Friday, December 18, 2015

Humor in Uniform : “Slave Mentality”

Humor in Uniform
Unforgettable Memories of My Wonderful Navy Days

An indecisive boss is the worst type of boss – especially in the Armed Forces – especially in the Navy – where officers are required to take quick unambiguous decisions.

Sadly – I came across many careerist officers who believed in the dictum “If I avoid taking decisions   then I cannot be blamed if things go wrong – so they avoided taking decisions and passed the buck upwards – always seeking approval for everything – even things which were well within their purview.

Maybe this was a ramification of the “slave mentality” they had developed due to excessive regimentation during their training days as cadets – or maybe “career fear” made them excessively cautious and they wanted to avoid even the smallest blame if things went wrong because they feared that even one small wrong decision would ruin their ACR (Annual Confidential Report).

You can see this attribute even at senior levels of military leadership – which has a tendency to rush to civilian bureaucrats or politicians for the smallest of decisions.

All this reminds me of a story which happened more than 30 years ago.

Read on – have a laugh – and – think about it... 

A Spoof

SEEKING APPROVAL  A Spoof by Vikram Karve

“May I come in, Sir?”

“Come in,” I said.

I looked up.

It was the Canteen JCO.

“Sir, I have a problem,” he said.


“Sir, about the timings on Saturday,” he mumbled.

“Speak up, will you…” I said.

“Sir, on Saturdays the Canteen is open from 10:30 to 12:30.”

“I know,” I said.

“Sir, on Saturday, the bank has a half day – the bank closes at 1 PM – they shut down at 1300 hrs, Sir.”


“It takes me more than half an hour to finish counting all the cash, tallying all the bills and reconciling the day’s accounts.”

(This happened in 1985 when everything was done manually)

“Okay. So what? Get to the point,” I said to the Canteen JCO.

“Sir, it gets past 1 o’clock by the time I reach the bank with the cash. The bank is closed so the cashier refuses to accept the cash and I am not able to deposit the cash in the bank. So I have to take all the cash home and keep it with me for the weekend till Monday and I feel it is very risky for me to keep so much money at home,” he said.

“So what do you want me to do? What’s the solution?” I asked him.

“Sir, if we could change the Canteen Timings on Saturdays from 10:15 to 12:15…?”

“Why 10:15 to 12:15 – change it from 10:00 to 12:00 – that will give you enough time to count the cash and deposit it in the bank by 1300 hrs,” I said, “As it is, I have seen those bank buggers start downing shutters at 12:45 itself on Saturdays.”

“Thank you, Sir – I will put up a file for approval,” the Canteen JCO said.

“What bloody file for approval? Just paint the new timings on the board outside the canteen and implement the new timings from this Saturday onwards,” I shouted.

And so  the CSD Canteen timings were changed and the problem was resolved.

And everyone was happy.


Three months later I was summoned to the Dean’s Office – the Dean wanted to see me urgently.

The Dean, a Major General, was seated on his Chair – and sitting opposite him was the OC Adm, a Colonel.

The Dean asked me sit down on the vacant chair.

“You changed the CSD Canteen timings?” the Dean asked me.

“Yes, Sir,” I said.


I told him the reason – about the problem of depositing cash in the bank on Saturdays when the bank closed early.

“Okay,” the Dean said.

“Sir, Sir,” blurted out the OC Adm, “Sir – he changed the timings without proper authority.”

“What authority?” I said, looking at the OC Adm.

“Who gave you the authority to change the timings?” the OC Adm asked me.

“The Dean gave me the authority,” I said.

“What?” the OC Adm asked, his mouth open in surprise.

I looked at the confused OC Adm and said to him, “Sir – The Dean has delegated his authority to me when he appointed me as the Officer-in-Charge of the Canteen. So I have full authority for the day to day running of the canteen.”

The OC Adm seemed taken aback by my reply, and he said to the Dean, “Sir, see how rudely he speaks – we should take disciplinary action against him.”

“What disciplinary action?” I asked in amazement, looking at the OC Adm.

Then I looked at the Dean, and I said, “Sir, the canteen timings have been changed more than three months ago and everything is running fine for the past 3 months. And this clueless OC Adm did not notice this for all these days and he has suddenly woken up now after 3 months?”

“...Clueless...? Sir  he is calling me clueless’...! Sir  I am a senior full Colonel and he is calling me clueless...!” the OC Adm protested excitedly.

“Enough...!” the Dean raised his voice.

Then the Dean looked at me and he said, “This is not the bloody Navy where you can take decisions on your own and do what you feel like. Just put up a file to me through OC Adm for ex post facto” approval of the new CSD canteen timings.”

(This happened more than 30 years ago  in 1985  in IAT Pune  a tri-service training institution where I had just been appointed as faculty and had been promptly given the “bum job” of running the CSD Canteen. 

Though IAT was an inter-service establishment  it was run in typical army style – the Head was the Director and Dean, a Major General, referred to as “The Dean”  with OC Adm and GSO 1 (Training) as his two flunkeys  who tried to throw their weight around and browbeat the teaching faculty who were busy performing the primary training task for which IAT existed)

In the evening  there was a party on the lawns of the officers’ mess.

I was drinking in a quiet corner when the Dean walked up to me.

“Good evening, Sir,” I said.

“Good evening – I see that you are doing a good job running the canteen. My wife tells me that you have introduced a lot of new items – and I know you have tightened up the screws on liquor pilferage as well,” he said.

“Thank you, Sir,” I said.

Then, emboldened by the “Dutch Courage” due to the alcohol flowing in my veins, I said to the Dean, “Sir, do you really want me to seek your approval for each and every thing – I think you should give me a free hand to run the CSD Canteen.”

“Oh that…!” the Dean said.

The General enjoyed his drinks and I could see that he was in good spirits too.

“Sir, your OC Adm bullshitted me this afternoon and told me I must take approval for everything,” I said.

“I know – he is quite a stickler. But you don’t worry – you just do what you want  but don’t forget to send a file for approval through OC Adm – I know that he is just a bloody post office – but it will satisfy his ego,” the Dean said.

“Aye, Aye, Sir,” I said.

Then the Dean looked at me and said, “I will tell you something about this crazy OC Adm. But you must to keep it to yourself.”

“About OC Adm...?” I exclaimed.

“Do you know how this bloody clueless OC Adm screws up my happiness at night...?” the General said.

“At night...?” I asked the General.

“He is a bloody full Colonel  but the bugger still disturbs my sleep and rings me up late at night to seek my approval...” the Dean said.

“He calls you up late at night – to seek approval...?” I asked the General

“Yes – he wants to seek my approval to make love to his own wife,” the General said tongue-in-cheek.

I stood dumbstruck.

Before I could recover my wits  the General walked away – and I burst out laughing. 

And yes  in true army style  the General used a much more bawdy word for the euphemism: “make love”.

Copyright © Vikram Karve 
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1. This story is a 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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