Posts Tagged ‘military’

ECHS Pune – Mismanagement Woes

July 13, 2016

Topical Article on Ex-Servicemen Contributory Health Scheme (ECHS) Mismanagement Woes in Pune affecting Healthcare of Military Veterans and Families of Ex-Servicemen (ESM)

Source: Where has ECHS gone wrong?

Article is also reproduced below for your convenience from url: 

Where has ECHS gone wrong…? 


  • Unable to pay hospitals their dues
  • Is treatment of ex-servicemen and their families becoming a liability to the MOD?

By Sangeeta Saxena

New Delhi. 10 June 2016. Today it is Pune, tomorrow it will be somewhere else and for all one knows there could be many more such Ruby Halls  already existing in the country. Ex-Servicemen Contributory Health Scheme (ECHS) cashless facilities have been discontinued to beneficiaries due to an outstanding of over Rs. 5.50 Crores  from 01-06-16.

Speaking to ex-servicemen  and by the virtue belonging to a family of one I realised only those living in Delhi and Chandigarh were happy with the ECHS Polyclinics and empaneled hospitals, the others had sordid tales of woe to tell.

It is pathetic to see that a scheme which started with goodwill and welfare should come to such a condition. Is ECHS finding it difficult to serve the ex-servicemen and their families? Is there a crunch in finances that it is making it difficult  to pay the dues to empaneled hospitals and is there a lack of cash at the Polyclinics level to procurement medicines both routine and life saving?

Non availability of funds with the MD ECHS has had a cascading adverse effect on planning and execution of healthcare of ECHS members. Super Specialty Hospitals and other good hospitals are not offering themselves to be empanelled because of the non clearance of their bills in time.  Suggestion was given by ex servicemen  to MD ECHS to clear 50 percent of the hospital bills within one week of receipt of the bills and remaining 50 percent be cleared within 30 days, after due evaluation, analysis and verification.  Ex servicemen  are told that such a proposal is lying with Secy DESW for a considerable time for approval.

A large number of good Super Specialty Hospitals initially empanelled with ECHS, have withdrawn for want of clearance of their bills and the remaining empanelled hospitals are also under financial stress and on the verge of discontinuing empanelment.    The required funds need to be released well in time to ensure smooth execution ECHS.

ECHS  was launched with effect from 01 April 2003. The Scheme aims to provide allopathic Medicare to Ex-servicemen pensioner and their dependents through a network of ECHS Polyclinics, Service medical facilities and civil empanelled/Govt hospitals spread across the country. The Scheme has been structured on the lines of CGHS to ensure cashless transactions, as far as possible, for the patients and is financed by the Govt of India.

ECHS is a flagship Scheme of the Ministry of Defence, Department of Ex-Servicemen Welafre. The aim of Scheme is to provide quality healthcare of Ex-servicemen pensioners and their dependents. As on date, a total of 13,48,517 Ex-servicemen have enlisted with the Scheme along with 30,03,577 dependents. Total beneficiaries of the Scheme, thus amount to 43,52,094.

Policy framework for the Scheme is laid down by the Governmentt and executive control is exercised by the Department of Ex-servicemen Welfare. The Scheme is managed through the existing infrastructure of the Armed Forces so as to minimize the administrative expenditure. The existing infrastructure includes command and control structure, spare capacity of Service Medical facilities (Hospitals and Medical Inspection Rooms), procurement organization for medical and non-medical equipment, Defence land and buildings etc. Station Commanders assisted by Senior Executive Medical Officers (SEMO) exercise direct control over the ECHS Polyclinics.

The Central Organisation ECHS is located at Delhi and functions under the Chiefs of Staff Committee through the Adjutant General in the Integrated Headquarters of Ministry of Defence (Army). The Central Organisation is headed by a Managing Director, a serving Major General.

There are nearly 30  Regional Centres sanctioned by the Govt and ECHS Polyclinics are designed to provide ‘Out Patient Care’ which includes consultation, essential investigation and provision of medicines. Specialized consultations, investigations and ‘In Patient Care’ (Hospitalization) is provided through spare capacity available in Service hospitals and through civil hospitals empanelled with ECHS. Polyclinics are categorized as Type A to E based on the number of Ex-servicemen residing in that area.

The beneficiary reports to the ECHS Polyclinic and registers with his/her smart card at the reception and is allocated a Medical Officer (MO). In case of OPD patient the MO prescribes medicines which may be obtained from the pharmacy of the polyclinic. In case of in-patient treatment, the beneficiary is referred by the MO to a Service hospital, in case the polyclinic is in Military station. In case of non-availability of bed in Service hospital, the patient is referred back to the polyclinic for referral to an empanelled hospital. Once referred, the patient gets treated from the empanelled facility on a cashless basis. The empanelled facility processes the claim online/manually after the patient is discharged . In case of polyclinics located in non-Military station, the OIC refers the patient to the nearest Service hospital/empanelled facility.

The ECHS currently has over 40 lakh beneficiaries. This number is going to steadily increase in the future and is expected to stabilize at 65 lakhs by 2020. So where has the ECHS gone wrong? It started with a great aim but somewhere down the lane lost the focus. Or is the growing ex-servicemen fraternity so large that ECHS cannot bear the costs of treatment in private hospitals? Perhaps it can learn a lesson or two from its better run big brother CGHS.

Above Article reproduced from url below for reading convenience of military veterans :

Army Life : Hype vs Reality

October 2, 2015

Source: Academic and Creative Writing Journal Vikram Karve: IS THE ARMY LIFE OVER-HYPED or IS THE ARMY LIKE ANY OTHER JOB?

Link to my original post in my Academic and Creative Writing Journal:…

Ramblings of a Retired Military Veteran

(NB: The generic term “Army” includes all the three Armed Forces – Army, Navy and Air Force)


“The Army is like any other job,” the lady in the bank said.

We were waiting for our pension certificates.

A gentleman identified himself as a retired Army Officer, as a Defence Pensioner.

The lady at the bank counter thought he was trying to jump the queue.

So she looked icily at the Army Veteran and said: “Why do you army people always want special treatment? Everyone here is a pensioner, but you defence pensioners always want special privileges, even after retirement. As far as I am concerned, the army is like any other job. In fact, you people have so many facilities and enjoy the best lifestyle, but you faujis still want more concessions and special treatment everywhere – even after retirement.”

I smiled to myself.

The civilian lady at the bank was not at fault.

She lived in Pune, a salubrious peacetime army cantonment.

So she had seen only one face of the Army – what I like to call the “posh” face of the armed forces.


The civilian “lady at the bank” had seen the “posh” face of the army visible all over Pune.

Whenever she went to Pune Camp, she saw army officers and their families moving around in style in chauffeur driven army staff cars and jeeps.

She saw these official army cars and jeeps parked majestically on MG Road, and at entrances to Malls and Stores, some staff cars parked brazenly in no parking zones, with the police not daring to question the uniformed drivers, while the army officers and their wives and families went around shopping.

On a few occasions, her friend and erstwhile school classmate, who was married to an army officer, had taken her to the CSD canteen, the club and then to her well-appointed house in the posh cantonment and boasted of the facilities she enjoyed in the army.

She saw that army officers and their families had access to the best of facilities – sports, swimming pools, clubs, golf, schools, chauffeur driven cars, subsidized canteens etc

She saw that the army provided a full time “sahayak” who took care of all household chores and outside errands too – so her friend who was married to an army officer did not have to do any household work and was free to enjoy social and entertainment activities like ladies club, kitty parties and lead a posh life.

And to top it all, army officers enjoyed quality time with their families and for various social and sporting activities, because of fewer working hours.

Indeed, the army provided a good life.

This is the “posh” face which the army projects to civilians.


But the army has another face too – which it does not project to civilians.

Does the common citizen in a modern metropolis, like Pune, know that a part of the army is in a constant state of combat on the borders, LOC, LAC and militant infested areas?

Are they aware of the stress, dangers and hardships army officers face in conflict zones and field areas?

Are civilians aware of the trials and tribulations army wives and families undergo as a consequence of being in a constant state of stress when their husbands are posted in the field?

Do civilians living in urban India know about the yeoman’s service that the Indian Army renders in the border and remote areas of India?

First and foremost the Army provides security – this is well known to all.

But does the common citizen know that the army is involved in virtually every aspect of life in these inaccessible and hazard-prone areas?

Besides providing medical facilities, medical treatment, mercy missions, casualty evacuation, and rescue and relief missions – even running schools and giving education facilities to local population in these inhospitable areas – it is the Army that delivers Social Welfare, is involved in Community Development and gives succour for population of border and remote areas of India where the civilian administration is scant and people depend on the Army for everything.

Do civilians know that it is this yeoman’s service that the Indian Army renders in the border and remote areas of India which keeps these regions united and connected with the rest of nation.

Whenever there is a calamity – the armed forces are the first to rush in for rescue and relief even at danger to their own lives.

The Indian Army does great things which go unnoticed because of inadequate information dissemination to the public and citizens about the Army’s multifarious activities.

This is the challenging, arduous “harsh reality” face of the army.

It is high time the army stops projecting only its “posh” face.

Army must start projecting the true “harsh reality” face of military life to civilians.

There is a need to project the right image of the army.

Only then will misinformed and naive civilians – living comfortably in urban India – realize the work army is doing – and appreciate the hardships and challenges of military life.

Then civilians will think twice before saying: “The Army is like any other job”.

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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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Updated Version of My Article First Posted by me Vikram Karve in my blog at7/02/2014 02:31:00 PM at url:…

OLQ for Military Officers

September 25, 2015


Link to my original post in my Academic and Creative Writing Journal:…


The OROP (One Rank One Pension) imbroglio is resulting in many ramifications – many unintended.

Before the OROP issue came to the forefront – most “faujis” and veterans were not aware that the “Top Brass” of the Defence Services were availing OROP by virtue of being in the “Apex Scale”.

In an article titled THE BITTER TRUTH ABOUT OROP a retired IAS Officer revealed that senior bureaucrats and armed forces top brass who retire in the “Apex Scale” would get OROP – that is, their pensions would always be linked to whatever revised Apex Scale the subsequent Pay Commissions decided. The Apex Scale has also been provided to the 3 Service Chiefs and many Lt Gens/Equivalents in Navy/Air Force – so this article implied that all these senior ranking officers are already getting OROP. The author aptly commented: “This may perhaps explain why we have not heard the top echelons of the forces coming out in public support of the demand for universal OROP”.

(Here is the link to the above article: The bitter truth about OROP

Since Generals have not denied the remarks in the above article so far – it is obvious that many retired Generals are getting OROP – and serving Generals/Equivalents will also get OROP irrespective of the outcome of the OROP protests.

Most veterans were aghast that many Generals/Equivalents were availing OROP while their junior officers and soldiers were deprived of OROP.

