Monday, July 14, 2014



Incoherent Rumblings of a Retired Mind

In his introduction to the witty and insightful favourite management classic “The Peter Principle” the co-author Raymond Hull narrates hilarious professional paradoxes, maybe apocryphal, about “square pegs in round holes”.

“I am no longer amazed to observe that a government-employed marriage counsellor is a homosexual” he comments, and gives examples of mismatched “square pegs in round holes” – in fact, the book is interspersed with numerous such droll snippets .

During my long career in the navy, I have seen many such amusing mismatches.

I remember coming across a child-specialist who hated children – she was a rather rude young unmarried lady doctor in uniform and someone commented that maybe she would change her attitude once she herself got married and had children of her own.

On a few occasions, yours truly has also been a “square peg in a round hole” – yes, I too have had my share of mismatched appointments.

I am sure you too have seen many “square pegs in round holes” in uniform.

Let me tell you of one I came across.

Long back, while I was sitting in the bar at DSOI in New Delhi, I ran into an Army Officer who was Commanding an NCC (National Cadet Corps) Unit at Bombay (Mumbai).

The aim of the NCC is to motivate young students of impressionable age to join the Defence Services.

Thus, it is apt that the Commanding Officer (CO) of an NCC unit should be a highly motivated officer, who must be an inspiring role model for his cadets.

He needs to be full of josh and jingoism, like the highly motivated Divisional Officers in National Defence Academy (NDA) and other Cadet Training Academies like Indian Military Academy (IMA), Naval Academy (NAVAC) etc.

Since we were the only two persons in the bar that afternoon, I tried to start a conversation with the Army Officer posted in the NCC.

I asked him about the various initiatives NCC was taking to motivate young college students to join the armed forces.

But he was not interested in the subject.

In fact, he seemed least interested in talking about his job in the NCC.

He told me that he himself was desperately trying to quit the army.

He had put in his papers for premature retirement.

He said that he had come all the way from Mumbai to Delhi to personally get his premature retirement case cleared.

He told me that after the cushy NCC posting at Mumbai, his posting to a field area was due, and so he was busy chasing his premature retirement case to get it cleared quickly before he was posted out.

He wanted to get out of the army fast, so that he could take up a lucrative job offer and settle down in Mumbai.

He told me of the attractive job offer from a prestigious firm in Mumbai.

He also told me that the firm wanted him to join fast, so time was running out for him.

Also, if he got posted out meanwhile to a field area it would mean the end of this great opportunity for a successful second innings in the civvy street.

From the way he carped about his army career, it was evident that he was quite fed up of army life, and he was especially bitter about being sidelined and “dumped’ into the NCC.

He was desperate to get his premature retirement through, and it was evident that all his attention and energies were devoted to chasing his premature retirement case.

No wonder, he was least interested in NCC activities.

Hardly an inspiring role model to motivate youngsters to join the armed forces.

How can an officer who is disillusioned with the army and is desperate to quit the army motivate youngsters to join the army?

During my long career in the Navy, I saw that many officers who themselves were in dire need of “motivation” were posted to the NCC to motivate youngsters.

Quite an irony, isn’t it?

If you really want to motivate impressionable young minds and inspire them to join the armed forces, why not post young unmarried officers full of “josh”, patriotic zeal and nationalistic fervour to the NCC?

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