Monday, January 25, 2010


A beautiful article by Col Abhay Gupta

I was all of 48 yrs when I was superseded in my present rank. At a
social-do, I was asked by this pretty girl, ‘Just 48, and the end of the
road for you! What has Army really given you? You’ve never been paid well
in the 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 as supercession is concerned, lady, that is way of army life. You can’t
complain just because your personal interest, as you perceive it, has not
been looked after.

Army has wonderful, time-tested evolved systems. You don’t fight personal
battles for the heck of it. And it is about selfishness, dear – Service
Before Self is our motto. Remember it is a Service (seva). There are no
expectations of rewards in Seva, for Seva is considered its own
reward. ‘What has Army given me?’, you asked. It has given me a glimpse and
understanding of dimensions you, in the civil sector, can only wonder and
feel over-awed about. Have you any idea of camaraderie? When you see a
soldier brave the shower of artillery shrapnel to rush to rescue his
bleeding colleague just wounded in the shelling you KNOW the meaning of the
word ‘camaraderie’. When you are lying in a hospital on a DI List, and
there are 20 blood donors of your blood-group spending the cold night in
the verandah of the hospital, just so that any emergency call for blood to
save your life may be attended to, that is camaraderie. Camaraderie implies
selfless help and support to someone who is not necessarily a friend. You
have to cross Banihal, my dear, to understand all this.

Do you know the holy significance of the word ‘command’? It is a sacred
word. 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 of
this sacred word. When you are in ‘command’ you are God. Can you comprehend
what being God can be like? It is not about the authority, it is about
responsibility. The authority comes into play after you have rendered your
part of the deal of unflinching loyalty displayed towards your
subordinates. Now when you signal him - not ask him or tell him or order
him - to dash-down-crawl- observe- fire, and in the process subject himself
to imminent death, he does so without a second thought.. This is when you
REALIZE what is so sacred about command. Even before you can move your hand
to the door of the car/ gypsy, the driver jumps from his seat and beats you
to the door, your door, is what command gets you. Such are the rewards of

Do you know the meaning of ‘being a gentleman’? In the last thirty years in
uniform one has witnessed a proliferation of designations in the civil
environment. There have been Executive Officers, and there have been
Managers - General Managers, Assistant Managers, and a whole spectrum of
them. There are CEOs and Vice Presidents. In the Army we have only
‘Officers’. Some are General Officers and some just Company Officers. Even
at the induction level we have Young Officers. What it means to be an
‘Officer’ is something you can’t comprehend. Hollywood tried to bring about
a 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
is bhadra – i.e. kalyan-kaarak swabhav, guna, aur karma.

Army imbibes this peculiar quality in us when we are as young as 17 to 20
years only. I’ll explain with an example. An officer once held the door
open for a particular lady. She, trying to be smartly polite said, ‘You
don’t have to hold the door open for me just because I’m a lady.’ He
replied, ‘Ma’am, I’m not holding it for you because you are a lady, but
because I’m a gentleman.’

We may appear to be ruthless egoists, but we are Enlightened Egoists. In
the corporate world have you ever come across the word ‘honour’? In uniform
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 for
honour? When a subordinate, who already has a bad ankle, is told of a
mission which entails 12 hours of walk in the most rugged terrain; and when
he expresses reservation on account of his current physical condition, is
told that if we can’t do it, it will be a smudge on the regiment; AND THERE
IS NO ONE TO REPLACE HIM. He says he’ll do his bit. He climbs 10 ropes
ahead of everyone else only to find that there is no one behind him and the
mission is thus called off. He reports from the top, only 5840 m (nearly
20000 ft!), that he with two others of his team are on top and no one is in
sight, either behind him or ahead (enemy). He comes back to the base two
days 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
to Brigade Commanders, and General Officers Commanding in Chief. The
General Officers in command of field forces are the best in their
league. What is implied by the term ‘commander’? Maybe something you in the
corporate world will never get to know. To be a commander implies
responsibility, complete responsibility. As a commander you are responsible
for every dimension of your command – right from his morning cup of tea,
his toilet facilities, his professional training, his mental makeup, his
family’ well being and his spiritual requirements. In the Army we first
train young boys, and now even young girls like you, to be an Officer and
then to be a Commander, in that order.

Can you get an idea, even an iota of it, Lady? Can you get a feel of why 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 option for you now is to become an Army Wife!’, I
suggested. Two years later this girl married a young Major. Now I only hope
and pray that the Army Officers of the future do not belittle this young
Army Wife’ perception of our Army as I experienced during ‘my
times’. ****** *******


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