on the burden of carrying and delivering the oil tins.

So – I just looked away out of the window at beautiful sight of the setting sun – and I sipped my “sundowner” Rum-Pani (Rum with Water) – and nibbled into the “mirchi pakoras” which I had picked up at a tiny station called Lakhtar – where the train had halted for two minutes – these “bhajjis” or pakoras were the only “small eats” available on this rather desolate stretch of railway.

By the time I finished my Rum-Pani – it was dark – and I could see that we were approaching the marshalling yard of Viramgam Junction – and the train was slowing down.

So – I secured my bag – and I got ready to shift to the broad-gauge Saurashtra Mail – which would take us to Bombay.

Lieutenant Commander “X” was hovering around his precious “cargo” – the 3 large groundnut oil tins.

“Sir – why don’t you just leave the bloody oil tins over here in this metre-gauge train – and you can tell the CO that you forgot the oil tins in the train…” I joked.

“Please keep quiet – you need not worry about the oil tins…” he said angrily.

“To hell with him…” I thought.

And so – I took my bag – and I got down on the platform.

“X” was haggling with the porters for carrying the 3 oil tins.




Time: 2000 Hours (8 PM)

Day: Sunday 26 October 1980

Place: Travelling on board the 6 up Viramgam – Bombay (broad gauge) Saurashtra Mail just departed from Viramgam Railway Station


The new broad gauge first class compartment seemed spacious as compared to the ramshackle metre gauge coach.

Once again my companions in the four-berther compartment were the “Schoolie” Lieutenant Commander “X” and his wife and small daughter.

In the broad gauge – the 3 oil tins fitted in below the berth where “X” – his wife and daughter were sitting.

I sat on the opposite berth.

I polished off the remains of the Bottle of Hercules Rum.

I had offered “Schoolie” Lieutenant Commander “X” the last drink remaining in the bottle – but again – “X” politely declined my offer of a drink – he seemed to be scared of the stern looks his wife was giving him whenever he looked longingly at the Rum Bottle.

By the time I killed the bottle – it was almost 9 PM – and Ahmedabad Railway Station had arrived.

I had a quick dinner of Puri Bhaji on the platform.

And then – I hit the sack.

I let “X” and his wife take the two bottom berths – and I slept on the top berth above “X”.

The oil tins were on the opposite side below the berth where Mrs. “X” slept with her daughter.

I was in deep sleep – when there was a big bang.

Suddenly – everything went topsy-turvy.

The compartment had toppled – and our railway coach was lying on its side.

My legs were on top of my head.

I realised that our train had derailed.

Suddenly the lights went off – and it was dark.

Lieutenant Commander “X” and his wife were shouting:

“What happened…? What happened…?”


I told Lieutenant Commander “X” and his wife that the train had derailed – and that they should remain where they were – till I got the door open.

Luckily – the compartment door was on the upper side of the toppled compartment.

The moment I swung my legs down – I hit oil – Ha Ha – my legs were immersed in oil.

Yes – an oil tin had burst – or probably – all the three oil tins had burst – and there was oil all over the compartment.

Nevertheless – I got down – and I tried to pull myself up to the door.

It was a slippery slope – and soon I was fully covered with groundnut oil.

Lieutenant Commander “X”, his wife and daughter were looking at me curiously – I motioned to them to remain where they were.

Suddenly – the compartment door was yanked open.

It was the Train Conductor with some people.

They had a torch.

They threw in a blanket – and they told us to hold it tight.

Then – and one by one – they yanked us out into the corridor – the lady and her daughter – Lieutenant Commander “X” – and me.

Then – we carefully climbed out of the derailed bogie.

Soon – after a small walk along the railway track towards the rear of the train – we were sitting on a bench on the platform of “Miyagam Karjan” Railway Station.

I looked at the station clock – it was 2 AM (0200 Hours on 27 October 1980 – to be precise).

Talking to people – we came to know that it had been a freak accident.

