Monday, September 22, 2014

ARMY “SENSE OF HUMOR” – MAKING A DEAD MAN ALIVE – Humor in Uniform

HUMOUR IN UNIFORM

ARMY “SENSE OF HUMOR” –  MAKING A DEAD MAN ALIVE

Today is the 22nd of September 2014  the sixth death anniversary of my late father-in-law Brigadier Pratap Dattatraya Joshi who we affectionately called Daddy

Daddy” had an inimitable sense of humour.

So, from my Humor in Uniform Archives, let me pull out a post I wrote last year about the efforts of his beloved army to make him alive.

I am sure he will enjoy reading this hilarious post in his heavenly abode and have a laugh.

LETTER TO A DEAD BRIGADIER
Perverted Sense of Humor or a Cruel Joke?
A Spoof
By
VIKRAM KARVE

Caution: Please Do Not Read This Post if You Do Not Have a Sense of Humour

LIVING MAN DEAD

In the famous World War II novel CATCH-22 there is a character called Doc Daneeka.

Doc Daneeka is a civilian doctor who was building up a good practice when World War II suddenly broke out and they drafted him into the US Army Air Force for the War as a flight surgeon.

One of his requisites of being an Air Corps doctor includes logging four hours per month of flight time in order to earn his flight pay.

However, Doc Daneeka hates to fly – he is very scared of flying.

Though Doc Daneeka is scared of flying, he still wants to get flight pay.

So he asks his bombardier friend Yossarian to persuade McWatt, a pilot, to falsely enter Doc Daneeka’s name in his flight log on training missions.

“What difference does it make to anyone whether I am in the plane or not?” Doc Daneeka says to his friend Yossarian.

So, Yossarian helps Doc Daneeka by convincing his friend McWatt to enter Doc Daneeka’s name on the flight roster on routine non-combat flights.

Thus, Doc Daneeka’s flight hours are duly recorded without him having to leave the ground.

This enables Doc Daneeka to collect his flight pay every month without ever having to get into an aircraft.

This arrangement goes on satisfactorily for many months.

Then, suddenly, while on a training flight, McWatt flies too low and crashes into a mountain and whole aircraft instantly goes up in flames.

Since McWatt’s flight roster includes Doc Daneeka’s name, it is assumed that Doc Daneeka also died on the flight.

So, Doc Daneeka, is officially pronounced dead.

Though Doc Daneeka is physically alive, on paper he is declared dead – and in the military bureaucracy, it is paper that rules supreme.

Since Doc Daneeka is officially declared dead, his rations, his pay, and all his entitlements are stopped, and even his wife is notified of his death (she is back home in New York while Doc Daneeka is fighting the war overseas)

Doc Daneeka runs from pillar to post trying to prove that he is actually alive, but to no avail, since the “unstoppable” bureaucratic processes have been set in motion once Doc Daneeka has been officially notified as dead as his name was on the crew manifest of the aircraft that crashed.

He writes a desperate letter to his wife back home telling her that is alive.

His wife informs the War Department of her husband’s letter, but the War Department writes back confirming that Doc Daneeka is dead and the letter must have been written by some sadistic and psychotic forger in her husband’s squadron and that she should ignore all such letters in future.

So, she ignores all future letters from her husband.

Meanwhile, since Doc Daneeka is officially declared dead while on duty in a war zone, he is declared “Killed in Action” (KIA).

Doc Daneeka’s wife receives considerable financial benefits from insurance, pension, ex-gratia payments, gratuities etc since her brave husband has been “martyred” in war while serving the nation.

Having become considerably wealthy thanks to her husband being “killed in action”, Doc Daneeka’s wife relocates to a more posh neighbourhood, and since she is fed up with receiving repeated letters purportedly written by her distraught husband Doc Daneeka begging her to tell everyone that he is alive (which she thinks are written by some imposter), she leaves no forwarding address.

Thus, we have a cruelly hilarious situation of a living man being declared dead.

Recently, we have been “victims” of a similarly cruelly hilarious situation, but exactly the opposite, where a dead man is being declared “alive”.

Catch-22 is fiction, but sometimes truth can be stranger than fiction.

In Catch-22, the US Army declared a living man dead.

In this story, the Indian Army has declared a dead man alive.

Let me tell you about it.


DEAD MAN ALIVE

My late father-in-law joined the Indian Army soon after Independence as a cadet through the prestigious First Course of the National Defence Academy (NDA) (or 1st JSW, as he liked to call it).

