Friday, June 22, 2018

“Businessmen” in Uniform

Humor in Uniform 

Military Officers are often stereotyped into quintessental archetypes some of which are portrayed in Movies – and – of course – you must be aware of the legendary Colonel Blimp and “Captain Haddock” etc 

But – when you join the Armed Forces – you realize that there are all sorts of Officers with different personalities.

Among Defence Officers  there are many unique characters  each with his own idiosyncrasy. 

This is especially so in the Navy – since – Naval Officers are a cut above the rest. 

An interesting category I discovered were “Businessmen” in Uniform 

Here are some hilarious encounters with “Businessmen” in Uniform who I met during my Navy days...

A Fictional Spoof


This happened around 42 years ago  in the 1970’s.

Six of us “piddly” Sub Lieutenants from various ships sat in front of a chubby Commander in Western Naval Command (WNC) Headquarters at Mumbai (then called Bombay).

Those days  the WNC Headquarters was located in a civilian building in Fort area of Mumbai.

We had been “detailed” for some “bum jobs” connected with Navy Week  and  the podgy Commander was briefing us. 

The portly Commander was from the erstwhile Supply and Secretariat (S&S) Branch (now called Logistics Branch).

The roly-poly Commander was a Senior Staff Officer in the WNC Headquarters.

Suddenly  the phone on the table rang  and  the Commander picked it up. 

I saw him listening intently on the phone – he only listened – he didn’t speak a word.

I don’t know what the Commander heard on the phone – but whatever he heard on the phone – it suddenly galvanized him into action. 

The Commander suddenly stood up abruptly  I was surprised by the speed of his movement despite his corpulence and huge size. 

The Commander told us that something urgent had come up.

He told us that he would be back soon. 

He ordered us that we should wait for him.

Then – the podgy Commander threw a file in front of us. 

He told us to read the file till he got back.

Then  he swiftly grabbed a civilian bush shirt which was hanging on the hat-stand. 

And – he wore the blue bush-shirt over his white uniform shirt. 

He looked funny in a blue bush shirt, white uniform tousers and white buck-skin shoes. 

The Commander picked up his briefcase  and – he disappeared at the speed of light.

We waited patiently in his office.

More than 30 minutes passed. 

Yes – we had been waiting for half an hour.

So  we went over to the office hall  and – we asked the clerical staff if they knew when the Commander would be back.

“Don’t worry. He must have gone to Dalal Street to meet his broker in the Stock Exchange. He will be back soon...” the Commander’s PA said.

(Remember  this happened in the 1970’s  when there was no internet  there was no online trading  and  you had to physically trade shares and stocks through your stock broker)

When the Commander returned  he seemed quite cheerful and he was in a happy mood.

I do not know whether he was a “Bull” or a “Bear” – but from his happy mood  it appeared that he had made a lot of money that day.

After a “brief” briefing on the “official” matter – the Commander educated us on investing and trading in stocks and shares  and – he told us how much money could be made in the stock market  rather than the conventional savings methods like Provident Funds and Fixed Deposits  which we were doing.

Later on  during my Naval career  I met many such “Bulls” and “Bears” in the Navy  fanatical “punters” who were more preoccupied with the Stock Market than their Naval Duties. 

These “punters” in uniform tried their best to remain in Mumbai – so that they could indulge in their passion of “playing” the stock-market [“satta bazaar...”]

Now  thanks to internet  with the advent of online trading  it has become ever so easy for these “punters” to indulge in their stock market trading  from home – and from office during working hours  even if they are posted far away from Mumbai in remote locations. 

Technology has proved a big boon for “punters” in uniform

You can use your PC, your laptop, or even your mobile smart-phone – to indulge in “satta bazaar...” 

And  you can do it round the clock  24/7  anytime – anywhere.

Someone told me that  nowadays  Navy Wives are heavily into online trading in shares on the stock market  and  many Navy wives are earning good money “working” from home on the “satta bazaar...”


During my stints in inter-service establishments  I discovered many “businessmen in uniform” in the Army and Air Force too  with other business interests.

