Monday, 3 November 2014

Dear Ravi...

1200 hrs, 02 Nov 14
A tribute to a friend and a roommate…

Dear Ravi,

I’m sorry I couldn’t wake you up on time and you had to sweat in punishment for an hour. But thanks for waking me up on time always…

I’m sorry I didn’t save a little more juice for you after four hours of parade. But thanks for saving some for me always…

I’m sorry I wore your shoes today since mine looked shabby. But thanks for never complaining…

I’m sorry for staying up late on the phone and disturbing your sleep. But thanks for switching off the fan when I felt cold…

I’m sorry for sleeping before completing my assignments. But thanks for making them for me…

I’m sorry for playing my music in the room while you wanted to study. But thanks for keeping it low…

I’m sorry for always paying my dues a day later. But thanks for taking care of that...

I’m sorry you have two pairs of socks lesser in your stock. But they are with me…

I’m sorry I never even thought of a nickname for you. But thanks for making plenty for me…

I’m sorry I made you smoke your first cigarette. But thanks for stocking up for me…

I’m sorry I drank your share. But thanks for getting me home safe…

I’m sorry I never understood your love life. But thanks for sharing mine with me…

I’m sorry I forgot your birthday. But thanks for that smoke on mine just three days into AFTC when I had none…

I’m sorry but this doesn’t seem like a closure. But thanks for letting me try…

But today, I’m sad that you’re gone. But today, I’m slightly lost. But today, I’m slightly lesser. Because today, dear friend, is probably the only day you’ve let me down. And it’s your turn to say sorry…Do that sometime and we’ll call it even.

Get back

Saturday, 30 November 2013

AFTC is Chill! Jhilmil Jhilmil Jhilmil - Part 2

AFTC is chill! Jhilmil jhilmil jhilmil – NOT REALLY! 

A TRIBUTE TO 81 & 82

With power comes responsibility. With responsibility comes criticism and only god bless you if this power is in AFTC!

After a long (read : short) break of 2 weeks we all came back to AFTC to spend our last 24 weeks of training. The plans were fresh, the faces were new, the roles had changed, but somewhere we all knew that the stories will always remain the same. Time and tide wait for none, they didn’t! In lighter vein, I must say that the most significant and probably the only actual work as a senior trainee in AFTC was to simply ruin the happiness of the freshers.

But the task was bigger. We as a bunch of 120 trained men and women were given the task of grooming (read : grilling) the new 130 entrants. I know I share this agenda with many who were with me then that our primary task was to boost the confidence and knowledge of our immediate juniors and inculcate theoretical leadership qualities of team spirit and selfless, impeccable behavior. This wasn’t an easy task, especially with the continuing pressure on academics and other miscellaneous activities. (do nothing and catch up with sleep)

I was fortunate to be chosen to continue as the commander of my same bunch of friends considering my not so clean record. I had dropped my merit drastically and could barely make it to the selection panel. Nevertheless, I was one of the 6 to make the cut.

I set my rules of engagement as imbibing unity and generating confidence in those 130 who would probably look up to us for everything for the next 6 months.

And the rut began. Yes we made many look to mother earth as we did once upon a time, we made them sweat and bleed, knocked few brats unconscious and slowly the time tested process of generating men and women out of boys and girls began.

Our personal life took a boost as we finally got some time to read the papers, keep in touch with old friends, engage in non sense conversations at non sense hours of the day. But again, I wouldn’t be writing this piece if life was nothing but very normal and average.

Challenges were galore. The biggest challenge and leadership lesson I and many of us learnt here was to maintain a balance between 120 different opinions working around you. I hit a realization very soon. As a leader (military leader at least), your victory is not in being loved or hated. In fact, you have already won worthy haters if they put their minds on work to dislike you for what you’ve always stood for and pressed them hard with your sheer spirit. Some just take time to wake up and follow you. A mere difference of opinion should not change your beliefs, no matter how much of a minority you are. I still wonder if I’m right. May be something I’ll learn in the years to come.

