Military Sense of Humor : Two Stories
Humor in Uniform
MILITARY SENSE OF HUMOR
Retold by Vikram Karve
1. Unorthodox Stationery
2. Lesson in Micromanagement
On page 58 of his war memoir “Himalayan Blunder” (The Curtain Raiser to the Sino-Indian War of 1962) Brigadier John Parashuram Dalvi narrates an amusing story.
This anecdote pertains to the ill-fated “forward policy” which happened in NEFA (Arunachal Pradesh) sometime in 1960.
Indian Army Troops were being hastily rushed up into the Himalayan Mountains towards the China Border without any administrative or logistic arrangements.
A Commanding Officer of an Infantry Battalion — a Lieutenant Colonel famous for his pungent wit and sense of humor — got so fed up with the absence of any sort of supply system that he decided to use some heavy sarcasm and act in a facetious manner.
He is reported to have sent one of his monthly routine reports on a chapati.
(A chapati is unleavened flat-bread)
Here is a picture of Chapati.
Let’s come back to the story of the maverick Commanding Officer who sent one of his monthly routine reports written on a chapati.
Yes — believe it or not — the Commanding Officer sent his report to a higher formation “written” on a CHAPATI
This caused some consternation in Army Head Quarters and the officer was asked to forward his “explanation”.
In reply — the Commanding Officer sent his now classic retort:
“I regret the unorthodox nature of my stationery — but atta (wheat flour) is the only commodity available for fighting, for feeding, and for futile correspondence…”
I remember someone once telling us that the commanding officer who sent this hilarious reply was none other than Eric Vas [Lt Gen EA Vas (15 May 1923–18 Aug 2009)].
A retired army officer who was serving there in NEFA at that time (1960–61) also confirmed this anecdote.
The officer also told me that as a punishment for his “sense of humor” — Lt Col Eric Vas was removed from command of the infantry battalion and was posted to a Girls NCC Battalion in Mumbai (then called Bombay).
But after the 1962 debacle — the new Defence Minister YB Chavan who was impressed by Lt Col Eric Vas — brought him back into the mainstream army — and resurrected his military career.
General EA Vas had a distinguished military career and retired as the Eastern Army Commander in the rank of Lieutenant General.
I wonder whether we have such Generals today — who display such great wit to put their point across — and who have such a delightful great sense of humor.
The Moral of the Story is:
SENSE OF HUMOR PREVAILS EVEN IN ADVERSITY
And — more importantly:
“HUMOR IN UNIFORM ROCKS”
I trust you enjoyed the first story.
Here is the second story — a lesson in “micromanagement” — narrated to us by the same General Eric Vas.
A LESSON IN MICROMANAGEMENT
I can never forget this anecdote, maybe apocryphal, narrated by General Eric Vas [Lt Gen EA Vas (15 May 1923–18 Aug 2009)] during a lecture he delivered at IAT Pune on “Leadership” many years ago (probably 37 years ago in the mid-1980s)
While taking rounds of his infantry battalion deployed in mountainous terrain — he found that a post was dangerously sited — it was located directly in the enemy line of fire.
He told the post commander — an NCO — to move the post to a safer location which he indicated.
During his next rounds a few days later — he found the post at the same location.
When he angrily asked the NCO why they had not relocated the post — the NCO said that the troops were happy in the present location.
Seeing the reluctance of the men to relocate the post — he gave express orders that the post was to be moved immediately — and he personally supervised the relocation of the post to a new safer location.
One week later — when he paid a surprise visit — he found that the post was back at the previous dangerous location.
He asked the JCO why his orders were not being obeyed.
He told the JCO to explain to the NCO and soldiers that the present location was dangerous — and that they would die — the moment the first shot was fired.
The JCO spoke to the NCO and soldiers for some time.
Then the JCO came back to Eric Vas and said in Hindi:
“साहब — वोह बोल रहे हैं कि वोह यहाँ खुश हैं
Sahab — woh bol rahe hain ki woh yahan khush hai
(Sir– they are saying that they are happy here at this location…)”
An exasperated Eric Vas said to the JCO:
“But tell them that this place is dangerous and they will all die — वोह मरेंगे…”
The JCO replied:
“साहब — अगर वोह खुश हैं — तो रहने दो — वोह मरेंगे — लेकिन खुशी से मरेंगे
Sahab — agar woh yahan khush hain to rehene do — woh marenge — lekin khushi se marenge
(Sir — if they are happy here — let them be — they will die — but they will die “happily”…)
Moral of the Story:
In the Military — as an Officer — Manage — but — Never Micromanage.
Military Sense of Humor is unique — isn’t it…?
To know more about Lt Gen EA Vas do read the article Unsung Heroes VII: The Thinking General at url:
(do read all the 7 pages in this article on the life of General Eric Vas)
Copyright © Vikram Karve
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© vikram karve., all rights reserved.
- This story is a fictional spoof, satire, pure fiction, just for fun and humor, no offence is meant to anyone, so take it with a pinch of salt and have a laugh.
- 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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Link to my original post in my Blog Academic and Creative Writing Journal Vikram Karve: http://karvediat.blogspot.in/2015/10/humor-in-uniform-unorthodox-stationery.html
Also posted in my writing blog at url: https://karve.wordpress.com/2017/06/07/humor-in-uniform-unorthodox-stationery/ and https://karve.wordpress.com/2019/02/18/unorthodox-stationery/ and https://karve.wordpress.com/2020/04/09/humor-in-uniform-unorthodox-stationery-2/ etc.
Link to my original posts in my Blog Academic and Creative Writing Journal Vikram Karve: http://karvediat.blogspot.com/2014/03/humor-in-uniform-lesson-in.html
This Story is also reposted at urls: https://karve.wordpress.com/2015/10/21/military-officer-like-qualities-olq-in-the-military-as-an-officer-manage-but-never-micromanage/ and http://karvediat.blogspot.com/2015/10/humor-in-uniform-micromanagement.html and https://karve.wordpress.com/2020/04/09/humor-in-uniform-unorthodox-stationery-2/ and https://karve.wordpress.com/2019/02/18/a-lesson-in-micromanagement/ and https://karve.wordpress.com/2021/01/11/humor-in-uniform-a-lesson-in-micromanagement/ etc.
This is a consolidated, updated and edited Extract from My Source Blog Post in my Writing Blog: https://karve.wordpress.com/2021/01/12/military-humor-two-stories/ and https://karve.wordpress.com/2022/01/15/humor-in-uniform-military-sense-of-humor-two-stories/ etc
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.