“My boss is more of a businessman then a soldier...” an Army friend of mine once commented  and he went on to tell us that his senior was heavily engaged in real estate speculation and was least interested in soldiering duties  which he left to his juniors.

There was another officer  who would spend hours exhorting junior officers to buy property – explaining to them the various tax benefits  telling them how much the value of their property would appreciate  the rent returns  and that real estate was the best investment.

Was he doing this for purely altruistic reasons...?

Well  that I will leave it for you to guess.

But  I wonder whether it was a curious coincidence that he was plugging only residential schemes of a certain builder  arranging site visits  facilitating loans – and helping out with paperwork.

Others were busy investing in land in and around the city.

Yes  apart from the “stock market”  “real estate” (“property market”) seemed to be quite popular with “businessmen in uniform”  and  of course  there were many other “businesses” as well  some of which they pursued on their wives and children’s names.

All these “businessmen in uniform” seemed to be more engrossed in making money  rather than their military soldiering duties.

I often wonder why such money-minded individuals join the Armed Forces.

If you have a talent for business  then why waste your life soldiering in the Defence Services...?

If you have financial acumen  will your talent not be better utilized in the business-world rather than in the military...?


If you are thinking of a career in the Armed Forces  the Army, the Navy or the Air Force  I will recommend that you read a book called CATCH-22 by Joseph Heller before you join up.

Catch-22 will give you an idea of what life is like in the Defence Services.

Have you committed the “blunder” of joining the Army, Navy or Air Force without having read CATCH-22...?


You joined the “FAUJ” without having read Catch-22...?

Not to worry...!!! 

As they say – “better late than never”.

So even if you already in uniform  it would still be a good idea to read the book – so that you can appreciate the various “Catch 22” situations around you.

More importantly  it will help you comprehend the seemingly crazy behaviour of the motley characters you encounter every day in your military environment by relating them to the inimitable characters depicted in CATCH-22.

During my long years in the Navy  I came across almost all characters of Catch-22 – Dreedles, Cathcarts, Peckems, Doc Daneekas, Dunbars, Korns, Scheisskopfs, Wintergreens, De Coverleys, plenty of Yossarians – yes  I encountered all sorts of idiosyncratic types.

And  of course  how can I forget the canny Machiavellian “Milo Minderbinders” – those “businessmen in uniform” who are proliferating like hobgoblins all over in the Defence Services.

In Catch-22  the character of Lieutenant Milo Minderbinder represents a typical “businessman in uniform”.

He looks at everything from a financial angle  and his motto is: 

“what is in it for me...?”

Milo’s sole obsession is to make “profit” – and he has no allegiance to anyone or anything.

Just like the character of Milo Minderbinder in Catch-22  there are an increasing number of money-minded “businessmen in uniform” – who are obsessed with money matters – and their sole aim is to derive “benefit” from the service.

From the day join the Military  they seem more interested in their “entitlements” and “privileges”  rather than their soldiering duties.

Forever – they keep comparing their pay and perks with others (especially with civilian bureacrats)

They make sure they extract the maximum benefits – and are paranoid about losing out on perks and pecuniary privileges.

They never seem to be satisfied and content with what they get in the service – and they have an insatiable greed for more.

It is these greedy “businessmen in uniform” who perpetuate corruption and get involved in all sorts of scams – which tarnish the image of the Defence Services – and destroy the inner discipline and moral fabric of the Armed Forces.


Business Acumen and Military Attitude are stark opposites.

In fact  they are mutually exclusive.

You can either have a Military Mindset  or – you can have Business Acumen.

You cannot simultaneously have both.

You can either be a Businessman  or you can be a Soldier – but you cannot be both at the same time.

I am of the firm view that those with a “military mindset” should keep away from the business world.

And similarly  those with a “nose for business” must keep away from the Military.

Military Ethic is different from Business Ethic.

The two are poles apart and there is no congruence between them.

For a Businessman – Profit is the sole motive.

For a Soldier – Patriotism is the leitmotif.

The essence of corporate business ethic is: 

“money comes before anything else”.

“Businessmen in Uniform” apply this tenet (“money comes before anything else”) even in the Armed Forces – and ruin the inherent value-based military ethos of the defence services.