“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” MK Gandhi

As this was our final term of training, we had more competitions in store. It was a conscious effort to participate in everything in capability. I earned two rare distinctions during these 6 months. One was an active participation in every competition. The other and rather more interesting distinction was that I grabbed a bronze in each! And thus the period of grooming, athletics, games and cultural activities again came to an end.

There were much stronger bonds built, many broken, many relationships strengthened, many losing their grip but more or less an emotional extravaganza prevailed in the cradle of AFTC which I’m sure many will relate to who have been here. I shall not take the liberty to reveal many secrets on my blog as I have many of mine too.

One of my biggest character tests during these six months was when I was held responsible along with 5 others for improper alcohol consumption of a junior trainee in an out of bound area and not reporting back in a healthy state. YES! ALL THAT IS TRUE! This was a big blow to us, as although at fault, many would term it as an unfortunate turn of events from a simple celebration gathering. Well, 5 days of suspension passed, and somehow we were let go clean. The boy came back safe and was sorted for life. As ugly as the incident sounds, somewhere at the back of my mind I felt one of the greatest and slightly lost in time ethos of military surviving in this episode. Facing the music for your subordinate’s carelessness is no more a regular trend when each and everyone is accounted for and blamed for their own mistake. I wonder if I speak with maturity or sheer good luck! But we won something out of this and learnt one of our biggest lessons of military training during those 5 days. Let alone the bonds which strengthened to unimaginable levels in trying times.

As all good things…this too shall have to pass…

It is said that one cannot demand respect, but only command it. Its brilliant how this system teaches each one from all walks of life to command respect. The best of everyone is displayed at some or the other platform during these 52 weeks. And yet, it is the team which makes the difference and not any individual. Its an enigma how things just work out, an enigma may be for generations ahead to learn from.

“Sir, you will always be a champion for us, and we look up to you” – an SMS from 82 to 81

And that’s how the era concludes. With many stories left behind and more faces attached to them, may be AFTC's history cannot be compiled in words and may be that is for the best too. The best memories remain blurred and so will mine.

We are now divided into 15 odd different systems to work on in our future and different locations and still look forward to meeting each other as we move on.

AFTC is Chill! Jhilmil Jhilmil Jhilmil - Part 1

A leaflet from my diary - AFTC is Chill! Jhilmil Jhilmil Jhilmil

A TRIBUTE TO 80 & 119 OF my 81

Disclaimer:- For those who know AFTC, this is not one of those “Journey through AFTC” articles and for those who don’t know this place, boy, did you miss it!

Human tendency is to experiment, drift, think, ponder, react, love, hate, ignore, cry, laugh, shout, sulk, cheer, empathize, support, disagree and most of all live.

AFTC’s survival policy is to NOT experiment, drift OR think much,  never ponder at all, DO NOT react AT ALL, love little, hate discreetly, ignore some, NOT cry ever, laugh , shout only when asked to, sulk in your own room only, cheer wherever possible, support, empathy and disagreements to be limited to yourself! AND THEN YOU SHALL BE ALLOWED TO LIVE!

And yes, it stands as a beautiful place, loved by each one of us living here.
I haven’t blogged since the past year and a half. Thanks to AFTC. So, thank you readers for exploring this one.

Straight from ACADEMY, HYDERABAD after a high of topping my course I was raring to enter AFTC. BUT, I entered this campus of negativity about a year back a couple of days before my birthday on 16th December. Yes, negativity. And I was finally born! 18th December 2012 turned out to be a nightmare not just for self, but for 120 others who bled with me. Correct! Bled! There were 120 others who came here 6 months before me and they ensured that my eyes looked straight to mother earth for the next few weeks.

Humility and selflessness is best experienced when you’re down giving up with 5 others struggling to get up. It is then, when a man is his true self and wakes up exploring all options just to survive. The Defence way just makes it easier for you to realize this when it keeps not just you but many others with you ‘down’ to earth till you get up together!

During this escapade of mine, I gained more than I thought. Never ever did I get time to think like a human back then. Thinking back, I found this new species I started calling friends! 52 weeks later today, I still call many of them friends. I refrain from naming any because I’m sure I’ll miss out so many.

I find it worth mentioning here that we lost one of our friends during these physically taxing sessions who broke his leg and did not continue with us. He would later join the next batch 6 months later, fit and fine. Another example of the undying spirit to continue.

