Saturday, April 13, 2013



The 6 P’s

On page 58 of his war memoir “Himalayan Blunder” (The Curtain Raiser to the Sino-Indian War of 1962Brigadier John Parashuram Dalvi narrates an amusing story pertaining to the ill-fated “forward policy” which happened in NEFA (Arunachal Pradesh) sometime in 1960 when Indian Army Troops were being hastily rushed up into the mountains towards the China Border without any administrative or logistic arrangements.

A Commanding Officer (CO) of an Infantry Battalion, a Lieutenant Colonel famous for his pungent wit and sense of humour, got fed up with the absence of any sort of supply system and the pathetic logistics arrangements.

So he that he decided to use some heavy sarcasm and act in a facetious manner. 

The CO is reported to have sent one of his monthly routine reports on a “chappati”  (a flat unleavened Indian Bread).

This caused some consternation in the Rear Head Quarters and the officer was asked to forward his “explanation”.

In reply, the Commanding Officer sent the now classic retort:

“I regret the unorthodox nature of my stationery, but atta”  (wheat flour) is the only commodity available for fighting, for feeding and for futile correspondence”.

I cannot recall exactly who told me this story, but I remember that a senior army officer once revealed that the witty officer who sent this hilarious reply was none other than General Eric Vas [Lt Gen EA Vas (15 May 1923-18 Aug 2009)].

If my memory serves me right, I think it was the very same General Eric Vas who was invited to address officers at IAT Pune and in his pep talk speech told us that if we wanted to enjoy service life we should not bother about three things:

1. PAY 



(He called them the 3 P’s). 


Maybe this dictum of the 3 P’s applies across the board, to all careers, including those in the private sector. 

But this axiom of the 3 P’s certainly applies to the services, especially the military services like the army, navy and air force.


Many of us focus too much on money and perks (pay or salary or “package” – call it what you like). 

Nowadays, most elite educational institutions boast of the high salary packages their students are offered in campus placement interviews and it seems that pay is the primary consideration for selecting a job.

In my time too I found many of my colleagues comparing their PAY with others. 

Comparing your pay and perks with others is a sure shot formula to feel miserable, because it is natural tendency to compare with someone better-off than you.


If you want to feel unhappy and frustrated all you have to do is to live a comparative and competitive life.

In the military services (army navy and air force) it is very difficult to get promoted because of thesteep pyramidal hierarchical structure

Hence a large number of officers are passed over for promotion early in their career and a very few lucky officers get promoted to higher ranks.

I used to joke that whereas in the civil services you have Assured Career Progression (ACP) in themilitary services you are guaranteed Assured Career Supersession (ACS).

In the rank conscious military services, especially in the army, your rank is the of greatest importance.

In the rigid environment of regimentation, rank means everything at work and also in your social and personal life.

Everything, including the status of your spouse, depends on your rank. 

The culture of RANK HAS ITS PRIVILEGES (RHIP) is implemented in letter and spirit (and sometimes to ridiculous limits) in the defence services both at work and in social life.

For a career oriented army officer it is most humiliating to miss your promotion and suffer the ignominy of serving under someone who was once your junior in the academy or in your unit. 

Even the wives and families of a superseded officer have to suffer humiliation in the rank-conscious service culture and society.

That is why most service officers are desperate to get promoted at any cost.

They become ambitious careerists get into an all-out no-holds-barred competitionfor PROMOTION.

Once you enter this “Rat Race” for promotion you are so stressed-out that you cannot enjoy army life. 

Conversely, if you decide not to bother about this Promotion “P” and get out of the rat-race, you can be carefree and enjoy the joys of army life.


And to further add to your misery, don’t forget to compare your POSTING with your more fortunate colleagues. 

(By “Posting” I mean not only the geographical location but also the type of appointment and designation).

Apart from a better quality of life, a good geographical posting will be beneficial for the career of your spouse and education of your children.

A good appointment will boost your career prospects.

That is why the third P (Posting) is a coveted factor in your military career.

Are You Obsessed with the 3 P’s ?

