The “Pen” is “Mightier” than the “Sword”

Vikram Karve
15 min readOct 31, 2023





We keep hearing about old military veterans and war widows being made to run from pillar to post for their pension and rightful dues — and — some of these stories are quite tragic — due to inordinate delays.

There are many such instances reported on the social media too.

Are all these stories apocryphal…?


I have heard many Veterans comment and give examples of how accounts departments reign supreme over military personnel whom they are meant to serve.

Civilian Citizens may have the impression that military personnel (the men in uniform) are powerful — but actually — it is the civilian “Babus” who wield all the power over the men in uniform who are mere “cannon fodder”.

Yes — it is the civilian bureaucracy who call the shots and have control of matters — especially financial.

Let us take a recent example.

Till recently — Pensions of Military Veterans were being disbursed by Banks — and — managed by Bank Centralised Pension Payment Centres (CPPC)

This system was running efficiently — defence military pensioners had easy access to banks — and banks had introduced various initiatives like Video Life Certificate (VLC) and other benefits to military veterans.

However — the Principal Controller of Defence Accounts (PCDA) decided to take over pension disbursement from banks by introducing SPARSH (System for Pension Administration Raksha)

Inefficient Working of SPARSH and indifferent attitude towards resolving pension grievances has caused anxiety and hardship to Military Veterans and Widow Pensioners in their old age.

(To cite my personal example — I was migrated to SPARSH today October 31, 2023 — and — I have not got my pension for the month of October 2023 — whereas my bank would credit my pension well before the end of the month)

Do the civilian accounts staff realise that Military Veterans and Widow Pensioners depend on the pension for survival and delay or non-payment of pension causes distress to old Ex-Servicemen Pensioners…?

When in service — military personnel are expected to be prompt, punctual and efficient.

Shouldn’t the same courtesy by given to them after retirement…?

Powerless military veteran pensioners can only hope that the SPARSH system runs as efficiently as the Bank CPPC system and PCDA gives the same standard of customer service and grievance redressal as Banks.

With the implementation of SPARSH — military veterans are at the mercy of civilian accounts officers and staff — in pension matters.

Now — let’s read the story…




Whenever I see discussions on Social Media about the way Civilian Bureaucracy (“Babus”) keep trying to undermine Soldiers — or — when I see news of Soldiers and Veterans being mistreated — I am reminded of this story I wrote more than 11 years ago — in 2012.

The Story was titled:

“The Pen is Mightier than the Sword”


Is the story still relevant today…?

Dear Reader:

Read the story and tell us what you think…



Fiction Short Story

Spoof By Vikram Karve




This happened long back — around 38 years ago — in the 1980’s — when I was posted on the faculty (instructional staff) at IAT Girinagar Pune.

I saw Army Soldiers cutting grass and clearing up weeds and wild bushes on the campus.

I mentioned this to the OC Adm at tea time.


The OC Adm (Officer-in-Charge Administration) was an Army Colonel.


The OC Adm said to me:

“These lazy civilian gardeners are not doing their job properly — so we have decided to use “service manpower” to get the campus cleaned up before the VIP visit…”


I was amazed.

The “powers-that-be” were finding it difficult to take effective control of the indolent civilian gardeners and make them do their job properly.

So — the easiest solution was to deploy obedient military soldiers to get the job done.


I said to the OC Adm:

“The civilian gardeners are being paid salaries — aren’t they…?

But — since you can’t get them to do their job — they easiest option is to deploy soldiers.

So — why not deduct money from the lazy civilians’ salaries and give it to the soldiers…?”


The OC Adm gave me a stern look and told me to shut up.

So — I held my tongue — since it was of no use arguing with him.

Of course — whereas Army Soldiers were deployed for cutting grass — Navy Sailors and Air Force Airmen were not deployed to cut grass.

Maybe — in the early years of his service — the Head of the Naval Wing — our Navy Boss had probably seen the infamous “Topass Mutiny” of 1970.

So — he decided to be prudent — and he avoided deploying sailors for menial tasks like grass-cutting.


(The infamous “Topass Mutiny” of 1970 occurred when some sailors in the Western Fleet refused to clean latrines — after the abolition of the Navy’s Topass branch.