Pride and honour is well celebrated by humans all over the civilizations ever known to mankind. It feeds the human ego of recognition and appreciation. I too, like any other, fell for it. After being chosen to lead 30 of my earlier mentioned friends, my year of 2013 began on a high. There is only one way of doing things around here, the way it is TOLD! But unfortunately as a leader, I never gave up my tendency to experiment. I took chances. I supported. I yelled. I laughed. I commanded. I gave my best. But then, why would I be writing this article if every aspect of my tenure would have been a smooth sail. There were many a times my chances fell wrong. I gave all I had for many to lead from the front. On the other hand, I hurt some in the rush to succeed.  I supported the right, but I took the wrong route too.

 I distinctly remember one of my experiments. I facilitated passing of a weekly assessment for some, which was the only way they would be allowed to leave this city of madness and negativity with all of us on the nearing Sunday. I succeeded but as parlance says, died in action! I still don’t know if I was right or wrong, but the music faced was loud and clear! After intense grilling, somehow I was allowed to continue my job. It affected me tangibly and intangibly. I failed to give my best in my own assessments for next few weeks and I was rest assured that this will affect my future assignments during my tenure here.

And so it did. The first six months as a junior trainee were rigorous and extremely adventurous. The structure of the program is such that it simulates all your senses. Athletics, games, culturals, academics, and what not. There is only one thing which holds a man good in the long run – Will to move on. At regular intervals I was made to realize the same. Be it the late night sessions with 15 others to succeed in examinations, be it the long races, be it the midnight oil burnt for extracurricular activities. Nothing pinched although that could be because of the generous instructors’ allowance to sleep during lectures.  The junior tenure concluded on a decent note. I faced failures, some great friends, some loved ones, and most of all a beautiful 6 month coming to an end.

A reasonable EQ is a must for any military leader. With EQ around women, comes the boyish nature to charm everything moving around you! And as any other ‘boy’ here, amidst the chaos of day and night, survival, lack of sleep, I too managed to stay in controversy more often than I thought. This article should also come as a tribute to all those who fed my share of stories beyond work. A ‘fauji’ seems incomplete without one or two or sometimes three or four failures or successes with the women around him.

One of my last and strongest memories of those 6 months is when my immediate senior chose to pass his nickname of ‘the course demo’ to another good friend of mine. A shy confession would speak that I wish my efforts were also recognized in the same way. An honest assessment would speak that there were better plans to push me more to my limits! Nevertheless it was a satisfying evening when 120 of those who bled and sweat with me had my name too on their tongues to vouch for. A recognition in itself.

The 6 months ended and many questions were left unanswered, many relationships half built, many men confused of what was in store next, many controversies unattended to. But there’s time. There’s time to seek answers, to have closures and probably make more out of this place and its traditions.

Check list of first 6 months

1.       Tears of happiness – 
2.       Tears of disappointment – 
3.       Bleed for nothing (or everything)! – 
4.       Lose consciousness due to zero energy – 
5.       Hear your name cheered by each and everyone around – 
6.       A genuine thank you from a friend – 
7.       A sincere apology to the same friend – 
8.       A smoke in a restricted area – 
9.       Standing up for self’s logic – 
10.     Facing the wind & symbolically peeing against myself!(Calling for intense trouble)–
11.     Wearing the first set of original ranks – 
12.     A late night seemingly never ending conversation so that you sleep all day in class. 

Friday, 10 February 2012

My First Wonder of the World

Recently, I had a chance to visit one of the oldest tombs in Delhi. To set the tone right, let me tell you that this was just an appendage to a visit to the nearby market and cafe, where a bunch of friends thought, “What the hell, let’s try the tomb too”, rather than an intentional visit to the place itself.

As any other monument built around the Mughal times, this too was grand, with the majestic aura around it and well, it’s always nice to see how grandly the revered are preserved in the memories of the Watan they once served for. But, are they?

