Monday, June 2, 2014

Humor in Uniform - EXERCISE “NUKTA CHEENI” aka NUKTACHINI (नुक्ताचीनी)


Unforgettable Memories of my IAT Days

Long back, at IAT Pune, each Officer-in-Charge of a Training Course was required to conduct an “end of course feedback session” which was called Exercise “Nukta-Cheeni” (नुक्ताचीनी).

In Hindi, the expression “Nukta Cheeni” means “to find fault” – so I guess the trainees were supposed to find some faults with the course they had just attended.

In the navy we were not familiar with such mumbo jumbo, so I guess this expression must have originated from the army, where Hindi is the predominant language.

Also, in the navy, no one gave a damn about things like feedback, especially for training courses – you finished the course, enjoyed chilled beer with the faculty at a PLD and that was that.

But in IAT, which was run on army lines those days, nearly 30 years ago, they took this “Exercise Nukta-Cheeni” quite seriously – yes, they called it an “exercise”.

And as a young Officer-in-Charge of a premier postgraduate course, I decided to conduct “Exercise Nukta-Cheeni” meticulously by the book, as prescribed in the Standing Orders.

It was the last working day of the course, and the student officers were eager to pack their luggage and proceed on transfer to their respective ships/units.

So they wanted to get over this “Nukta-Cheeni” exercise as quickly as possible.

This prestigious two years long course was also awarded the Master of Engineering Degree (ME) by the University of Pune.

Students had just submitted their dissertations, and as per practice, the dissertation viva voce examination would be held a few months later for which the student officers would be summoned on Ty Duty from their units.

Now, I happened to be the only “recognized” University Examiner and Dissertation Guide for that particular course.

So, ipso facto, I would be examining their dissertations as an internal examiner and, thus, I would play vital role in their final grading, since the dissertation carried a huge weightage.

That is why most student officers were quite circumspect in their “nukta-cheeni” and avoided “finding fault” with the course or with the the faculty, since they did not want to annoy me.

Everyone ticked the right answers, wrote glowing reports about the conduct of the course, and praised the faculty, especially me, both as an instructor and as an Officer-in-Charge of the Course, since they wanted to be in my good books when the time came for their dissertation viva voce examination, and, also, I would be writing their course reports too.

Reading the flattering feedback they had given me was a big “ego massage” for me and I was feeling good.

Suddenly I read a feedback form: “The Course OIC has got an abrasive personality”.

Now, this was real “nukta-cheeni”.

My ego punctured, I angrily asked the concerned student officer: “What the hell do you mean by your statement that I have got an abrasive personality?”

Seeing my anger, the contrite student officer backtracked to make amends: “Sir, I meant it in a positive sense.”

“Positive sense? Are you trying to bullshit me? How can ‘abrasive personality’ be a positive attribute?” I thundered.

“Sir, I meant that you are straightforward and outspoken. I am sorry, Sir – I will fill up another feedback form,” the student officer said.

“No. I am going to forward this ‘nukta-cheeni’ form to the Director and Dean as it is – the aim of this feedback exercise is to find fault and that is what you have done – if you feel that I have an abrasive personality, so be it – let everyone know that I have an abrasive personality,” I said.

At night, before going to sleep, I thought about it, and I realized that the “nukta-cheeni” done by the student officer was bang-on accurate.

I did indeed have an “abrasive personality” – and, maybe, I do so even now.

The student officer qualified for his Masters in Engineering (ME) in first class with distinction with top marks in dissertation.

People with “abrasive personality” never harm anybody – in fact, like sandpaper, they give a shine to whoever comes in contact with them.

I have experienced this in my long career in the navy – it is always better to have an “abrasive” boss rather than a “smooth” operator.

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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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