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...

“BUSINESSMEN” IN UNIFORM
A Fictional Spoof
By
VIKRAM KARVE


Part 1  “SATTA BAZAAR”

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...”


Part 2  “REAL ESTATE”

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...?


Part 3  “FAUJI” BUSINESSMEN

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...?

Yes...? 

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.


Part 4  “MILITARY MINDSET” versus BUSINESS ACUMEN

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.


Part 5  EPILOGUE – THE “OROP” “NFU” “7CPC” OBSESSED MILITARY VETERANS

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  

VIKRAM KARVE
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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.

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