The Topass performs the more menial tasks for the crew.

The Topass Mutiny led to the repeal of the unpopular decision to abolish the Topass branch)


And — of course — deploying Air Force Airmen for menial tasks was unthinkable.

But — the evergreen soldier was the “jack of all trades” — and he could be deployed anywhere and everywhere — to do anything and everything.


A few days later — the gardener attached to our department came to see me along with his brother.

His brother was a soldier in the Infantry (Army) — he was in his mid 30’s.

The soldier was being released from the Army at this young age.

He wanted my help in getting a job.

I helped him out — it just required a phone call to one of my classmates who was an entrepreneur.

I thought about it.

The civilian gardener was better off than his soldier brother.

Firstly — the civilian gardener would retire at the age of 60 — when all his family commitments were competed — whereas his soldier brother was left to fend for himself in the “civvy street” in his mid 30’s — when he had school going children to look after.

Secondly — with successive pay commissions — the “status” of the civilian gardener had been raised — “Class 4” had been abolished — and he was now in “Class 3” — and accordingly — he got a higher pay scale too.

Thirdly — the civilian gardener would never be transferred — and he would spend his entire 40 years career in IAT Pune.

Besides stability for children’s education and a good family life — easy availability of housing advance for civilians enabled him build his own house in the village nearby and claim HRA (House Rent Allowance) — thereby supplementing his income.

Of course — most importantly — a civilian gardener’s job was much less dangerous, less hard and less riskier than a soldier’s job.

I realized that in case you want to join government service — it was better to be a civilian than a soldier — and this was applicable across the board.

It was this incident that sowed in my mind the kernel of this fiction short story which I wrote a few years later…


The Pen is Mightier than the Sword

Fiction Short Story by Vikram Karve




The Soldier sat on the footpath near the gate of the Accounts Office.

Abe Langde … Hat Wahan Se…(Hey you one-legged cripple … Move from there)Yeh Meri Jagah Hai(This is my place)…” the food-cart vendor shouted at the soldier.

The soldier winced.

Then — he looked down at his amputated leg.

Yes — he was indeed a cripple — a langda.

When he had joined the Army — he had two strong legs.

And now — he had just one leg — and one stump.

The soldier picked up his crutches — pushed his body up — and he slowly hobbled a few steps away.

He was about to sit under a shady canopy near the street corner — when a traffic policeman shouted at the soldier:

Ae Bhikhari — Wahan Mat Baith(Hey Beggar — don’t sit there)…”


Main Bhikhari Nahin Hoon — Main Fauji Hoon… (I am not a beggar — I am a soldier)…” protested the soldier.


Phir Border Pe Ja Kar Lad…(Then go and fight on the border)…” the policeman said with sarcasm.


Wahi to kar raha tha…(That is what I was doing)…” the soldier mumbled to himself.


As the soldier tottered on the street on his crutches — he talked to himself.

The soldier was overcome by regret.

He had been a fool to be brave.

He should have played safe.

At least — he would not have lost his leg.

And — he wouldn’t have been discharged from the Army as “medically unfit”.

Now — he was being made to run from pillar to post for his disability pension — just because some civilian clerk in the accounts office had “misplaced” his documents.

The soldier was exasperated.

In the Army — he was expected to do everything promptly and properly — in “double-quick time”.

But — these clerks — these civilian “Babus” — they were just not bothered.

First — the paperwork for his disability pension was delayed due to “red tape”.

Then — there were some careless typographical errors in his papers — and his documents had to be sent back to Delhi for the necessary corrections.

And now — his disability pension sanction documents had been misplaced.

It was sad.

Nobody was bothered about his plight.


The Soldier thought in his mind:

“These Civilian Babus were slack and indifferent — comfortably cocooned in their secure “9 AM to 5 PM — five-day-week” jobs.

And — these Civilian Babus did not give a damn for the soldiers who they were meant to serve.

Civilians expected soldiers to be loyal unto the grave.

But — civilians did not reciprocate the same loyalty towards the soldiers…”


One cruel clerk had remarked mockingly:

“What is the big deal if you lost a leg…?

You soldiers are paid to fight.

And if you die — or — if you get wounded — it is a part of your job.