Most army and navy officers are obsessed with the 3 P’s (Pay Promotion Posting).

That is why they are so frustrated and stressed out at work and there exists so much discontentment in the services and negative vibes in the interpersonal relationships.

And if you want to enjoy your work and career, you know what to do.

Just don’t bother about the 3 P’s.

It is a fact that if you live a non-comparative and non-competitive life you are sure to be happy and content.

Okay, so you did not bother about the 3 P’s (PAY, PROMOTION, POSTING) and enjoyed your service life.

But one day you will retire and then you will have Three Retirement P’s which you should not worry about.



One of the main disadvantages of the defence services is that you retire on superannuation in your 50’s which is much earlier than your civilian counterpart who retires at 60 (or even later).

That is why you must prepare well for your retirement and ensure you are not caught off-balance, especially from the financial angle. Otherwise you will not be able to enjoy your retirement.

If you want to enjoy your retired life you must don’t bother about these 3 P’s (during your career or later in retirement):





When you retire you lose your “position power”.

The higher your rank, the greater the loss of power. 

Many Military Officers take it in their stride and enjoy their retirement.

But some individuals who get addicted to power are very afraid of losing power. 

They refuse to let go and cannot cope with the loss of power and keep hankering after it and make their lives miserable trying to get power.

I think this is the main reason why some people never retire and want to keep on working till their death.


It is “patronage” that gets you those plum post-retirement assignments.

That is why you see so many senior military officers put “self before service” and behave in a most obsequious manner in the last years of their service.

It is amusing to observe the metamorphosis in many so-called tough and no-nonsense officers suddenly change colours like a chameleon and indulge in unabashed toadying and fawning to cultivate the powers-that-be in order to obtain their patronage and consequent lucrative post-retirement “lollipops” and plum assignments with plenty of perks


Another reason why individuals cannot enjoy their retirement and want to keep working after retirement  is “pelf” (money).

These greedy money-minded individuals are never content with their savings and pension and want to keep on acquiring wealth till their death (though they know that they cannot take their wealth and property with them to heaven or hell after their death). 

In extremis, such pelf-oriented persons may fall prey to inducements.

They may even be ready to take up dubious wheeler-dealer jobs with euphemistic titles like “consultants” or “advisors” which sometimes can prove counter-productive and ruin their reputations forever and bring dishonour to the entire class of officers and tarnish the good name of the services.

Retirement is Bliss – if you can forget about the 3 Retirement P’s (Power, Pelf and Patronage).


The 6 P’s

In conclusion, I would like to say that the art of enjoying your military life boils down to 6 P’s.

Yes, if you want to enjoy life just don’t bother about the Six P’s :

The Three P’s while in service (PAY, PROMOTION, POSTING)


The Three P’s after retirement (POWER, PELF, PATRONAGE).


This 6 P paradigm works. You can take my word for it. I enjoyed my life in the navy and now I am enjoying my retirement.

Please comment and tell us your views. As always, I look forward to your feedback.

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2013
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A creative person with a zest for life, Vikram Karve is a retired Naval Officer turned full time writer and blogger. Educated at IIT Delhi, IIT (BHU) Varanasi, The Lawrence School Lovedale and Bishops School Pune, Vikram has published two books: COCKTAIL a collection of fiction short stories about relationships (2011) and APPETITE FOR A STROLL a book of Foodie Adventures (2008) and is currently working on his novel and a book of vignettes and an anthology of short fiction. An avid blogger, he has written a number of fiction short stories and creative non-fiction articles on a variety of topics including food, travel, philosophy, academics, technology, management, health, pet parenting, teaching stories and self help in magazines and published a large number of professional  and academic research papers in journals and edited in-house journals and magazines for many years, before the advent of blogging. Vikram has taught at a University as a Professor for 15 years and now teaches as a visiting faculty and devotes most of his time to creative writing and blogging. Vikram Karve lives in Pune India with his family and muse - his pet dog Sherry with whom he takes long walks thinking creative thoughts.

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