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The Question WHY? An attempt to answer the ‘why’ behind the stubborn desire to don the Olive Green

“Zirah Bakhtar bann’ne chala Hun, lohe si khaal odhe aur jazbe ki Shamsheer thaamey, lahoo ka Deepak jalaey main zirah Bakhtar bann’ne chala Hun. Bas watan ki un be-nazr deewaron par khud Ko lapetne chala Hun. Aye fir koi Ghazni ya Ghori, vaar pehla sehne mai chala hun. Main zirah Bakhtar bann’ne chala Hun.” 

(Translation: Determined to play the armor, donning the beastly willed steel infused skin and wielding the sword of courage, with victory in my prayer sanctified by the blood lit lamp I am all packed up and ready to play the armor for my country. Over the invisible walls of my country, I am on to drape them all with my service. Come what may, another Ghazni or Ghori, I am set to receive the enemy as his first welcoming host, and make sure I am the last. I am set on to play the armor all in service of my nation.)

Why do you want to join the army? The IO asked after a brief stint at digging me through my PIQ responses. With the above lines in mind which I penned way back, I started off uttering the answer which supposedly should have had the weight to win the IO give the final go to culminate the journey that started with the ‘Pratham Pag’ written on the steps to the entrance of the waiting hall at the SCE, Prayagraj (former Allahabad) to the ‘Antim Pag’ at the IMA. I guess my answer didn’t make the peg to fit in the right hole for I wasn’t selected by the assessors. I knew it, that I didn’t answer the question as I should have, as my heart wasn’t satisfied with what my mouth uttered! 

What makes of a reasonable choice or decision is the question why. For, inherently, it answers the underlying questions that target the motivational aspects of an individual towards his job. Why do you want to do something? It is a very simple question to answer, but we make it a lot more difficult a venture by subjecting it to severe adulteration with our counterproductive thoughts and fears. And, there comes the solution – keeping it simple and stupid. Often, we stumble on great revelations through obvious approaches in life. We are so accustomed to solving complexities that often times we fabricate complexities out of simple things; that is where the problem lies.

To bring some perspective to answering the why, I would like to mention Maslow’s  Hierarchy of Needs and filter out the essentials as per my observations. It speaks of two pillars of motivation, the deficiency needs, and growth needs, which when simplified takes the shape of a five-tier model of human needs, often depicted as hierarchical levels within a pyramid.

Needs lower down in the hierarchy must be satisfied before individuals can attend to needs higher up. From the bottom of the hierarchy upwards, the needs are – physiological, safety, love and belonging, esteem and self-actualization.

 

It requires no deliberation in understanding the theory for it is self-explanatory. What we aspirants need to work out is to know the organization and; the ethos, the values, and the work ethics that it enshrines in its core. Done that, we are now required to draw parallels from the Hierarchy pyramid or any other method of gauging the source of motivation available at hand. 

Filtering out those essentials which shall fulfill every inch from the basic deficiency needs to the core, growth needs of the spectrum are beneficial. Hence, one may find oneself, with every passing day, near to the point enabling one as to answer the Why behind one’s desire to don the uniform. So, to speak of from the basics, a person may venture out finding what a job as an officer in the Indian Armed Forces has on the platter for him. One may realize, that every need from the lowermost level of the pyramid is satisfied by the life in the forces. Special mention to be kept in mind is the job security and familial safety that the life in the forces offers. You get in the forces, train in the world-class environment and be furnished with top of the mark training. You, enlist for SSC or PC and the time you serve, you serve with honor and dignity. And, if so it happens that you are called upon by the good Lord, your people shall be taken care of by the extended family (the forces) which they garnered because of you. 

