Humor in Uniform : The Law of Triviality

Vikram Karve
8 min readApr 9, 2024




Musings by Veteran Vikram Karve


Instead of focusing on substantive issues like enhancing Military Strength and Warfighting Capability — the Military Top Brass seems to be obsessed with making cosmetic changes like designing new uniforms, changing customs and traditions, renaming institutions, creating new posts for senior officers (especially in New Delhi) which really don’t contribute to military prowess.

In the context of uniform — I have discussed this topic of designing new uniforms from time to time in my article “PEACOCKS” IN UNIFORM

Someone once asked me why the Defence Services keep changing names so often — S&S was changed to Logistics, TAS to ASW, OTS to OTA, IAT was renamed MILIT — “schools” are re-designated as “colleges” — and “colleges” are re-designated “institutes” — though the roles remain the same.




All this reminds me me of an article I had written a few years ago on the “Law of Triviality”.

It is amusing to see that the Law of Triviality is still going strong — at least in the Defence Services.

Dear Reader — Read on — about the Law of Triviality.




More than 9 years ago — sometime in January 2015 to be precise — I was invited to deliver a “guest lecture” at IAT Pune — a prestigious inter-service training institution — now renamed DIAT and MILIT.

I was delighted to meet a Commodore — who I had served with earlier in the Navy.

In fact — this Commodore had been a student of mine at this very same institution around 39 years ago — in the mid 1980’s — when I was his instructor for a Post-Graduate Course he was undergoing.

He was wearing blue combat uniform (№10) — instead of the customary Navy whites (Uniform №8/8A) — which we normally wore at this institution.

This was quite strange — since — IAT Pune was an Academic Training Institution — which was far removed from combat.

Probably — the only “Combat” happening in IAT — were the internecine “Turf Wars” between the 3 Wings of the Defence Services — and the “Ego Battles” between Senior Officers.

What was even more startling — was the jarring “Golden Star” on the Commodore’s Collar.

I had never seen commissioned Naval Officers wear insignia on their collars — so I was surprised to see the gaudy collar tabs (or “collar dogs”) the Commodore was wearing on his shirt collar.


(Earlier — till the late 1970’s — Master Chief Petty Officers (MCPOs) wore collar insignia — which were subsequently changed to shoulder tabs)


I was — therefore — quite surprised to see a most flashy oversized golden collar tab which looked most garish and totally incongruous on Navy Uniform.

In fact — this ostentatious golden collar star looked most ridiculous and gaudy on blue combat uniform.

When I asked the Commodore about this new piece of jazzy collar accoutrement — he said that golden collar stars for Commodores and Admirals had been recently introduced on the 1st of January 2015 (01 Jan 2015).

I was happy to note that the “LAW OF TRIVIALITY” was still very much in action in the Defence Services.

Instead of tackling the Urgent and Important Complex Operational Problems, Equipment Obsolescence and Human Resource Issues faced by the Navy — the Navy “Top Brass” were busy focusing on “Fashion Design”.

The Top Brass seemed to be obsessed with cosmetic issues like re-designing uniforms rather than more important military matters.

They were devoting their energies to Trivial Issues — like Embellishing, Decorating and adding “Colour” to Military Uniforms — with all types of decorative “insignia” “stars” “badges” “tabs” “emblems” — and gaudy colourful accoutrements to show off their ranks — just like “peacocks” show off their plumage.


(If you have been following the news — a few years ago — you must have seen news reports of a similar obsession with “stars” in the Army — with Generals displaying their “stars” at the most imaginative places — and it seems — this “star virus” has affected the Navy too).


Since Independence — if anything has changed the most in the Defence Services — it is Military Uniforms.

Yes — Uniforms of all the 3 Services — Army, Navy and Air Force — these have been changed/modified many times since Independence.

Yes — the “ornamental” and showy uniforms the Armed Forces wear today bear little resemblance to the simple Soldierly Military Uniforms of the 1950’s.

This increasing penchant for frequently changing uniforms and enhancing ornamentation of military regalia — by introducing new badges/accoutrements/adornments etc — all this bears testimony to the fact that — “The Law of Triviality” — is thriving and proliferating in the Armed Forces.




Dear Reader: I am sure you have read a book called PARKINSON’S LAW — and you are familiar with Parkinson’s First Law

“Work expands to fill the time available for its completion”

This law had its genesis in an Analytical Study of the Admiralty (Royal Navy)

Most of us have seen Parkinson’s First Law in operation in the Military and Civilian Bureaucracy.

Parkinson’s First Law comprises Chapter 1 of this book.

