Wednesday, August 10, 2011
An article by a Col :I was all of 48 yrs when I was superseded in my present rank. At asocial-do, I was asked by this pretty girl, ‘Just 48, and the end of theroad for you! What has Army really given you? You’ve never been paid well inthe Army. And see what they have done to you now!’I appraised her from top to bottom. I must confess she was a pretty sight.What I told her was this.Army, my dear, is a way of life. It is not about making a living. As far assupercession is concerned, lady, that is way of army life. You can’tcomplain just because your personal interest, as you perceive it, has notbeen looked after. Army has wonderful, time-tested evolved systems. Youdon’t fight personal battles for the heck of it. And it is aboutselfishness, dear – Service Before Self is our motto.Remember it is a Service (seva). There are no expectations of rewards inSeva, for Seva is considered its own reward. ‘What has Army given me?’, youasked. It has given me a glimpse and understanding of dimensions you, in thecivil sector, can only wonder and feel over-awed about. Have you any idea ofcamaraderie?When you see a soldier brave the shower of artillery shrapnels to rush torescue his bleeding colleague just wounded in the shelling you KNOW themeaning of the word ‘camaraderie’. When you are lying in a hospital on a DIList, and there are 20 blood donors of your blood-group spending the coldnight in the verandah of the hospital, just so that any emergency call forblood to save your life may be attended to, that is camaraderie. Camaraderieimplies selfless help and support to someone who is not necessarily afriend.You have to cross Banihal, my dear, to understand all this.Do you know the holy significance of the word ‘command’? It is a sacredword. And who can know the meaning of it other than a person in uniform?Even the CEO of a Fortune 500 company can’t comprehend the significance ofthis sacred word. When you are in ‘command’ you are God. Can you comprehendwhat being God can be like? It is not about the authority, it is aboutresponsibility. The authority comes into play after you have rendered yourpart of the deal of unflinching loyalty displayed towards your subordinates.Now when you signal him - not ask him or tell him or order him - todash-down-crawl-observe- fire, and in the process subject himself toimminent death, he does so without a second thought. This is when youREALIZE what is so sacred about command. Even before you can move your handto the door of the car/ gypsy, the driver jumps from his seat and beats youto the door, your door, is what command gets you. Such are the rewards ofcommand.Do you know the meaning of ‘being a gentleman’? In the last thirty years inuniform one has witnessed a proliferation of designations in the civilenvironment. There have been Executive Officers, and there have beenManagers - General Mangers, Assistant Managers, and a whole spectrum ofthem. There are CEOs and Vice Presidents. In the Army we have only‘Officers’. Some are General Officers and some just Company Officers. Evenat the induction level we have Young Officers. What it means to be an‘Officer’ is something you can’t comprehend. Hollywood tried to bring abouta differentiation, calling the phenomenon, ‘An Officer and a Gentleman’,little knowing that being a gentleman is inherent when you are an OFFICER.Being a gentleman is his primary nature, not second-nature. His behaviour isbhadra – i.e. kalyan-kaarak swabhav, guna, aur karma. Army imbibes thispeculiar quality in us when we are as young as 17 to 20 years only. I’llexplain with an example. An officer once held the door open for a particularlady. She, trying to be smartly polite said, ‘You don’t have to hold thedoor open for me just because I’m a lady.’ He replied, ‘Ma’am, I’m notholding it for you because you are a lady, but because I’m a gentleman.’ Wemay appear to be ruthless egoists, but we are Enlightened Egoists.In the corporate world have you ever come across the word ‘honour’? Inuniform we serve only for honour, not the ‘package’. Naam, Namak, Nishan –are alien words in the corporate world. You know what it means to serve forhonour? When a subordinate, who already has a bad ankle, is told of amission which entails 12 hours of walk in the most rugged terrain; and whenhe expresses reservation on account of his current physical condition, istold that if we can’t do it, it will be a smudge on the regiment; AND THEREIS NO ONE TO REPLACE HIM. He says he’ll do his bit. He climbs 10 ropes aheadof everyone else only to find that there is no one behind him and themission is thus called off. He reports from the top, only 5840m (nearly20000 ft!), that he with two others of his team are on top and no one is insight, either behind him or ahead (enemy). He comes back to the base twodays later – and what an ankle he has! A swollen ankle with 10-inch girth!!!That is working for the honour.Army has commanders at every level – langar commander, section commander/detachment commander, platoon commander/troop commander, and up the chain toBrigade Commanders, and General Officers Commanding in Chief. The GeneralOfficers in command of field forces are the best in their league. What isimplied by the term ‘commander’? Maybe something you in the corporate worldwill never get to know. To be a commander implies responsibility, completeresponsibility. As a commander you are responsible for every dimension ofyour command – right from his morning cup of tea, his toilet facilities, hisprofessional training, his mental makeup, his family’ well being and hisspiritual requirements. In the Army we first train young boys, and now evenyoung girls like you, to be an Officer and then to be a Commander, in thatorder. Can you get an idea, even an iota of it, Lady? Can you get a feel ofwhy we feel distinctly proud, and display it, when we say, ‘We in the Army….’. Post Script‘I am already 25 year old. I suppose I can’t get enrolled to be an officer.What can I do now?, she asked me at a later get-together. ‘The best optionfor you now is to become an Army Wife!’, I suggested. Two years later thisgirl married a young Major. Now I only hope and pray that the Army Officersof the future do not belittle this young Army Wife’ perception of our Armyas I experienced during ‘my times’.
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