Some wagons of a goods train coming from the opposite direction had got derailed seconds before our speeding train passed it – and our engine had hit the derailed wagons and gone off the rails – derailing the first few bogies off the track.

Luckily – ours was the last bogie to be derailed – the bogies in front had got badly smashed.

I thanked my stars that I was alive and well.

Suddenly – Lieutenant Commander “X” asked me:

“Did all the 3 oil tins burst – or only one…?”


“I don’t know. I was worried about saving our lives – not about the bloody oil tins…” I said.

“I think we should go back and try and get the oil tins out of the compartment…” he said.

“Are you crazy…? I just about managed to get our bags out. The bloody train is derailed. The bogie is lying topsy-turvy. It is pitch dark. Sir – please lets thank God that we are safe and sound – and for heaven’s sake please forget about those wretched oil tins…” I said.

“But the CO will be angry if I don’t deliver the oil tins…” Lieutenant Commander “X” said.

“Sir – what’s wrong with you…? Be happy that you, your wife, your daughter – all of you have narrowly escaped death. You want to go in there again to get those damned oil tins…? Suppose you break your legs – or suppose you smash your head and die…? Is it worth it – just for the sake of a few oil worthless tins…?” I said to him.

Suddenly Mrs “X” interjected – and she said to her husband:

“Yes – Yes – it is too dangerous. You don’t go anywhere…”


We spent the whole night at Miyagam Karjan.

At around 3 AM – I saw the Station Master.

I told him I was a Defence Officer – and I showed him my Identity Card – and he kindly allowed us to sit in his office – and put a couple of benches for us to lie down.

I woke up at 6 AM – washed up in the Station Master’s Bathroom  and I got ready.

t Commander “X”
 and his family were nowhere to be seen.

I asked the Station Master about them.

“Oh – your companions got up early – and they must having tea on the platform. A Relief Train has already arrived from Baroda (Vadodara). They have almost finished removing the derailed goods wagons from the ‘down’ track. The moment the ‘down’ track is cleared of the derailed wagons – we will send you in the Relief Train to Bombay (Mumbai)…” the Station Master said.




Time: 1130 Hours (11:30 AM)

Day: Sunday 27 October 1980

Place: Travelling on board the Relief Train to Bombay (Mumbai) just departed from Miyagam Karjan Railway Station


The railway “accident repair team” did a spectacular job – and by 1100 Hours – they had cleared the down track.

First – a test engine was sent across the repaired track – and shortly thereafter – our relief train was on its way to Bombay.

As I came to my seat – I saw Mrs “X” and her daughter – but Lieutenant Commander “X” was not there.

“Where is your husband…?” I asked Mrs “X”.

“He has gone to the Brake Van…” she said.

“Brake Van…?” I asked, surprised.

“Don’t you know…? He finally went and retrieved those oil tins – two of them are intact – yes – only one oil tin was damaged and leaked out – and two oil tins are absolutely okay. The railway porters were removing luggage from the brake van of the derailed train – he paid them some money and they got out the oil tins from the compartment and they have put them in the baggage compartment of the brake van of this relief train. So – he has gone to check whether they are secured properly…” she said to me.

“Is he crazy…?” I said – instantly regretting my words.

“I don’t know what will happen now…? We will miss our connecting train – the Dadar-Madras Express…” she said, looking worried.

“Don’t worry, Ma’am. We should reach Bombay Central latest by around 8 o’clock at night – maybe even earlier. You can catch the Bombay Madras Mail – which leaves around 10 PM from VT. I know someone in Central Railway – I will see to it that you get a berth…” I said.

“But – my husband will insist on delivering the oil tins…” she said, sounding anxious.

“You don’t worry about those oil tins, Ma’am – I will deliver the oil tins…” I said in a reassuring tone to Mrs “X”.




Time: 1900 Hours (7 PM)

Day: Sunday 27 October 1980

Place: Bombay Central Railway Station (now Mumbai Central)


We – Lieutenant Commander “X” – his wife – his daughter – and I – all of us were walking towards the exit of Bombay Central Railway Terminus – when a man stopped us.

