There is always a light

There is always a light
Don't be afraid if you are alone or surrounded by darkness. In some part of the world, the day has just begun. There is a always a light waiting for you to find your way to touch its radiance.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

For My Olives.....

By Ananya Mukherjee

I was born in an Army Hospital. That didn’t turn my skin olive green. I dated a general’s son for years. But even that wasn’t enough to qualify me as a patriot. My parents found a part doctor-part soldier for me. Now that incorporated me as a face in the Forces’ family extended family of common anxiousness, common etiquette, common snobbery of being a wee bit more civil than the civilians, a common repertoire of words like sacrifice, patriot, gentlemen, lady wives, orderlies, ladies meet, AWWA, field postings, regiment, temporary duty, movement al, in no particular chronology of importance, urgency or priority. Strangely, if you observe as keenly as I do, emotive words such as sacrifice, patriotism, high morale of the troops, etc are all passé now, having found their meaningfulness generously in Raising Day speeches, or in the Officers’ Mess as old Colonels pass the “Once when I was in Tawang...” scraps of wisdom and nostalgia over a drink to the newly commissioned young officers (YO). However, words that seldom fail to capture the spotlight or the interest of the latter in a more practical sense today are pay commissions, arrears, ACRs and entitlements.

I don’t mean to say that I am disillusioned beyond repair by the image that our once traditional patriarchal family holds in the eyes of the young knights. The glamour, glory and pride which once came along with a package of goodies defined the way we looked at that thing called quality of life. Army was not a profession you chose because your grades did not allow you admission in IIT or Dad simply refused to pay for your medical school donation. It was a way of life, the uniform was your identity and you were supposed to bask in the glory of your pips and stars, all your life just as you did on the day of your Passing Out Parade (POP). Never perceived as an alternative career option, it was more of a dream that empowered an adventurous youthful heart to protect and to serve.

An interesting article left me a little stimulated sometimes back and hence this attempt to make a point. An ex-Chief of Staff seemed to have made a comment on how criticism, oftener than was good, was responsible in tarnishing the image of the Indian Army and thereby, affecting the morale of the troops. Paradoxically, to me, it is the closed door approach to feedback of the hierarchy that has led to this regimental, top down “I need a movement order in writing to go an extra mile” mentality in the Forces. The opacity of the system has led to dissatisfaction amongst the promising officers and discontent amidst the troops. In other words, the rigidity of not listening beyond the book, and thereby not bending the rules to adapt to practical, modern demands of a balanced career, high performance and higher productivity has perhaps resulted in the mediocrity of its degenerating culture and image.

Just for instance, an officer from the Military Intelligence, I once knew very closely had shared an anecdote. He recollected how awkward it was for him to have found himself dressed in a dinner jacket and polished brogues in the Officers’ Mess of a regiment in the United States. About a 100 gentlemen officers from across the world were participating in a training programme against global terrorism and this particular officer I knew was representative of the Indian Army. He recalled with embarrassment how everyone else came in for a drink after office hours in a pair of khakis or shorts while he followed the Dress Code to the T. Much to the amusement of others, he was questioned why was he dressed so. “That’s what we are supposed to wear in our home country,” and throwing a statement at a British officer, he added, “You made these rules.” The British officer in a pair of shorts and tees apparently replied, “That was written 200 years ago. We changed with the time and have realized no one would come to unwind, refresh his mind and relax in a pair of formals to the Mess. That’s not what this place is for. How come you stayed where we left you six decades back?”

The point, therefore is, in order to upscale its brand as a lucrative career option, that is primarily driven by a fierce sense of responsibility, commitment and high performance, the need of the hour is perhaps to be a little more flexible, transparent and open to amendments, criticism and suggestions to improve and function as any other result-oriented corporate. Hard to believe and harder to accept, but in the changing socio-economic scenario , medals and PVCs that often come with the price of a life are only showpieces that gather dust over time. In order to incorporate the best talent and extract the utmost out of him, whilst motivation, patriotism and sacrifice can continue to dominate the vision and mission statements, the bottom-line is to encourage flexibility, ownership, open feedback and a tangible reward system. Dangle a carrot fresher or at par with what the J P Morgans or IBMs can offer and you can get the best boys on your ship. And when all aboard are stars or potential stars, it is only imperative that the ship can twinkle in all its glory.

Just a don’t agree?


  1. A very nice post and the very well timed. Just as we celebrated our Republic Day, the youth is largely dissillusioned with the state of democracy, the Judiciary system, the state of Governance and public institutions. Very valid points have been hinted in your post. I always wonder what is it that a person willingly sacrificies his life for the nation. I always salute the family members of these persons. No doubt with time, if the Institution has to attract and retain the young blood, it has to relook at its system and make it all the more lucrative. It also has to be, as you say, open to two way feedback system.

    Thanks Ananya, for sharing your thoughts.

  2. Loved,as always..An eye-opener as it is,i wish n hope that this write-up reaches the relevant destinations.. and alterations n amendments are executed at the earliest..for only then,there would be potential stars and the ship can twinkle in all its glory - in your words,dear Ann :)

  3. An eye opener indeed....thanks Ananya