Monday, May 9, 2016

“Businessmen” in Uniform

Humor in Uniform

A Spoof


This happened more than 38 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 Headquarters (those days the 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 Staff Officer was briefing us.

Suddenly, the phone on the table rang and the Commander picked it up.

Whatever he heard on the phone suddenly galvanized him into action.

The Commander abruptly stood up and told us that something urgent had come up.

He told us that he would be back soon and we should wait for him.

He threw a file in front of us and told us to read it till he got back.

Then he swiftly grabbed a civilian bush shirt which was hanging on the hat-stand, wore the blue bush-shirt over his white uniform shirt.

He picked up his briefcase and disappeared at the speed of light.

We waited patiently in his office – almost half an hour passed.

Then we went over to the office hall and asked the staff if they knew when he 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, no online trading, and you had to physically trade stocks through your broker)

When the Commander returned, he seemed quite cheerful and 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, he educated us on investing and trading in shares and told us how much money could be made in the stock market rather than the conventional savings methods which we were doing.

Later on, during my career, I met many such “Bulls” and “Bears” in the Navy, who were more preoccupied with the Stock Market than their Naval Duties.

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, even during working hours, and from remote locations – 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 on the stock market and are earning good money “working” from home on the satta bazaar.


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 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 a certain scheme, 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 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?


If you are thinking of a career in the armed forces, the army, navy or 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...?


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 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.

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 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.


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 being reported in the media is a sign of the proliferation of these “businessmen in uniform” in the 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 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.


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 especially getting agitated about the hot topic of the day – OROP – aka “One Rank One Pension” – and – these “businessmen in uniform” were busy calculating and comparing how much money they were going to get.

Habits die hard !!! LOL 

And – of course – about the “businessmen in uniform” involved in corruption and scams – the less said the better.

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1. This article 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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Revised Consolidated Version of My Articles "Businessmen in Uniform" Parts 1 and 2 - First Posted Online by me Vikram Karve on 14 December 2013 12/14/2013 12:52:00 PM  in my blog at url: and

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