It is these “Businessmen in Uniform” who are responsible for the corruption and scams that tarnish the reputation of the defence services.

(Of course  you may also find some “soldiers” among businessmen (who create business fiascos)  but that is another story – which I shall discuss later)

The numerous scams and acts of corruption which have been reported in the media is a sign of the proliferation of these “businessmen in uniform” in the defence services  even at the highest levels of the hierarchy.

Unfortunately  in recent times  an increasing number of senior officers  even Chiefs  are getting embroiled in scams, corruption cases, unethical acts and controversies.

All this not only tarnishes the good reputation of the defence services  but also adversely affects inner discipline – as juniors stop respecting their seniors who lose moral ascendancy.

How have we reached a stage where it is possible for so many “businessmen in uniform” to get promoted to high rank...?

Or  is it the other way round?

Have we reached a situation that  unless you are a “businessman in uniform” – it will be difficult for you to get promoted to senior rank...?

It is for you to have a thorough look at the top brass and study the promotion trends in your service and reach your own conclusion.

But one thing is sure.

All these “businessmen in uniform” have one attribute – TACT – which is euphemism for “moral pliability”.

And in today’s world  TACT is the vital “Officer Like Quality” – that helps an officer rise to high rank.

Of course  in addition to “businessmen in uniform” – we have “politicians in uniform” too – and combinations of the two.

But that is another story.


At a recent get-together of Military Veterans  I noticed two types of retired “faujis”.

The first “nostalgic” group was talking about their “good old days” in the Military.

The second “money-minded” group was discussing financial matters – and was especially getting agitated about the hot topics of the day – OROP – aka “One Rank One Pension” – NFU – Non-Functional Upgradation – and – 7CPC – aka “Seventh Central Pay Commission” – and these – erstwhile “businessmen in uniform” were busy calculating and comparing how much money they were going to get.

Habits die hard...!!!  LOL  

Copyright © Vikram Karve 
1. If you share this post, please give due credit to the author Vikram Karve
2. Please DO NOT PLAGIARIZE. Please DO NOT Cut/Copy/Paste this post
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

1. This article 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.

Copyright Notice:
No part of this Blog may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical including photocopying or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the Blog Author Vikram Karve who holds the copyright.
Copyright © Vikram Karve (All Rights Reserved)
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

A “Tot” of Rum

Some friends asked me why Rum is associated with the Navy (or why Navy is associated with Rum).

So – I thought it apt to write a few blog posts on the close relationship between Navy and Rum – the Sailor’s favourite drink.

Here is the first article…

THE “RUM” NAVY Part 1 by Vikram Karve

Sailors require significant quantities of fresh water on extended voyages.

In the early days of sailing – since desalinating sea water was not practical – fresh water was taken on board in casks.  

But – this stored fresh water quickly developed algae and became slimy.

The stagnant water was sweetened with beer or wine to make it palatable – which involved more casks and stowage space.

However – even this beer/wine fortified water was vulnerable to spoilage and turned into vinegar.

So – beer was carried instead of fresh water – and – each sailor was issued a daily ration of beer of “One Gallon of Beer per day” (Four and a Half Litres of Beer).

As longer voyages became more common – the Beer Ration of One Gallon (4.5 Litres) of Beer per sailor per day – for a large number of sailors – for long voyages of many days – this Beer Ration occupied a large volume – and – the task of stowage became more and more difficult.

So – Beer was substituted with Rum.

Rum was a “spirit” and did not spoil with time – in fact – the Rum improved with ageing in the oak barrels where the Rum was stored on board ships.


Part 1

Musings of a Navy Veteran

“Rum Ration” was issued to Royal Navy Sailors from 1665 – after Britain captured Jamaica.

Before the advent of Rum – the daily drink ration for a Royal Navy Sailor was One Gallon of Beer – yes – one gallon or 8 Pints of Beer – which amounts to a plentiful 4.5 Litres of Beer...!!!

Due to the difficulty in storing the large quantities of Beer on board ships – in 1655 – half a pint (around 300 ml) of Rum was made equivalent to One Gallon of Beer – and Rum was issued to Sailors in lieu of Beer.