Having covered that, you come to the Psychological Level of the Pyramid. The first thing which comes to my mind is the brotherhood. It has nothing to do about how you feel about the others. You will meet new people on your postings and if deputed to forward units such as RR or SF units, entire teams get changed and one has to make connections on whose shoulders the success of the mission and the sustainability of the team depends. So, there is no question of liking or disliking others, there is no scope of likes and dislikes among men. You are required to lead the team and bring results with men under you back as safe as humanly possible. Here, the crux is the mutual, unsaid, agreement which is signed by all. An agreement in a group that you’ll put the welfare of the group, that you’ll put the safety of everyone in the group above your own. In a way that makes you care about the lives of the men under your command more than your own. That’s brotherhood. And personally, this one thing boosts my desire to be a part of the forces. And, psychologically, I am no professional, yet let me make an attempt at making a point in understanding why most soldiers have high levels of self-esteem. Ever noticed their ever warm, ever welcoming composure? Well. that is because they believe what they do is holding a high moral ground and that every day in service of the mother nation is a service to their brethren by their backs. And as the saying goes, every act which benefits others without an aim to get something in return boosts your self-esteem. Such a wide observed belief can only come when the organization stands on high moral grounds.

Now, when you’re all boots on the ground, you build friendships, you build relations and you build trust all amounting to the fulfillment of the deficits in the ‘belonging’ level. The realization that you are an asset to the organization as much as its values are to you renders you a feeling that you belong there, in the forces, amongst the men. Every day is a new day with its own set of challenges. No two days shall be similar and behind every failure, the life in the army and the fact that you are a part of it renders you a compulsion to find a glimmer of hope and reach out to find its source. That fighting spirit never lets you settle for anything but accomplishment and maybe that’s why the dynamism that the life in the forces offers occupies a big space in the answer column of the question of Why.

Outside the sphere, in the civilian world, you are respected for your service, your parents, your friends and everyone associated with you earns a part of your respect. It seems as if every affirmation that you would have communicated with your inner-self as in, “I shall prosper and everything I lay my hands upon shall prosper”, takes a tangible shape by the day.  Every aspect screams out to boost your self-esteem and strives to give you a sense of accomplishment. Thus, it indeed forms the answer why one would want to join the forces.

Atop the pyramid lies the Growth needs, and that becomes the most important aspect as finding the ‘why’. Every man on earth as he comes of age to realize his philosophy of life, his needs, wants and desires he chooses to grow the way he wants and by growth, it means achieving his full potential as well whetting his creative side. The job in the armed forces do not fall in the category of ‘jobs’ it inherently leans on towards the categorization of lifestyle. Being in the forces, you are absorbed into a lifestyle that provides you with a dynamic living space where challenges and variety is a matter of daily occurrence. The forces invest in you tremendously at great depths to make a diamond out of you. It is understood that once you’re in, your training never ceases. You are trained on a regular basis post commissioning and is the prime requirement. Professional competence is a basic attribute of a leader and in view of gaining it, one undergoes training to gain in skills over a wide spectrum of subjects. So, if you’re someone who has always felt that there’s something amiss in your life in terms of learning then all your whys find their answers here for the scope for learning is so vast, it will probably take a lifetime for an individual to cover them all and gain on a position to lay the claim that they’ve done it all. 

You get to travel throughout the wide expanse of the country, meet new people, get in touch with the cultural richness of our dear mother land. You get the benefit of excellent professional training, world class infrastructure, and various courses that tend to clear the path of a retiring/retired soldier to enter the civilian life with yet a diverse spectrum to pick the next innings in life from. And with the fear of sudden, unanticipated lay off gone owing to the job security one gets, one tends to be fearless in terms of choosing personal growth as well. Personal growth cannot be attained without fulfilling the familial duties, and as such, one gets enough time to look into one’s family life as in contrast to a regular corporate nine-to-five job. 

