Saturday, May 27, 2017

Humor in Uniform – Rankomania

Everything has pros and cons. 

Likewise OROP (One Rank One Pension) has pros and cons too. 

The very term One Rank One Pension implies that Pension will be based on Rank.

Thus – in order to get more OROP – desperation for getting promoted to high rank will increase. 

And – this desperation to get promoted will further exacerbate the Rankomania epidemic afflicting the Defence Services.

All this reminds me a spoof I wrote a few years ago.

Here it is – for you to have a laugh – and to ponder over.

Dear Reader: 

First – read Part 1 – The Story of the Rankomaniac “Faujan” – if you just want to have a laugh.

Then – go on to Part 2 – Moral of the Story – if you want some Food for Thought to ponder over.

By the way – in military parlance – “Fauj” is a generic term for the Military – Army, Navy and Air Force – and hence – a “Fauji” is a Military Man – and a “Faujan” is a Military Wife – and yes  it was an Army Wife who introduced me to the term “Faujan”…

A Fictional Spoof


“A” was a most ambitious Naval Officer.

His sole aim was to become an Admiral.

He moved heaven and earth  and he did everything possible to achieve his objective.

Those days  the first promotion board was for the rank of Commander.

As his promotion board approached  the fear of supersession made him highly anxious and tense.

Soon  he came to know that the promotion board was over  but the results were not yet declared  and he eagerly waited for the promotion signal.

This excruciating wait almost drove him crazy.

He was hearing conflicting rumours about his promotion – some said he was on the select list – and some said he had got an “R” and had been passed over for promotion.

This made “A” so tense and stressed-out – that he started going crazy.

One day his shipmates called us over and told us: “Hey  you guys are his friends. He is so bloody tense about his promotion. He is almost on the verge of a nervous breakdown. I think you chaps better speak to him and pep him up a bit.

We will do that,” we said.

The promotion signal is likely to be released tonight. The bugger is so nervous and frantic that he may even commit suicide if he does not get promoted. He is all alone – his wife and kids are away in their hometown for their summer holidays. I think it is better someone is with him to make sure he does not go berserk and to prevent him from doing something stupid – in case his name is not on the select list,” said a shipmate of “A.

In the evening we reached his house with a bottle of Rum.

We did not have to open our bottle  since “A” had already opened a Rum bottle and was drinking away to soothe his nerves – and it seemed he had already imbibed quite a lot of alcohol.

“Why are you worried...? With your outstanding performance  you are sure to get promoted...” we said.

“What bloody outstanding performance...? Someone told me that the buggers in Delhi are manipulating the list. That is why the promotion signal is delayed. I hope the bloody signal comes tonight...” “A” said  and he downed his glass of rum.

His voice had a note of desperation.

I filled up his glass and I said to “A”

“With your long sea service  they cannot ignore you.”

“Sea Service...? Sea Service My Foot...! All this “Sea ACR Weightage crap is bullshit. Look at the number of guys sitting in Delhi who get their sea-time waived  and all of them get promoted. Someone told me that my name is being pushed out of the list to accommodate some bloody influential landlubber pen-pusher sitting in Delhi. I am convinced about one thing now – never go to sea if you want to get promoted...” he said bitterly.

“Let’s go out for dinner...” I said, trying to change the subject. 

I thought that  maybe  an outing would change his mood – and do him a bit of good.

“No. I am not feeling okay. If you want you guys can go ahead...” he said.

“Okay. I will sit with you and give you company here. He will go and get us some dinner. What do you want to eat – Biryani from Olympia or Butter Chicken from Delhi Darbar...?”

I am in no mood to eat. You guys eat anything you want...” he said.

As my buddy left to get food  on the way out  I whispered to him to go to the Signal-Centre and find out about the Promotion Signal – when was it likely to come...

We  “A” and Me   we kept drinking Rum.

“A” was quite drunk now.

It was more than 2 hours  almost midnight  but my shipmate buddy had still not returned.

I feared the worst  that  “A” had been superseded.

We kept drinking in silence.

We had lost all sense of time

Suddenly  my buddy arrived.

He seemed overjoyed.

The promotion signal had arrived.

“A” had been promoted   yes  his name was on the select list.

On hearing the good news  “A” asked: 

“Are you sure my name is on the select list...?”

“Of course your name is very much there on the select list. I knew you would have doubts  so I have got a copy of the signal for you – see for yourself.”

“A” kept staring at the promotion signal  at his name in the select list.

