And the soldier marches on
Last week, I hung my boots after 38 years of service in the army. I felt a sense of satisfaction, having played the first innings of life quite well. Ups and downs, joys and sorrows, makes and breaks, they were all part of nearly four decades in uniform. But I lived life on my terms, based on three values that I will always cherish.
First, from the day I joined my unit in 1974, I decided to live in the present. I concentrated on the task at hand and did whatever task was assigned to me to the best of my ability. If the day started with PT, I sweated it out with the troops. During the maintenance parade or troop training, I joined the tank crew through the dust and smoke. In the evening, we played hard to win the intersquadron matches. At night, it was party time with senior and junior colleagues mingling over a drink at the officers' mess. It was one big family. One had a sound sleep, to welcome the next day with the same gusto.
The second value I cherished even more as I grew in service was to introspect. There were times I'd be pulled up and even given 'guard checks' by the adjutant, but I took it in my stride.
But before going to bed, I would go over the events of the day and introspect on where and why I had faltered. Rather than blaming others, I would look at my lapses and vow to correct them. That would relax me and I could get a sound sleep, with no rancour towards anyone. This habit of realising that 'you are your own enemy' held me in good stead. When I was overlooked for promotion after the rank of Colonel despite having done success- fully well in all criteria staff and command appointments, I accepted it with grace. Perhaps I had said something that didn't go down well with my seniors. As long as I lived with selfrespect, I knew I'd be able to walk with my head held high.
The third value I have lived by is to forgive and forget. One can't live with acrimony or with a sense of revenge. I believe in straight talk and prefer to sort out the matter there and then. There's no point sulking or talking behind someone's back. If someone hurt me, I'd give it back there and then or try to remove the misunderstanding through dialogue, and then move on. I would not carry the baggage of negative thoughts or make my mind a 'garbage bin' for others.
As a soldier, my biggest satisfaction is that I was fit when I joined the service and have left it in top shape.
I am all set for my second innings.