When my marriage date was settled (a long, long time ago), I decided to apply for a month’s leave. Being a staff officer at Naval Headquarters at the time, I didn’t think that getting such leave would pose much of a problem, reckoning in my own way that a small fry like me would hardly be missed. I relaxed a bit more when my application made it past the recommendation stage. It thus came as a bit of a shock to me when I was informed that the concerned Assistant Chief of Naval Staff (who was the approving authority at the time) would only relent if I curtailed my leave request to less than a week and agreed to the condition of being recalled, if required ,at immediate notice.
It was only by chance that a few days later, I found myself in the same transport which was ferrying both the Director as well as the Assistant Chief to the Ministry of Defence for an official meeting. The Assistant Chief broached the subject of my leave himself and, by way of comparison, revealed that when he was getting married, he was barely allowed a day’s leave, and implied by inference that I should be satisfied with whatever I get. It transpired that he was undergoing the Command & Staff Course at Quetta at the time. “But, sir,” I queried, “did you like it?” “Of course not!” he thundered. My point had struck home. I got my leave.
This got me thinking. The way I see it, there are two ways of looking at things, after one has had a close brush with what can only be referred to as a none-too-pleasant experience. We can either reason that having been subjected to such an experience, there is no reason why others should not likewise face it’s full brunt whenever a similar opportunity presents itself. The other way of looking at it is to think that since it happened to me and I didn’t like it one whit, that’s all the more reason to ensure that I, in turn, don’t inflict it on others. Whichever of the two approaches is more positive, I leave to the readers to decide.
Once upon another time, a decade or so later, there was a Navigating Officer, who, having completed his sea tenure, found himself in a training establishment. On being asked about his experiences at sea, he had this gem to offer. ‘While at sea’, he said, ‘I had the good fortune of serving under three different commanding officers. After a month or two with the first commanding officer, I mentioned to him that I didn’t feel too comfortable performing a harbour duty (as Officer of the Day) since it seemed to me that the ship was not fully geared up, both organizationally and training-wise, to handle an actual fire emergency, if it arises. The Captain instantly flared up and belaboured me for assuming that his ship was useless and that he was incompetent to hold command. He cautioned me to mind my own business and stop thinking that I was the only concerned person around.
‘After the next Commanding Officer took over, and I had developed some sort of an equation with him, I worked up the courage to broach the same subject again. His immediate response was “Gham na laeen! (fret not), Pilot”, adding light-heartedly “things work out by themselves”.
‘It took another spurt of will-power on my part to touch the subject with the third Commanding Officer. “I’ll look into it”, he promised, rather simplistically. He then called all the concerned individuals together, discussed the matter threadbare with them and chalked out a comprehensive training-cum implementation strategy to generate the desired improvement. Within a short period of time, I discerned a change in the duty watch’s response to the fire exercises conducted. I felt more comfortable thereafter during my duty days’.
Three individuals. Three different personalities. Three differing attitudes. Three varying responses.