He retired as a Brigadier in 1986.

If he had been alive today, he would have been more than 82 years old.

He was born on 6 March 1932.

Sadly, he died in the year 2008, on 22 September 2008.

When he died, we intimated all concerned, including Army Headquarters.

We filled up the required forms, forwarded his death certificate, and completed the necessary paper formalities.

His widow (my mother-in-law) duly received a letter of condolence from Army Headquarters.

Today, exactly six years have passed since his death.

One day, last year, sometime in November 2013, I think, the postman delivered a letter in a typical shabby khaki makeshift envelope which is used for official “fauji” correspondence.

The Brigadier’s widow was taken aback when she saw that the letter had been addressed to her husband, who had died in the year 2008 (more than 5 years ago).

At first, we thought it was a mistake on the envelope that the letter had been addressed to the dead officer.

But when we opened the letter we saw that the letter was very much addressed to the dead Brigadier.

There are phrases in the letter addressed to the dead Brigadier like:

“…payment of rank pay arrears in your respect is pending…”

“…you are requested to forward details directly to…”

The frequent use of the words “you” and “your” and the tone of the language used in the letter clearly indicates that the officer signing the letter thinks that the addressee (my father-in-law) is still alive and well.

To top it off, to add insult to the injury, the letter ends with the salutation (in bold letters) to my dead father-in-law:

“All ranks of your Army convey their greetings and best wishes to you and your family”

My father-in-law is already resting in peace in his heavenly abode for the last 6 years.

Maybe, he can convey the “greetings” to his wife when she too reaches heaven.

(Wonder if that is what the Army wants?)

It is good to know that the Army cares for you after you are dead and gone.

Never mind that they did not bother much about you when you were alive and serving.

If the army cared about you, they would have paid rank pay arrears in time when you were serving, and not waited for so many years after you were dead and gone.

In fact, if the army top brass really cared for its officers and soldiers, there would be no need for “arrears” of any kind, as all payments and dues would be made promptly on time.

What is the point of inordinately delaying money which is due to an officer for so long that he dies before he can get his due.

Maybe the same will happen with OROP (“One Rank One Pension”) – by the time they get OROP most “faujis” may already be in heaven.

As they say: Delay is the best form of denial.

Maybe I am digressing, so let me look at the letter addressed to the dead Brigadier once again.


“CHALTA HAI” SHODDY STAFF WORK

Perusal of the letter reveals the following.

Instead of taking the pains to sign each letter after checking that the details are correct, it appears that inter alia the following short-cut “chalta hai” shoddy staff work was resorted to:

1. The letter was typed leaving details of the addressees blank.

2. One copy of the letter was signed by the Staff Officer.

3. Xerox copies of the letter were made.

4. It was to left to the clerical staff to fill in details of the addressees and dispatch the letters.

5. The Staff Officer did not bother to check the letters and confirm that the correct details filled in before the letters were dispatched.

Is this not lazy slipshod staff work?

Is this what is expected of a Staff College qualified Staff Officer (which obviously every Staff Officer posted in Army Headquarters would be)?

Does Staff College teach Army Staff Officers to address letters to Dead Officers?

This letter is signed by an Army Officer, so surely the Army can’t blame politicians and bureaucrats for this insensitive faux pas

(If the staff officer did indeed check and confirm correctness of addressee details, it indicates that records have not been updated for many years and there are many such “dead officers” who still are “alive and kicking” as per army records).

Like it happened in Catch-22, if an “alive and well” officer can declared be “dead on paper”, then, vice versa, why can’t an actually “dead and gone” RIP officer not be declared “alive and kicking” on paper?


ARMY “SENSE OF HUMOR”

“What’s the big deal?” you may say, “Such minor errors happen. Or maybe it’s their sense of humor – resurrecting the dead, like in the movie Dracula Has Risen from the Grave– so just chill.”

Yes, it all depends on how you look at it – a trivial oversight or an insensitive blunder.

My late father-in-law had a great sense of humor.

If I could tell him about this gaffe, he would have a good laugh; he may even threaten to come back to earth from his heavenly abode.

But from the perspective of my mother-in-law, or other widows of dead officers who have received similar letters addressed to their dead husbands, I really don’t know how they feel.

From their point of view is this “faux pas” a rather perverted Sense of Humour or is it an insensitive Cruel Joke?

VIKRAM KARVE
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Disclaimer:
1. This is a spoof, 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 story 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.

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