“Are those your oil tins…?” the man asked – pointing to the 2 oil tins being carried by the porter.

“Yes…” I said.

“You have to pay “octroi”…” he said.

“Octroi…?” I asked.

“Yes…” he said, “if you bring anything for sale into Bombay – you have to pay octroi.”

“But the oil is for my personal consumption…” I said, “and – I am a Defence Officer.”

“Oh, Sir – then please show me the octroi exemption certificate…” he said.

I was in no mood to argue – and the octroi amount wasn’t that much – so I paid up.

I remarked sarcastically to Lieutenant Commander “X”:

“Sir – the next time someone asks me to get an oil tin from Jamnagar – considering the porterage and octroi we have paid – I will just give him the difference in oil tin price between Bombay and Jamnagar – and tell him to buy the oil tin in Bombay…”


We took a taxi to Bombay VT (now called Mumbai CST).

I dropped off Lieutenant Commander “X” and his family at VT Railway Station – and I proceeded to the Navy Command Mess with the two oil tins.

Next morning – I went to the Navy Office for my work – the task for which I had come to Bombay on Ty Duty.

Luckily – one of the Commodores on the list (Commodore “Z”) was posted in Headquarters – where I had go for my work.

The Commodore was not in office – so I told his PA to have two oil tins collected from my cabin in Command Mess.

I told her that I had instructed my civilian bearer accordingly – so the oil tins could be collected anytime.

I gave her the list of 3 Commodores – and I told the PA to request her boss Commodore “Z” to deliver the second oil tin to any one of them.

When I reached back to my cabin in Command Mess in the afternoon – the civilian bearer told me that the two oil tins had been collected.

Disappointed at having lost one day in Mumbai due to the train accident – I caught the 5 Down Saurashtra Mail back to Jamnagar that evening – as per my return reservation.




One month later – after returning from his leave – the “Schoolie” Lieutenant Commander “X” landed up in my office at Jamnagar.

“Did you deliver the oil tins…?” he asked.

“Yes…” I said, “Commodore “Z” collected both the oil tins.”

“The Canteen Officer is asking for money…?” he said.

“What money…?” I said.

“The cost of the 3 oil tins…” he said.

“Didn’t you tell him we had an accident…?” I said.

“Yes. He said he will “write off” one oil tin – but he wants the money for the other two oil tins. Didn’t Commodore “Z” give you money for the two oil tins…? Did you ask him for it…?” he said.

“Well – I didn’t even meet Commodore “Z” – his PA had the oil tins collected from my cabin – and I didn’t even know that I had to ask for the money – in fact – I don’t even know how much the bloody groundnut oil tin costs…” I said.

“Then what do we do…?” he said.

“Well – tell the Canteen Officer to ask the CO to write a Demi-Official Letter (DO letter) to that freeloading Commodore “Z” asking him to pay up the money for the two oil tins….” I said.

“That’s a good idea…” Lieutenant Commander “X” said.

“And Sir – make sure you include the porterage, the octroi charges, the taxi fare, and some “sweat money” for me as well…” I said, tongue-in-cheek.

Apparently – “Schoolie” Lieutenant Commander “X” did not learn any lessons from the “Oily” experience.

The very next month – I saw him standing near the OOD Office.

He was on his way to Bombay on Temporary Duty.

And yes – Ha Ha – believe it or not – he was carrying three 16 Kg groundnut oil tins…

Of course – a few months later – when the promotion board results were announced – “Schoolie” Lieutenant Commander “X” was promoted in his first chance to the rank of Commander.


Cheers to the “Oily” Navy which put me on a “Slippery Slope”…



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  1. This stor
    y 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.
  3. E&OE

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

This is a revised version of my Story written by me Vikram Karve around 8 years ago and earlier posted online by me Vikram Karve in my blog at 6/02/2014 11:13:00 AM at url: and partly postedby me Vikram Karve in my blog at 5/23/2014 08:12:00 AM at url: and and and and and and and etc.

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