Is this not a violation of line 2 and 3 of the Chetwode Motto:

“The safety, honour and welfare of your country come first, always and every time.
The honour, welfare and comfort of the men you command come next.
Your own ease, comfort and safety come last, always and every time.”

As per the Chetwode Motto – the Military Leadership (comprising Generals/Admirals/Air Marshals and other high ranking Top Brass) should have ensured that their men got OROP before taking OROP themselves.

But the Military Leadership did not do so – and they selfishly took OROP themselves – and as the author implies – since they are entitled for OROP themselves – the military top brass has not come out in support of OROP for their junior officers and soldiers.

Such selfish actions by senior officers lowers their credibility in the eyes of their juniors and military veterans – and even in the eyes of the common citizen

One wonders whether the concept of OLQ (Officer Like Qualities) exists in the Defence Services nowadays – or has OLQ become an antiquated concept which has been junked in the Armed Forces.

All this reminded me of a letter written by an erstwhile Army Chief to all Officers – which I had posted long ago in my blog.

So – let me delve into my blog – and pull out this post for you to read once again.

Long back – nearly 30 years ago – in 1986 – when I was on the faculty of IAT Pune – an Army colleague showed me an open letter his Chief General K Sundarji  had written to all army officers.

It was an open letter – exhorting each and every officer to live up to the high standards of professionalism, élan and values expected of each and every officer (“officer like qualities”).

It was a very inspiring letter – and it left a lasting impression on me.

Later – I searched for it on the internet and I found just one link – yes – just one link – to this famous letter.

We must thank that one person for preserving this motivating piece in cyberspace for posterity.

Though this letter was written almost 30 years ago – in Feb 1986 – I feel that this inspiring letter is most relevant today when the Indian Army is going through difficult times – especially on the moral and ethical front.

In these challenging times – it may be apt for all officers – senior and junior – to read this inspiring letter, ponder on the various points discussed, introspect and reflect on the reasons for the falling standards of OLQ (Officer Like Qualities) in the Defence Services – and take corrective action and aim for self-improvement and upholding service values and ethos.

In the context of OROP – as mentioned in para 8 of the letter – had the “running pay band” concept granted by the 4th Pay Commission been continued and extended to all ranks – the present OROP imbroglio could have been avoided.

But instead of strengthening and improving upon this excellent “integrated pay scale” concept which delinked pay from rank – this superb “running pay band” concept was scrapped – and now we have the OROP issue which is getting worse day by day.

I think it will be a good idea to re-issue this classic letter to all officers once more – especially for the benefit of those senior officers who seem to forgotten the Chetwode Motto and put self before service.

I am giving the url link below – and also – for your convenience – I am also posting the letter below for you to read.

(Courtesy Commander Debashis Mukherjee’s Website url: General K Sundarji)


General K Sundarji, PVSM, ADC
Army Headquarters, New Delhi-110 001
1 Feb 86

Dear Brother Officer,

1. It is imperative that we have a totally combat effective Army to support the revitalised India of tomorrow in her rightful place in the world. This involves getting the ‘man-machine mix’ just right, improving the quality of both and placing them in a structure which will be effective in the battlefield milieu of the Nineties and the early decades of 2000. It is an exercise as exciting as it is challenging and I am fully confident that we will succeed.

2. Briefly mentioning the ‘machine’, we have thus far modernised only by discrete changes of weapons systems and equipment. We were also dependent mostly on imported equipment, which apart from not being designed to suit our exact requirements, were also not ‘state of the art’ and at least a generation behind those used by more modern armies. Much of this has changed and is fast changing. Our R & D has come of age and having had a close look at the scene for some years, I can assure you that we are on the verge of take-off. There are still some problems of translation of R & D into production, but these are also being solved fast. Therefore, the time has now come for us to take a total look at technology, threats, tactics and organisations in order to restructure our Army and develop doctrine for the future. This is in hand, and want each one of you to be involved in the process.

3. However, no amount of modernisation of arms, equipment, tactics and organisations can produce results unless we have the right kind of man in the right state of mind, manning the system. And that is what this letter of mine is about.

4. The fact that the Army is one of the national institutions which has, comparatively speaking, weathered the post-independence years and yet remains effective, should not make us complacent. Field Marshal Cariappa used to say, “Good officers – good Army; bad officers – bad Army”. This is as true today as it was then. We should, therefore look at ourselves first and be not only frank but hypercritical. As a whole, the Corps of Officers has lost much of its self esteem, pride and élan; it is becoming increasingly careerist, opportunist and sycophantic; standards of integrity have fallen and honour and patriotism are becoming unfashionable. Paradoxically, all this is happening, while in the narrow sense, professional competence has been going up at all levels since 1947. Broad-based though our intake has become, our young officers have proved in every action which they have fought, that they are brave and lead from the front – our officer casualty ratio in every action testifies to this. Where then, are we going wrong?

5. First, let us look at ourselves — the senior officers; most of us are senior to some of the others and so this includes almost all of us. We have obviously NOT set the right example. Many of us have not professionally kept ourselves up-to-date, doctrinally or technologically; we have felt that that we have ‘got it made’, and rested on our oars; we do not read enough; we do not think enough, and some of course, have been promoted well beyond their capability! In the practise of our profession, we have not insisted on standards being maintained and turn our eyes away from irregularities (living in a glass house?); we have not been tolerant of dissent during discussion and encourage sycophancy (a result of our having ‘switched off’ professionally?) we have not been accepting any mistakes (due to hankering after personal advancement?), thus encouraging our juniors to either do nothing worthwhile or to oversupervise their juniors, who in turn are not allowed to develop professionally or mature as men. This leads to frustration. Finally, some have perhaps unthinkingly developed a yen for 5-star culture and ostentation which flows from new-rich values in our society, where money is the prime indicator of success and social position. This adoption of mercenary values in an organisation like the Army which depends for its élan on values like honour, duty and country above self, is disastrous for its élan and for the self-esteem of the individual in it. Andonce we start thinking of ourselves as third class citizens, it is not long before our civilian brethren take us at our own valuation, and some of them perhaps not without a touch of glee!

6. I am not suggesting that woefully inadequate pay and poor compensation packages for hard and turbulent service conditions, and being forced to live slummily with a poor quality of life do not prevent the development of élan and self-esteem. They do. It is also a fact that the overall compensation package of the servicemen is poor and has deteriorated rapidly over the years. So is it a fact that the present dispensation is inequitable as far as the armed forces are concerned as compared to their peers in other government services. These facts have been brought forcefully to the notice of the Pay Commission and the Government and I will continue to press hard for a fair and equitable deal. I would also like to add that all my contacts with the authorities so far, have convinced me that they are sympathetically aware of our problems. The Prime Minister himself is aware of the psychological problems caused by the unwarranted and continued degradation of service officers in the Warrant of Precedence. He has ordered that this problem be analysed and put up to him. But to tell you all this is not the purpose of this letter; I want to dwell on what we can do, in-house, to increase the élan and self-esteem of the Officer Corps.

7. The bed-rock of élan is the professional competence of individuals and leaders, and the faith, confidence and pride in the effectiveness of the group – the section upwards, to the Army as a whole. In developing professional competence, I would like to emphasise developing an active technological curiosity without which one cannot cope with the battlefield of tomorrow. I want that we read more and seriously, think more and seriously, discuss more and seriously and write more and seriously about professional matters. This last, has been inhibited by our exaggerated and self-defeating system of security classifications and centralised clearance requirements. I intend putting this right speedily. As regards developing group effectiveness, we have to do much more towards making our training mission-oriented, interesting, competitive and effective inspite of the various constraints of which we are well aware. We should certainly avoid training for training’s sake which not only gets to be boring but moves further and further away from the realities of battle conditions. Let us not get to the mentality of the British Colonel of the regular army who is said to have remarked on 11 Nov 1918,“Thank God the war is over; now we can get back to some serious soldiering”!

8. All of us talk about ‘Officer Like Qualities’ and about being officers and gentlemen. I am not sure whether to many of us these terms means the same thing. Being a gentlemen does not mean Westernisation and becoming a poor imitation of a ‘White Sahib’; it does not mean a tie and a jacket or the ability to handle a knife and fork just so! It refers to the ‘Sharafat’ that is ingrained in the best of Indian culture; of honour and integrity; of putting the interests of the county, the Army, the unit and one’s subordinates before one’s own; of doggedness in defeat; of magnanimity in victory; of sympathy for the underdog; of a certain standard of behaviour and personal conduct in all circumstances; of behaving correctly towards one’s seniors, juniors and equals.I am very concerned about the increasing sycophancy towards seniors which unless checked will corrode the entire system. Much of this, I realise, is due to the pernicious system of recompense and financial advancement being totally linked to higher ranks. These are of necessity limited due to functional compulsions, and which notwithstanding cadre reviews, are microscopic compared to prospects of our peers in other Government services. And finally, prospects of promotion in rank, being totally dependent on the reports of the seniors. I am hopeful that the introduction of the ‘Running Pay Band’, which would offer equitable prospects without being fully tied to ranks, would break this vicious circle and help us to develop strong back-bones and guts. I would like to make a point regarding those officers who are unfortunate not to be cleared for promotion to various selection ranks. Barring a very small minority, the bulk of them have not been cleared, not because they are not good, but because the system functionally cannot absorb them in a higher rank, and generally it is a difficult choice. In any of the civil services, these officers would have passed through their respective selection grades with ease. The fact that they are retained in the Service upto the ages of 50, 52, 54 or 56 depending upon their rank, is not an act of philanthropy, but because the Army needs them for a vital function. They are not discards or deadwood; they are the salt of the earth and are required to lead companies, squadrons and batteries in war and it is at this level that actions are won or lost and fill equally vital positions in the various higher ranks at which they have got blocked. A running pay band will recompense them for the job they continue to do well and also restore their self-esteem.

9. On the symbolic and psychological plane, I would like to see much less of obsequious and compulsive ‘sirring’. A ‘Sir’ on the first meeting for the day ought to be adequate, followed up in later conversation by ‘Major’ or ‘Colonel’ or ‘General’ as the case may be. I am not suggesting familiarity or impertinence – seniors ought to be treated with due respect and courtesy but cringing must be avoided.

10. On the part of the seniors, there is an unfortunate tendency today of more or less sticking to one’s own rank level even in social intercourse and not mixing adequately with junior officers. This must be put right. We cannot afford to have a caste-system within the Officer Corps. In dealings with peers and juniors also, courtesy, consideration and good manners are equally essential. There is none so disgusting as a person who boot-licks the senior, boots the junior and cuts the throats of his peers. I also notice that of late there has been a regrettable communication gap developing between officers and men. I attribute this primarily to selfishness on the part of the officers and not caring enough about the men. This must be corrected. At all levels, we must insist that we live up to the Chetwodeian motto.