Quoting from the Indian Army’s official recruiting website, I’d like to add to in the answer to the WHY:

Quality of Life

As an Indian Army officer at 21, you’d be looking at a lifestyle that one cannot imagine in any other profession, so early in life. What comprises “Quality of Life”? On one hand is a job with a thick pay packet but with the drudgery of 9AM to 9PM schedule, no avenues and time for extracurricular activities, no scope for adventure and excitement, no social status, lack of family life, threat of being terminated with a month’s salary, working in suffocating environment with no self respect and honour. On the other hand is a job which offers you challenge, adventure, excitement, honour, prestige, self respect, whole some family life, safety and security for the family and to top it all the love, respect and esteem of our great India. In the somewhat chaotic social and economic conditions that prevail in our country, Army life is an island of sanity and social order that is the envy of our countrymen. Quality of life is an important attribute of Army life, and has no parallel in any other service. Some of the intangibles, which go to make the quality of life in the Army, are:-

  • Service of the motherland.
  • A profession to be proud of
  • Opportunity to travel and know the country and its people/culture/flora and fauna
  • Opportunity to serve and represent the nation abroad
  • A pure and noble profession
  • Honour and social status
  • No stagnation, a new challenge every day.
  • Opportunity for growth
  • Sports and adventure activity
  • Messes, clubs and institutions facilities
  • Education facilities – Both school and professional colleges for children
  • AWWA hostel for girls in metros
  • Army ensures your physical and mental health.
  • Quality of life ensured not only for officers but also families.

Variety and Adventures

Variety and adventure are the spice and romance of life. No profession has the kind of recreational and adventure facilities to offer as the Army does; from membership of the best clubs in country to horse riding, swimming, golfing, mountaineering, trekking and sailing. Posting to exotic stations gives one an opportunity to see India and its different cultures, in all its vivid glory. You may also get a chance to go abroad on course or on posting. So, if one is looking for a profession, which goes beyond being a mere job, accept the challenge and join the Indian Army.

 Didn’t find your answer yet? I see the bright side of yours, for you are a seeker with a Warrior Mindset and the reasons to join the Army are far deeper to comprehend. Go along the flow, charge up the warrior in you, mates. Charge forward, charge for sure and 
Dream on
Dream until your dreams come true. 

Useful links:

http://joinindianarmy.nic.in/Alpha/life-in-army.htm#Professional-Advancement

https://www.simplypsychology.org/maslow.html

A little motivation from my favorite, Aerosmith
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The Dream

“The dream bore a picture of a soldier lying on the pool of blood of his own. The snow beneath him absorbed the redness of his blood; while it seemed untouched by the dying heat of his body. And in between the hazy glimpses, which one would register in those subtle moments caught by the eyes when they didn’t blink, it seemed he lay on a clearing amidst the trees all covered with snow. The treeline had lost its greenery to the whites and nothing could be seen from his position, and having no vantage point, he was at his most vulnerable condition. It was too demanding a task to hold those eyelids stretched open, yet, maybe the training kicked in and the need to gather some situational awareness surpassed the temptations to close the windows to the world shut”, wrote Saket into his journal after giving up all attempts to shoe away the fixation which the unnerving brevity and the clarity of his recurrent dreams warranted. “How can the same the scene, the similar turn of events conjure up in these dreams every single time?” he thought while staring at his journal. Disturbed by the cacophony of the shrill noise that the scene in the dream brought to the fore shielding the signal that might be lurking in the background. “I must find it, why the same shit gets played on my mind over and over again, there must be some pattern, some clue that I’m missing… what is it…..” he murmured.

After a brief period of sitting still pondering over the details of the dream that woke him up with a choking belch, a pained chest (or was it just a memory of the pain that sneaked past the realms of the dream into the realm of consciousness materializing itself into a tangible one – that’s a matter of discussion!), and a headache that might have consorted with the sleep that was shaken up midway through the midnight, he took note of the time, 0330 hours – he had to strike the pillow again!