You knew the risks before you joined the Army — didn’t you…?

If you wanted to live a safe and secure life — why did you become a soldier…?

You should have become a chaprasi (peon) — like your friend…”


Tears rolled down the soldier’s cheek as he thought of this.

Others were not so cruel and heartless — but their sympathy was tinged with scorn.

Indeed — he should have become a chaprasi — like his friend — who was now helping him get his disability pension.

Both he and his friend had been selected for the post of peon in a government office.

But — he had been a fool.

He told everyone that it was “below his dignity” to work as a chaprasi (peon) — and then — he went to the Army Recruitment Rally — and joined the Army as a soldier.

He made fun of his friend — who took up the job of a peon — and he boasted with bloated pride about being a soldier.

And now — the tables had turned — and the peon was having the last laugh on the soldier.

The peon was secure in his job — while the soldier was out on the street — crippled for life — and begging for his pension.

And now — his friend wasn’t even called a chaprasi — they had upgraded all “Class 4” to “Class 3” — and his friend was now designated as “assistant”.

His friend would retire at the age of 60 — after a safe, secure, easy, tension-free career — without any transfers or hardships.

If a soldier got disabled — they would throw him out.

But — if a civilian employee got disabled — they would never throw him out — in fact — they would compensate him for his disability and give him easy work.

And — by chance — if his civilian friend died — his wife or son or daughter would get a government job in his place.

Nothing like that for the soldier.

A soldier had to fend for himself.

The soldier felt disheartened.

He looked at his amputated leg — and he deeply regretted his decision to join the Army.

Indeed — he had made a mistake by joining the Army.

He would have been much better off as a peon — a chaprasi — or in some other civilian job.

Yes — in the long run — a civilian government job was much better than being a soldier.

The soldier also felt a sense of guilt that he had made fun of his friend.

A few years ago — the soldier had laughed at his friend because he was a mere chaprasi — a peon.

Today — he was at his friend’s mercy.

The soldier had to live on the kindness of the man he had once ridiculed and scoffed at.

It was a terrible feeling.


More than 6 months had passed — and he was still anxiously waiting for his pension and dues.

His friend had given the soldier — and the soldier’s family — shelter and food.

And now — the peon friend was trying to help the soldier — by running around from office to office — using the “peon network” to trace the misplaced documents.

The soldier felt sorry for his hapless wife.

His ill-fated wife was at the mercy of his friend’s nasty wife — who openly derided her.

His friend’s spiteful wife made her displeasure quite clear by making scathing comments about the soldier, his wife and their children.

His friend’s wife kept on complaining and making snide remarks about how the soldier and his family were sponging on her hospitality like parasites.

The soldier’s wife hated the peon’s wife — but the soldier’s wife had to suffer the humiliation in silence — and bear the daily insults.

It was terrible to be at the mercy of someone who detested you.

Today — the peon friend had asked the soldier to stand outside the gate — and the peon had gone into the accounts office alone.

The soldier’s peon friend had gone inside the accounts office alone — because last time — the soldier had spoilt everything by refusing to a pay a bribe to the accounts officer.

The soldier had even threatened the accounts officer that he would report the matter.

On hearing this — the accounts officer became furious.


The accounts officer angrily said to the soldier:

“You go and report to whoever you want to.

Nothing will happen.

Now I will see to it that your papers are not traced until you die.

What do you bloody soldiers think…?

You soldiers think that you can threaten us…?

This is not the Army.

This is the Accounts Office.

Haven’t you heard the saying: “THE PEN IS MIGHTIER THAN THE SWORD”…?

Now I will show you my power…”


After uttering these threatening words — the accounts officer had thrown out the soldier and his peon friend from of his office.

Today — the soldier waited outside — while his peon friend had gone inside to negotiate the amount of bribe.

The clerks had told him not to bring the soldier inside the office — as the egoistic accounts officer may get furious on seeing the soldier — and everything will be spoilt.

They told the peon that once everything was “settled” — they would try and trace the “misplaced” documents — and — he could take the documents out to obtain the soldier’s signature — and then re-submit the papers for clearance of the disability pension.




The soldier waited anxiously in the hot sun for his peon friend to come out.

The soldier muttered to himself:

“Ungrateful, corrupt people — all these civilian Babus.