11. There is a lot that we can do to improve our quality of life. The standards of officers’ messes in all areas have deteriorated badly. Dust, dirt and grime, sloppily turned out mess staff, chipped and cracked crockery, unpolished furniture and silver etc, are more and more in evidence. A pseudo-plush decor is attempted, with expensive and garish curtains and upholstery, wall to wall carpeting and so on; these cannot compensate for lack of care, attention to detail and maintenance of standards; nor can aerosol room fresheners substitute for fresh air and cleanliness. Messes are generally run down and seedy on a daily basis and though special efforts are made to spruce them up for special occasions (generally following the aerosol route) the lack of standards still comes through. This must be put right by the painstaking method of insisting on standards. We must keep the messes traditional without opting for a 5-star decor. The standard of food is generally poor and lacking in variety, not because the ingredients are not available but because of lack of attention to organisation and poor training of cooks. With free rations, there is no reason as to why we cannot spend a little on training our cooks and modernising our kitchens. While on the quality of life, I must mention that by custom and usage of service, some privileges do go with added responsibility and senior rank, and I am sure that none would grudge these if used sensibly. However, in some cases senior officers tend to get delusions of grandeur and overdo their privileges on a Moghul style. This is bad and must stop. Otherwise privileges themselves might be withdrawn.

12. We must encourage our officers to make full use of the opportunities that the Service provides of developing a wide range of interests. We serve in all parts of the country, including inaccessible areas, to get where civilians have to invest in money and effort. We have the advantage of infrastructure available country-wide. Apart from opportunities for all kinds of adventure activities, interests in astronomy, photography, fishing, wild life, bird-watching, conservation and so on can be cultivated with little expense. There is a lot going for life in the Service and we must make the most of it.

13. Let us all resolve that we will :-

(a) Shed the dead weight of mediocrity and strive for excellence, each one in his own sphere.

(b) Hold fast to all that is best in our traditions and the finest in values, while doing away with the useless and meaningless.

(c) Avoid ostentation.

(d) Not sell our souls for a good ACR and promotion.

(e) Constantly enhance and update our professional competence.

(f) Sensibly decentralise authority and responsibility.

(g) Permit maximum initiative to our subordinates, and accept a fair quota of honest mistakes as necessary payment for their professional growth and maturity.

(h) Encourage dissent and new ideas at the policy formulation and discussion stage and insist on implicit obedience in the right spirit, post-decision, at the execution stage.

(j) Cultivate a justifiable pride in ourselves, our units, formations, the Army and the Country.

(k) And finally, live up to the motto:

“The safety, honour and welfare of your Country come first, always and everytime. The honour, welfare and comfort of the men you command come next. Your own ease, comfort and safety come last always and everytime”.

14. Before I close, a word to our professional cynics! I can almost hear some say, “Well, we have known all this for quite a while but what’s been done? I’ll believe that something is going to be done when I see something happening on the ground”!

15. As a people, thus far, we have generally been waiting for initiatives from on top; for neatly gift-wrapped solutions from ‘authority’; we have waited for the ‘Sarkar’ or ‘Bhup Singh’ or whoever, to do it.

16. I put it to you, that YOU have to do something about it too. We have everything — the brains, the bravery, the technology, the skills, the ability — all we have to do is to get YOU moving and ‘Get our Act together’ and there is no stopping us!

God Speed!
Yours sincerely,
General K Sundarji

Isn’t this a truly inspiring letter?

Notice the frequent use of the term “élan”.

That’s what we believed in when we were in the Navy too – the Navy is not just a career, the Navy is a way of life, of which Élan and Self-Esteemare the bedrock.

Also – I wonder whether any other Chief has written a similar open letter to his officers and men.

Navy Stereotypes : “SEA DOGS” and “SEA DOLLS”

September 23, 2015


Link to my original post in my Academic and Creative Writing Journal:…

Humor in Uniform

Navy Humor
A Spoof


Please read this spoof only if you have a sense of humor.

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.

The terms “dog” and “doll” are used in a metaphorical sense.

Whenever I want to use slang or unconventional English – I refer to The Concise New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English

In this Slang Dictionary – one meaning of the word “doll” is “a very attractive person of any sex that you may find attractive”.

So – as per this definition – a “sea doll” is a person who you may find attractive at sea – in short – a good looking naval officer or sailor.

And – of course – you know that the term “sea dog” means an experienced sailor.

This spoof is a work of fiction. Events, Places, Settings and Incidents narrated in the story 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.

SEA DOGS and SEA DOLLS – A Spoof by Vikram Karve

When I joined the Navy – 39 years ago – in the 1970’s – I observed that there were two types of Naval Officers:

1. Sea Dogs

2. Sea Dolls

Now – before you jump the gun and accuse me of “gender insensitivity” – please note that the term “Sea Doll” is not being used for Women Naval Officers.

When I joined the Navy – there were no Women Naval Officers – except a few “landlubber quack chicks” in the medical branch.

Even today – in India – Women Naval Officers adorn only “soft” shore billets.

A Woman Naval Officer does not have to undergo the tough strenuous ship life of Male Naval Officer on warships at sea.

So – maybe I will have to conjure up some other epithet (without the prefix “sea”) for these “feminine landlubber ladies” in white uniform.

I have digressed – so let me come back to the topic of “Sea Dogs” and “Sea Dolls”.

As a young Naval Officer – I realized that there are Two Navies within the Navy:

1. The Operational Navy – comprising all aspects pertaining to warfighting at sea – warships, submarines, aircraft, the dockyards and various frontline units supporting the fleet…

2. The Ceremonial Navy – comprising all the “showmanship” activities like parades, fleet reviews, Public Relations (PR) Exercises, “shop windows”, events like navy week and navy ball, public shows, parties, social events et al…

“Sea Dogs” ran the “gristly, gritty and grimy” operational navy.

“Sea Dolls” ran the “spick and span” ceremonial navy.

“Sea Dogs” were rugged masculine looking men.

In contrast – “Sea Dolls” adorned the “fair and handsome” genteel “metrosexual” look.

Most “Sea Dogs” sported rough and tough “Full Set” Beards.

“Sea Dolls” preferred to have an elegant and pretty “clean-shaven” look.

There were some exceptions.

I have seen some clean-shaven non-bearded “Sea Dogs”.

But – I have never seen a bearded “Sea Doll”.

Whether bearded or not – “Sea Dogs” preferred the tough natural look– a seaman’s robust grooming and rugged brawny turn out.

“Sea Dolls” were obsessed with maintaining a suave polished appearance and chic glamorous attractive turn out.

“Sea Dogs” were “tough cookies”.

Most “Sea Dogs” had an abrasive personality – like rough and tough sailors.

In stark contrast – “Sea Dolls” were “smooth operators”.

All “Sea Dolls” had a pleasing personality – like slick charming corporate executives.

In earlier days – it was the “Sea Dogs” who dominated the senior ranks in the Navy – but gradually – the tide seems to have turned in favour of the “Sea Dolls”.

I wonder whether the same applies to the Army and Air Force – and what are the Army and Air Force equivalents of “Sea Dogs” and “Sea Dolls”.

By the way – have you read the classic military novel Catch-22 ?


Then – let me give you a metaphorical example.

If “Catch 22” was a Navy Novel – a “Sea Dog” would be someone like the character of General Dreedle (an archetypal no-nonsense blunt plain-speaking military man) – and a “Sea Doll” would be someone like General Peckem (a pompous pretentious sycophantic show-off)

If you have read Catch-22 – you will understand what I mean.

I can go on and on about “Sea Dogs” and “Sea Dolls” till the cows come home – but by now – I am sure you have got the drift.

So – the next time you see a Naval Officer – have some fun and amuse yourself.

Have a good look at the Navy Officer – and try to judge for yourself – is he a tough “Sea Dog” – or a glamorous “Sea Doll”.

Copyright © Vikram Karve
1. If you share this post, please give due credit to the author Vikram Karve
2. Please DO NOT PLAGIARIZE. Please DO NOT Cut/Copy/Paste this post
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

1. This blog post 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. This story is a work of fiction. Events, Places, Settings and Incidents narrated in the story 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.

Copyright Notice:
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)

This Spoof was written by me Vikram Karve in June 2014 and Earlier Posted Online by me Vikram Karve in my Blog Karve at 11/22/2014 08:03:00 PM at url:…  and…

Now Re-Posted by Vikram Karve at 9/22/2015 02:03:00 AM

Humor in Uniform at the Pune International Literary Festival 2015 (PILF2015)

September 10, 2015



Link to my original post in my Academic and Creative Writing Journal:…

Humor in Uniform at the Pune International Literary Festival 2015

A Spoof

Many years ago – much before I joined the Navy – when I was in school – I read a book called CATCH-22.

I am glad I read this inimitable war novel – which marvelously brought out the rather bizarre aspects of military life.

“Catch-22” helped me understand military life – and it saved me from going crazy during my long navy career.

While I was in the Navy – almost every moment – I saw similar characters – and parallel situations – like those in Catch-22.

Life in the military is a crazy affair – universally – and I marvel at the ingenious way in which Joseph Heller has portrayed this “craziness in uniform” in his all-time classic World War II novel “Catch-22”.

Now – even after my retirement – whenever I come across “Faujis” and “Faujans” – I realize that nothing much has changed in the military – and – in fact – things in the “Fauj” are going even crazier day-by-day.

Well – 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.

(By the way – it was an Army Wife who introduced me to the term “Faujan”…).

Coming back to “Catch-22” – let me tell you about a hilarious vignette that I witnessed last Sunday at the Pune International Literary Festival 2015 akaPILF2015.

But – before I do that – I shall briefly summon up an amusing anecdote from Chapter 3 of “Catch-22” – which has a remarkable similarity to the incident I am going to describe.

A “pen-pusher” Colonel from Rear-Headquarters comes to a frontline airbase – and the Colonel peremptorily orders Combat Officers to attend USO entertainment shows.

The Military Bureaucracy back home has organized these USO shows to raise the morale of the officers fighting the war.

However – the combat-weary officers are least interested in watching these boring USO shows.

The officers just want to survive the war – complete their required combat missions – and go home in one piece at the end of their tour of duty.

The only thing that will “raise the morale” of these warfighting officers is “orders shipping them home” – not USO entertainment shows.

So – in a “role reversal” – as per directives of higher-ups who have arranged these USO Troupes – the Colonel orders all Officers to attend these USO shows in full strength in order to “boost the morale of the artists” of the USO troupes.

The Colonel assembles all officers and gives them a “pep talk”.

Referring to the USO troupe artists – the Colonel says: “…these people are your guests – they have travelled over three thousand miles to entertain you. How will they feel if nobody wants to go out and watch them? What’s going to happen to their morale? … I want every one of you who isn’t sick enough to be in a hospital to go to that USO show right now and have a good time, and that’s an order.”

