Tag Archives: Hindon

Jostling with Ethics -8- : Dancing Down the Street

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Ethics is a very personal matter. After all, it is one’s own perception of right and wrong. While these perceptions are not immutable over time, changes to one’s perception of ethics need to spring internally. Any force or inducement to alter one’s ethics is normally resented. And yet, in a structured group like the Army/Navy/Air Force, the Commanding Officer is charged with the task of ensuring that individual ethics of the personnel under his command resonate with the group ethics of the Fauj. No one chronicles a list of what a fauji ethics aught to be. For the officers, it is just covered with a vague label ‘Officer Like Qualities’ or OLQ. The CO thus has the unenviable task of monitoring, strengthening, and often time modifying the ethical standards of the men under his command without ever appearing to be an interfering SOB. When I was a CO, I found this task very challenging. I often had to create a situation of a moral dilemma in the minds of selected officers and then force them to take an ethical stand without compromising with the task at hand. My story today is about one such incident.

Batra was my Signals Officer. Young, smart and reliable. He joined me at Chandigarh when I converted the Black Archers on to MiG 21 Type 77, and he moved with the squadron a year later from there to Hindon. Soon after our arrival at Hindon, Batra announce that a marriage has been arranged for him. The date for the event was fixed. The venue for the event was in North Delhi, not far from Hindon. I proposed that the Archers will attend the marriage function enmass. One of the officers was made in charge of administration. A bus was to be hired for the journey. Every one was excited.h

On inquiry it transpired that for the selected date of marriage, hiring charges for a bus was very high. The cost for the journey, even a 1/20 share of it, was steep. It seemed that my plan for leading a big Baraat for the marriage would fizzle out.We needed new ideas, and my boys were keen to solve the problem. A scouting party reported that a road under construction from near our base was now useable. The road could take us to a newly built bridge over the river Yamuna reducing our distance to our destination by about half. Would it now be within 20 kilometers from the base? We did not really know. That piece of information was important because it would then become possible for us to hire a service motor coach at subsidized rates for the journey. Such amenity run was permissible only up to a distance of 20 km. Another scouting party went out to actually measure the distance to our destination only to return crestfallen; the distance for the round trip was 43 km. These three additional kilometers made the trip untenable as an authorized . The matter came to me for a decision. It gave me a chance to initiate a nice debate on ethics.

I gathered all the boys and spelt out the dilemma. Technically the venue for the marriage was too far, albeit marginally. To use amenity transport we either had to walk the last kilometer and half or ask the MT driver to under log the distance by three kilometers. To get all the young girls in their finery to trudge one and a half dusty kilometers was not a welcome proposition. At the same time, knowingly ordering a subordinate, in this case the MT Driver, to resort to falsehood went against the grain. Hiring a civil transport was too expensive. I wanted my boys to consider the problem and advise me on a course of action. It did not take them long to figure out a solution.
As one of my smart officers propounded, there was really no problem. It was a Punjabi Marriage. Traditionally, the Baraat must arrive at the bride’s place with the groom on a horse-back accompanied by music and dancing. We would park the amenity transport at the 20th kilometer, ask the appointed Ghodi-walla to position the mare at that spot, we shall carry a couple of Dholaks, Cymbals and other musical instruments, and we would then sing and dance as the Baraat and reach the marriage venue.

The Baraat for Batra was noisy and boisterous. The Black Archers enjoyed themselves quite thoroughly. No ethical transgression took place.

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A Long and Arduous Path

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Some time, in our humdrum daily life, we chance upon opportunities of doing some things of utmost importance without really being prepared for it. Some times the opportunity fructifies and you are able to achieve something memorable and valuable. At some other times, you either do not recognize the opportunity and let it slip by or are unable to take up the challenge for various reasons. On some other times, you get a chance and try your best, but your best turns out to be not good enough. The opportunity dies. These occasions leave a scar on your soul that do not heal with time. My tale today is of such a chance that I could not grab and see through. Read the rest of this entry

I Mourn for Karthigeyan

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Flight Lieutenant Kuke Suresh walked into my office with a grim face. Flight Lieutenant M S Vasudeva walked in just behind him. Kuke was my adjutant and Vasu was the Unit Flight Safety Officer. It was the 29th of September 1969 and I was Archer One. We were at Hindan. ‘There has been an accident in Chandigarh‘, they sang out in unison. Read the rest of this entry

A Very Small World-8: Leena Travels WT

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It was in the month of November 1970. I was at the tail end of my tennure as the CO of Black Archers (Number 47 Squadron Indian Air Force), then located at Hindan near Ghaziabad. I already had my posting order for my next appointment in my pocket; I was going as a Directing Staff to DSSC (Defence Services Staff College) Wellington, Nilgiris, Tamilnadu It was an appointment to my liking. I had the option of availing my full joining time and make the travel to Wellington into a holiday. On the other hand, Leena had not seen her parents for a long time while my mother had visited me just three or four months ago. It would be nice I thought if Leena could visit her parents at Siliguri before we moved down south. Read the rest of this entry

Remembering Kukke Suresh

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Like last time, the telephone call came from my son Subir.   Like the last time, the news he conveyed was sad.     ‘Daadi Shastri has passed away’.  ‘Daadi Shastri’ for Subir meant the mother of Kukke Suresh and Grand mother of ‘Bubba’ Aishwaria.    She was in her nineties and ailing.   Such passing is inevitable but that does not make any such happening any less sad.   It also revives the memories of other such sad moments:  like the last time. Read the rest of this entry