Wednesday, March 26, 2014

At what price, gallantry?

This forenoon, I'd received a missive from Thiruvananthapuram that the Kerala Government has sanctioned me a sum of Rs. 55,790/- on account of my being a gallantry award winner! I was thankful that the prize money was not further, accurately broken into decimals like say, Rs. 55,790/57 only!!

But couldn't they have rounded it off to Rs.55,800/-? Probably not, because of a possible 'audit objection' in future!? On further queries as to how the magical number had been arrived at, I was given the breakdown as follows:-

                  (a) Cash award                                                                Rs. 3,790/-
                  (b) Cash in lieu of land                                                      Rs.22,000/-
                  (c) Lumpsum annuity                                                        Rs. 30,000/-
                                        Grand total                                                 Rs. 55,790/-


I'm one of the recipients of the Naosena Medal(Gallantry) for my exploits during the Sri Lanka Operations(Code named 'Aman' initially and as 'Operation Pawan' subsequently) during the late '80s. I was the captain of the 'Indian Naval Landing Craft Utility L36 and my ship's operational achievements in the Palk Bay/Sri Lankan waters had fetched me the coveted medal, which was announced by our government of the day during the Republic Day honours of 1988.

I can't blow my trumpet or sing the ballad highlighting my achievements, can I? It's the purview of the others who'd the ringside view or the historians to do so and I would like to leave it at that! There were very many difficult situations during the course of the lengthy deployments but I'd let three factors decide upon my actions, which were:-

     (i) to the extent feasible, try to apprehend the boats/suspicious craft by stunning them with my
         superior fire power.
     (ii) avoid any sort of danger/damage to my men or my ship and
    (iii) my conscience had to be clear that I wasn't doing anything for my personal glory. 

Back to the present.

I wasn't elated! I wasn't sad either!! But I definitely felt dirty for having my difficult times and complex decisions taken, during the time, at having been pegged at a mere Rs. 55 grand!!!


What the civilians, the landlubbers or the bureaucrats can never understand are the three sayings that a serviceman is always bound by and I list them all over again:-

  (a) "The safety, honour and welfare of your country
           come first, always and every time.
        The honour, welfare and comfort of the men you command
           come next
        Your own ease, comfort and safety
           come last, always and every time".
                                                              - Brigadier Chetwode.

   (b) "Service before self".
                                                               - the NDA credo.

   (c) If you're a gentleman, nothing else matters
        If you're not a gentleman, still nothing matters!
                                                               - author unknown.

And finally, the guiding factor in my life has always been an old Quaker saying and I quote,

     "I expect to pass through this world but once.
      Any good work, therefore, any kindness or any
      help that I can render let me do it now. Let me 
      not neglect or defer it, for, I'll not pass this way

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