Here – the Colonel was ordering his officers to “enjoy a boring event” – like the USO show – just to boost the morale of the artists.

Ha Ha Ha – what an irony – instead of the entertainers boosting the morale of soldiers – the soldiers are asked to boost the morale of the entertainers.

And yes – in the military – you can be “ordered” to have a “good time”.

Such incidents happened many times during my navy days – when we were ordered to attend events which we were least interested in watching – just to boost the “morale” of those who had come to raise our morale.

It must have been in similar style that military cadets were ordered to go to the literary festival to boost the “morale” of the author who had written a book to boost the morale of the cadets.

As I told you earlier – last weekend I attended the Pune International Literary Festival – a truly delightful event.

On Sunday afternoon – there was a book launch of a “military novel” on cadet life.

The author is an accomplished creative writer – a successful novelist – and – in her earlier days – she was a prolific writer of short fiction – and I loved reading her stories published in many magazines.

Also – the author is a “Faujan”.

So – who better than a “Fauji” General to launch her book.

Oh yes – for the book launch – along with the “Literary” General – there was a “Creative” Police Officer too – who regaled the audience with yarns from his police academy days.

Well – the book launch was at 3 in the afternoon – and we sat eagerly in the hall – waiting for the event to start.

Suddenly – we saw one of the organizers going berserk – a young girl – who frantically asked us to move forward as she screamed crazily:

“We need 300 chairs – the cadets are coming – the cadets are coming – 300 NDA cadets are coming…”

I am sure you know that “NDA” is the acronym for the elite “National Defence Academy” located at Khadakvasla near Pune.

The panicky shouts of the girl:

“NDA Cadets are coming – NDA Cadets are coming…” reminded me of the Hollywood Comedy Film I had seen almost 50 years ago in the 1960’s:“The Russians Are Coming – The Russians Are Coming…”

I was flabbergasted.

NDA Cadets – in a Literary Festival – it was unbelievable.

Why on earth would NDA Cadets want to waste a precious Sunday afternoon at a Literary Festival – when they could enjoy their well-earned “liberty” gallivanting on Main Street or FC Road or “birdwatching” in a Mall or watching a movie in a Multiplex?

NDA Cadets on a Sunday afternoon at a Literary Festival – it was baffling.

There could be two possible explanations for this.

Version 1: (Highly Unlikely)

Nowadays – things have changed from yesteryear – and – NDA is full of “literary” cadets – budding “litterateurs” – who were extremely keen to spend their Sunday afternoon liberty time attending a Literary Festival rather than having a good time hanging out in Pune or sleeping in their cabins.

Version 2: (Most Likely)

The “Literary” General had “desired” that he wanted to see a “house-full” – he wanted the entire hall packed with audience – when he launched the book. So all cadets enjoying their Sunday afternoon siesta in their cabins were rudely woken up – and they were rounded up and “shanghaied” into a bus which brought them straight to the Literary Festival venue in time for the book launch.

A witty young “faujan” sitting next to me commented that cadets were being given a taste of the “fauji” life they were going to face later as officers when they would be on duty 24/7 – even in salubrious peacetime.

We waited with trepidation for the onslaught of cadets – but there were no cadets visible even till 3:15

It seems that punctuality is no longer the hallmark of the defence services.

The organizers waited for some time – and – at 3:20 – they decided to start the event.

However – the “Literary” General and “Faujan” Author wanted the Cadets to be present when they launched the book – so the author spent time in “small talk” about how her “Fauji” husband had inspired her to write about cadet life – so it was quite clear who was the “protagonist” in her novel – maybe the “Fauji” husband wanted vicarious creative fulfilment – and he had asked his accomplished “Faujan” wife to write his “slice of life” story.

Around 15 minutes later – well past 3:30 – the NDA cadets arrived.

When asked why NDA Cadets had arrived more than 30 minutes late – we were told a “Tall Story” that the NDA bus had broken down midway.

Maybe the NDA bus had really broken down – but this was quite unlikely in view of the high standards of vehicle maintenance in the military.

Or – maybe – it had taken considerable time to search and round up “volunteers” to have a “good time” at the literary event – since most cadets must have gone into hiding trying to escape from being “shanghaied” to the literary festival.

This second explanation seems more likely – since – instead of the much touted figure of 300 cadets – there were just around 50 “literary” cadets – who the NDA authorities had finally managed to “capture” and “shanghai” to the literary event.

(It is also possible that some cadets may have escaped when the bus broke down midway on its journey to the literary festival).

The noisy cadets – dressed in the prescribed “mufti” civil uniform – soon settled down – and the book launch began in right earnest – and the book was released from its gift wrapping.

The author spoke about her book – and her earlier one – both stories based on cadet life in the premier military academies – NDA and IMA.

The “Literary” General narrated “memoirs” of his NDA days.

Not to be left behind – the “Creative” Cop harked back to his Police Academy days.

It seemed that these reminiscences certainly struck a chord with the “captive” audience – who were probably “enjoying” similar experiences during cadet training at the academy.

Suddenly – the author saw a “celebrated” novelist sitting in the audience and invited him on stage.

The “celebrated” writer told us that – many years ago – he too had been selected for NDA by the Services Selection Board (SSB) – but was rejected on medical grounds.

He lamented that had he been medically fit – he would have been in “X” course of NDA – and he wondered what his rank would have been today.

A smart young man in the audience stood up and said that he was from the same “X” course – and he informed us that was a Lieutenant Colonel.

The “Literary” General commented to the “Celebrated” Novelist that maybe his getting medically rejected was a “blessing in disguise”.

I wonder what he implied – was he saying that the writer would not have been able to achieve much in the “Fauj” – and that being a published author is much better than being a run-of-the-mill “Fauji”…

The cadets were listening intently – or – at least they were making a pretense of attentiveness – because – when you are a cadet – you even learn to sleep with your eyes wide open.

The author read out interesting excerpts from her novel on cadet life.

Then – there was a quiz for the cadets – and winners were given autographed copies of the book.

And – all of a sudden – the organizers announced that time was up – and the next event was about to begin in the same hall.

And so – the literary event ended.

All’s well that ends well.

I walked down to the lawns to attend another event of interest to “Faujis” – a book reading by a Retired Naval Officer who was the first Indian to circumnavigate the world solo under sail.

Yes – this redoubtable Navy Officer had achieved this awesome maritime conquest of sailing around the globe in a sailboat all alone – solo – and he had written a fascinating account of his adventures on the high seas.

I thought the NDA cadets would be interested in hearing the Navy Veteran narrate his nautical adventures first-hand – especially since the Veteran Naval Officer was an ex-NDA cadet.

But – the NDA cadets were nowhere to be seen.

Most probably – the NDA cadets had rushed to Pune City to enjoy what was left of the liberty.

Or – maybe – the cadets had been “shanghaied” right back into the bus – and transported back to NDA – now that their “Mission Book Launch” was over.

Also – I had expected the “Literary” General to attend the book reading session of his “brother” ex-NDA Navy Officer and listen to his seafaring exploits.

However – I saw him driving off in his “staff car” – maybe – to attend to his more pressing Sunday evening “duties”.

Introspecting of the conspicuous absence of the ex-NDA Cadets and Officers at their fellow ex-NDA Naval Officer’s book reading – and that too on a naval adventure – I wondered what happened to all that “camaraderie” – that ex-NDA officers so often boast about?

Hey – I am digressing.

This story was about military life – “humor in uniform” – about how you are “ordered” to “volunteer” – like the NDA cadets who apparently had been commandeered and transported to the Pune International Literary Festival – “shanghaied” and “shipped” – to the book launch – and instructed to have a “good time”.

In the literary festival – on the one hand – I observed the languid NDA cadets – and in contrast – I looked at the lively college students of the same age group.

And – I realized – that – though the world has moved on ahead – the military is still stuck in the past – as if in an antiquated “time warp” – at least culturally.

I was reminded of many such episodes in my Navy life – when we too were “detailed” to “volunteer” – and I must tell you about them – but not now – maybe some other time – right here – in my blog.

That’s the beauty of military life – you learn to have a “good time” – even when you are “ordered” to do so.

And – if you are thinking of a having life in uniform – do read “Catch-22” – it will save you from going crazy.

Copyright © Vikram Karve
1. If you share this post, please give due credit to the author Vikram Karve
2. Please DO NOT PLAGIARIZE. Please DO NOT Cut/Copy/Paste this post
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

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.

Copyright Notice:
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)

© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

OROP for “DUMMIES” “One Rank One Pension” Made Simple

September 2, 2015

Source: Academic and Creative Writing Journal Vikram Karve: OROP for “Dummies – “One Rank One Pension” Made Simple

Link to my original post in my Academic and Creative Writing Journal:…

A Spoof

Let me explain the essence of OROP in a rather simplistic manner – by giving you an illustrative example.

Consider Two Twin Brothers both Matric Pass.

One joins the Army as a Soldier.

Other joins Govt Service as a Peon.

Both get same starting pay.

Soldier retires at 35 years of age.

Peon retires at 60 years of age.

At the age of 35 – salaries of Peon and Soldier will be similar.

Pension is 50% of salary.

So – when the Soldier retires  at 35 – the Soldier will get 50% of what the Peon is getting.

Soldiers do not get employment easily – so most likely – the Soldier (and his family) will have to survive his entire life on meagre pension.

Meanwhile – Peon can serve 25 years more till 60 years – during which he will get promotions (due to ACP), a total of 25 of increments each year and benefit of at least 3 Pay Commissions during which his salary will be nearly doubled/trebled each time.

Owing to Assured Career Progression (ACP) – the Peon would have also got promotion to higher ranks of Assistant/Office Superintendent etc with higher salary and NFU (Non-Functional Upgradation).

So – when the Peon retires at 60 – his salary will be at least 10 times the salary he got when he was 35.

So – the Peon will get 10 times the Pension as his Twin Brother Soldier (since Pension is 50% of last pay drawn and his pay has increased 10 times from the age of 35 to 60).

The aim of OROP is to partially compensate this huge disadvantage in pension to the soldier due to forced early retirement as compared to his civilian counterpart.

The other option is to increase the retirement age of all soldiers to 60 years and bring soldiers on par with their civilian counterparts.

The third option is to ensure employment in civilian life for a soldier once he retires at 35 – which the government has miserably failed to do.

What do you feel is the best option:

1. Give OROP to soldiers
2. Increase the retirement age of all soldiers to 60 years?

Remember – when there is a war – it is soldiers who will come to your rescue – not Civilian “Babus”.

The Army is a fighting force requiring high standards – unlike civilian jobs where fitness and age may not matter too much.