We sacrifice our life and limb for their sake — and they humiliate us — they even ask me to pay a bribe to get my own disability pension…”


Angry thoughts buzzed in the soldier’s mind.


The soldier talked to himself:

“Patriotism, heroism, idealism — no one bothers about these things anymore.

I made a mistake by joining the Army.

Yes — I indeed made a mistake by joining the Army.

But — I made an even bigger mistake trying to be brave.

What was the point of showing courage, initiative and daring…?

What did I gain by going beyond the call of duty to nab those guys…?

How does it matter if a few militants sneak in…?

Who is bothered about these things anyway — especially out here in the city…?

They don’t even know what is happening out there on the borders.

Had I looked the other way — no one would have known — and I would not have become a one-legged cripple — a langda…

And — even then — I wish they had shot me in the head — and I had died.

That would have been better — much better — to be dead — than to be a cripple for my entire life…”


The soldier mumbled to himself — feeling very bitter, frustrated and helpless.

The soldier thought of his wife, his children — and the bleak future awaiting them.

How long would they have to be dependent on the mercy of his friend and his nasty wife…?

The soldier felt sad — very sad — as depressing thoughts of despondency and hopelessness filled his brain.

He wondered whether his disability pension problem would be solved today.

It was taking long — his peon friend had gone in at 10 AM — and it was almost 12 noon now.

The sweltering summer sun was hot — and the soldier felt parched and weak.

Since morning — he had drunk just a cup of tea.

They started their journey to the accounts office in the city by bus from their friend’s home in the distant suburbs — early in the morning.

Suddenly — the soldier felt faint — so he walked towards the compound wall of the accounts office.

The demoralised Soldier took support from the wall — and he slid down to sit on his haunches.


At 12:30 in the afternoon — his peon friend emerged from the gates of the accounts office.

The peon was happy — the bribe had been paid — the documents had been promptly traced and found.

Now — all he had to do was get the soldier’s signature on the papers — and — he had been assured that the soldier’s disability pension and all his dues would be given within a month.

The peon friend began to look around for the soldier — and he saw the soldier sitting strangely — propped against the wall.

The soldier’s eyes were closed — and it seemed that he had fallen asleep.

Something seemed wrong — so the peon briskly walked towards the soldier.

The peon bent down — and he touched the soldier’s shoulder.

The soldier fell down to his side.

The peon friend panicked.

He thought the soldier had fainted — so he started shouting for help.

The traffic policeman — the food-cart vendor — and some passers-by — they all rushed to help.

The policeman told the vendor to sprinkle some water on the soldier’s face — but nothing happened.

The policeman rang up the police control room for an ambulance.

“I hope he is not dead…” the soldier’s peon friend said with trepidation.

“I don’t know. But it looks like he is totally unconscious. What happened…? Who is he…? He was muttering that he is a “fauji” — is he really a soldier…?” the policeman asked the peon.

The soldier’s peon friend told the policeman the soldier’s story — the full story.

“Sad — very sad — it is really terrible — the way they treat our soldiers….” the policeman said.

The ambulance arrived.

A paramedic examined the soldier and he said:

“I think he is dead. We will take him to the hospital. There the doctors will examine him and officially pronounce him dead.”




Everyone felt very sad at the death of the soldier.

The policeman looked at the dead body of the soldier.

And — he said:

“The enemy’s bullets could not do what these “Babus” did with their red tape.

It is very sad indeed.

The enemy could not kill this brave soldier — but the these “Babus” killed him…”


The soldier’s distraught friend — the peon — he commented:

“Yes — the accounts officer was right.

These clerks — these civilian “Babus” — they are much more powerful than soldiers.

Bureaucracy always prevails over the Military.

The Pen is indeed Mightier than the Sword…”



Copyright © Vikram Karve
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  1. 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.
  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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Link to my original post in my Blog Academic and Creative Writing Journal Vikram Karve:

© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

This Story was written by me more than 11 years ago in the year 2012 and first posted online by me Vikram Karve in my blog Academic and Creative Writing Journal at 1/09/2013 02:09:00 PM (09 Jan 2013) at url: andalso in my various blogs including at urls: and and and and and 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