As you read on — in Chapter 6 of the book — titled HIGH FINANCE — you will find another interesting law: THE LAW OF TRIVIALITY


The author describes the goings on in a Finance Committee Meeting.

An Atomic Reactor costing 10 million pounds is cleared immediately without much discussion — because most of the committee members are totally “clueless” about the intricacies and complexities of an Atomic Reactor.


A proposal for a Bicycle Shed costing 350 pounds is hotly debated for more than one hour — and finally — the proposal is “Not Approved” — as most members feel the estimate is too costly.


This is because — everyone can visualize a bicycle shed.

Everybody on the committee has some idea about construction costs of a simple bicycle shed — and the paltry sum of 350 pounds is within everyone’s comprehension.

On the other hand — most of the committee members are totally “clueless” about the intricacies and complexities of an Atomic Reactor — and also — the amount of 10 Million Pounds is beyond their comprehension.




Haven’t we seen similar things happening in uniform — both at the macro and at the micro levels…?

A sophisticated expensive weapon system — or an extravagant technology project — costing hundreds of crores of rupees — these are sanctioned quickly — without much debate — because — the “powers-that-be” comprising politicians, bureaucrats and “non-technical” generalist senior officers are quite clueless about state-of-the-art technologies.

On the other hand — a comparatively trivial expenditure — like a small monetary allowance to soldiers — or granting of “one rank one pension” (OROP) to ex-servicemen — these are acrimoniously debated and discussed ad nauseum — and in all probability — the “generalists” and “powers-that-be” are reluctant to sanction this comparatively trivial expenditure — because they can clearly understand and comprehend the simple proposals.

I wonder if the law of triviality is affecting huge systemic changes like transition to Theatre Commands or have extensive studies been done…?


Dear Reader — Have you seen some recent examples where some allowances/grants have been reduced — though the financial impact on the exchequer appears miniscule/trivial — as compared to the overall defence budget/expenditure…?

In the first section above — I gave you the example of frequent trivial “cosmetic changes” in military uniforms and ceremonials which are totally unnecessary — since these cosmetic changes in uniforms and ceremonials do not enhance “operational capability” or improve “combat efficiency” in any way.


In the Armed Forces — this “LAW OF TRIVIALITY” can be observed at the “micro level” too.


Take the example of Officers’ Mess General Body Meetings.


The all-important “Financial Balance Sheet” is passed without much discussion.


This is because most military officers are quite clueless about financial matters.

I remember an instance where a junior officer asked some uncomfortable questions about some large expenditures shown in the balance sheet.

He was curtly told to shut up and sit down by the PMC (President Mess Committee).

The PMC admonished the junior officer:

“The Balance Sheet has been audited by a Chartered Accountant (CA).

You are a piddly Lieutenant — and that too — you from from NDA (National Defence Academy).

Do you know more about Accounting and Finance than a bloody CA…?”


The junior officer was forced to shut up.


I have observed the same pattern in many Officers Mess General Body Meetings.

Important issues are disposed off quickly without any discussion — since most senior officers are quite clueless on these subjects.

On the other hand — trivial items of expenditure like increasing daily messing charges — enhancing party shares — purchase of crockery, glassware and flowerpots — which newspapers and magazines to buy for the library — nominal increase in honorarium to mess employees — these are hotly debated issues — since everyone is a “know-it-all” on these matters.

I remember a Mess Meeting where many hours were spent in heated debate on which Flower-Pots to buy for the Officers Mess — but items worth lakhs of rupees were approved without a murmur.


If you have served in the Armed Forces or Civil Services — I am sure you have seen the “LAW OF TRIVIALITY” operating everywhere.

In personal life too — we gullibly buy a house costing crores of rupees — without due diligence.

We impulsively purchase expensive jewellery and electronic items costing lakhs of rupees.

We spend huge amounts of money on ostentatious events like weddings and give lavish parties without a second thought.

But — we haggle with the vegetable vendor for a few rupees.


Dear Reader:

Have you observed the LAW OF TRIVIALITY in action in your organisation and personal life…?

Do tell us about your hilarious experiences.



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  1. This article is a spoof, satire, pure fiction, just for fun and humor, no offence is meant to anyone, so take it with a pinch of salt and have a laugh.
  2. All stories in this blog are a work of fiction. Events, Places, Settings and Incidents narrated in the stories are a figment of my imagination. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
  3. E&OE

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This article is a revised version of my blog post LAW OF TRIVIALITY Posted by me Vikram Karveat 6/12/2014 12:49:00 PM at url: revised and reposted at url: and and and and etc

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Vikram Karve

A creative person with a zest for life, alumnus IIT Delhi, Lawrence School Lovedale, Vikram Karve is a retired Navy Officer turned full time Writer and Blogger