Saturday, January 11, 2014

HUMOR IN UNIFORM – “SAHAYAK” (aka “Batman” or “Orderly”) – USE AND MISUSE

From my HUMOR IN UNIFORM archives - some Food For Thought - once more...

“SAHAYAK” (aka “Batman” or “Orderly”) – USE AND MISUSE

Incoherent Ramblings of a Retired Mind

Please read this only if you have a sense of humour. This is a spoof, a yarn, just for a laugh, so please take it with a pinch of salt. This is a work of fiction. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
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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)


The CTC (Cost To Company) of an Army Officer is much higher than his equivalent Navy or Air Force Officer.

In addition to the pay and perks (which are roughly the same), an Army Officer gets another “perk” called a “Sahayak” (aka “Batman” or “Orderly”).

Long back, I was posted as faculty in a tri-service training institution.

On the faculty, there were officers of the Army, Navy and Air Force and all officers did exactly the same job.

We were all instructors and whether you were in the Army, Navy or Air Force, the job was identical – to teach.

But only the Army Officers had “Sahayaks”.

This was starkly evident in the evenings when we all went for long walks.

I had a pet dog.

My neighbor was a senior Air Force Group Captain who also had a dog.

We used to personally take our dogs for a walk in the evenings (and in the mornings too).

A number of Army Officers had pet dogs too.

But not a single army officer would take his dog for a walk.

“Dogwalking” was the “duty” of the “Sahayak”.

Yes, walking the Sahib’s dog was the Sahayak’s job.

Maybe it was “below the dignity” for an army officer to take his dog for a walk.

I noticed that the practice of Sahayaks walking officers’ dogs was quite a common sight in army cantonments and tri-service institutions.

In fact, some of my army friends used to leave their dogs with their sahayaks when they came home on leave or went on courses.

One army officer’s wife even commented that looking after their dog was the sahayak’s job; and I observed that what she said was true – the sahayak took full care of the dog – the dog’s food, walks, grooming, bath, everything.

Every time a discussion on “sahayaks” comes up, most army officers are quick to defend this ancient practice saying that sahayaks are required for officers in the “field”.

Agreed – army officers require soldiers as sahayaks in the field.

But how can you justify soldiers being deputed as sahayaks in peacetime family stations, especially in inter-service establishments where you have Navy and Air Force Officers doing exactly the same job as Army Officers.

What rankles even more in inter-service training institutions is when some resourceful “student officers” from the army manage to get their “sahayaks” and flaunt them in front of senior navy and air force officers on the staff.


What is the genesis of this practice – why does an army officer need a “sahayak”?

An old-timer army veteran once told me that a sahayak (batman) is not a private servant and he is not provided to an army officer to perform the duties of a domestic help.

The sahayak is not a domestic orderly.

The sahayak or batman is a combat soldier.

(The word “batman” is short form of “battle-man”)

The batman is actually a “runner” who always accompanies the officer in battle and his primary duty in combat operations is to convey the orders of the officer to his subordinates, particularly when the wireless is not functioning.

Besides his primary task as a “runner, the sahayak or batman is supposed to look after the officer’s needs, his equipment and uniform, act as a bodyguard and protect the officer and generally be his “buddy” while the officer is engaged in combat operations.

Thus the batman was the officer’s “battle-man”, his buddy in combat, and there was no question of a batman being employed on any nature of domestic work, especially in peacetime family stations and in the homes of officers.

This is what the old-timer told me.

Unfortunately the perception created in the minds of people is quite different.

It may not be entirely correct, but unfortunately, the general impression today is that a sahayak or batman is a personal servant of the army officer and his family.

Again I say that this may not be a correct picture.

But then what will be the impression created in the minds of people when they observe army officers using their sahayaks to take their dogs for walks, send them to the market for shopping, and to perform various types of domestic work, menial jobs and household chores.

This is visible to everyone in peacetime stations and cantonments, sometimes even in civilian areas where army officers live.

A recently retired army officer’s wife told me that the one thing she misses the most is her “sahayak”.

Long back I heard a bizarre story which may be apocryphal.

“resourceful” officer who was posted to a non-family field area managed to arrange a “sahayak” for his wife who was living in separated married quarters in a peace station.

The irony was that the smart “sahayak” turned out to be even more “resourceful” and was having a rolicking affair with the officer’s wife stealing her affections while the officer was slogging it out in the field.

Yes, it can be hazardous to let a sahayak get too intimate with families, especially wives and daughters.

With the advent of women officers in the army, I wonder if they too are provided male sahayaks.

Or are lady army officers provided female attendants?

Do some officers manage” sahayaks after they retire from the army?

I don’t think it is possible, but someone once mentioned that some resourceful senior army officers do “manage” to get sahayaks even after retirement.

Another argument army officers use to justify the institution of “sahayak” is that even other Civilian Officers (IAS, IPS, Railways, PSUs, etc) have various government employees deputed as “attendants” in their homes for similar domestic duties.

I wonder whether other modern armies still have still batmen and whether civil servants of modern nations get “attendants” for their domestic work.

Due to the feudal culture of India, someone told me that even Diplomats and IFS Officers are entitled to take “attendants” and servants abroad.

Well, it seems that we still remain a feudal society with the same old colonial culture, and these “Relics of the Raj” are not going to go away in a hurry.

Since it will be impossible to get rid of this time honored feudal practice of sahayaks in the army, the best thing to do in the name of jointmanship would be to extend this facility of sahayaks to the navy and air force.

When almost everyone, all army and most civilian officers, get sahayaks and “attendants”, why leave out only the Navy and Air Force Officers?

Yes, how about providing “sahayaks” to Navy and Air Force Officers?

Copyright © Vikram Karve 
Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this book review. 
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

All stories in this blog are a work of fiction. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
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)

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About Vikram Karve

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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