An hour and a half later, his sleep was again broken, only this time by the sound of the alarm that banged a wakeup-cacophony on routine. It was his usual time to break off from his warm refuge and ready himself for the morning run. He woke up with a hangover from the bizarre stint of his mind that it played on him a few hours ago. Perplexed by the confusion, he took longer to get into action than the usual, spending a quarter of an hour or so on deep thinking. Gauging as to what shook his senses last night, it occurred to him that the more he’d think of the dream the more confused he gets and takes on to console his pounding heart enclosed within the fleshy walls of his chest that such things are just figments of his imagination which is stuck on that repeat-cycle which explains why he sees what he sees on various nights since many years.

To Saket, life has a different flavor altogether where the ingredients are mixed up with philosophical spices. And maybe he takes everything, every experience as a lesson. Always attentive, always vigilant and mostly straightforward he has this habit of brandishing his watchful eyes under the veil of silence. Maybe his experiences were taking a toll on him, maybe one thing that struck him was one such chapter from his otherwise unpublished, unknown book that he himself was unaware of. It’s like the old Japanese adage of a man having three faces; The first face, you show to the world. The second face, you show to your close friends and your family. The third face, you never show anyone, only in his case he masked the last one so efficiently that he himself was unaware of.

For the world, he was a no bullshit man with a temper problem known for his otherwise calm composure. A man who could not stand a slack in logic, though on some areas his logic was itself under the spotlight of questionable merits – his relationships of example! For his close friends and family members, he’s emotional, he’s caring and little skeptical. The kind who’d pick up a fight readily if an act of breaching the limits comes under the long stretches of the jurisprudence of his watchful sight. And lastly, he finds himself stranded as to know who he is, and is constantly under the sweat of culling down the thick fog that blinds his vision to a world within himself.

It’s said that the reference to dreams as to one seen with open eyes is different from the one seen with our eyes closed. The former explains one’s purpose that one envisions for himself to set his whole life on the task to accomplish, the concept of Swadharma, the latter explains the visions that get projected to a screen within the confines of the three-pound master that sits within the cranium – the origins of whose are too complex to define between the alleys flanked by the reason of experiences of the past and the metaphysical reason of the unexplainable on its sides.

All said, it seems Saket was on a fix, a deep-seated urge to know the reason behind the regular occurrences of his strange visions that tend to disturb his sleep often. For he was documenting every tiny detail by the dates and even though a lot many details seemed to have a touch of redundancy, he never stalled his endeavors. Perhaps the journal writing was a tool he developed as a consequence was a blessing in disguise. And he consciously admitted it, as he wrote in his journal entry a couple of years after the incident mentioned in the beginning. “It’s strange a feeling, it’s kind of a thing of past that my dreams have gone silent on that old radio frequency that had only one thing to broadcast – the dream! A lot of things have changed in me, maybe everything happens for a reason and those strange dreams were acting ladders prompting me to take that climb the summit of which is a total knowledge of the self. A lot many would still falter while answering who they are, one thing is sure, I won’t force myself into searching for words as to answer who am I, for I am onto the journey to know myself in bits. Afterall rediscovering who we are in situations unknown is a beautiful venture…”

"There is a strange positivity in his outlook that he wears. 
He sees opportunity in times of utter despair.
He feels his cup as being always partially filled,
Maybe that's why he wanders in the wilderness of  knowledge.
In his travels he gathers the guild,
Of fellow travellers who oversee the trade in whetting their edge.
LIke the hunters our forfathers were,
Outrunning their pray, till it ran out of air,
And each one from the pack watching  another's back." 

More in the next blog…

Featured image from https://goo.gl/images/EjA85U

Tiny little heavens for the soul

On the roads in those tiny little abodes rest heaps of books. And when my eyes wander along the columns searching for the the pages under every nameplate which binded into a house soothing enough to compel me to call it home, I realised that the nature of my stay isn’t really based on what the names make or the pages described but the life they kindled within. I could feel the propensity of my soul turning in for a divide, for it wanted bits and pieces of it in every house that it felt of a nature of a heavenly dwelling.