The daily Rum Ration of Half a Pint (almost 300 ml) means around Five Large Pegs of today’s standard Large Peg Measure of 60 ml (or 10 Small Pegs of 30 ml).

The half pint (300 ml) of Rum was originally issued neat.

Sailors would check their rum had not been watered down by pouring it onto gunpowder and setting light to it, from where the term "proof" originates.

By volume – 57.15% alcohol has been calculated as the minimum required for it to pass the test.

The sailors would “prove” its strength by checking that gunpowder doused with rum would still burn – thus verifying that Rum was at least 100 Proof = 57.15 % Alcohol by Volume (ABV) or more.

A small quantity of Rum would be mixed with gunpowder (gunpowder was available on warships of those days which fired gunpowder propelled “shots” from cannons).

The Rum-Gunpowder Mixture would be ignited.

If the mixture burned with a steady blue flame – this was “proof” that the Rum contained the proper amount of alcohol (57.15% ABV [Alcohol by Volume]). 

(The term “Proof” has originated from this practice of Sailors “testing” the strength of their Rum by pouring it onto gunpowder and setting light to the mixture.

By volume – 57.15% alcohol has been calculated as the minimum required for it to pass the test – as gunpowder would not burn if soaked in rum that contained less than 57.15% ABV.

Rum that contained this percentage of alcohol was defined as having 100 degrees proof.

So – 100 Proof means 57.15% Alcohol by Volume.

Now – the term “Proof” has been extended to other spirits like Whisky, Brandy, Vodka, Gin etc as well.

The gunpowder test was officially replaced by a specific-gravity test in 1816…)

Thus – the Navy “Tot” was a substantial amount of 300 ml (10 Small Pegs) of strong 100 Proof Rum (57.1% Alcohol by Volume).

(NB: This article uses the British Imperial (UK) System. The American Standards of Proof (ABV) are different. Whereas the Imperial UK 100 Proof = 57.15% Alcohol by Volume – the American US 100 Proof = 50% Alcohol by Volume. In India we follow the British System)

100 Proof Rum was quite strong – so - later – the strength of the Rum was reduced from 100 Proof to 95.5 Proof [54.6 % Alcohol by Volume (ABV)] (American US 109 Proof)

(Present Day Rums available in India are much weaker at 75 Proof (42.8% Alcohol by Volume)

So – effectively:

One “Tot” of 100 Proof Rum was equivalent to 400 ml of Present Day 75 Proof Rum or 13.5 Small Pegs or Half a Bottle of Rum

– as we know it)

The 300 ml “Tot” of Rum was given to Sailors “Neat” and the sailors drank the “Tot” of Rum “down-the-hatch” in one go.

Imagine drinking “Half a Bottle” of Rum straight “down-the-hatch”.

(Dear Reader – try it – open a bottle of Rum – put it to your lips – and drink half the bottle in one go – straight “down-the-hatch – and tell me how you feel. Now wonder – the sailors are known to be hard drinkers)

The “Rum Ration” was issued to every sailor at mid-day (between 11 AM and 12 Noon) and this Rum Ration was announced with the pipe (Bosun’s Call) “Up Spirits” – on hearing which – the  Sailors would exclaim “Stand Fast the Holy Ghost” – and rush to queue for their “Tot” of Rum.

The Rum Ration was served from a barrel also known as the “Rum Tub” made of oak and ornately decorated and reinforced with brass bands with the brass letters saying “The Queen, God Bless Her”.

Tot “tumblers” were kept separate – and they were never washed from the inside – in the belief that the residue from previous “Tots” would make the subsequent “Tots” even stronger.

The “Tot” of Rum was consumed as soon as it was issued – straight “down the hatch”.

This style of drinking “Tots” – the massive sudden intake of incredibly strong Rum – caused discipline problems due to drunk and disorderly behavior of some sailors who could not “digest” the huge “Tot” of Rum.

Also – some hard-drinking sailors “bartered” Rum Rations from others and hoarded the Rum below decks to drink and this caused drunkenness and disorder below the decks.