I am talking about the clich├ęd and so much discussed about apathy around the languishing wonders of the past. Yes, there’s the awkward heap of plastic garbage on one corner, a bunch of children around the same looking for left over, a dog ‘firing’ at will, and of course the lake which has green water, and mind you that’s the only greenery left in the compound.

Ironically this is a compound where the strongest men and the greatest thinkers of the country walked 400 years ago. What happened then? The aspirations of those who wished to eradicate poverty, preserve nature & establish an egalitarian society are now remains, housing the flipside of the same! I wonder who’s going to fix this!

There’s still a herd of young men and women with DSLRs trying to capture those picture perfect memories amidst the aforementioned unpleasantness. Some of Delhi’s best ‘pics’ clicked juxtaposed over the country’s worst picture! One might also find somewhere around a shady corner, a bunch of students practicing their street play within the compound with some unknown spectators cheering them. Not much ahead, a bunch of boys pushing their sense of possibility just a tad beyond limits, use the narrow bank of the ‘green’ lake to practice their batting, balling and fielding(in the water)skills. Somewhere far a bunch of kids on a school field trip led by their not more than 25 year old teacher, would dedicate time to clean up their surrounding themselves.

And now, while I saw the glass half full, I saw aspiration. In those who came there to click, play or practice. This is the youth of the country which still has a heart. A heart which still loves to be around the symbol of heritage of its country. They are not very different from those who walked this compound 400 years ago. We are those who will make sure that history recapitulates itself and steer the nation to prosperity. We come from different walks of life and will certainly take charge of each. And we will make sure that the Watan is back on track. We will lead the change. We will fix this.

I wonder(& also hope) if you (the young Indian citizen) feel the same. :)

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Line Of Control

Very recently Mr. Kapil Sibal used his privilege of speech and suggested screening of content on social networking websites. As we all know by now, this invited many a mixed reactions. While the Gandhi scion partially agreed with him, Mr Sibal garnered solid support from the J&K chief minister who in fact is a victim of offensive content posted about his family sometime in 2010.

A Harvard law graduate, former Additional Solicitor General of India, and current Member of Parliament, Sibal, plainly said, ‘Doing this gives me no pleasure, but the fact is that there’s a problem!’

There certainly is a problem. As a reader of my blog which generally drives most of its traffic from a website called facebook.com, you would know what goes on there! There are hate pages, hate pictures, hate statuses and of course some hateful people. There are many impending questions before the country concurs on a solution. Where do we draw the line? Who draws it? Who monitors the content? Should it be the western laws, the Indian laws, Facebook laws, Twitter laws or an International body of all. And who would provide the man-power for such monitoring? Very recently I read something in jest suggesting Facebook hiring an IIT graduate for Rs 65L p.a. just for screening its content. Yes the mockery is obvious. And we called for it. No matter how much the erudite commentators or the opposition call it a political move, Mr Sibal is right – There is a problem.

There is a problem when I see a picture exhorting profanity. There is a problem if a comment takes jingoism to zealotry. There is certainly a problem when morphed pictures of someone you know does rounds of ‘shares’ or ‘likes’. In fact, there’s a problem even if wrong information virally spreads across facebook which is a regular feature now! You would instantly agree seeing a post of ‘Facebook shutting down in March, Mr. Zuckerberg retires’ with more shares than, well, something more sane. Here’s the bigger question - Have we, the loyal netizens ever reported malicious content? Have we ever requested a ‘friend’ not to publicly ridicule a person, community, religion or a country? Rarely, right? And therefore, I see Mr. Sibal’s concern. He is allowed to assume that an wrongly inciting ‘page’ or ‘post’ will certainly gain momentum with neurologically stunted youth on it.

Let us use social networking more intelligibly. Kill the need to monitor content. Create the line of control for yourself. You, my reader, know what you do not want to see. You, my facebook friend, know what is offensive to your nation or your religion. You also know what is offensive to anyone else too! Adopt zero tolerance (no likes or shares) towards all malicious, defaming and wrong information. Report the same promptly. The web is ours to communicate. Let’s not create a parallel world of hatred and territories and complicated laws out there! The freedom of speech is ours. The responsibility to filter out the unsocial creeps is ours too. 
Sometimes I wish, this were possible in the real world too.