The question was how can one man’s mind opine in it’s stubborn accord of living in all those tiny little worlds all at once? The answer was somewhat intricately simple, the mind is always hungry for learning something new, experiencing the unknown and living in distant far off places within. A constant urge to discover things alien to it, a constant need to assimilate the details into it and live by the values thus manifested in it’s core. One cannot guarantee that one would see every nook and corner of the world in a lifetime, but a lifetime is enough to have the courage to constantly feed your mind of things that nourishes it as one does in maintaining the garden that one keeps – looking after the plants that grow on the soil that is charged up with manure and nutrients. I think what makes reading a distinguished venture into self-care is the benefits that it carries with it, it nourishes one’s mind and soul.

Thus, it is these little tiny abodes that find their home in the places of common touch like the Wheeler bookstores in railway stations of India, the ones you’d find in some remote corner of a busy city which lacks of every luxury of a decent, high profile bookstore but a collection of the top-read titles all blended with the scent of old paper like the aroma of filtered coffee. You may not find the collections of Tolstoy, Orwell, King or Shakespeare but you, for sure, would find the singular ones that have the weight to move the mountains within you. Now I am not against them fancy stores, they serve their purpose very well, where a few kind words may bag you an assurance from the keeper to furnish you with your title by the weekend or so. But, a visit to these places that smell of old paper is indeed a thrilling bet. For worse you may not find any piece that makes you stand on one leg for hours together, for the better, well you may end up with pieces that force your eyes and attention to run between the rows of the lines of neatly arranged words, make your feet glued at one place and maybe make your arms ache under the delightful weight of some of those books which you or your soul searched for for years together.

The Journey Begins

Thanks for joining me!

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

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It was two years back that the thought of writing and sharing my thoughts and observations on life through poems, essays and stories came to my mind, but as the saying goes by “You can’t cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water – Rabindranath Tagore” I was just staring at the stillness of the water, waiting for the perfect wave to lift my feet up and propel me further into writing as I surrender myself to it; this is my attempt to transcend into the state of being the one who fights the seas rather than the one who just does the job of merry-watching.

So here is a poem that I wrote when I used to spend my time in solitude when I was in the Kochi campus of Indian Maritime University.  In this, as you’ll read on, you’ll find the contents written with heavy metaphors that it renders it an almost cryptic undertone. Try reading it with an approach that you are having a conversation with yourself – sitting on a beach with an orange hue left by the setting Sun crowning the horizon as it gradually sets in for the dark of the night to take over. The metaphorical references are generally taken from the day-to-day observations and hence I believe the act of deciphering the crux of the ‘Undaunted Questions’ would become easier.

Undaunted Questions

Can you see the light in the dark;
And be on Your foot to maneuver the unfathomed terrain,
And balance every strand to eke out the disturbances in the mirror’s tale,
And Mark every silhouette on its face?
Let the world despise you for your courage;
The courage that lets you stand on the grounds of noble lineage?

Can you hear the noise of silence;
And hear every cry that turns the stubborn walls into dust…
The mounds of which when soaked in waters from the streams of senses,
Fills the air with the odor of corpses with severed heads!
And hear the sounds of appraisal and not be affected in the merits, but pledge to keep up with the flow?

Can you hear the noise of the earth and the oceans and air,
and just decipher the faint signals which mean a thing of obese weight in its true order of questionable demerits?
Well, we are rowing our boat along the flow;
Mountains are engraved by the might of the mob.
They let it pass, and so the kind should…
Let the noise pass his tunnel
And continue with the rowing till he reaches the ends to meet the parameters of enlightenment.

Can you bear the pain of success;
And still, love it as you do on losing the tooth which went sore,
And just contain your tongue to tingle the site of useful destruction to mark a stable incubator for a new start,
And to refrain to let it entertain the extraordinary keep when it grows-
And employ it to its work and focus on the new arenas to practice duels with the beings unknown?

Can you be strange and be normal to entertain the tons of thoughts and draw a meaningful conclusion from your observations?