As drunkenness on board Naval Ships increasingly became a problem – in 1740 – Admiral Edward Vernon ordered the Rum Ration of One “Tot” (300 ml of Rum) for Junior Sailors to be diluted with two parts of water to make it 900 ml of Rum-Water Mixture.

Also – the Rum Issue was split into two servings per day – one at mid-day before lunch and the other after work in the evening.

Admiral Vernon was nicknamed as “Old Grog” – because of his habitual waterproof Grogram Cloak which he always wore on board ship.

So – the diluted Rum Ration introduced by Admiral “Old Grog” Vernon was nicknamed as “GROG”.

Admiral “Old Grog” Vernon opined:

“The pernicious custom of the seamen drinking their allowance of rum in drams and often at once is attended with many fatal consequences to their morals as well as their health…many of their lives shortened thereby…besides stupefying their rational qualities which makes them heedlessly slaves to every brutish passion…”

On August 21, 1740, Admiral “Old Grog” Vernon issued his “infamous” Order No. 349 to Captains which stated inter alia:

“The Rum should be every day mixed with the proportion of a quart of water to a half pint of rum, to be mixed in a scuttled butt kept for that purpose, and to be done on the deck, and in the presence of the Lieutenant of the Watch who is to take particular care to see that the men are not defrauded in having their full allowance of rum…and let those that are good husband men receive extra lime juice and sugar that it be made more palatable to them…”  

The addition of lime and sugar was prevent scurvy which was prevalent among sailors due to “Vitamin C” deficiency during long sailings.  

(The “Lime” in the “Grog” may be the origin of the term “Limey” to describe an Englishman)

However – this dilution of Rum with water was not appreciated by the hard-drinking sailors.

So – to express their displeasure – the sailors christened the weakened beverage “Grog” after the Admiral who was known as “Old Grog”.

However – Senior Sailors (Petty Officer and above) still received their “Tot” of Rum neat – straight from the barrel – whereas “Junior Sailors” were issued the “Grog”.

Yes – the “Petty Officers” were served first and were entitled to take their rum undiluted – whereas the “Ratings” drank their “grog” in one long gulp

Later – “Pusser’s Rum” – created in 1784 – and approved by the Admiralty – was a popular brand of Rum – available only in the Navy.

Pusser’s Rum was a blend of 3 Rums from Guyana and 2 Rums from Trinidad, blended by traditional techniques and matured for 3 years in barrels, before bottling.

Rum was safely stored on board ships in the hold (below decks) – with an armed Royal Marine on guard round the clock.

Dear Reader – I will end this “Rum Tale” here – but post some more Navy “Rum Tales” in subsequent blog posts – and tell you more about the “Rum Bum Lash” Navy.

Meanwhile – if you are a Rum “aficionado” – Pusser’s Black Label Rum is arguably as close as you can get to drinking what the Royal Navy Sailor once drank.

This “Gunpowder Proof” Rum is supposed to be 95.5 proof (54.6 % Alcohol by Volume (ABV)) (US 109 Proof) – which was issued to the Sailors in the “Grog” after 1740 – a little less strong than the original “100 Proof” Rum (57.15% ABV [Alcohol by Volume]) issued in 1665.

Here is a picture of a bottle of British Navy Pusser’s Rum which I found on the internet.

They say that this elegant, extremely hard to find Rum comes from the last remaining kegs of Royal Navy Rum – the same stuff the sailors drank... 

British Navy PUSSER'S RUM Gunpowder Proof

Dear Reader – Do tell me if you liked this “Rum” Story. 

In Part 2 – I will tell you a bit more about the “Rum” Navy... 

End of THE “RUM” NAVY Part 1 (A “TOT” OF RUM)..

Continued in Part 2...

Copyright © Vikram Karve
1. If you share this post, please give due credit to the author Vikram Karve
2. Please DO NOT PLAGIARIZE. Please DO NOT Cut/Copy/Paste this post
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

1. This story 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.

Copyright Notice:
No part of this Blog may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical including photocopying or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the Blog Author Vikram Karve who holds the copyright.
Copyright © Vikram Karve (All Rights Reserved)
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.