For example – persons with disabilities cannot join or continue serving in the Army – whereas they can continue in civilian jobs till retirement.

Citizens must remember that the Armed Forces are like an “Insurance Policy”.

Don’t you pay premium for your insurance policy?

Think about it.

After reading this – I hope you feel that soldiers should get OROP.

NB: The above example is hypothetical and just for illustrative purposes to bring out the essence of OROP (One Rank One Pension)

The Front-Line isn’t a Parade Ground

August 28, 2015


Link to my original post in my Academic and Creative Writing Journal:…


Book Review

NB: In my review below, the generic term “soldier” encompasses all uniformed personnel of the Armed Forces (Army, Navy and Air Force)


Recent events indicate that most civilian citizens – including the “powers-that-be” – do not understand the psyche of a soldier.

Almost every day – we see news of soldiers being martyred on the Line of Control (LOC) with our hostile neighbour.

But – the common man remains indifferent to this news since it does not affect him – and some politicians go to the extent of remarking that “soldiers are paid to die”.

We see the tragic sight of military veterans on hunger strike for OROP (One Rank One Pension).

We dismiss the OROP imbroglio as “any other issue” – thinking that veterans protesting and agitating is similar to industrial workers, civilian employees or students going on strike – which happens quite frequently.

Jingoistic Politicians “celebrate” the 50th Anniversary of the 1965 War – while Military Veterans who actually fought in the 1965 War are ignored.

We confuse jingoism with patriotism.

I have seen that many people feel that jingoism means patriotism – whereas – in actual fact – there is a big difference between jingoism and patriotism.

Most civilians have a fancy image of the Armed Forces – because they see the “pomp and show” of smartly dressed soldiers marching during the Republic Day Parade and other ceremonial occasions – or they observe the elegant social life of military officers in peacetime cantonments.

But very few civilians know about the harrowing time experienced a soldier in the field – where he is subjected to extreme physical strain and mental stress – not only in war, border skirmishes and counter-insurgency combat operations – but even in “peacetime” – when he is deployed on hazardous “aid to civil power” duties for maintaining law and order or in dangerous disaster rescue and relief or on “internal security” duties in anti-militancy/anti-terrorism and Counter-Insurgency (CI) operations.

There is a stark contrast between “peacetime soldiering” in exquisite military cantonments and the harsh life in the field (and at sea on warships) – and – sadly – only the former is visible to civilian citizens.

For a civilian citizen – it is difficult to grasp the psychology of the average combat soldier – who lives in an environment of dread and fear – and survives each moment with death tagging him at the elbow.

Over time – the soldier becomes reproachful of those who enjoy safety and security – sitting in peaceful comfort – far away from danger – be they politicians, bureaucrats, civilian citizens, or even his own senior officers or the non-combatant “tail” of the Army.

And – this feeling of antipathy further alienates the soldier from civil society – and increases the chasm between the military and the civil society.

In order to bridge this gulf – it is necessary to apprise the common man about the life of a soldier.

Sadly – we have failed to do this.

Our Mainstream Media tends to hype and dramatize military news/issues for TRPs.

Though Hollywood has produced some realistic War Movies – in India – most Bollywood War Films are jingoistic and overly dramatic in nature.

Curiously – even the Armed Forces indulge in hype and propaganda whenever their PR machinery puts out reports in the media.

Even in their recruitment advertisements – the defence services project the “goody goody” part of “peacetime soldiering” – while downplaying the realistic aspects of military life.

If you peruse literature – to see whether there are any literary works which discern between hype and truth – you will realize that most war novels tend to romanticize war – accentuating jingoistic and romantically appealing concepts such as glory, honour, patriotism, sacrifice, adventure, heroism etc – which are far removed from reality.

When I asked myself whether there were any authentic military novels which realistically depict the “psyche of the soldier” – I remembered that indeed I had at least one such book on my bookshelves.

So – I delved into my bookcase and pulled out my ancient dog-eared copy of ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT – which is the most authentic war novel I have ever read.

As is the case with most of my books – I picked up this book long ago from the pavement bookstalls located on the footpath opposite the Central Telegraph Office (CTO) near Hutatma Chowk (Flora Fountain) in Mumbai.

Whenever I buy a book – I always write the date and place – and I see that I have bought this book 37 years ago in 1978.

So – Dear Reader – let me tell you a bit about this classic war novel which authentically describes the horrors of war and portrays the psyche of a soldier in a most realistic manner.


Title: All Quiet on the Western Front
Published: 1958 (Fawcett Crest) Paperback 175 Pages
Author: Erich Maria Remarque
ISBN: 44901634095
Edition language: English (Translated from German)

The above details pertain to the copy of the book I have with me.

For details of various editions of “All Quiet on the Western Front” – just “google” the title – or click the url link: Editions of All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

Also – if you do a google search – you will see that this book is freely available online on the internet.

ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT – An Authentic Military Novel

There are very few authentic military novels.

ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT is the most authentic war novel that I have read.

The author Erich Maria Remarque was a German War Veteran and this novel is based on his first hand combat experiences during World War I.

Writing with stark authenticity, Erich Maria Remarque realistically depicts the horrors of war as seen through the eyes of a simple soldier – the violence, brutality, fear and terror soldiers experience at every moment – and the novel vividly brings out the effect of combat on the psyche of a soldier.

A novel tells a story.

But – storytelling alone can never produce a great novel – a classic.

What makes a novel a classic is whether the novel has a message – a “moral of the story” – and how effectively the author succeeds in conveying this message to the reader – so that the “moral of the story” has a lasting impact on the reader.

As elaborated by EM Forster in his book “Aspects of a Novel” – the sine qua non of a good novel is that the story must not only move in time – but it must also impart “value” to the reader – and this “value” is encapsulated in the “moral of the story”.

Erich Maria Remarque achieves this brilliantly – writing in present tense to move the story in time – and using flashbacks to effectively convey the “moral of the story”.

The novel emphasizes that soldiers are normal human beings like everyone else.

Soldiers have feelings like you and me.

Soldiers have families, children, relatives, friends – and love them.

Soldiers are sensitive individuals – not emotionless zombies.

The narrator – a young man only 19 years of age – joins the German Army and fights on the French Front in World War I (the “Western Front”).

The narrator speaks to you in the first person – and gives you his “worm’s eye view” of his war experience.

From time to time – by way of flashbacks – the narrator takes you into his “mind’s eye” – as he reflects on his own views, feelings and emotions on warfighting.

And right at the end of the story – while delivering his coup de grace – Erich Maria Remarque suddenly switches to ‘third person past tense’ – and you remain numbed by the epiphany.

As you read the story – you realize the narrator’s growing awareness of the emptiness of such concepts as patriotism, glory and honour when faced with the reality of war.

When they start fighting on the frontline – the young newly inducted soldiers perceive the huge dissonance between peacetime hype and wartime reality.


The essence of the book can be encapsulated in the comment – “… the front-line isn’t a parade-ground…” – expressed in ruminations of the narrator in Chapter 5 of the book.

I too realized the significance of this military truism (“… the front-line isn’t a parade-ground…”) – more than 37 years ago – during my nascent days in the Navy – when I joined a front-line warship after completing my training.

Here – on the warship – the focus was on operational excellence and professionalism – in stark contrast to the emphasis on parades, drill and “spit and polish” during our naval training in “stone frigates”.

The story in “All Quiet on the Western Front” begins when – immediately on completion of their basic military training – the narrator and his friends are sent to the front-line to fight on the battlefield.

The front-line is that part of the Army which is closest to the enemy and front-line troops are first-line combat soldiers in the heart of the battle.

Fighting on the frontline – the raw soldiers realize the military truth – that – in the ‘fog of war’ – the harsh reality is that – “the front-line isn’t a parade-ground” – and that all that parade drill and ‘spit and polish’ they had endured during training was futile – and is of no use in brutal warfighting on the frontline.

Subjected to the horrors of war – the narrator and his fellow soldiers realize the“absurdities of saluting and parade” – and – in a rare expression of dark humor – one of his comrades in uniform sarcastically comments:

“You take it from me – we are losing the war because we can salute too well.”

As they fight a brutal battle on the front-line – the soldiers realize the huge difference between “peacetime soldiering” and actual warfighting.

In peacetime – the Army is a reliable, decent job.

However – peacetime rules and hierarchy lose their relevance in the fog of war and amidst the chaos on the battlefield.

In wartime – rules and hierarchy are pretty useless and silly – especially in the merciless cruel atmosphere of ruthless ferocious conflict.

On the battlefront – it is straight and simple – “kill – or be killed”

As the narrative progresses – we see the protagonist’s growing awareness of the emptiness of such jingoistic concepts as patriotism and honour when faced with the reality of war.

He realizes that most civilians seem to know nothing about military life.

War may be an adventure to a jingoist sitting comfortably at home – but it is a terrible experience for the combat soldier who is actually confronted with the possibility of being blown to pieces at any moment.

As he engages in brutal merciless infantry combat – attacks and counterattacks – bombings and artillery barrages – seeing dead and wounded comrades around him every day – he is overcome by fear and a sense of fatalism – and he becomes obsessed with survival.

I am sure most soldiers have experienced similar emotions.

No soldier wants to die – or worse – get injured and become disabled for life.

A soldier just wants to complete his “tour of combat duty” – and return home in one piece – safe and sound.

Forget about full scale war – this is true even in so-called “peacetime” deployments in the field, especially on turbulent borders and in counterinsurgency operations.

I remember that whenever we were deployed – all that the crew wanted was to return safe and sound and waited eagerly for our warship to return to our base port.


A soldier does not like war – because it the soldier who suffers most in war.

Soldiers don’t start wars.

It is the politicians who start wars.

But – politicians don’t die in the war – it is the soldiers who die in the war.

And later – when the war has been won – it is the jingoists who celebrate war-victories – and most of these jingoists are civilians who probably have never seen a shot fired in anger.

Earlier – in the days of monarchy – the King would lead his Army on the battlefield.

The King would lead his soldiers from the front – he would lead by personal example – fighting on the battlefield.

Sometimes – the King would be killed on the battlefield.

If he lost the war – the King would be imprisoned – and most likely – he would be executed or tortured to death by the victor.

Nowadays – in modern democracies – politicians rule nations.

But – politicians do not lead soldiers on the battlefield.

In fact – politicians have nothing to do with the fighting – they remain safe and sound – securely ensconced in peaceful comfort – far away from danger – while they exhort soldiers to sacrifice their lives for the nation.

And – when the soldiers win the war – the politicians emerge from their safe cocoons – to “celebrate” and take credit for the war victory.

The inherent message in “All Quiet on the Western Front” is that whether the war is won or lost – it is the soldier who is affected by the war.

In fact – all soldiers are affected by the war.

Some soldiers die on the battlefield.