All his pent up tension seemed to dissolve  and relief was visible on his face.

It was time to leave him alone to savour his moment of triumph.

But  “A” would not let us go. 

“No. No. Wait. Don’t go. The good news calls for a drink. I have kept a bottle of Royal Salute Whisky for this occasion...” he said to us.

“Whisky...? After so much Rum...?” I asked.

“Come on guys. It doesn’t matter. Today is a special day. Let’s celebrate...” “A”insisted.

We kept drinking – and in due course  the bottle of Royal Salute was polished off.

“Hey – it is nearly 3 AM in the morning. Time to leave...” I said.

“A” looked at me with hazy eyes and said to me: “Thanks for coming.”

“Do you know why we actually came...?” my buddy asked, lurching drunkenly.

“Shut up...” I said to my buddy.

“No. Tell me. Tell me why you came...?” stuttered “A”, his speech blurred with intoxication.

“They told us you would commit suicide if you missed your promotion...” my buddy blurted out.

A looked at us – and  he said to us: 

“Well  I really don’t know what I would have done if I had been passed over for promotion. But one thing is sure. My wife would have committed suicide if I had missed my promotion...” 

What...? Your Wife...? Are you saying that your wife would have committed suicide if you had missed your promotion...?” we asked in surprise.

“Yes  my wife would have committed suicide if I had missed my promotion...” he said.

“But  why should your wife be so anxious whether you get promoted or not...? Getting promoted or superseded certainly affects you  but – how does it affect your wife...? I can understand that you were desperate to get promoted. But your wife...? Are you telling us that your wife is more career conscious than you...?” we asked A.

A” looked at us and he said: 

Yes. My wife is more ambitious than me. She would have been totally devastated if I had been passed over for promotion – and  she would have surely committed suicide. She had worked so hard for my promotion. She would not have been able to bear the agony of my supersession…”

After uttering this insightful truth  “A” drank the whisky remaining in his glass in one gulp. 

And then  “A” collapsed – and he passed out on the sofa  happily drunk.


The Greek word philia means excessive liking or love.

So rankophilia means excessive love for rank 

An overly rank-conscious officer may be called a rankophile

The Greek word mania means excessive obsession  an intense craving – or  overweening desire

Hence – an overly ambitious officer who is excessively desperate to get promoted to high rank may be called a rankomaniac

If you have served in the defence services  you may have come across many rankophiles who are excessively rank-conscious. 

“Rankophilia leads to Rankomania.

So  you will see plenty of rankomaniacs – who are desperate to get promoted.

I have seen some rankowives too – yes  rankowives  those faujans”   military wives – who are excessively rank conscious of their husband’s rank and even more ambitious than their fauji” husbands.

Yes – like the one the story – some faujans” can be more ambitious than their fauji” husbands  and sometimes  these Rankomaniac Military Wives can vitiate social life in the Defence Services.



ACS (Assured Career Supersession)

In the Civil Services – you have career incentives and benefits like Assured Career Progression (ACP), Non Functional Upgradation (NFU) and Non-Functional Financial Upgradation (NFFU).

For Civilian Officers  Promotion prospects are good  and promotion to a certain high rank is virtually guaranteed by the time you retire at the age of 60.

However  in comparative terms  in the Defence Services – promotion prospects are not as good as the Civil Services.

In view of the steep pyramid like hierarchical structure in the Army, Navy and Air Force  it is very difficult to get promoted  especially to high rank.

Worse  in the Military  they retire you off at a young age  if you do not get promoted to high rank.

Unlike the almost 100% promotion in the civil services  the promotion percentages in the Armed Forces are much lower.

That is why I used to jokingly say that  whereas – the Civilians have ACP (Assured Career Progression) – the Military “faujis” have ACS (Assured Career Supersession).

It is a sad irony that even civilians who are supposed to support the man in uniform – like Civilian Defence Scientists – these Civilian Support Services enjoy much better career prospects than the uniformed Defence Services  who are the mainstay of the nation’s defence.

Another unique feature of the Defence Services is the extremely high degree of “Rank consciousness” (Rankophilia)  a consequence of which is – the desperation to get promoted to high rank at any cost (Rankomania).

The saying RANK HAS ITS PRIVILEGES (RHIP) – and – this RHIP concept is carried to the extreme in the Armed Forces  resulting in a situation where  RANK HAS ALL THE PRIVILEGES (RHAP) 

This aspect further exacerbates RANKOPHILIA and RANKOMANIA


In the Armed Forces (Army, Navy, Air Force)  everything depends on your rank.