I wonder if this would incite a flurry of Facebook shares. :) 

Saturday, 3 December 2011

The Dirty Picture

Ms Vidya Balan is quite ok. Mr. Tushaar Kapoor? Not so much. But look at me commenting on an art I know so less about!

Recently, the elected government put some thought into the tobacco consumption in our country. They ought to. I don’t know the exact numbers, but I’m sure a substantial amount of revenue is collected from this industry and they certainly owe some thought to it. Anyway, here is one of the conclusions. Now the cigarette and other tobacco-containing substances will have an even more obnoxious graphic on their commercial packs. This one has a deformed mouth which should ideally put off any sane man contemplating the bliss of nerve-relaxing, nicotine pumped smoke!

We should appreciate the impetus behind the decision. Here’s another idea. Let’s put up pictures of accumulated fat on all bakery goods. Let’s put up burnt livers on the tags of alcoholic beverages and how about a blocked coronary artery on vegetable oil packs! They all demonstrate a plausible effect. I am not suggesting that vegetable oil can be just as harmful as a pack of cigarettes. But do we need the most disgusting graphics on anything we purchase?

Can we be left alone to decide? If you’re reading this, you can certainly make a call for yourself. But unfortunately, a large percentage of our country cannot. Pictorial representation is a quick-fix solution to reach out to the uneducated to spread the awareness of the ill effects of tobacco. The concord although not without resistance, and largely compelled in nature, from the tobacco brands is laudable. It is unfortunate that we have to resort to graphical methods to communicate with humans who should ideally be able to fend for themselves. It is unfortunate that you and I are only amongst the 6-10% of Indians who complete a Bachelor’s degree. It is unimaginably unfortunate that you and I seem to be unperturbed about it. How long will we depend on a crosscut to communicate? Be it drug abuse, poverty, population explosion or a simpleton spitting on the road communicating diseases he hasn’t even heard of! There’s only so much that can be attained unless we have enlightened minds and not just wide open eyes due to obnoxious graphics. It’s time to stand up, ladies and gentlemen. It’s you who can comprehend this tiny article and it’s only you who can clean the dirty picture. There is no harmony unless all the notes are right.

I’m glad I have a right to comment on this Dirty Picture. Do you?

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Two and a half men

No, this is not an episode of Mr. Charlie Sheen’s stupor or the sauntering princesses in the Malibu beach house. How often do you pass beside a paan shop just to hear the most preposterous conversations? I swear I once overheard something which came across as drawing similarities between Ms Sonia Gandhi and Ms Katrina Kaif and how, astrologically speaking, foreign blood is necessary to succeed in India!
But today was different. FDI had effectuated a trader’s bandh, along with the Parliament Bandh, of course. How the former benefits the latter by averting attention from other significant issues like Lokpal Draft and Kishenji’s surreptitious death is not up for debate. May be how the latter hopes to benefit anyone with a bandh is definitely worth arguing. But reflecting my Indian-ism, let me keep this important issue aside and digress to something less important.

I saw a man lighting a cigarette almost as graciously as Mr James Bond would light a cigar before an evening of business. This man felt strongly for the Congress’ predicament. The cigarette he smoked cost him 5 bucks. It was a non-Indian brand and about 15% cheaper than the regular Indian brands. He was obviously happy about it! The paanwaala, in all wisdom, exhorted the fact that FDI in any sector would clearly control the price rise and might even make common items cheaper the same way his Marlboro was cheaper than the Classic. After a few minutes of discussion on how the competition between the Indian and Foreign retail would be a calculated risk with one winner – the Indian consumer, the conclusion was an overall exasperated mood over the saffron invoked unnecessary bandh. After all, the trade union was well aware and consulted before the decision. Surprisingly, the two men also blamed themselves for the current impasse. They felt that their vote would need better discernment next time. For me, there was just one winner! Indian Democracy – A discussion between a bunch of semi-literate men pondering over how important their vote is and how it affects every decision the ruling party makes was a sincere reaffirmation of faith in the system. While some see the scope of participation in improvement, others just hope for the same. Who are you?
Just in case you're wondering, being mere audience to this enlightenment, I'm the half man.