Among those who survive – there are no “unwounded” soldiers.

Some soldiers are injured and get physically disabled – but all soldiers who go through a brutal war are mentally scarred for life.

The author wants to convey that war destroys men – it can kill them – it can cripple them – it can leave them mentally traumatized for life – and even if they survive in one piece – it leaves them changed for life.

While the book focuses on the extreme physical and mental stress faced by soldiers during the war – it also delves on the detachment from civilian life felt by many of these soldiers upon returning home from the battlefront.

Depicting the difficulty of soldiers to revert to civilian life after having experienced extreme combat situations – Erich Maria Remarque says: “…men…even though they may have escaped its shells, (they) were destroyed by the war…”


If you have noticed – while I have delved on the theme – I have not divulged the story of “All Quiet on the Western Front” – because I want you to enjoy the book fully when you read it.

Of course – in subsequent blog posts – I am going to discuss some salient excerpts from this book – and try and relate then to present times.

I recommend you read this classic war novel – in fact – I would say that this is a “must read” book – especially if you are thinking of joining the Army or the Armed Forces.

Of course – if you are already in the Army – you must have already read this book as a part of “essential reading” during your cadet training days – and – I am sure this review will motivate you to read “All Quiet on the Western Front” once again.

Do read “All Quiet on the Western Front”.

As I said earlier – you can easily get the book – in print – or digital version – and it is freely available on internet too.

Written in German language – “Im Westen nichts Neues” was first published in serial form in the German Newspaper Vossische Zeitung from November 10 to December 9, 1928.

It was published in book form the following year (1929) and became a big success.

The 1929 English translation of this book by Arthur Wesley Wheen had the title: “All Quiet on the Western Front”.

The literal translation of “Im Westen nichts Neues” is “In the West Nothing New” with “West” being the Western Front and the phrase referring to the content of an official communique at the end of the novel.

“All Quiet on the Western Front” earned Remarque international popularity and by the time of his death in 1970, perhaps fifty million copies of the novel had been sold and it had been translated into fifty-five languages. It is still widely regarded by many readers and critics as the greatest war novel of the twentieth century.

I love reading military literature – especially war fiction – and I have read many war novels – but “All Quiet on the Western Front” is my all time favourite.

The writing style is unique – owing to its stark authenticity – and this book has left a lasting impression on me.

I am glad I read this superb novel – and – I am sure that you will find reading this engrossing book a fulfilling and enriching experience.

Copyright © Vikram Karve
1. If you share this post, please give due credit to the author Vikram Karve
2. Please DO NOT PLAGIARIZE. Please DO NOT Cut/Copy/Paste this post
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

All stories in this blog are a work of fiction. Events, Places, Settings and Incidents narrated in the story 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.

Copyright Notice:
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)

© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

Stealing the Affection of a Brother Officer’s Wife – Humor in Uniform

August 22, 2015

Link to my original post in my Academic and Creative Writing Journal:…

An Extract from my Novel – Nobody’s Navy – a Fictional Spoof

Continued from:

1. NOBODY’S NAVY – an Introduction

Academic and Creative Writing Journal Vikram Karve


(How Sub Lieutenant NOBODY became a “Somebody”)


NOBODY’S NAVY – a Fictional Spoof by VIKRAM KARVE



“Stealing the affections of a brother officer’s wife?” thundered the Admiral.

The Admiral looked up from the paper he was reading, glared at Captain standing in front of him, and said, “Kaka, I have tolerated a lot of nonsense from your ship, but I not going to condone sexual misconduct.”

“He is innocent, sir” said the Captain, the Commanding Officer of the mighty warship INS Bijlee, the flagship of the Fleet.

Standing beside the Admiral, a bespectacled Commander with yellow lace between his stripes, the Judge Advocate General, called JAG, noticed that, though the Captain spoke in a soft voice, he looked at the Admiral, his boss, the Fleet Commander, squarely in the eye.

The JAG knew that Kaka, as the Captain was known throughout the navy, was ex-Dufferin, an officer of the old-mould, a tough cookie, unlike some of his more morally pliable counterparts.

The Captain looked a decisive, tenacious and determined man, with his broad square face, heavy-lidded eyes and the deep lines at the sides of his mouth.

The Captain never took things lying down.

And now he was taking on his boss, the Admiral, his own Fleet Commander.

This was going to be difficult.

“What the hell do you mean he is innocent?” shouted the Admiral, “that piddly dope-entry Sub-Lieutenant is caught red-handed screwing a Commander’s wife and you say he is bloody innocent? If he was so frigging horny he could have dipped his bloody wick elsewhere – there are plenty of fleet auxiliaries, so many opportunities all over, the dockside is teeming with sugar girls, come on Kaka, you know all this. If he was so bloody sex-starved he could have rogered a midshipman for all I care – but stealing the affections of a senior officer’s wife? It’s just not acceptable and I won’t tolerate it in my fleet.”

There was silence.

The JAG smiled to himself as he thought of the Admiral’s words.

In the navy it was all a matter of form.

The moral issue was a minor detail.

You could sow your wild oats elsewhere, but stealing the affections of brother officers’ wives was taboo, and if you got caught, you were thrown out of the navy.

“Sir, please listen…” the Captain broke the silence.

“No, Kaka,” interrupted the Admiral, “It’s final. I have spoken to the C-in-C. We are throwing the bugger out.”

He gestured to the JAG who gave him a folder.

The Admiral took out a typewritten sheet from the JAG, looked at it and exclaimed, “Nobody? Sub-Lieutenant Nobody? What sort of name is that? Is he a bloody ding?”

“No Sir. He is a bong. His name is an anglicized version of…”

“Doesn’t matter,” the Fleet Commander interrupted the Captain.

The Admiral gave the sheet of paper to the Captain, and said, “You just get his signature on this and personally give it back to me by closing hours today.”

“Resignation letter? You want him to resign his commission on compassionate grounds?” the Captain said, looking incredulous. 

“That’s the best way,” the JAG spoke for the first time, “the C-in-C doesn’t want a scandal. He’s going to Delhi tomorrow and he’ll get the papers cleared personally. The C-in-C wants this officer out of the navy immediately. And he wants it done discreetly.”

“Yes, Kaka, you get his bloody signature, withdraw his ID card, throw him out of your ship, and put him on a train home today itself. I don’t want to see the filthy bugger on board when we sail out tomorrow,” the Admiral bellowed.

“Nonsense,” the Captain said.

“What?” the Admiral looked stunned.

“I am not a post office. I am the Captain of a warship, the Flag Captain, the Commanding Officer of the Flagship of the Western Fleet. You can’t punish a man without hearing him out. It’s against the principles of naval justice,” the Captain said firmly, raising his voice slightly for the first time.

“Justice my bloody foot,” roared the Admiral, “you get this straight, Kaka. The Commander-in-Chief desires that this officer is thrown out. I am your boss and the C-in-C’s desire is my command. Kaka, don’t be stupid. There is no point jeopardising your career for the sake that dodgy son of a bitch.”

“Sub-Lieutenant Nobody is my officer, Sir, and it is my duty to be fair and just to all officers and men under my command,” the captain said firmly.

“But the C-in-C has desired…”

The Captain interrupted the Admiral, and said bluntly, “The C-in-C is not above naval law. He too is subject to the Navy Act. I respectfully submit, Sir, that due process is followed, and the accused officer be heard, before you take a decision.”

The Admiral winced – he said nothing, and he looked as if he were in deep thought, as if he was weighing his options.

The JAG looked at the two sea-dogs, both tough leaders, but with contrasting styles, the profane hot-tempered volatile Admiral, and the steady soft-spoken Captain, who did not say much, but whatever little he said was sensible and relevant.

“Okay,” the Admiral said, “I will see the officer. Bring him to me as soon as possible.”

“He is waiting outside,” the captain said.

The Admiral smiled, “March him up to me in five minutes.”

“Aye, Aye, Sir,” the Captain put on his peak cap.

The Captain saluted smartly and walked off.

Five minutes later Sub-Lieutenant Nobody stood at attention looking at the Admiral sitting across the polished mahogany table.

His Captain sat on a sofa on the side.

“Where is the JAG?” the Captain asked.

“He’s not required. I don’t want any of C-in-C’s goddam spies eavesdropping,” the Admiral said to the Captain.

Then the Admiral looked at Sub-Lieutenant Nobody, and said, “You are accused of stealing the affections of Commander Kumar’s wife?”

“That’s not true, Sir, I did not steal her affections,” Sub-Lieutenant Nobody said.

“What the hell do you mean it is not true – you were caught red-handed trying to steal her affections,” the Admiral shouted.

“Sir – actually – in fact – it was not me – but it was she – it was she who tried to steal my affections,” Sub-Lieutenant Nobody blurted out.

The Admiral burst out laughing, “Are you some sort of crazy bugger? How the hell can she steal your affections? Tomorrow you will say that a woman can rape a man. Now, don’t give me bullshit. You are up the shit creek, so answer properly.”

“She was drunk, Sir. She wanted me – but I restrained myself.”

“Just tell me one thing, you dirty bugger – why the hell did you stay with her all night? The whole world saw you in there with her – the milkman, the maid, the chowkidar – and, of course, the bloody Flotilla Commander – he has even given a written complaint against you. And, remember, he is a Senior Commodore. It is your word against his – and, in the navy, the senior is always right.”

“Sir, he is the root cause of everything?”

“Root cause – the Commodore?”

“Yes, Sir – he is responsible for what happened.”

“I see – now you are blaming him for your troubles – can you please explain?”

“Sir, I was sitting in Club watching the May Queen Ball when the lady came to me and asked me to dance with her. I told her that I did not know how to dance. In fact I had refused Tanya earlier when she asked me for a dance.”


“My daughter, Sir,” the Captain said.

“I see,” the Admiral hid a smile.

Then the Admiral said to Sub-Lieutenant Nobody, “Go on. I am listening.”
“Sir, this lady – she pulled me on the dance floor – and this Commodore tried to cut in – and she told him to go away. The lady – she seemed quite drunk – and she seemed very nervous and frightened – she told me she was not feeling well and asked me to take her to her home on Marine Drive. So I took her in a taxi and dropped her home.”

“It seems a tall story – but suppose I believe you – you dropped her home – so that is when you should have left and come back to your ship. Why the hell did you stay on in her home?”

“Yes, Sir – that is exactly what I wanted to do – but as I was about to leave – the Commodore landed up – and he asked me what I was doing there – and he told me to get out. The lady asked the Commodore to go away – but he insisted on staying – so I asked him to go away – but he didn’t budge – so I pushed him out and I locked the door.”

“You physically pushed him out?”

“Yes, Sir – I had to push him out since he refused to go away on his own, despite the lady asking him to do so.”

“You knew he was a Commodore, a superior officer?”