Your rank determines your status, your pay, your perks, your post retirement job prospects (especially in PSUs), your retirement age  and – even after retirement – it is the rank you held in service that deteremines your pension (OROP). 

Yes  your rank determines even your pension after retirement – like OROP – One Rank One Pension – each and everything depends on your rank.

This obsession with rank is extended to your wife and family as well.

Yes  the status of an officer’s wife depends on her husband’s rank.

This results in absurd “designations” like “Senior Wife” “First Lady” etc and gives rise to a parallel hierarchy among military wives 

These so-called “Senior Ladies” try to flaunt their husband’s rank.

This pernicious practice continues despite the fact that we now have Lady Officers in the Armed Forces whose status is officially higher than those who are mere Wives of Senior Officers.

This “pecking order culture” in the Defence Services makes Rank the most important thing in Military Life  at work  and even in social life as well.

Since your rank is the “be-all and end-all” of military life  most officers (and their wives) are desperate to get promoted at any cost.

The chances of achieving higher rank are quite slim due to low promotion percentages especially as you go higher up as the vacancies become fewer and fewer.

There is a saying that in the Navy (or Army) that 

“...All officers get superseded at some stage  since only one can become the Chief... 

– unlike the in the Civil Services and Police where there can be many officers of the rank of Secretary and Director General.

There is an intriguing aspect of promotion  at least in the Navy  which I have observed. 

Very few officers are superseded for professional incompetence

Yes  very few officers are superseded due to incompetence in performance of their professional duties.

Most of the superseded officers are highly proficient in their duties and are professionally competent. 

It is mainly due to some “personality clash” that most officers are superseded and passed over for promotion. 

But that is another story  which I will discuss sometime later.


Supersession has two effects:

1. Loss of self-esteem and end of the road (blocked career growth) for the individual

2. Feelings of inadequacy and humiliation at the social and familial level

In the rank-conscious feudal culture of the defence services  if you are superseded and passed over for promotion  you have to contend with a situation where you may have to work under an erstwhile junior which can be a most humiliating experience. 

Even at the social level – your wife may have to suffer the humiliation of being bossed around at AWWA/NWWA/AFWWA Events – by a much younger wife of an officer – who has been promoted and has leapfrogged over your husband – who unfortunately – has been passed over”  superseded for promotion – and fallen by the wayside. 

(NWWA = Navy Wives Welfare Association, AWWA = Army Wives Welfare Association and AFWWA = Air Force Wives Welfare Association)

That is why  one of the greatest fears of an officer (and his family) is the Fear of Supersession

This “supersession fear” is a result of the potent combination of “Rankophilia”and “Rankomania” – exacerbated by poor promotion prospects – due to pyramidal hierarchy structure in the Armed Forces.

In many cases this “fear of supersession” gives rise to ruthless competition fuelled by overweening ambition.

The manifestation of this careerism is visible in the increasing contretemps among officers  the rising number of grievances  and ever-increasing litigation on promotion issues  and frequent “succession battles” – which make headlines in the media from time to time.

In the defence services  promotion is probably the most stressful issue for a careerist officer, his wife and his family.

Due to this  many officers in the promotion zone are in a state of CAREER FEAR.

“Career Fear” essentially is an individual’s reluctance to stand up for his values and principles because he fears that this may damage his career prospects.

He does not want to stick his neck out or “rock the boat” for the fear of harming his promotion prospects.

“Career Fear” results in “Play Safe Mindset and the “Zero Error Syndrome”.

An officer afflicted with “Career Fear” places self interest before the interest of his men 

And – and such a careerist officer can no longer be a true leader.

Such a Careerist Officer will dump the Chetwode Credo – and  instead of Service before Self” – he will put Self Before Service.

Are RANKOPHILIA and RANKOMANIA adversely affecting leadership quality in the Defence Services...?

Can CAREER FEAR be mitigated by having initiatives like ACP (Assured Career Progression) and NFU (Non Functional Upgradation)  – like it exists in the Civil Services) – and by reintroducing Running Pay Band – like it existed earlier in the Military. 

All such initiatives which will hopefully reduce the excessive rank consciousness which is detrimental to the morale of the Defence Services. 

Most rank-conscious Senior Officers are reluctant to implement such initiatives – on the specious excuse that  the charm of rank will be lost.

So – till then  Rankomania will be a part and parcel of Military Life.

Copyright © Vikram Karve 
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© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

1. This 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. This story and 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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