In the first week I passed directions regarding day-to-day administration of the Regiment. For sure, a Havildar (Sergeant) Clerk was the first one to flout one of my directions.
I instructed the Adjutant, Capt Subhash, that the Havildar Clerk be chargesheeted.
Subhash came to my office in the CO’s Caravan with the charge sheet which I approved. He asked me ” Sir,Can I march him up tomorrow morning? It’s already 8 PM now.”
“No. March him up now,” I replied.
“Now Sir? At night Sir?” He asked.
“Yes. Now. Remember we are in our operational area, ready for a war any minute,” I affirmed.
On taking over command, I realised that there were lots of gaps in the documentation of our soldiers. Most data was either outdated or was missing. I got into designing and coding a software for capture and analysis of soldiers’ information, soon after I took over command. My initial two weeks were fully devoted to automating the entire system.
During the designing and coding stage, I used to work day and night, mostly sitting in my comfortable Lungi. That evening too I was dressed in my Lungi and vest.
Subhash looked at me and said “Sir, if you want him to be marched up now, you need to change into uniform.”
“Give me five minutes and I will be back,” I said, and walked into the bedroom space of the Caravan and changed into a uniform.
The Havildar was duly reprimanded for his minor offence. It had a great impact on the soldiers – not because it was the first punishment I awarded, but more because the recipient was a Havildar Clerk.
After two years in command, I hung up my boots, to migrate to Canada. During my dining out, Subhash narrated what happened in the five minutes I took to change into uniform that day.
“After you said ‘Give me five minutes,’ I went out of your office and realised the gravity of what I said to you. I rushed to Major Suresh, our Second-in-Command and narrated what happened.
Major Suresh gave a smile and said ‘Don’t worry. The old man will never take you wrong. I know him very well from our young officer days.‘”
Now Subhash’s question to me was “Why did you not admonish me for what I said? Before coming to this Regiment, I served in a Field Regiment for four years. There if I had said so, you can well imagine my plight. Even Major Suresh didn’t seem perturbed over my conduct with our CO. That hurt me even more and I have been carrying this guilt with me for the past two years.”
Looking at Subhash I said “If you felt guilty for something you did in good faith, you should have confided in me then and there. You would not have had to carry the burden this far.”
“But that day why did you act the way I told you to, and not admonish me,” was his next question.
“If I had said anything to you or admonished you for an act done in good faith, you would have lost your self-confidence and self-esteem. Later, you would not have had the courage and conviction to advise the Commanding Officer and point out any error or folly in my decisions or directions,” I philosophised.