“Yes, Sir – I know he is the flotilla commander.”

“Then what happened? Why didn’t you leave after that?”

“She asked me to stay. She was scared that he would come back. She said that the Commodore was eyeing her ever since her husband joined the flotilla. And now he had sent her husband away on a course and he was giving her unwelcome attentions – she said he was trying to seduce her – he wanted to sleep with her – she told me that he would come again if I left her alone – so she desperately asked me to stay.”

“So you stayed on to save the ‘damsel in distress’ – come on, young man – tell your story to the marines. You are making all this up to save yourself. I don’t believe any lady would tell a stranger all this.”

“I swear I am telling the truth, Sir – she was drunk, she was very drunk. She told me the Commodore had forced her to drink, maybe even spiked her drinks. I asked her why she went to Club with the Commodore if she knew his intentions and she told me that her own husband was forcing her to sleep with his boss.”

“What nonsense?”

“She said her husband was very ambitious and wanted to get promoted at any cost.”

“I don’t believe all this hogwash.”

“Sir, you will never believe what she told me next.”


“She said that her husband is impotent – he is not able to do it.”

“So she wanted you to do it?”

“Yes, Sir…”

“And you did it…?”

“No, Sir. She tried her best – she pulled me towards her – and she kissed me. I did feel tempted for a moment – but I controlled myself immediately. Then we slept, Sir – and I woke up in the morning by the sound of the bell – and when I opened the door I saw the milkman, the chowkidar, the Commodore, and some others standing outside.”

The Admiral stood up, came around the desk, and put his hands around Sub- Lieutenant Nobody’s shoulders.

“Sit down,” the Admiral told Nobody, gesturing towards a chair.

The Admiral himself sat on the desk, and he said, “I have never heard such a tall story in my life, but I like your brutal frankness, and my inner voice tells me that you are speaking the truth. So I will make it easy for you – and for all of us. In the navy we have a thing called honour. We don’t like to wash our dirty linen in public. And the honourable thing for you to do is to put in your papers. I hear you are an IIT type. You will surely get a job – maybe a much better job than the navy. And if you do have any problem, we will help you out.”

The Captain watched in silence, intrigued at the sudden change in the Admiral’s demeanour.

Instead of his normal brash way, in which he treated subordinate officers like dirt, here, he was almost pleading to the Sub-Lieutenant.

He must be under real pressure from the C-in-C to hush up the matter, lest it blow up into a scandal. 

The Admiral reached across his desk, picked up the typewritten resignation letter, and put it in front of Sub-Lieutenant Nobody.

Sub-Lieutenant Nobody read the letter, and said: “I will not resign, Sir – I love the navy – and I haven’t done anything wrong.”

“Do you know the alternative?”

“Court Martial, Sir.”

“You will be charged with conduct unbecoming the character of an officer, conduct to the prejudice of good order and naval discipline, maybe even striking a superior officer, and if found guilty, you will be dismissed from the navy with disgrace and locked up in jail for at least three years. And from the evidence at hand – it looks like you will certainly be found guilty. So it is best for you to quit the navy silently, without any fuss, and the honour of the navy remains intact.”

“What about my honour, sir?”

“Your honour – are you crazy – you are up the shit creek – and you are talking of your honour?”

“Yes, my honour, and the lady’s honour. If I resign – it will be an admission of guilt.”

“But you are guilty.”

“I am not guilty, Sir – I did not do anything wrong.”

“Son, don’t be dogmatic. Take the easy choice.”

“Admiral, when they blamed you for that collision at sea accident many years ago, you too could have taken the easy choice, but you elected for a court martial, and you redeemed your honour…”

“Get out of here,” the Admiral shouted, suddenly getting angry.

Sub-Lieutenant Nobody saluted the Admiral.

Sub-Lieutenant Nobody then looked at his Captain sitting quietly on the sofa.

The Captain indicated with his eyes to Sub-Lieutenant Nobody that he should leave.

Sub-Lieutenant Nobody turned and started to walk away – but he stopped in his tracks when he heard the Admiral’s voice.

The Admiral said to Sub-Lieutenant Nobody: “You are up the shit creek. You better choose someone good to defend you at the court martial.”

“I already have, Sir – My Captain will defend me.”

When the Captain heard these words, tears of pride welled up in his eyes.

For a Commanding Officer, this was the ultimate “proof of the pudding” – his officers and men trusted him with their lives.

End of Chapter 1 of Nobody’s Navy by Vikram Karve

To be continued … 

Copyright © Vikram Karve 
1. If you share this post, please give due credit to the author Vikram Karve
2. Please DO NOT PLAGIARIZE. Please DO NOT Cut/Copy/Paste this post
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

1. This story is a spoof, 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 story 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.

Copyright Notice:
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)
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

Art of Naval Command – Humor in Uniform – Excerpt from Novel NOBODY’S NAVY by Vikram Karve

August 22, 2015

Link to my original post in my Academic and Creative Writing Journal:…

Excerpt from NOBODY’S NAVY by Vikram Karve

Every Naval Officer has a book hidden within him.

This is my book – a Novel.

Though apocryphal, this fiction story is based on my first hand experience about life in the Indian Navy.

I have not seen a similar novel written in India which is set on a warship depicting the excitement and trials and tribulations of naval life.

Most people think that the Navy is like any other “job”.

The Navy is not a Job.

The Navy is a Way of Life.

I want to give my readers an authentic taste of the naval life we experienced first-hand in the navy.

Naval life is quite different from the jingoistic mumbo jumbo in recruitment advertisements or the heroic hogwash exhibited in most action movies or the “Colonel Blimp” or “Captain Haddock” type caricatures shown in Bollywood films.
The protagonist of my novel is Sub-Lieutenant Nobody

Yes, his name is “Nobody”.

That is why the novel is called NOBODY’S NAVY

This story covers a one year period in the life of Sub-Lieutenant Nobody.

(If this novel sees the light of day, I intend to write a sequel, maybe a trilogy, or a series of follow-on novels, to cover the hilarious yet poignant adventures of this fictitious naval officer called “Nobody” as he plods his way through naval life and progresses through his naval career).

The theme of my novel is simple: “THE NAVY BRINGS OUT THE BEST IN YOU”

This part was true in my own life – The Navy did bring out the best in me.

Is anyone interested in publishing my novel NOBODY’S NAVY ?

The synopsis and six chapters of Nobody’s Navy are ready.

If you are game (or know publisher who is interested) do let me know. 

We can take it forward from here.

Meanwhile here is an excerpt from NOBODY’S NAVY, my novel about the adventures of Sub-Lieutenant Nobody, which I am posting below on my Blog for you to read and enjoy.

Do tell me if you liked the piece.

Tentative Chapter 3 of  NOBODY’S NAVY – A Navy Novel by VIKRAM KARVE


How Sub Lieutenant NOBODY became a “Somebody”

Calm Blue Sea, Soft Cool Breeze, Sunset, 31st December 1977.

The lights of Mumbai twinkle in the distance as the city gets ready to ring in the New Year.

It was the happiest moment of his life.

Standing on the bridge-wings of the mighty warship INS Bijlee as she entered Mumbai harbour under his command, for the first time in his life, Sub-Lieutenant Nobody felt as if he was a “somebody”.

At this defining moment of his life, he realized the import of the words the distinguished Admiral had uttered while motivating him to join the navy while he was studying at IIT.

“Son,” the recruiting Admiral had said, “The navy is not just another job. The navy is a way of life.”

Ship life seemed good.

Rank, spit and polish and normal naval bullshit did not matter much on a frontline combat ship like INS Bijlee.

Here it was performance that counted.

So everyone was busy doing his job.

As long as you did your job well, you were given a free hand, and after secure was piped, and the day’s work was over, you were free to do what you liked.

Nobody realized that one bothered him since other officers were busy doing his own work and running their departments.

It was much better over here on a combat ship than the Naval Academy where they treated you like dirt and tried to convert you into a brainless obedient robot.

And it was certainly much better than the Naval Technical Officers’ College which boasted of transforming bright young Engineering Graduates into “Technical Zombies”.

Sub-Lieutenant Nobody had survived both these ordeals and still retained his sanity.

It all happened so fast.

He had arrived in Mumbai in the morning after a tiresome train journey, and was picked up in a ramshackle truck and dumped at the boat jetty.

There the ship’s boat was waiting for him and after a rough journey on the choppy sea, Sub-Lieutenant Nobody was deposited alongside INS Bijlee anchored far out at sea.

It was almost noon when he clambered with his bag up the accommodation ladder.

He duly saluted the OOD and said, “Sub-Lieutenant Nobody reporting for duty, Sir. Request permission to come on board…”

The ship was rolling and the ladder staggered so he held on to a stanchion. The stanchion gave way, and Sub-Lieutenant Nobody lost his balance and crashed into the arms of the OOD and both of them fell on the deck in a heap.

“Sorry, Sir,” Nobody said as they gathered themselves up.

“You seem to be quite eager to join this ship. What did you say your name was?” the OOD, a two striper Lieutenant asked with a smile.

“My name is Nobody.”

“Nobody?” the OOD asked, incredulous.

“Sir, it’s an anglicised version of …”

“Okay. Okay. You can tell me the story later,” the OOD interrupted, “just give me your appointment letter.”

Sub-Lieutenant Nobody said took his appointment letter from his shirt pocket and gave it to the OOD who looked at it.

“Okay, okay, so you’re the new LO? Welcome on board,” the OOD shook his hand and said, “I’m the TASO. Today is make and mend. Captain is not on board. You can meet him tomorrow. The duty Petty Officer will take you to your cabin. Shower up, change into uniform and meet me in the ward room in ten minutes.”

Ten minutes later, freshly shaved and bathed, dressed in sparkling white shorts and shirt naval uniform, Sub-Lieutenant Nobody entered the ward room to find the TASO, wearing civvies, sitting at the bar sipping a glass of beer.

“Ah…there you are. I am waiting for you,” the TASO said the moment he saw the newly arrived Sub-Lieutenant Nobody.

The TASO swallowed his beer in one go, down the hatch.

Then he gave the OOD’s lanyard with a bunch of keys to Nobody, and said, “Hold the deck. I’m off. Don’t bother to see me off. I’ll see you in the morning.”

And with lightening speed the TASO disappeared ashore on the liberty boat even before Nobody could recover his wits.

“Congratulations,” a voice said from behind.

Nobody turned around to see a Lieutenant Commander sitting on a sofa with a huge tankard of beer before him.

“Good morning, Sir,” Nobody said.

“It is already afternoon, my friend” the Lieutenant Commander said extending his hand, “I’m Schoolie, the ship’s Education Officer. You’re the new LO, aren’t you?”

“Yes, Sir,” Nobody said.

“So you are the OOD, the de facto Commanding Officer of the ship now…”

“OOD…?” Sub-Lieutenant Nobody stammered, bewildered and totally taken aback.

“So you are holding the fort for TASO, aren’t you? Smart bugger that TASO. The horny bastard couldn’t even wait one day to screw his wife…”

Seeing the disorientated expression on Nobody’s face, Schoolie said, “Pick up a glass of beer and come and sit here. I’ll tell you what to do.”

Then with breathtaking simplicity, Schoolie elucidated the art of command:

“In the navy, especially on a ship, command is very simple. The art of command comprises just three words – YESNO and VERY GOOD. From time to time, your duty staff will come and ask you something. It’s a good idea to number their questions. You just reply ‘YES’ to the odd numbered questions, and you reply ‘NO’ to the even numbered questions. And if someone makes a report to you, just say:‘VERY GOOD’. You got it?”

“Yes, Sir – Odd numbered questions I say ‘Yes’. Even numbered questions I say ‘No’. And if someone makes a report I just say ‘Very Good’ – is that correct, Sir,” Sub-Lieutenant Nobody asked Schoolie.

“Correct. That, in a nutshell, is the art of naval command,” Schoolie pronounced with finality.

Just then the duty Petty Officer entered, saluted and asked Sub-Lieutenant Nobody and asked, “Request permission to revert to three watches, Sir.”

First question, odd numbered question, so Nobody answered: “Yes”

“Thank you, Sir,” the duty Petty Officer saluted, and went away quite happy that he could secure half his men from duty.

“Sir,” it was the duty ERA, who came a few minutes later, “request permission to shut down boilers.”

Question number two, even numbered question, so Nobody answered: “No”

The ERA nodded, looking quite perplexed, and went away.

“See, you are learning fast,” Schoolie said as they sat for lunch. 

While going ashore Schoolie gave Nobody a parting shot of advice, “Always remember that it is better to keep your mouth shut and give the impression that you are stupid than to open it and remove all doubt…”

Schoolie, a post graduate, was an Education Officer – the lowest class of officers in the navy who were treated like dirt and who wasted their entire lives teaching basic mathematics to junior sailors who didn’t give a damn, or acting as lackeys to senior officers wives helping them run so-called welfare activities which were more of ego massage and less of welfare.

Once in a while, the brighter among them got posted to ships where they had no work except hang around in the ward room doing nothing and offering unsolicited advice to anyone who cared to listen.

Schoolie enjoyed doing talking to people, pontificating and giving advice on all matters under the sun, to anyone who cared to listen, especially to rookies, like Sub-Lieutenant Nobody, who latched on to each word he said.

It was indeed funny – as far as the officer class was concerned your status and position in the pecking order was inversely proportional to your academic qualifications.

The matriculate cadet entry seamen officers were the prima donnas, the engineering graduate techies and supply guys were the middle rung, and post-graduate schoolies were at the rock bottom of the navy status hierarchy.

“It is port control, Sir,” the Yeoman of Signals woke up Nobody from his beer-induced siesta and asked hesitantly, “they are asking if we want to come alongside.”

Nobody struggled to open his eyes and thought about it.

One, two, three – this was the third question, odd numbered, so he decisively answered: “Yes”

“Thank you, Sir, I will signal them at once,” the delighted Yeoman of Signals said and he rushed towards the bridge to make a signal to port control by Aldis Lamp.

Sub-Lieutenant Nobody followed the Yeoman to the bridge wings and watched him exchange visual signals with port control, both lamps frantically flashing. 

“Ballard Pier?” port control asked.

It was the fourth question of the day – an even numbered question, so Sub-Lieutenant Nobody assertively said:  “No”

“Barracks Wharf?”


“Cold move?” port control asked.

“No,” Nobody said decisively.

“Hot move?”


Everyone on the bridge was praising Sub-Lieutenant Nobody’s foresight in not allowing the boilers to be shut down, otherwise the quick hot move would not have been possible at immediate notice and they would have to spend the whole day waiting for the tug to carry out the laborious cold move.

 “Should we call for a harbour pilot?” the duty Midshipman asked.

It was even numbered question, so Sub-Lieutenant Nobody emphatically said: “No”

“Sir, should I prepare the pilotage plan?”


“Shall I chart course between sunk rock and oyster rock?”


“Around Middle Ground?”


“Will you be taking the con, sir?” the Midshipman asked.


“Then I will have the con?”


The Midshipman was filled with happiness and a sense of pride. 

It was the first time that someone had shown so much confidence in him.

The Midshipman smartly saluted Sub-Lieutenant Nobody and said, “I’ll report when ready, Sir.”

This was not a question. 

This was a report. 

So Nobody remembered Schoolie’s advice and said, “Very Good.”

There was no point hanging around the bridge and being exposed, thought Sub-Lieutenant Nobody.

So Sub-Lieutenant Nobody told the Midshipman to take the ship alongside.

He then informed the Midshipman that he would be available in the wardroom for any advice.

Sub-Lieutenant Nobody then went down to the wardroom, summoned the bar steward, and ordered a double large scotch whisky and soda.

He needed the alcohol fuelled “Dutch courage”.

His spirits high, fuelled by alcohol inspired courage, and brimming with confidence, from then on, Sub-Lieutenant Nobody religiously followed Schoolie’s odd/even command formula with great success, and soon INS Bijlee was underway, sailing smoothly towards the Wharf.

As he sipped whisky in the wardroom, Sub-Lieutenant Nobody was quite clueless as he heard, on the main broadcast, the Midshipman give the conning orders: “Stand-by Main Engines…Haul Anchor…Anchor off the bottom…Anchor Aweigh…Anchor Coming Home…Anchor Sighted and Clear…Wheel Amidships… Dead Slow…Starboard Ten…”

Everything moved like clockwork, everyone knew their jobs.

Sub-Lieutenant Nobody also knew what to do. 

In his mind, he had to keep a count of the questions they asked him and quickly determine the question number – odd or even – and answer according to Schoolie’s formula.

For every odd numbered question, he said: “Yes”.

For the even numbered question. he said: “No”.

And from time to time when someone made him a report, Sub-Lieutenant Nobody he would wisely nod, and say: “Very Good.”

It worked. 

The simple “YES” – “NO” – “VERY GOOD” command formula worked.

Sub-Lieutenant Nobody strictly followed the formula, and everything went absolutely right.

The ship secured alongside perfectly.

Sub-Lieutenant Nobody realized first-hand that the art of naval command was indeed breathtaking in its simplicity.

“Should I announce liberty, Sir?” asked the Duty Petty Officer hesitantly.

it was an odd numbered question, so Sub-Lieutenant Nobody said: “Yes.”

The broad smile on the Petty Officer’s face and the smartness of his salute said it all.

Sub-Lieutenant Nobody had mastered the art of naval command.

The crew were happy to be secured alongside rather than tossing and turning at a faraway anchorage out at sea.

And now, thanks to Sub-Lieutenant Nobody, there would be liberty and the ship’s crew would be able to go ashore to enjoy the delights of “Maximum City” after a long hard time at sea.

Sub-Lieutenant Nobody became the hot topic of discussion below the deck in the crew messes.

Each and every sailor admired the guts and initiative of Sub-Lieutenant Nobody.

Despite being a non-seaman officer, he had brought the ship alongside by taking effective charge of the midshipman, and by his prompt and clear decisive commands.

Never before had such a thing happened.  

Never before had they seen a greenhorn Sub-Lieutenant demonstrate so much confidence and guts on his first day on board a ship.

Anyone else would have hesitated, dithered – but here was a decisive officer, a natural leader, they all said with awe and in unison.

On his very first day on board this mighty warship, Sub-Lieutenant Nobody earned the admiration, respect and esteem of the crew of INS Bijlee.

The sailors were happy to have Sub-Lieutenant Nobody on board, and they showed it by their body language, especially in the way they saluted him.

Sub-Lieutenant Nobody’s chest swelled with pride.

Nobody had become a “Somebody”.

End of Chapter 3 of Nobody’s Navy by Vikram Karve

To be continued … 

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

This story is a work of fiction. Events, Places, Settings and Incidents narrated in the story 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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Abridged and Updated Version of my two blog posts posted in June 2013 
NOBODY’S NAVY at url:…  



Navy Literature – My Favorite Navy Novels

August 22, 2015

Link to my original post in my Academic and Creative Writing Journal:…

Literary Musings

The best thing that happened to me was the Navy. 

Way back, in the 1970’s, when I joined the Navy, life was good.

There was never a dull moment. 

Something was always happening, and I came across a variety of unique personalities – yes, exciting situations and inimitable characters.

Those were the best days of my life. 

Even now, whenever I reminisce about my “good old” Navy days and recall the unforgettable characters I met there.

Whenever I hark back to the hilarious incidents (in hindsight), those cherished memories always fill me with cheer, and sometimes bring a smile, maybe a laugh, to my lips. 

I always liked to read, but it was the Navy that gave a real impetus to my reading habit. 

Junior Officers were encouraged to develop the habit of reading.

Reading was considered an Officer Like Quality (OLQ) and officers were expected to be well-informed on various subjects in addition to being proficient and well-versed in professional matters. 

So, in addition to my professional books and technical literature, I was always reading something literary – maybe a biography (say, military or naval biographical literature to inspire me) or war stories or fiction or a classic from literature. 

The Navy had well-stocked libraries, afloat and ashore, which had a wide variety of books ranging from the rare to contemporary on a wide variety of subjects. 

This easy access to the diverse forms of the best literature really facilitated my reading habit. 

I always had a book in hand and reading formed a part of my daily routine. 

For a student who wants to join the Navy, it will be wise to read biographies/autobiographies/memoirs of famous naval personalities.

It will also be apt to read books on naval history, especially naval battles at sea.

And you must read “navy fiction” too,

Here are 10 “sea novels” which are “must reading” for a young naval officer, a navy cadet or a student aspiring to join the navy for a career at sea:


1. The Cruel Sea by Nicholas Monsarrat…

2. The Caine Mutiny by Herman Wouk…

3. HMS Ulysses by Alistair MacLean…

4. Run Silent, Run Deep by Edward L. Beach…

5. HMS Leviathan by John Winton…

6. The Captain by Jan de Hartog…

7. Tales of the South Pacific by James A. Michener…

8. We Joined the Navy by John Winton…

9. Winged Escort by Douglas Reeman…

And last, but not the least, the all time favourite “must read” for anyone who wants to enjoy military life:

10. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller…

Read these books.

There are many other good Navy novels, novellas and stories (like THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER by TOM CLANCY and THE SHIP THAN DIED OF SHAME by Nicholas Monsarrat etc), many interesting Navy War Memoirs, Autobiographies/Biographies too.

Do read plenty of Navy Literature.

And then you will get an idea of what life in the Navy is all about.

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